After a fifteen year hiatus from TV, The X-Files returned for a six episode run in January. With this quick run, the new series managed to hit all the bases from the original show, though not always in the best ways.
One of The X-Files‘ greatest strengths has been the chemistry between the characters of Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson). Throughout the season, Duchovny and Anderson reprised flawless and mostly unchanged versions of their characters. The new episodes delved further into the relationship between the two agents, revealing that they had, for the most part, remained separate since the events of the season nine finale. Scully blames this on Duchovny’s depression, and erratic behavior based on his beliefs and doubts in the X-Files.
The new season did a great job of balancing serious episodes, focusing on the overarching plot of the series, with its trademark monster-of-the-week format, a strength which was lacking in some of the later seasons of the show. Season ten is bookended with two episodes entitled “My Struggle” and “My Struggle II”, which focus on the government conspiracy surrounding the Roswell Landing and potential alien colonization of Earth. The episodes between follow the monster-of-the-week format a little more closely (though not always with paranormal monsters), with the third episode, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” a direct parody of the monster-of-the-week style.
While The X-Files is in many ways considered revolutionary for its role in the pop culture of the ’90s and beyond, in many ways this new season is stuck in the past. Most notably, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” makes use of a barrage of transphobic jokes regarding a transgender woman (played by drag queen D.J. “Shangela” Pierce) who saw the were-monster. On top of casting a man in drag instead of an actual trans woman, the writers decided to make their only transgender character a sex worker, a common stereotype and practically the only representation trans women get in the media. When being questioned by Mulder, she casually mentions to the FBI agent, whom she has never met before, that she “transitioned last year”, a completely unbelievable conversation, especially given the prevalence of violence against transgender individuals. Later, the were-monster tells Mulder that she “hit like a man”, and Mulder fumbles over his words trying to explain to the monster that she “used to be” a one. One could guess that the inclusion of a transgender character is some misguided attempt at trans representation, but her sole purpose in the show is to be used as a punchline. It plays out more like an old episode of Law & Order, rather than a sci-fi series in 2016. Of course, this is less surprising after one learns that the “progressive” executives working on the reboot tried to offer Gillian Anderson half the pay that David Duchovny was to receive for the six episode season. As far as representation goes, The X-Files seems to be stuck in the early ’90s.
Overall, the X-Files reboot was mostly alright. It got a little corny in places (within the six episode run there were at least five references to Mulder wanting to believe, with three separate mentions in the premier alone), and the humor was definitely lacking. If the series continues, it will be interesting to see what becomes of Mulder and Scully’s son, William, whose absence was a common theme throughout the season. The chemistry between Duchovny and Anderson was palpable, so if the scriptwriters can step up their game, the potential for the series to improve and capture a new generation of sci-fi fans is certainly there.
Rating: 5 out of 8 slices
Reminds me of a slice of: Extra extra cheesy with a side of problematic favs