Only one thing can save The X-Files now
WHEN The X-Files was revived two years ago for a short six-episode burst, the possibility of its continuation was always in the air.
Enthusiasm from the existing fanbase translated to great ratings in the US and the TV network quickly signed up for another season. Creator Chris Carter obviously had an inkling the series was coming back because he audaciously ended season 10 on a cliffhanger.
If you can't remember the events of that season finale, "My Struggle II", it goes something like this: A global viral outbreak is on the march, likely to decimate the human population - an apocalyptic plan set in motion by the Cigarette Smoking Man, who's not dead despite his fiery demise in the original series finale.
Scully appears to be immune to the virus but Mulder is not. The episode ended with the two agents and their younger counterparts Einstein and Miller, congregated on a Washington DC bridge with Scully informing Mulder the only way he'll survive is with a stem cell transplant from their son William, the miracle child they gave up and hid over a decade ago. That's when an alien spaceship-looking vessel starts to hover over the group, light beaming down. Fade to black.
That's quite a corner to write yourself into when you've got 10 new episodes to fill.
The first episode of the new series, "My Struggle III", written and directed by Carter, is a direct pick-up from where it left off and it does resolve things enough to allow the show to move on.
Thank god. Because the season returner is, well, middling would be putting it kindly. That first episode is melodramatic and stagy - even the talented Gillian Anderson sounds like she's going through the motions as if it's the first table read. The resolution to the cliffhanger, which we won't spoil, is disappointing and more than a bit silly. Unless you're a diehard fan, you could almost skip this episode and head straight for the second.
But it does at least give the series an almost blank slate to reinvigorate it with fresh stories tied to its increasingly absurd mythology with its murky truths and shifting conspiracies. Eight of the season's 10 episodes will be stand-alone, monster-of-the-week chapters, with only two episodes dedicated to show's mythology - the opener and likely the finale.
It seems cruel to say this about Carter considering he's responsible for this whole world, but he should probably step back from writing any more episodes. Of the six episodes last season, Carter wrote three, all "mythology" ones, and they were all pretty woeful - overcooked and self-serious.
The three episodes he wasn't responsible for were much more effective, and tonally in line with the original '90s run. In particular, the episode penned by Darin Morgan, the excellent and very funny "Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster", recalled The X-Files at its creative peak.
If Morgan can repeat his alchemic touch this year, then there's hope for the rest of the season. His episode is the fourth one and it's titled "The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat" - make of that what you will.
Morgan isn't the only X-Files alum called back into action - others include his brother Glen Morgan and James Wong. The trio, along with a handful of new blood, will hopefully rescue the series from Carter's worst instincts and give it a respectable swan song.
American critics who have had preview access to more episodes than the first instalment have indicated the ones that follow are significantly better.
The answer to whether we really needed more episodes of The X-Files is probably not, but if there are going to be a few gems among the mediocrity, then maybe it's all worth it after all?
Meanwhile, season 11 will probably be the last time you'll see the gang together. Anderson has already said this is her final stint in the role, and what's Mulder without Scully? Let's not forget what happened last time the series went on without one of its iconic leads.
The X-Files season 11 starts on Foxtel's Showcase channel tomorrow at 7.30pm Qld, 8.30pm NSW.
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