It was so nice seeing a new episode of The X-Files with the season opener, “My Struggle”. But while it revived something I had feared long dead (do you know the number of petitions I signed?) it was also an episode so crammed and cramped it left me feeling dissatisfied—kind of like when you overeat something really good.
Thankfully, “Founder’s Mutation” was a return to form, with a good, old-fashioned monster-of-the-week that might or might not have to do with the overarching mythology (think of the second season’s “Fearful Symmetry”). It’s also a great character development episode in the way of so many over the course of the first nine seasons. We get to revisit the William storyline which hopefully is only an introduction to more about the agents’ now fifteen-year-old offspring (hint: check out the trailers.)
Following the very Observer-like government agent in the first episode, “Founder’s Mutation” continues to channel vibes from a show that, well, channeled its vibes during its run. There is just something about the music in this episode; it’s high, almost crisp resolution (probably just a reflection of today’s technology); the conference room scene in the cold start reminiscent of the beginning of “The Dreamscape”; the “special” children being tested on by a genius scientist; the unresolved tension between the two leads; and the way the daydreaming sequences are filmed—albeit these are redder/yellower than the typical blue tinged Fringe dream sequences.
While the creep factor has always been and thankfully remains omnipresent, the gore factor does seem to have increased. This probably has to do with the higher resolution and the set lighting, which brings to the fore a lot of the gore that used to be somewhat veiled. But to me, the creepiest part of the episode is something seemingly innocuous and completely not gory: Molly in the pool, breathing underwater.
The Return of Fox Mulder
One of the trailers included a clip of Mulder dropping to the floor in Sanjay’s apartment with his hands on his ears. I had assumed that whatever was happening had to do with Mulder’s abduction. I don’t know if I was relieved or upset that it isn’t, all the more that we don’t know yet if Goldman did test the children in his ward with alien DNA.
After the hints in “My Struggle” about Mulder’s state of mind, it’s really nice to see Mulder’s humor coming back here and there in this episode, mostly in the form of little quips such as the ones about Edward Snowden and Obamacare. Another fun moment that included Mulder was Mrs. Goldman throwing her apple at what seems to be the ward’s cat to which he deadpanned “You don’t like cats”. A lot happened in those few seconds on both Mulder and Scully’s faces!
It also seems like Mulder really missed his work—he already seems to be very comfortable back in this role, demonstrated by how quickly he got back in the saddle, how fast and clear-sighted he is throughout the investigation, and the smooth way he flicked out and handed over a business card to Agnes.
Mulder and Scully
It was difficult to watch the heartbreak of two parents wondering what life would have been like if things had been different and they had raised their child. It seems repetitive to give praise to David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson’s performances, but in this case, well, props to both of them. I found it particularly interesting to note that, in each agents’ daydream, neither’s includes the other. It was also very interesting to get insight into the fears each one has as it relates to William. Neither came as a surprise, be it her fear that William’s DNA includes some extra-terrestrial fragments and his that William will be taken by aliens like his sister Samantha. Although this fear could in fact be Mulder’s interpretation of reality since in a way aliens did take both Samantha and William away from him. And shippers probably got quite a boost of hope in what can be the biggest proof that Mulder still cares deeply for Scully: he withholds his pain about William to spare her its burden. Hopefully though he will realise (and very soon!) that however good his intentions, keeping such an important part of him from Scully is not compatible with a healthy relationship between the two (and again, the trailers contain a major hint in this regard.)
The Curious Lack of a Desk for Dana Scully
Seriously, guys. You have a brand new office and ordered brand new furniture. No one thought to give Scully her own desk? Or, at the very least, no one thought to give her a desk that wasn’t so tucked away as to be invisible in scenes set in that basement office?
Scully asking Dr. Goldman so directly if the key he is looking for is alien DNA and his response (“I thought you were the rational one”) mark how Scully, while still not ready and willing to jump at any theory like Mulder still seems to be, doesn’t deny the existence of extra-terrestrial life anymore. I’m still hoping that Mulder had undergone a parallel change that will keep him from jumping around from one theory to another despite his behavior in “My Struggle”.
While the mythology can get convoluted, one of the things I feel The X-Files has done really well up to now is consistency in its character development. Scully’s “Sometimes I hate myself that I didn’t have the courage to stand by him” confirms theories as to why and how she seems so broken now. Her life would no doubt have been quite different had she chosen not to give William up for adoption. I don’t know if I am looking too far into this, but that her William-related scenes feature her with straight, redder hair seems like a metaphor for how different the course of her life would have been had she had kept William—i.e. her hair wouldn’t have changed as much from her signature red bob. It was interesting how at the first sign of trouble in her daydream (William getting injured), her red hair becomes blonder and how at the second hint of trouble (William turning alien), it becomes curlier.
Walter Skinner, the “new” FBI, and the return of The X-Files
The way Skinner and “his” agents interacted in his office was such a breath of heartwarming familiarity. It was also such a breath of fresh air to see how far this character has come around in the way his loyalties are quite clear now. It made me chuckle how, as soon as the Department of Defense representative left Skinner’s office, the Assistant Director’s tone and facial expression both changed. It was also nice how well he still knows Mulder what with his assumption that the agent made copies of the files.
The DOD representative could be a hint that the forces acting against the trio might be much more obvious this time around. I can’t help but wonder what Skinner has been up to in the last decade; I have a feeling that he continued the work as well as he could while keeping himself as clean as he could, and that his insistence and push to have The X-Files reinstated might have to do with both how clean he has seemingly become in the eyes of his superiors and how much influence he has managed to develop.
This might be the key to the relatively easy reinstatement of The X-Files under the responsibility of this particular trio. Because while the question of how Mulder and Scully ended up back at the FBI is a fun one to consider—we can assume that there was a lot of off-screen, sometimes hilarious action in this regard, from re-training, re-qualifying, becoming up to date with processes and procedures, etc.—what I am interested in the most is how Skinner, who is still “just” an assistant director, managed to pull off re-re-opening The X-Files and re-re-assigning Mulder and Scully to them despite everything that happened. Yes, he might have more influence now and might have learned to play the game, but would that alone be enough? Or could it simply be that enough time has passed for this to happen? If so, it begs another question: at which point did the Cigarette-Smoking Man learn that The X-Files are opened again? And why didn’t he stop it from happening?
Speaking of which, is Skinner sure that his office isn’t bugged? By the same token, are Mulder and Scully sure that theirs isn’t?
Augustus Goldman and The Project
After all, Mulder does have an excellent point: The Project has probably not been abandoned. If that’s the case, after how the last phase of The Project ended, no doubt the level of protection surrounding the new leaders is a lot thicker now than ever before. Analysis of Kyle’s blood might help us understand a little more what is going on, and I hope there will be follow-up on this matter.
Which brings us to the close of this review with yet another big question: where are Molly and Kyle? If they are as powerful as they seem to be, and Goldman’s ward was, indeed, part of The Project, could the siblings return to the show and perhaps even become powerful allies to our trio?