Nowadays, much of the news coming out of showbiz is of reboots and sequels and continuations. One continuation that has been particularly exciting is the return of Fox’s The X-Files to the small screen with new episodes for the first time since 2002. The continuation was ordered as a six-episode miniseries event that promised to be exactly what longtime fans have been waiting for, as well as ideal for newcomers who will be experiencing their first exposure to The X-Files. Well, the first episode of the miniseries was a fantastic episode for existing fans, but perhaps not the best introduction for the uninitiated.
Throughout its nine seasons on Fox, The X-Files, as helmed by creator Chris Carter, alternated between two types of episodes: “mythology” episodes that followed lead characters FBI Agents Mulder and Scully on their investigations into extraterrestrial biological identities – that is, aliens – and the government conspiracies to cover up the alien threat, and Monster of the Week episodes that saw Mulder and Scully investigating everything from mutants, to ghosts, to vampires. The first episode of the continuation – entitled “My Struggle” – definitely falls into the mythology category.
“My Struggle” opens with a crash course on all things X from the nine seasons and two movies of the franchise before quickly delving into one of the most infamous rumored conspiracies of the twentieth century with a flash to a certain site in New Mexico. It doesn’t take long, however, for the action to shift back to Washington D.C. when Dr. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) gets a phone call that changes everything about the life that she’s built in recent years. Soon, she and her former partner Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) have been roped in by conservative talk show host Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale) to investigate the abduction story of young Sveta (Annet Mahendru). Scully is skeptical and scientific, Mulder wants to believe, Joel McHale looks like he’s having a fantastic time, and a couple of faces very familiar to X-Files fans delightfully pop up.
As far as first episodes go, “My Struggle” is better than most. The exposition that has to cover nearly 25 years of all things Mulder and Scully is as organic as can be managed, and the killer chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson that powered the series long past what might have been an expiration date is back with a crackling vengeance. The actors effortlessly slip back into the roles that made them famous so that even the weaker points of the plot aren't particularly objectionable. It's a solid installment with enough scale and spectacle as to be worth of all of the hype.
But it might not be an episode for everybody. Taken as a pilot introduction to the world of The X-Files, there are an awful lot of twists that require some pretty big leaps and suspensions of disbelief. The X-Files has certainly never been a realistic show, but the series developed such a complex history over time that it was easy to buy the government conspiracies and possibilities of alien infiltrations. Without being able to show all of that history, "My Struggle" may lose the attention of new viewers.
“My Struggle” is an immersion into mythology complete with voiceover and montage to explain the skeptic/believer dynamic between Mulder and Scully but not quite enough build to easily make Mulder seem anything but mostly crazy. Some of the interactions between Mulder and Scully might even feel cold to those who don’t know the story behind their relationship. “My Struggle” won’t go down as a particularly stellar episode if taken as a pilot.
That said, “My Struggle” was a fabulous episode of The X-Files. I’m a huge fan of The X-Files and the impossible dynamic between Mulder and Scully, so the leap into a new chapter of the mythology while dropping careful callbacks to the series was pretty perfect for me. Even the credits were wonderful. In fact, “My Struggle” was everything that second movie I Want to Believe should have been. There are far more narrative similarities to the first feature film Fight the Future, although fans should be pleased to find that there are no bees buzzing at inopportune moments.
David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson seem more engaged and comfortable than they did in their most recent adventure as Mulder and Scully, and it was hard for me not to grin throughout the episode even when things got grim. I’m used to grim. The show was never a barrel of laughs, and I watched all of Season 9. There are few things in all of television more grim than Season 9.
The first episode of the continuation of The X-Files isn’t necessarily a the greatest episode for newcomers, but it’s definitely worth the watch for anybody with any level of X-Files experience. The miniseries is going to be a combination of mythology and Monster of the Week episodes; hopefully, “My Struggle” will work well enough for newbies to return for the next five episodes. As for pre-existing fans of The X-Files…well, prepare yourselves to have the theme song stuck in your head again.
The continuation of The X-Files premieres with “My Struggle” on January 24 at 8 p.m. ET on Fox before moving to its regular timeslot at 8 p.m. on Mondays. To see when the rest of the new series are set to debut, check out our midseason TV schedule.