X-Files: First Impressions- Episode 1 ‘My Struggle’ (Spoiler-Free)

By CHRISTOPHER HAGE & NICHOLAS DESCALZI

Nick and I have been ‘X-Files’ believers since the 90s! Just as with ‘Star Wars’, we were thrilled when it was announced ‘The X-Files’ would be brought back. After finally getting to see Mulder and Scully together again, we thought we’d share our thoughts from Episode 1- ‘My Struggle’!

CHRIS

Last we saw Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), they were rowing together in a boat toward a desert island during the end credits of The X-Files’ second movie, ‘I want To believe’. The film may have been poorly received (opening a week after ‘The Dark Knight’ probably didn’t help ticket sales either) but it gave the two ex-FBI agents a happy send-off! Unfortunately, there was still a complex mythology involving Aliens, Clones, Super-soldiers, Killer Bees and Miracle babies to be resolved, and to top it off, a world-ending invasion imminent.

The first new X-Files episode in almost a decade and a half, tries to do the impossible. In 42 minutes, it tries to re-introduce the characters, as well as 9 years of mythology, while trying quickly to keep us up to date with what has transpired between Mulder and Scully over the last 7 years. It introduces us to new players, including conservative talk-show host Tad O’ Malley (Joel Mchale, ‘Community’) and possible alien abductee Sveta (Annet Mahendru ‘The Americans’), both there to lead Mulder on a path back to the X-files. It also tries to incorporate a new twist, which essentially changes a lot of important things about what we have been led to believe over the course of the show. It’s a lot to take in… in 42 minutes.

As such, scenes are a bit rushed and dialogue is occasionally off. There’s a lot of exposition, and the characters have to get straight to the point. Being interviewed by Mulder and Scully, Sveta admits freely she may have Alien DNA, almost as matter-of-fact as if she were telling the agents her age. When Tad starts asking Scully personal questions at her place of work, there’s no time for her to be taken aback, she responds as if she knew Tad all her life. When Mulder gets introduced to a piece of technology that would leave most people in a state of shock and awe… neither he, or us, have the opportunity to properly absorb the magnificence of it. We need to get straight to the point- because this episode is about getting Mulder and Scully exactly where they need to be by the end of the hour. The audience needs to be up to speed in very a short-time frame. It’s a bit of a shame ‘My Struggle’ couldn’t have been an extended/ double episode.

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The important thing, for me anyway, is how little the rushed-nature mattered in the end. Sure, it was frustrating at times, but it doesn’t come close to taking away the joy of seeing two TV icons back together again. And not only that… we get Mulder confronting Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) about being a pawn of the government. We get secret meetings with shadowy informants at night-time. Government officials destroying evidence, cars going dead on lonely roads just at the moment a spaceship descends- I mean the episode plays like a greatest-hits special of all the things that made ‘X-Files’ the cult show it was in the 90s.

As mentioned, there’s a reveal about the conspiracy that seems to rewrite a lot of the history of the ‘X-Files’. It’s an interesting twist, sure, but it may contradict things fans of the original series had seen and heard over the course of its 9 years. I’ll need to see how it plays out over the course of the event series to see if it works. Or maybe I’ll have to watch the original series again to see if causes any major plot holes. Not that the mythology ever made complete sense anyway- but this reveal changes a lot of what we thought we knew about the upcoming invasion.

Now that the first episode has come and gone, and the core pieces are in place, I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store. I’m both excited and hesitant about this new mythology, but am hoping to see some improvement in story and pace now that we get to the more classic, “monster-of-the-week” episodes.

Either way, I strongly suggest you watch this episode, and the rest of the season… selfishly… if more people watch we may get another miniseries every year or so. Because in the end, despite its occasional flaws, I could watch Mulder and Scully search for the truth for many, many more years!

 

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NICK

My relationship with ‘The X Files’ is a long one. To this day, I still remember the very first time I ever watched Mulder and Scully investigate the unexplained. It was early 1994, I was seven years old and I was allowed to stay up late and watch the latest episode of ‘The X Files’ with my Mum. At one point the alien that was on the loose did something grisly to a few men, and Mum covered my eyes to save me from seeing their fates. However, unbeknownst to her, I could see through the gaps in her fingers and I continued to watch the whole episode (the episode in question – season one’s ‘Fallen Angel’). It was awesome and from that moment on I was hooked. Lucky for me, Mum had recorded every episode on VHS, and after a bit of convincing, she allowed me watch them all. Those VHS copies got a work out, and it was always exciting when I could add a brand new episode to them. By the time I got myself a job and began to have enough money to buy myself awesome things, it was 2000 and I celebrated my first pay with the purchase of my very first DVD box set – The X Files Season One – for the big price of $175. ‘The X files’ was my first TV love – the plan was to one day be Fox Mulder, and marry Dana Scully.

So, to say I was excited about ‘The X-files’ revival is an understatement. I was anticipating with uncontrollable glee that even some of the negative buzz coming from early reviews of the first episode – titled ‘My Struggle’ – could not dampen.

So, how was it? I had a blast!! From the minute I heard the opening whistles of the main theme which was accompanied by the original title sequence – with an added credit for Mitch Pileggi, and let’s face it, the world is better place with a bit of Mitch Pileggi added – I teared up. It was a crazy feeling, and about three minutes later it got even crazier when Mulder and Scully stepped into the same frame and sparked like it was 1994 again. I don’t think there has been another two actors with better chemistry than Duchovny and Anderson. After ‘The X Files’ premiered, a plethora of imitators emerged, and one by one they failed. They all lacked the two ingredients that made ‘The X Files’ the phenomenon it was, Duchovny and Anderson. They are the souls of the show, and in this latest instalment, nothing has changed.

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Now, it wasn’t all peaches and cream. The episode had a few pacing issues early on that were caused by Chris Carter (‘X-Files’ creator, and this episode’s writer & director) trying to juggle a bit too much for the allotted 43 minute run time. However, once the episode settled from the hectic first half, and revealed its huge twist, it became an absolute joy to watch. Now, the twist. I’m not going to reveal what that twist is – mostly because, if I do, my head would explode and this article will go on for another 17 pages. Let’s just say, the moment this reveal happened, it was totally unexpected and I was thrilled that Carter would have the guts to not just play it safe, but thrust the mythology forward. It also seems like the shakeup was a necessity after December 22nd, 2012 came and went with no Alien invasion in sight. Does this twist make sense? I’m not sure right now -hence the head explode statement – all I know is that I will sit back, relax, and save my overall judgments on how this all fits in, after I have seen the rest of this six episode miniseries.

Oh, and the final character reveal at the end of the episode was much appreciated by this geek. I may have punched the air and yelled out YEAH!!… May have.

One down and five to go. I’m glad we only have to wait one night for the next episode – titled ‘Founder’s Mutation’ – our first monster of the week and the return of my favourite’ X Files’ writer, James Wong (writer of classic episodes such as ‘Ice’, ‘Beyond the Sea’, and ‘Home’).

Until next time – make sure you trust no one, and remember… the truth is out there.

 

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