(Yeah, I got a little carried away with the Roman numerals. Guilty as charged.)
I.) Mulder and Scully are back. Yes, both of them. As my fellow Philes know all too well, only about half of Season Eight’s episodes contained Mulder, and he appeared in just one episode of Season Nine – the finale. Note to TV writers everywhere: The truth is out there, and the truth is, when your series completely revolves around the lives and struggles of your two main characters, don’t try to continue without one of those characters. It’ll end badly. The last few seasons of The X-Files were hard to watch. Sure, there were some gems here and there, but for the most part, many fans (myself included) were watching out of loyalty, not out of love. Season Ten has brought the love back. I feel a thrill of excitement as I perch on the edge of the couch cushion, too eager to sit back and relax, lest I miss one single second of the newest installment.
II.) It’s authentic. This isn’t some Dark Shadows reboot that would make fans of the original series cringe. This is the real deal – original cast, original writers, and Mark Snow on music – just as it should be. They even used the good credits, the ones from Seasons 1-7, and not the cheesy, fakey-looking ones from after Duchovny left. When I heard The X-Files was returning, the very first question out of my mouth was: Is this a remake, or a revival? I’m not sure I could’ve watched new actors try to take on the iconic roles of Mulder and Scully. Thank goodness we didn’t have to!
III.) Skinner. I don’t know exactly when it happened, whether it occurred gradually over the course of the series or if it was a more dramatic, sudden shift after Mulder left, but at some point along the way, you couldn’t have The X-Files without Skinner. We need him like we need Mulder and Scully themselves. They love and trust him. We love and trust him. Skinner has Mulder and Scully’s backs when no one else on the planet does. The one major change made to the credits this time around was the addition of Skinner’s badge (in cool, vintage black-and-white glory, of course). As soon as his beautiful, bald head appeared, I nodded my approval wholeheartedly.
IV.) A clean slate. No matter how much you loved the show’s mythology, you have to admit that at a certain point, it just got WAY too complicated. I truly and honestly believe that by the end of the series, the writers themselves could not have told us how each piece fit into the puzzle. We had at least three species of aliens (the green bloods, the black bloods, and the alien replacements (those things with the metal vertebrae)), plus two different alien viruses, not to mention all manner of human-alien hybrids. We had an Alien Bounty Hunter, numerous Jeremiahs, and a bunch of really old, pampered white dudes who liked to sit in a smoky room and dictate our planet’s future with overly cryptic, sometimes nonsensical dialogue. Year by year, season by season, more layers were added to the conspiracy, until, like an unstable wedding cake, it eventually toppled. The writers knew this (note how they even poked a little bit of fun at their own writing in “My Struggle”). The viewers knew it. The critics knew it and stated it loudly. This time around, The X-Files is playing it smarter. This time around, the writers have wiped down the chalkboard with a wet sponge. They’ve scrubbed away the tangled mess we were left with after nine seasons, and written one word in its place: Experimentation. The aliens aren’t trying to take us over, after all – the government is. It was the government all along. They have many ways in which to accomplish this, as outlined in the first ep of Season Ten. The only thing we don’t know is, why are they experimenting with alien DNA? What role does that play in the grand scheme of world domination? Giving Mulder and Scully one complex and personal question to answer, rather than ten thousand tangentially-related threads to follow, is a wise move, especially since they only have six episodes in which to solve the mystery.
V.) The Cigarette Smoking Man. Okay, yes, he’s as much a part of The X-Files as Mulder, Scully and Skinner, but COME ON! How is that dude even still alive? Didn’t we see a missile physically blast through his skull? I suppose it could’ve been an alien replacement that got nuked, and not the REAL CSM, but still. A little bit ridiculous. And yet…a little bit right, too. No matter how hard we try to banish evil, it still manages to waft, smoke-like, up through the cracks. So, even as I was rolling my eyes at his return, I found myself grinning all the same. After all, what is The X-Files – or any fictional universe, for that matter – without a true nemesis?
VI.) Cool FX! Way cool! The X-Files always strove to be cutting edge with its visual effects, aiming to make a small movie each week, rather than just a TV show. Seeing The X-Files FX team get to play with all the current technology, stuff that simply wasn’t available thirteen years ago, is like getting to watch captive dolphins jump and splash in the ocean for the first time. The alien and spaceship in “My Struggle” were top notch, as was the vividly realistic gore in “Founder’s Mutation.” I fully expect more eye candy – both sweet and disgusting sour – throughout the rest of the season.
VII.) Heart and soul. Right from the start, The X-Files was about way more than alien abductions and scary monsters. It was about two characters on a quest to find the truth. Many times, that quest cost them dearly. Mulder lost his parents. Scully lost her sister and daughter. Both Mulder and Scully have been shot, abducted and experimented on. Both of them had to give up their only son to keep him safe. With each new loss, each new trauma, the characters became closer to each other and we, in turn, became closer to them. Mulder, Scully, and all the people they connect with along the way, are the true heart and soul of this series, and Season Ten hasn’t forgotten that. Far from it. Whether it’s Scully’s raw emotion at hearing a stranger’s clinical recitation of her relationship with Mulder, or a series of poignant scenes depicting “what might have been” if Scully and Mulder had kept their son, this show still knows full well that the humans (not the monsters or the aliens) are what keep us coming back for more.
VIII.) Continuity. The slate may be clean, but that doesn’t mean all the history, all the things Mulder and Scully witnessed and experienced, never happened. Longtime viewers will enjoy the familiar sight of triangular experimental crafts built with UFO technology (like the ones featured in “Deep Throat” and “Dreamland I and II”), and the image of a little girl breathing underwater, which instantly brings to mind the hybrids snoozing in tanks in the “The Erlenmeyer Flask.” Even after all these years, it pays to be a fan who really watched closely. 🙂
IX.) The LOLZ. Aw man, how much have I missed Mulder and his dry one-liners? Is there a number higher than infinity? A friend once commented that without Mulder, the humor of the show took a nosedive, and he was so right. Scully and Doggett together? It was like having two Sams on Supernatural, rather than a Sam and a Dean. In any partnership, you need one straight man, and one joker. Mulder is back and witty as ever as the joker, and I can’t help snorting with laughter every time he says something like “Obamacare” or “Why would I want to watch this jack-ass?” or “I blacked out around the time his eyes popped out of the sockets.” ROFL! Keep them coming, Mulder – I need more lolz in my life.
X.) The Awe. As I sat down to watch last Monday night, I thought to myself: How freaking amazing is this? How many more times in my life am I going to get to sit down in front of a TV screen and watch a NEW episode of The X-Files? This is the show that helped me forge lifelong friendships. This is the show I watched in high school when I was working on take-home calculus tests. This is the show that introduced me to fan fiction in college. I’m thirty-five years old, and the series that wowed me in my teenage years is back on, showcasing front and center every reason why I fell in love with it in the first place. A fangirl can’t get much luckier than that.
Hungry for more X-Files mania? Go check out my friend Carbonated Beverage Drinking Man’s awesome reviews of the new season: