Monday, January 25, 2016

My Struggle

It's a whole new ball game for television, where a beloved show can just return for a new run of episodes, even more than a decade after its (former) series finale. FOX is leading the charge here, having revived 24 (and with a fever dream scheme in the works to revive Prison Break). Last night, they reopened The X-Files. For the first time in ages, The Truth Is Out There.

But watching "My Struggle," this first of six new episodes, I felt like a more appropriate tag line might have been: The Struggle Is Real. This hour represented all that was the worst about The X-Files in its final, waning season, the period where the so-called "mythology" -- the ongoing story line about the alien conspiracy -- had grown so large and convoluted that I longed for the stand-alone episodes instead.

In "My Struggle," a blowhard TV personality has somehow managed to piece together the "truth" that Mulder hasn't with a lifetime of dedication. Yet the Powers That Be haven't yet shut this guy down, not before he [SPOILERS!] can reunite Mulder and Scully, show the former an actual flying saucer, and lead to the latter's discovery of alien sequences in her own genome.

That's as much as was clear to me. The rest was a veritable stream of nonsenseness, a Sarah Palin-esque word salad of conspiracy buzzwords. Somehow, the drumbeat of "Roswell," "ARVs," "scoop marks," "abductions," and "9/11," intercut with pictures of Gerald Ford, fast food burgers, Edward Snowden, and whatever was handy, led to the obvious and certain conclusion that Mulder had been wrong his whole life. Now, he knew that elusive "Truth." It was bizarre, impenetrable, boring, off-putting. Just like all the other mythology episodes from the last few seasons of The X-Files. So, yeah? The X-Files is back!

I'm sure hoping for better from the episodes to come, because the few pleasures I derived from this hour sure aren't going to last five more installments. Seeing David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson back as the iconic characters was a treat, of course -- particularly, for me, the latter. I'd most recently seen Anderson on Hannibal as the calm Bedelia, who always maintained a put-together demeanor and even tone of speech even while shaken to her core. Even just watching Scully raise her voice was a nice change of pace.

There were plenty of fun nods to the show's glory days. The opening credits, still just as they appeared more than two decades ago. The images of Mulder's sea of pencils, still stuck in the office ceiling. The coded references to Mulder and Scully's romantic relationship -- now become a failure (and yes, what a bad idea that was). Still, these moments were but small life rafts in the surrounding insane gibberish.

Of course, I'll be there for every new X-Files episode they'll give me. But if they're all like this, I'll definitely end up wishing they'd left well enough alone. I give "My Struggle" a D.

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