By Josh Melo
‘The X-Files’ Review – S10 Ep.1 (My Struggle)
It’s been around a decade since we’ve last been immersed in the world of The X-Files, sifting through extraterrestrial conspiracy theory after the next. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson return as Fox Mulder and Dana Scully for a 6 episode run to tell us “The truth is out there!” Questioning their sanity, and battling for their lives, Mulder and Scully find themselves embroiled in a brand new alien undertaking that leads them to finally reopening the X-files.
The first half of a two night premiere, My Struggle came with heavy expectations, which for the most part it meets. The task of catching viewers up on nearly 200 episodes worth of twists and turns is a massive enterprise, the fact that it does a half decent job of it is astounding. While there are definitely big questions left unanswered, the basics are provided. Mulder and Scully have both had their share of alien encounters, abductions, unwanted government rendezvouses and dead ends. It’s a tough business, talking about the things nobody wants you to know about. So we find these characters living a downtrodden existence. Mulder is isolated out in the wilderness somewhere while Scully assists with surgeries. The two get a call from their old pal Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) and get right back to work.
As to what the pair have been doing in this more or less 10-year gap, that’s left unexplained and something that must be addressed and quickly, given the shows limited run. It was a bit odd seeing the two of them essentially drop their new lives to retake the cause, especially since it’s implied that Mulder is doing his best to stay off of the government radar. Nevertheless, the two are once again neck deep in alien underworld.
My Struggle marks a return to the usual X-Files dynamic. Mulder is sucked into the world of government cover-ups and Scully plays the less than excited tag along. While the back and forth is tried and true, I can’t help but feel that it’s gotten a bit tired. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson deliver almost every line as if they’ve done so a thousand times before, to the point that they simply don’t want to do it anymore. Even in their most heated moments the dialogue and delivery come off as uninterested.
Part of this may be attributed to the game of catch up the premiere plays. Recycling scenes and specific lines to help kindle the fires of nostalgia in returning fans and attempting to ignite fresh conspiratorial embers in newer ones. Only, the classic catch phrases fail to leave their usual impression. These new, seemingly world-wearier versions of the characters lack the charisma to successfully deliver the shows out of this world message, which sucks because the exposition is genuinely interesting.
Which brings us to what My Struggle nailed, the theories. If the first half of the episode was dedicated to catch-up and introduction, the back half was all about exploring bold new territory. Carried on the back of newcomers Joel McHale and Annet Mahendru, the tail end of the episode unveils a global plot by the government whose ultimate goal is complete subjugation. Secreting away alien technology since the early 40’s (as seen in intriguing flashbacks), the US government has been building alien vehicles and using them to kidnap civilians. These faux abductions are meant to distract theorists from the true threat while the secret society conducts violent experiments on the innocents in order to try and create the perfect alien/human hybrid (a classic idea from X-Files lore).
Without spoiling the ending, Mulder and Scully are forced back into action after a series of explosive events that leave future episode with ample opportunity to regain the magic the series once had.
Joel McHale brings the most energy to the table as fear mongering conspiracy nut Tad O’Malley. His dynamism is often at odds with the low-key performances of Duchovny and Scully but in an age where people expect big moments at every turn, he is likely the character new fans will stick to. The true standout of the episode comes in the form of one Annet Mahendru. Playing a confused serial abductee, Sveta is sucked into the world of the X-File without truly knowing what part she has to play. Not knowing what the truth should sound like, she ends up pushing herself in to the public eye to catastrophic results. Her mystified character and instances of ability make her the most intriguing aspect of the series revival and one that I hope gets expanded in future episodes.
When the episode finally embraces its identity (without relying on forced throwbacks) My Struggle feels fantastic. Up to that point, it acts more like an old exercise for tired actors. That being said, I have high hopes for Duchovny and Anderson, who proved in the episode’s later moments that they can handle playing these characters in an era of non-stop action.
With a few other notable faces making a return to the fold, the new X-Files have a lot of potential. Breaking new conspiratorial ground while building off of the long established legacy off of the old, My Struggle is a good foundation for Duchovny and Anderson to continue their decades long work. Original fans will find a lot to like here while new fans may be put off initially, but if they can power through to the midway point, they will be sucked in like the rest of us.
Overall, My Struggle gets a 7/10.