The first episode of X-Files in 13 years is uneven, but offers a glimpse of past glories

I want to believe that this new X-Files.


I want to believe that this new X-Files season will have some of the original’s charms while taking the characters into new and interesting directions, but if the first episode of the six-episode reboot is any indication, we’re going to have to wait a little longer.

Returning 13 years after its original run, My Struggle had its work cut out for it, establishing what (now former) agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) have been up to in that time. The episode provides a cursory summation of the show’s nine seasons, while also setting the duo up with a new conflict, in a new age – it’s a huge undertaking, one that the episode tries to tackle head on.

When the show began in 1993, audiences were introduced to the X-Files and Mulder’s search for the truth about extraterrestrials via Scully, who’d been assigned by the FBI to debunk Mulder’s work. He’d developed a reputation in the Bureau for entertaining conspiracies and chasing the supernatural. Her scepticism kept him grounded, and the balance between their oppositional approaches became the heart of the show.

It was a shame to see that not much of that relationship is intact in Episode One. The familiar push and pull between Mulder’s enthusiasm and Scully’s reason manifested itself in the form of bickering, charged with more emotional baggage than before.

But My Struggle provided little opportunity for either actor to return to their old, familiar rhythms. Rarely was there balance between the two characters, with Mulder’s passion for the truth being ignited once again by libertarian straw-man and fellow conspiracy theorist, Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale). Purportedly having some intel on an alien abductee, O’Malley is the catalyst for Mulder and Scully pairing up once again. But he also acts as a kind of wedge between the two, stoking Mulder’s insatiable thirst for the truth despite Scully’s concerns about the toll it’s taking on her partner’s health.

In a moment of revelation that didn’t feel entirely earned, Mulder and O’Malley begin connecting the dots between their conspiracy and the American political climate post 9/11, formulating a conspiracy to end all conspiracies, which may as well have been initiated by the words “jet fuel can’t melt steel beams.” In the episode’s best, most satisfying moment, Scully cuts down their breathless pow-wow with some much needed skepticism.

That moment was undoubtedly the episode’s highlight, and was welcome alongside a number of stilted ones – at one point Mulder returns to his old office in the FBI headquarters, somehow expecting it to have been left it dormant all this time. There, creator (and this episode’s writer) Chris Carter’s famous circular dialogue surfaces: “Can you tell me what this is about?” “It’s about controlling the past to control the future. Fiction masquerading as fact. Now you owe me some answers.” Scenes like these seem like fan service (how many I Want To Believe posters does Mulder have?!), but if that’s the case, the show runners completely misunderstand what it was that people liked about X-Files in the first place.

Still, My Struggle poses enough questions for long-time fans and offers enough intrigue for new ones to be a promising start of a new chapter in the X-Files story. How the series deals with those questions, plus the rocky relationship between Mulder and Scully, will determine how many missteps we’ll be able to look past.

The X-Files airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CTV.

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