When FOX announced that The X-Files, Chris Carter’s science-fiction drama about the truth being… somewhere, was returning as a “special-event series,” the news was greeted with near-universal excitement. One of the most important shows of all-time in six tantalizing episodes! Mulder and Scully, together again! It would surely wash away the sins of the ignored The X-Files: I Want to Believe, and cover The Way We Live Now, in a paranoid post-9/11 world where drones are piloted through chemtrails by aliens, or something.
That “or something” is the problem.
The first episode was a confusing mess, but the next one was better, and the third episode, an all-time classic. Episodes four and five took our favorite FBI agents to Philadelphia and West Texas, and introduced us to the brash Agent Einstein and dull Agent Miller, a younger Mulder and Scully played by Six Feet Under‘s Lauren Ambrose and Robbie Amell. Their arrivals set the pieces in place for last night’s (series?) finale, “My Struggle II,” except that’s the only cohesion the show bothered with. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s first ask a simple question: After watching the aptly-titled “Struggle,” was The X-Files miniseries worth it? For FOX, yes; for everyone else, no.
1. The lack of coherence
The X-Files miniseries should have gone one of two ways: All “Monster of the Week” episodes, or all mythology episodes. Instead, it did both, and the tone was off throughout. The four episodes between the premiere and the finale barely mattered to the mythology, which is fine, except “My Struggle II” threw us right back into the action, as if nothing happened after the first part. There was a lot to digest, and it was all shoved down our throats too quickly. Scully has alien DNA, which protects her from the Cigarette Smoking Man and his cronies’ plans to kill everyone on Earth, except for a select few. Who are the few, besides CSM, Mulder, and Scully? Unclear. Also hazy: Why? Would CSM financially profit from the elimination of the human race? Who are the elite? Why would he bother saving Mulder, who’s been a thorn in his flaked butt? There never seemed to be a plan in place — the finale was a bunch of half-thought-out ideas thrown into a blender and served as a flavorless smoothie.
2. The acting
David Duchovny is not a great actor. This helps explain why his film career has never taken off, and why he was so perfect as the sleepy-eyed sleaze Hank Moody on Californication. But Gillian Anderson always brought out the best in him. Their chemistry, even in the later seasons, was palpable, and the stakes on The X-Files always felt real because the compassion Duchovny showed for Anderson, and vice versa, was honest. But man, where was that fan fiction-inspiring rapport in the miniseries? Duchovny might as well have still been on Aquarius, while Anderson, who’s typically so wonderful, mistook whispering for thoughtfulness. They care deeply for these characters, and I believe them when they say they didn’t sign up for an easy paycheck, like a band playing Coachella after a decade-long absence. But that passion never showed up on the screen. (Then again, I’m not sure there’s anything they could have done with clunky dialogue like, “He needs stem cells in him right now.” Natalie Portman in the Star Wars prequels knows your struggle.)
It also didn’t help that Mulder and Scully were kept apart until the final minutes of “Struggle,” which brings up another point.