The second ‘X-Files’ episode was an improvement on the first, but…

01.25.16 1 year ago 41 Comments

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A few thoughts on tonight's “The X-Files” coming up just as soon as I blame last night's episode on Obamacare…

“Founder's Mutation” was produced as the fifth episode of this six-part miniseries, but is airing second. That the show can do this speaks to the unusual for 2016, but standard for the '90s, structure of keeping the mythology and Monster of the Week episodes wholly separate. (Remember when “Fringe” tried to do that? Nobody had the patience for it, and eventually the show went all-mythology.) So it feels jarring to go, especially less than 24 hours later, from all the business with Sveta, Tad O'Malley, and Roswell, into a wholly standalone story where Mulder and Scully are just back at work at the FBI, but that's more or less how “X-Files” functioned back in its heyday.

What's more troubling about the switcheroo is the thought that Chris Carter or someone at FOX felt that this was the strongest Monster of the Week episode to place first. I understand why they wouldn't want to lead with next week's Darin Morgan comedy episode, but if “Founder's Mutation” represents the best normal-ish outing the revival has to offer, when at most it would have been a decent but forgettable installment from the '90s? That doesn't exactly have me thrilled for the season's back half.

Certainly, it's an improvement over the premiere, and not just because there's no scene as dire as the one on Mulder's porch. The makeup work on all the kids in the ward was amazingly creepy, and ditto the image of the bloody infant hand reaching out from its mother's open belly. And Mulder's encounter with the dead scientist's “friend” Gupta added a welcome note of humor (Gupta, convinced Mulder is in the closet, tells him, “The truth is in here“) without undermining the gravity of the overall plot.

But in other spots, the storytelling was nearly as sloppy as it was in “My Struggle.” Too many decisions were being made based on events that happened off-screen, which were explained to Mulder and/or Scully via several tons of exposition. And while I liked the idea of the case forcing both of our heroes to consider the road not taken with their long-absent son, both of the dream sequences (Scully's in particular) felt much too rushed to pull off the big emotions they were going for. As it is, there's too much happening in the episode (which is why we don't get to see so much of the actual investigating that used to be the show's stock in trade), so I'm not sure what else might have been cut to give the dream sequences room to find the right tonal balance. But it was Wong, and the show, reaching for something big and not quite getting there.

What did everybody else think? Was this an improvement over last night's, or would you rather have seen more mythology?

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