21/02/2016

The X Files Founder's Mutation



Season 10 Episode 2 Founder's Mutation
Review by Chris Arnsby
SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW!

Better. Not great but a step in the right direction. If I wanted to sum up this episode in a few words I'd describe it as business as usual. And that might be the core of my problem. Should the second episode back after a fourteen year gap feel more like series 23 episode 2? I'm aware that this makes me seem wildly inconsistent. Last week I was whining about the wholesale ditching of the previous mythology of the series, now I'm grumbling that this episode feels too familiar. But it seems odd that after going to all the trouble to junk the previous back story last week the X-Files is suddenly content to tread water with an episode which feels like it could have been made at any time.


What's causing me concern is that following mythology heavy episodes with ones containing more generic content is another bad habit I recognise from the original run. One week Mulder could discover his sister's clone, the next he would be investigating invisible zoo animals as if his world hadn't just been turned upside down. At first this didn't seem like a huge issue. In 1992 television tended towards series like Star Trek: The Next Generation composed of largely stand alone stories which could be shown in any order. The X-Files first faltering steps at establishing an overarching story were tremendously exciting but as time went on and television became better at telling long form stories over a whole series it was frustrating that the X-Files failed to adapt, and instead stuck with its strict divide between stand alone and mythology stories. Of course this problem isn't unique to the X-Files, but it's one I've since come to associate with more sloppily written series where the first episode will establish the overall plot which will then not be referred to again until the last episode.
(To head off on a real tangent, my go to example for this has always been the terrible 2008 series Spooks: Code 9 -hardly topical I'll admit- where the plot threads laid down in episode one went unresolved until episode six, making two thirds of the series irrelevant. By contrast one of the reasons I happily fell in love with Primeval was because the first series utterly surprised me. I was convinced the end of series one cliffhanger would be the discovery by the characters that Helen Cutter was alive, instead by episode three she had been captured. I was happily watching a series which was burning through back story another programme would carefully have eked out over several years.) 
I've deliberately avoided spoilers for this new run of the X-Files, but one of the things I have picked up is that episodes one and six are the arc heavy stories. If the X-Files is going to go down the Spooks: Code 9 route of story telling then episodes three, four, and five are going to have to be considerably more entertaining to stop me wondering why Fox Mulder is wasting his time investigating mundane crimes when in episode one he was able to touch a man-made UFO.
As with last week, I found the brief scene with Walter Skinner to be the highlight. For all my complaints about business as usual there's a moment here which demonstrates how the political landscape has changed. The X-Files used to have to hint at a huge off-screen shadowy conspiracy which was concealing the truth. Now a man from the Department of Defense can simply declare a stack of files to be classified.
"I can't believe we're doing this again"




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