THE X-FILES Season 10 Roundtable: Overall Impressions

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THE X-FILES revival was one of the most anticipated television events of the year. Earning good ratings overall — including some numbers unheard of in 2016 for the revival’s premiere — the event series can definitely be viewed as a success…But it wasn’t always perfect. We Philes can’t get enough of Mulder and Scully’s search for the ever-elusive Truth, so I decided to sit down with a group of Philes, old and new, to discuss some of the major elements of THE X-FILES season 10 and give our honest opinions of what worked, what didn’t, and what was just plain painful to watch — and not in that trademark way of THE X-FILES, either.

Without further ado, let’s get down to it.

What Are Your Overall Impressions of Season 10?

Shana Lieberman: There was a lot of talk leading up to the return of THE X-FILES about how series creator Chris Carter didn’t want to just do some sort of victory lap. There was also a lot of talk about how it was going to be set up like any standard season of the series, with some “stand alone” monster-of-the-week episodes mixed in with mythology episodes. It would be THE X-FILES as we knew it, not some grand plan to redesign and make a new statement on the television landscape.

Loaded with all sorts of reminders of the first nine seasons — that hug in “Home Again” was eerily similar to the one in “Memento Mori,” and there was the “nobody down here but the FBI’s most unwanted” line, of course — season 10 was a beacon of flashlight-created breams, lighting the way back to when we wanted nothing more than to believe. Getting to catch up with these beloved characters so long after we’d last said goodbye to them was something that defied the limits of what is and isn’t possible on television, much like the X-Files themselves were always cases about the otherwise unbelievable.

It was THE X-FILES as we knew it, just what we wanted…sort of.

In a way, it was almost too much like what we’d already experienced starting over twenty years ago, when Dana Scully was first sent to and delegitimize Fox Mulder’s work in a Syndicate plan gone horribly wrong. Much like in the original series, which had a major lack of Mulder in seasons eight and nine, season ten split Mulder and Scully for most of the final two episodes. Even Annabeth Gish’s Monica Reyes didn’t return until the very end, much like she wasn’t a series regular until the Duchovny-less “dark ages.”

And don’t get me started on the inexplicable inclusion of The Cigarette Smoking Man. Seriously? Seriously. The leap of logic required to bring him back was just far too much, but well…We wanted THE X-FILES as we knew it, right? If that’s the case, why wasn’t there more Skinner? Was Mitch Pileggi not a far bigger part of the original series than…this? Less impossible resurrections, more Papa Skinner, please.

Speaking of too much of THE X-FILES as we knew it…Mulder and Scully. Apart. Really? I gave it a chance in my recap of “My Struggle” (still hate that title — try translating it to German) and even said that, if the explanation that newcomer Sveta gave was actually what happened, I could see where Scully would be unable to watch Mulder self-destruct.

However.

If you’re going to tear two people with that kind of history apart, you need to actually provide some development beyond some newb telling us what happened. Furthermore, aside from that first antagonistic meeting and the fact that they were shown living in separate homes? Mulder and Scully didn’t exactly behave like they were estranged. “You’re never just anything to me, Scully” is totally a line I’d use on my completely platonically estranged work partner…not.

Perhaps Gillian Anderson said it best: “There’s something that’s missing in Scully’s life, and that thing is clearly Mulder. Both of them feel disconnected from the world and themselves because they’re missing a limb,” she said. We saw this in the in-between moments — probably due to the leads’ commitment to their characters more than any kind of storytelling device — but it would have done far better justice to the characters and the viewers had the Mulder and Scully relationship been allowed to simply just…be.

It just seemed like a huge waste of Duchovny and Anderson’s chemistry — especially considering it was still so there and so indicative of a long lasting, strong relationship — to introduce that estrangement and then do practically nothing with it. The reasoning was the same tired, black-and-white thought process that showrunners have been using for years. No, it’s not boring to keep couples together. No, it doesn’t have to always be rainbows and unicorns or whatever this was. There’s a good in between, and sometimes the day to day — not the big stuff — is what is most entertaining. I wish that, after all they’d suffered in the past and continued to suffer in this revival, that Mulder and Scully would have at least had each other in a well-defined way.

Problems aside, though, any return to THE X-FILES is a return to great television. Even at its supposed worst, the series was far better than what some of the “best” of even today’s “Golden Age” of television has to offer. There’s nothing quite like watching the combined talents of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson bring Fox(y) Mulder and (Her Holiness) Dana Katherine (Christ) Scully (Mulder of the Immortal Alien Butt Kind) to life. Honestly, I’d gladly watch a series in which they watched paint dry. Even if there was some stumbling along the way, which I think was partially due to having to fit so much story into so few episodes, season 10 was still a treat to watch. Well. A treat laced with indescribable pain because, you know, lasting happiness is not allowed on The Pain Files.

Avi Quijada: With the amount of expectation that I naturally had for Season 10, having been following through the many possibilities of what it meant to have THE X-FILES back on our screens, I think that I was left a bit unsatisfied by it. Even though I can’t quite pinpoint the moment where the balance tipped to the wrong side, my overall gut feeling is that perhaps we should have waited until all the pieces were better positioned in terms of how the stories were matured, to give more time to think things through, see what was preferable and what should have been taken off the table. This doesn’t take away from the fact that we still got very interesting and good stories.

As “stand-alones”, episodes 2, 3 and 4 were really rewarding, with “Mulder & Scully Meet The Were-Monster” being perhaps the one that was the most solid and round. But “Founder’s Mutation” and “Home Again” will be my favorites of the three because of the dramatic component, the performances and the undoubted progress of key storylines that I wished, throughout the series and the wait afterwards, had been tackled. So this was a great success in that regard.

I honestly feel like “Babylon,” while the proposal was an attractive one, was a low point of the season and was an idea that should have been handled differently.

My criticism, in general, is that with six episodes, and “My Struggle” and “My Struggle II” being so loaded, we should have had more pieces of that puzzle integrated throughout the season to make those bookends a lot more manageable.

Meghan Miller: I’m split right down the middle in terms of my feelings about season 10. You have to understand where I’m coming from: I’m only 20 years old and have been watching THE X-FILES for about four years. When the revival was announced, I nearly fainted from happiness because this meant I would finally get to watch the show in real time. I loved that experience and will forever appreciate season 10 for that. That being said, season 10 has flaws. A lot a lot a lot of them. More than I should probably get into with this one article. I’ll try to restrict them to three.

First: Six episodes wasn’t enough. I was afraid this would be the case before the season even aired, and unfortunately I was right. It’s nice that they wanted to tell new stories but there is a lot of baggage from the original show that needs to be dealt with, and season 10 dealt with that baggage only by introducing new baggage to sift through.

Second: The breakup never went anywhere. Even if you’re not a hardcore shipper, the breakup was never explained properly and never did anything to further with the development of the characters. We’re never given a reason for Mulder and Scully’s estrangement, only the quick explanation that apparently Mulder has endogenous depression, and their relationship became “impossible.” Since we never see that in action, however, it’s a tough pill to swallow; and it seems out-of-character for Scully to abandon Mulder because he’s depressed. To top it off, the revival never attempts to have the characters address their problems, even when they’re brought back to work together. Because of this, there’s tension between them. But unlike the tension of the original series, which was compelling and sexy, this tension feels soured and rotten.

Third: Ending the series on that big of a cliffhanger seems…cruel. I know I’m a newbie Phile, and I don’t understand the agony fans went through during the 90’s when, say, the season 4 finale “Gethsemane” was aired. But at least back then people knew for sure another season was coming. A season 11 is likely with the good ratings but hasn’t been announced, so who knows? That cliffhanger felt like a midseason finale. It’s just an odd place to leave fans.

Oh, wait.

There’s a fourth major problem: the character assassination they’ve chosen to call Monica Reyes. I loved Monica Reyes back in seasons 8 and 9. She was one of the only things that kept me alive during the whole dismal ninth season. I was so looking forward to seeing her again, especially since she didn’t even get a mention in I Want To Believe. The last thing I expected was for Chris Carter to turn her into another Diana Fowley. This was so out of character and horrible that just thinking about Monica giving CSM the cigarette makes me want to throw up a little. Monica Reyes just wouldn’t do that. Chris Carter, you owe me several thousand apology letters.

Turning away from the negatives, there are many things I did like in the revival. First off, the production quality is spectacular. It looks new, updated, and modern; but I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with that. The show should adapt with the times while still keeping its trademark creepy feel. Secondly, Darin Morgan gave us his fifth episode of THE X-FILES. That alone would have made me watch the revival, even if every other episode had been horrible. Glen Morgan’s “Home Again” and James Wong’s “Founder’s Mutation” were both very heartfelt. Mark Snow’s score was wonderful as usual.

Overall, though, I’m still massively torn as far as this revival is concerned. Only three out of the six episodes escaped being heavily problematic (hint: they were not the ones written by Chris Carter). So many questions from the original series went unexplained, after thirteen years of waiting. There were many problems. Still, the fact that we got new episodes of THE X-FILES makes me happier than I can say, and getting to watch them on TV was an experience I honestly never thought I’d get.

Lissete E. Lanuza Sáenz (Lizzie): When you’ve been waiting for something as long as I’ve been waiting for new episodes of THE X-FILES, you tend to look at things in a glass half-full way. Even if I wasn’t blinded by unconditional love, however, I think I would have to say the revival succeeded much more than it failed, especially in the little things. But then again, that’s the story of THE X-FILES. That’s part of its charm. The actors? Spot on. The chemistry? Sizzling. The emotions between them? Real and heart-stopping, in a way few shows/actors manage in this day and age. The Monsters of The Week? Mostly fun. The overall conspiracy? The plot, if you want to call it that? Lacking. And it’s very frustrating, as a fan, but also kind of…expected. I had faith in the things that worked out and no faith in the things that didn’t. It’s like I “know” what to expect.

What the revival needed was either more time to explain the new conspiracy, or to not be so ambitious about it. They had six episodes. SIX. I appreciate the need to push the envelope just as much as the next person, but sometimes (most times) Chris Carter will, if given the opportunity, take it too far. There were other ways to have both FOX and the fans asking for more. Less traumatic ways. Not that the conspiracy was the only thing that could have been done better, in my opinion. There was also the way the whole thing was structured. A two-parter at the end would have worked better for me than first and last episode. Or make three of the episodes conspiracy-themed, not two. As it was, what always felt one of this show’s strengths, how it could go from dead serious to laugh out-loud-funny, just made this revival seem less cohesive than it could have.

But mostly, I think the revival needed to keep Mulder and Scully together (and not just in the the romantic sense, also in the sharing a screen sense) or, at the very least, give us an actual believable reason why they weren’t. In short, it needed to be more “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster” and less “My Struggle,” and that’s a hard thing to ask of such a short run. Which is why, despite my issues, I still mostly enjoyed what we got. Mulder and Scully together again, on my TV screen. It was, mostly, a dream come true.

Luciana Mangas: Being a newbie Phile, I feel like I didn’t have enough time to appreciate everything this revival had to offer when it comes to all the nostalgia vibes everyone was going through these past few weeks. While my fellow reviewers had to wait months/years, I did a completely insane marathon to catch up on the show in less than a month – which means I only had to wait four days between watching the second movie and then watching the season 10 premiere.

More than enough time to miss Mulder and Scully, if you ask me. Anyway…

I really, really enjoyed revisiting these beloved characters almost ten years after I Want To Believe. That was the main takeaway for me. How often do we get to see how the characters we know and love are doing years later, and what their lives are like now? Even though I had just watched their younger selves dominate my screen for the entire month of January, seeing Mulder and Scully as older, wiser, and more experienced individuals was a real treat.

It wasn’t all flowers and rainbows, though. There were amazing episodes and there were episodes that left us less than impressed (“Babylon”, I’m looking at you); but overall, it gave us Philes everything we were looking for – for the most part. It wasn’t perfect, and there were aspects of this revival that were incredibly frustrating, such as that insane mythology arc. Splitting it into the first and last episode made absolutely no sense — it left us absolutely bewildered. The first episode wasn’t as exciting as it could have been. The last one felt incomplete, like we had just been watching a great movie and then, suddenly, the power went out and we didn’t get to see the end.

Also, bringing in both old characters and new ones was more of a failed experiment than a successful one. They absolutely butchered Monica Reyes (having her work for CSM to save her own skin? I mean, what?); Skinner was barely in the show at all and when he was on my screen, it was only for precious few minutes (I need more Papa Skinner in my life, Chris Carter. That was not even close to enough); CSM’s miraculous resurrection made absolutely no sense and don’t even get me started on how annoying Tad O’Malley was.

But it wasn’t all bad. As much as I didn’t really like “Babylon,” I actually enjoyed meeting Agents Miller and Einstein. The similarities between them and Mulder and Scully were a little too in your face sometimes, but Robbie Amell and Lauren Ambrose did a fantastic job with the material they were given and made it their own, fleshing out these new characters and setting them apart from Mulder and Scully. I really, really hope we get to see them again whenever season 11 premieres.

That said, I am still scratching my head in confusion as to why creator Chris Carter decided to split Mulder and Scully up and have them supposedly “grow closer” in the revival. The last time we saw them in IWTB, they were absolutely wonderful together, and it gave me hope that that was how we were going to find them years later. After all, these two are perfect for each other.

Also, I am not sure if Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny missed that memo, but — with the exception of the first few moments in the season premiere — Mulder and Scully looked as cozy and in love as they have always been. Their chemistry has not suffered at all in the past eight years; if anything, I think it has grown exponentially. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that?

Overall, it was an amazing experience to watch the show live for the first time. Did it have its faults? Yes. Was it perfect? No. But watching THE X-FILES live with millions of fans, old and new, was something I will never forget.

 

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  • Stephanie73

    Agree with all of the above. Hated Mulder & Scully’s breakup and there was no compelling explanation for it. Their lack of screen time together especially in the finale was disappointing and wasted the chemistry of Anderson & Duchovny. Wanted to see much more than a few seconds of Skinner. Didn’t need a return of Cigarette Smoking Man, particularly because we saw him BLOW UP at the end of Season 9 and really had to suspend disbelief. And character assassination is the perfect way to describe what happened to Monica Reyes. Loved her in the original series & was actually rooting for some Scully/Reyes girl power moments. Never expected a plot twist so poorly thought out as to nearly ruin a character. ( I say nearly, because I love Reyes & want a do over!)