“I haven’t known pleasure for quite some time”
I wasn’t in the least bit excited for the second episode of the revived ‘The X Files.’ The opening episode was lacklustre and cluttered. It gave itself too much to do, reintroducing ‘The X Files’ to old and new fans alike and setting up a whole new mythology. ‘Founders Mutation,’ however, felt much more like a proper episode of ‘The X-Files.’ There were references to both the new mythology and the mythology of the past, but for the most part they didn’t bog things down. It was a straight-forward X Files mystery, involving Scully performing an autopsy and Mulder spouting exposition in his deadpan fashion. It was not without its faults, but for the most part, it was a decent episode.
Mulder and Scully investigate the apparent suicide of Dr. Sanjay, who works in a facility within the Department of Defence. In the pre-credits, we see that his suicide was not as it seemed; a loud ringing noise drove him to stab his ear drums with a letter opener. Of course, as Mulder and Scully delve deeper into the case, they find themselves wrapped up in a secret government project involving human mutation…could it be linked with the opening episode’s new mythology? Is the government trying to create alien-human hybrids?
“Desire is the Devil’s pitchfork”
Fortunately, the link to ‘My Struggle’ was only periphery. Mulder and Scully actually got to do some investigation, and their investigation propelled the plot, rather than the other way round (another thing that halted my enjoyment of ‘My Struggle’). I had a big grin on my face when Scully performed an autopsy on Mr. Sanjay. Mulder had his moments as well, such as being drawn into a private room by Dr. Sanjay’s “friend” for some oral pleasure (Mulder refused!). Both Anderson and Duchovny looked a little more interested than they did in ‘My Struggle,’ and the banter between the two more often than not hit the mark. It took me a while to remember that Duchovny never looked particularly interested in ‘The X Files.’ However, their attempts at attaining relevance in the modern world were laughable. Scully said that she was ‘pre-Google’ at one point. Mulder said that he was “familiar with Edward Snowden” after the investigation was closed by the DoD. Was it meant to show that Mulder and Scully are down with the kids? They sounded like parents who are trying to impress their children with their minute knowledge of modern technology…
What threw the episode off balance were the two counterfactual flashbacks Mulder and Scully had relating to their son, William. The theme of mutations and women being used as incubators for alien-human hybrids resonated with Scully, for obvious reasons. Well, obvious to fans, but not so obvious to newcomers. Mulder and Scully talked about whether or not the same experimentation had been done to Scully. If so, did it result in their son, William? Scully’s flashback came first, and came out of nowhere. It was jarring and unexpected. I suppose they thought a counterfactual flashback was better than an exposition dump about William, but it just seemed silly in the context of things. Mulder’s flashback, towards the end of the episode, had a little more emotional heft thanks to William being abducted in the same manner as his sister Samantha did. But newcomers wouldn’t pick up on that, would they?
“Bad things happens when the birds gather”
However, they were the only glaring low points. What surprised me more was the amount of gore on show. ‘The X Files’ always pushed the limits of what was acceptable on TV (think of ‘Home,’ for example), and ‘Founders Mutation’ continued on that tradition. The worst offence was when a woman sliced her pregnant belly open (after a car crash) and a baby hand poked out (it reminded me somewhat of the French horror film ‘Inside’). The later scene of a man with blood streaming from every available opening on his face looked tame in comparison. Gruesome, yes, but necessary? Well, the hand through the open wound didn’t add anything to the story. But it left an indelible image in my brain!
And the episode as a whole left a more favourable impression on me than ‘My Struggle.’ That wasn’t hard, but the small step away from the convoluted new mythology was a step in the right direction. ‘Founders Mutation’ was still a little muddled, balancing a standalone story with the new mythology. The ‘twist’ at the end was unconvincing, and little was resolved. But then again, that’s the nature of ‘The X Files.’ There’s still little sign that it will reach the quality of the peak of the original series, but at least there was entertainment to be had in ‘Founders Mutation’!
VERDICT: 6/10. Still nothing brilliant, but a small step forward in quality for this revival of ‘The X Files.’ ‘Founders Mutation’ brought back familiar elements that made ‘The X Files’ a success, if not in a spectacular fashion.
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Click here for my review of The X Files: Season 10: Episode 1: My Struggle)