Recapping the quality roller coaster that was The X-Files, Season 10

Posted: February 23, 2016 by Jaden C. Kilmer in Article
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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The X-Files credits usually end with a title card stating “The truth is out there.” That was switched out in last night’s season finale for the ominous “this is the end.” The inclination: This is the end for X-files. The series’ revival was advertised as a “six part event,” without explicitly calling itself a one-off or attempt at a revived continued series, a la Doctor Who in 2005. Though it certainly appeared to be more of a mini-series than anything.

So as the finale stretched into its closing minutes, without a clear resolution in sight, I grew more and more weary that they were going to pull what Galavant, another “multi-part event,” did to end its first season. Nothing.

So we close on an image of Scully looking up at an alien saucer, traction beam engaged. But instead of incurring a “holy shit” or some other moment of shocked joy, it was more of a groan.

In short, X-Files season 10 is a whole lotta nuthin’.

We begin with “My Struggle,” an episode that, while fun, is pretty much 42 minutes of word salad. We’re introduced to Tad O’Malley, a thinly veiled Bill O’Reilly type character who distrusts the government and loves conspiracy theories. In fact, he has put together the ultimate conspiracy theory, one that ties together almost every other major conspiracy theory out there (and putting the channel-formerly-known-the-history-channel out of business.) Aliens, bigfoot, swine flu, it was all a government plot. And despite the silliness it’s mainly good fun, though the “struggle” mentioned in the episode title is probably one’s struggle to suspend disbelief. Grade: B

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Next up, “Founder’s Mutation.” While the ending of “My Struggle” seemed to indicate a transition from “Monster of the Week” episodes to a more modern, bingeable, serialized format, “Founder’s Mutation” is instead a separate story. As if the guys from Men in Black showed up between episodes to blank their memory, they continue on largely unaffected by the revelations of the previous episode. However, “Founder’s Mutation” is a deliciously dark and creepy standalone. The episode itself is hard to fault. Grade: B+

And then we reach the apex of this quality rollercoaster: “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-monster.” In an episode that can only be faulted for being a sudden change of pace, “Weremonster” is hilarious, charming, unique, and even a little heartbreaking. It’s also the best example of updating this 90’s series with modern pop culture. It plays with expectations to craft a thoroughly entertaining episode that hits all the right notes. Grade: A

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“Home Again” manages to maintain momentum with another abrupt change in pace. I won’t spoil it, but suffice to say it’s the most emotionally moving episode in the season. The surrounding mystery isn’t the best, but for once the mystery takes a side seat to a main plot more grounded in reality, far more relatable than hunting aliens and what-not. It’s solid stuff, and for a moment the season appears to be heading for greatness. Grade: A-

However, what goes up, must come down. And in the penultimate “Babylon,” that descent begins. The episode gives us a rather uninteresting take on the terrorist attack story, featuring two men that blow themselves up in an art gallery. One of them however, survives and is in a coma. (It’s revealed he didn’t detonate his bomb, but still I hear the “bullshit!” alarms going off in my head.) The plot from there is a bit… strange. We are introduced to agents Einstein and Miller, who are younger, carbon copies of Scully and Mulder. (Perhaps setting them up to be future replacements?) Mulder concocts a plan to get agent Einstein to give him some hallucinogenic mushroom, so he can talk to the comatose bomber and try to solve the larger mystery. It’s… weird. There’s issues with tone control as we cut from images of burning bodies to extended mushroom trip sequences, and the vaguely philosophic discussion at the end seems more rambling than insightful. Grade: C

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And then we get to the finale, “My Struggle II.” Suddenly back to the serialized arc, it’s more word salad, throwing one thing after another at the viewer. It feels very archaic. Very 90’s. In this era of television, there is no reason for anything to feel so rushed. This is the era of serialized TV taking five seasons to tell a single story, challenging common conceptions at how short or long a season and its episodes can be. This sort of loose arc hurriedly wrapped up at the end is vestigial- it’s left over from another time, when cop procedurals were must-see TV and Netflix was still mainly a place to watch four years old movies. The X-Files didn’t change with the times, and the times threatens to leave it in the dust if it doesn’t change. Episode grade: D+

Season grade: C

 

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