‘The X-Files’ Premiere Was Awful. ‘This’ Is Much Better


A review of tonight’s The X-Files coming up just as soon as I open an X-File on this bran muffin…

So, the less said about last week’s episode — which was both nonsensical and, with the twist about William’s true parentage, made Scully into a rape victim who doesn’t even know she was raped — the better. The mythology needs to go away, and really Chris Carter needs to go away from his own creation. Everyone will be happier for it.

“This,” written and directed by Glen Morgan, was a dramatic improvement in virtually every way, starting right with that badass teaser. The premiere left me so sad and angry about the state of the show at this point, and I put on “This” mainly to do due diligence, only to be rewarded with Mulder and Scully as action heroes (Scully sliding under the table to get her gun!) while Ringo Langly’s digital ghost calls out to them from Mulder’s phone.

It’s clear that the creative team regrets killing off the Lone Gunmen late in the original run(*). Having them appear to Mulder as part of a drug hallucination last time out was one of many bad decisions involved in that godawful suicide bomber episode. Bringing back Langly as a virtual copy of himself worked much better, and if Black Mirror covers this territory a bit more authoritatively these days, this had the advantage of featuring two characters we know well, played by old colleagues who are trying this time, as opposed to Duchovny phoning in so much of his 2016 work.

(*) This reminds me of a concern I had when the Will & Grace creators said they planned to ignore the events of their series finale in the revival: the more commonplace revivals become, the more reluctant showrunners will be to pursue story ideas that would make a revival more difficult to pull off. Whacking the Lone Gunmen wasn’t the series’ finest hour, but it’s still a thing they did, and I bet you if Carter had known for sure he’d be making new episodes 15+ years later, he wouldn’t have done it.

The treasure hunt to get to the server room where Langly, Steve Jobs, and everyone else was being kept also turned “This” into an effective trip down the series’ memory hole, complete with a stop at Deep Throat’s tombstone, which revealed his name as Ronald Pakula — a tip of the cap to classic ’70s paranoid thriller director Alan J. Pakula (All the President’s Men, The Parallax View). Unlike the various “My Struggle” installments, this one just kept moving, to the point where even the return of Barbara Hershey’s character from the premiere felt less intrusive than it otherwise could have.

The attempts to name drop Snowden and Robert Mueller were a bit clumsy, but on the whole, “This” was in some ways the most impressive episode of either revival season. Obviously, the Darin Morgan ones are the best, but they’re always special cases. This was evidence that it’s possible to tell a traditional, largely standalone X-Files story in 2018 and not feel like a relic of a time that even Mulder and Scully admit feels much safer than the one we’re all living in now.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@uproxx.com. He discusses television weekly on the TV Avalanche podcast. His new book, Breaking Bad 101, is on sale now.