After years of fans clamoring for its return (and one bad feature film outing), The X-Files are re-opening back home on television. Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) are back in a two-night premiere event on Fox as part of a 6-episode limited series.
Much to my relief, the series finally jumps back into the alien conspiracy mythology that was the heart of the show, instead of more monster-of-the-week episodes like the previously mentioned film The X-Files: I Want To Believe. Unfortunately the first episode, titled My Struggle, does exactly that and kicks things off in confusing, disjointed fashion.
The episode wastes no time reuniting the estranged Mulder and Scully with very little fanfare or buildup – to paraphrase what it feels like: “Aliens?” “Aliens.” “Let’s go.” Duchovny and Anderson still have that chemistry, but the episode, written and directed by series mastermind Chris Carter, never finds the natural rhythm and dynamic between the two beloved characters.
Not only that, but if Carter’s name hadn’t been in the credits, I would have sworn this was some new creative team’s take on The X-Files. The mood, suspense and scares are almost entirely missing from My Struggle and the first 15 minutes of the episode present the conspiracy in such a straight-forward, answer-filled manner that it felt like a prologue to an X-Files ripoff.
Joel McHale (Community, The Soup) joins the cast as Tad O’Malley (heh), an extremely successful internet news anchor with an alien obsession who has uncovered vital information that he feels only Mulder (and by default, Scully) can help him bring to the public. It feels a bit odd to have McHale in this role since he’s primarily a comedic performer, but he has the right level of cockiness and douchebaggery for this celebrity internet personality role.
My Struggle primarily focuses on Mulder, O’Malley and Scully, but some old favorites return, including Mitch Pileggi as Director Skinner. He has little more than a cameo in this episode, but it’s a good scene and leaves you wanting more. Annet Mahendru (The Americans) also joins the cast in the supporting role of Sveta, a victim of alien abduction that plays a pivotal role. Mahendru is very talented and brings multiple layers to a character that could have just been a plot advancer.
The premiere also presents some ideas that are so ground-shaking to The X-Files mythology, that if they stick, it feels like a pretty significant “gotcha” twist that will probably be perceived by many as an insulting disservice to the entire run of the series thus far. At the time of writing this review, I have not watched the second episode of the two-night premiere, so it’s possible things get back on track and My Struggle was primarily just a red herring. I want to believe.