Sunday, January 21, 2018
TV and Media

The new season of 'The X-Files' is both classic and relevant in the 'fake news' era

If you want to believe in The X-Files in 2018, then I have good news. You should.

The 2016 six-episode revival was solid, but Season 11 really hits its stride, flexing the full range of X-Files muscles (horror, sci-fi, mystery, comedy, romance) and fully embracing its aging heroes and place in the age of fake news.

Wednesday’s premiere shows the series mythology or mytharc both at its worst and best, doling out answers to long-held questions (about Mulder’s parentage and the Smoking Man’s motivations) while opening up a dozen more or providing alternative answers no one wants (the episode’s end, ugh). The fast pace, supernatural elements and rapidly complicating web are dizzying, keeping you enthralled but also confused, just where creator Chris Carter wants you as he makes you doubt any and everything he’s already made you believe.

Most confusing is how the events in "My Struggle III" relate to last season’s finale, "My Struggle II," which two years ago ended on a cliffhanger with Mulder suffering from an alien disease (unleashed by the Smoking Man) in the middle of a bridge when a ship arrives. The finale-that-couldn’t-be-a-series-finale left open a million questions about aliens, loyalties and Mulder and Scully’s long-lost son, and even after all this time, you will sadly still wait for answers.

But in the meantime, enjoy a smorgasbord of classic X-Files monsters of the week. After the tumultuous premiere, the next four episodes Fox provided for review are delightful — "back to our bread and butter," Mulder quips.

Episode 2: A wild cyber case. Mulder and Scully versus the NSA, plus a revival of a long-gone character that is well-executed though it seemed impossible.

Episode 3: The X-Files staple investigation of small-town wacky phenomenon — deaths preceded by seeing a doppleganger — with equal amounts horror (beheading!) and humor (flung dookie!).

Episode 4: The full-on Darin Morgan zaniness of episodes like "Jose Chung’s From Outer Space" and last season’s "Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster." Laugh at the conspiracies, wacky characters and CGI-or-lack-thereof.

Episode 5: Monster of the week elements in a teen case seemingly inspired by the Slenderman stabbing in Wisconsin. But also ties into key plotlines of the mytharc conspiracy.

Season 11 also reopens the case of Mulder and Scully’s relationship status after they seemed indefinitely broken up. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson have never seemed more in synch as a Mulder and Scully who are comfortable, questioning, together against the world and redefining how they fit together.

If classic in style, Season 11 also presses hard to be current and relevant.

There are several rather pointed references to Donald Trump — tensions between "the executive branch" and the FBI come up and, played for comedy, an alien explains in purely Trumpian terms why they’d build a wall to keep humanity out — but the show seems even more interested in the phenomenon of fake news.

More than one character uses fake news as a reason that their outlandish conspiracy hasn’t yet been exposed; in such an era, characters argue, who would believe stories of aliens and secret government programs? "Believe what you want to believe. That’s what everybody does nowadays anyway," one says. Belief and "alternative facts" have long been prime X-Files fodder, but has it ever been more relevant than now?

Now if only we can get answers to a few … more … questions …

Contact Caitlin E. O’Conner at [email protected]

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