This review is based on episodes 1-5
Twenty-five years after it first aired, The X-Files is synonymous with alien abductions, government cover-ups and shadowy, nicotine-fuelled cabals. Between contributions to the labyrinthine conspiracy, the show’s heart lay with a string of taut, tightly written case-files, each one a paranormal horror story that tapped perfectly into ’90s paranoia. As a serialised conspiracy thriller The X-Files was good, but as a supernatural procedural, it was entirely without peer.
Given that, it’s somewhat disappointing to see Chris Carter follow the (poorly received) finale to Season 10 by doubling down so unrepentantly on the show’s worst traits. Despite opting for a cop-out that renders the cliffhanger pointless, Carter ploughs on with the doomsday virus über-plot, slathering ever thicker layers of preposterousness onto an already buckling conspiracy. When the episode culminates in a final, groan-worthy twist, it feels more reminiscent of an SNL send-up than The X-Files in its prime.
As a supernatural procedural, The X-Files was entirely without peer.
Happily, with episode one out of the way, The X-Files clicks back into groove, swiftly reminding us why we all loved it so much in the first place. From the supernatural to the technological via the joyously absurd, we find Mulder and Scully doing what they do best, history and experience having now worn away their respective archetypes’ harder edges. With ten episodes providing more breathing room than Season 10’s measly six, the shift between episode types is also less jarring, reminiscent of The X-Files of old.
Psychic projection, deadly doppelgängers and fatal word games all feature, grounded in a modern climate that draws on contemporary politics and internet memes to fuel its mysteries. A smart, micro-conspiracy episode plays with the idea of a computer-powered afterlife, taking its cues in part from a contemporary FBI embattled by the Trump administration. Meanwhile, ‘Ghouli’ begins as a classic freak-of-the-week, but develops into something with far more import, while pouring salt in some of Scully’s emotional wounds.
Anderson has declared Season 11 will be her last, making it likely these ten episodes will be Mulder and Scully’s final assignments and, while what we’ve seen so far is hit and miss, there’s some superb paranormal rummaging to be found amid the invasion hokum. Of course, with the global conspiracy at its end-stage and the fate of the world hanging in the balance, it’s entirely bonkers that our heroes find time to drive about the country sniffing after mysteries, but we should all be very thankful that they do.