The hurried and packed nature of first episode of The X-Files revival left me feeling both incredibly happy and a little harried; the second episode left me happy and intrigued; the third episode left me laughing and elated. A brilliant Darin Morgan script was brought to life through great acting from our usual dynamic duo, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, and guest star Rhys Darby. It was a relief as well to have a return to tight dialog, the kind where every word counts, something that was lacking in the season opener and which the second episode only partially made up for.
Special Treats for The X-Files Super-Fan
It’s been interesting to read reviews from bloggers who clearly have either never watched the original series, kind of watched it, or watched it only once when it originally aired. This became even more interesting after the airing of this episode, as many of the nods to the show’s original run went over the head of many, many reviewers who label themselves as knowledgeable about the show.
But these nods were really appreciated by fans and underline how much history there is in The X-Files. I have a feeling I didn’t catch all of them in my first two viewings of the episode, and can’t wait to post this review so that I can check in with some of the hard-core fans I’m friends with to see what I missed:
- The two stoners in the cold open are familiar. I have to admit that I don’t remember from which episode (and I refuse to do research because I want this review to be unbiased) but I know they were in another episode, cast as similar characters.
- Mulder throwing pencils at the poster is reminiscent to his throwing pencils at the ceiling, pencils that were still there in this season’s opening episode. Perhaps he was told that he is not allowed to so main his new office?
- Mulder sleeping in red briefs that look a lot like a certain red speedo worn by the agent in Season 2.
- Mulder’s monologue in Scully’s hotel room covering both sides of a conversation they would have about the case they are working on pretty much sums up the nature of their relationship over the course of the show’s run.
- The head stone that Mulder “visits” in the graveyard has Kim Manners’ name on it, who directed a large number of episodes in the original run and passed away a few years ago, right around the time the movie The X-Files: I Want to Believe came out.
- The ringtone that wakes a drunk, passed out Mulder up in the cemetery is the show’s theme.
- Scully’s quip “I’m immortal” brings to mind a question fans have long had about this very topic, with two episodes fuelling the debate: Season 3’s “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repost” and Season 6’s “Tithonus.”
- Daggoo is yet another Moby Dick reference made in the show, of which the best known one is Captain Scully calling his daughter Starbuck.
- And who can forget what poor, adorable Queequeg, and cringe at the thought of the conversation Scully had to have with her mother after his demise?
So… How many have I missed?
Two concepts were touched upon in the course of this case: those we think are monsters are not often so, and that human nature, as we currently define it, is very dire indeed.
In a typical Morgan twist, it ends up that the Were-Monster, Guy Mann, is not the culprit but the victim; bitten by a human, he has been startled out of his peaceful existence as an insectivore. This puts him in a position to deliver a very interesting and brilliant commentary about human nature about the pointless drive to get things that we might not even understand why we need (like a mortgage), the lies we tell ourselves and others about who we wish to be (Mann’s sexual exploits), and the fact that happiness—which should be, for social creatures like ourselves, something we achieve through our relationships with each other—is more easily achieved by Mann (and man?) by getting a pet (which I also translate into happiness in getting things). Mann’s monologue can be seen as a warning to Mulder not to give in to what the consensus is telling him, i.e. that he should give up on his work on The X-Files, to settle for the much more “normal” work as profiler, which he was so good at and might have allowed him to climb the ladder at the FBI.
Mulder’s Quest: The Jumping Hare
Because ultimately, it feels like this episode is about Mulder yet again having doubts about his path in life, doubts that have plagued him throughout the show’s original run. And just like he always has, the agent tends to jump around a lot in his beliefs, ready to accept at the drop of a hat whatever will prove the existence of the paranormal, or strong emotions—like the disappearance of Scully in Season 2—making him lash out angrily at his beliefs.
At the beginning of this particular episode, we witness many of the cases Mulder investigated basically “debunked” by science, thus making him question the existence of The X-Files. The interesting thing through is that, in my mind at least, having false, so-called paranormal cases debunked will serve Mulder well in narrowing his focus on the remaining, still to-be-explained cases in his files.
Seeing the Were-Monster transform before his eyes helps Mulder rekindle his faith, but hopefully with a strong dose of caution he has been seriously lacking until now.
Scully’s Path: The Careful Tortoise
It’s interesting to see, both in this season and through most of the show’s original run (except at the beginning of Season 8 when she was trying to fill Mulder’s vacant shoes), the contrast between Mulder and Scully, who is very secure in what she believes in. While Scully does change her view of the truth, it happens step by step, slowly, and with a lot of proof. This can potentially make for a very interesting dynamic in the next three episodes (and hopefully in upcoming seasons…) during which I hope the two agents will be able to resolve the dichotomy which I believe has kept them from the truth for so long.
Mulder and Scully’s Relationship
With regards to their working relationship, this episode hints that there is hope that Mulder and Scully are closer than ever to resolving this dichotomy. Mulder seems to have accepted that science can indeed resolve many of the things he looked into, while Scully’s ownership of the “I Want to Believe” poster makes her seem even more open to turn to the paranormal for answers than I expected.
With regards to their romantic relationship, well, I’m a little on the fence here. Scully’s “This is how I like my Mulder” reflects the external force that greatly influenced them coming together in the first place: their work. And it looks like when the work was gone, well, they couldn’t hold it together. Could it be that Mulder did have depression and that became too much for Scully who wanted to step out of the darkness? Could it just be that it was Mulder’s incessant jumping around from theory to theory that clashed too much with Scully’s focus on science? Or could it be that their relationship is, indeed, too imbibed in The X-Files to ever survive without it?
This is definitely the best episode of the season yet. Where the first episode was a confusing, information-stuffed welcome back envelop and the second one a solid modernised, Fringe-like episode, this third one is, well, a classic X-Files that helps to gracefully bring the show into 2016.