The X-Files is back! For this six-part mini series, I will be recapping and reviewing each episode. These will contain spoilers, fair warning.
Following the bombing of an art gallery, Mulder and Scully join young agents Einstein (Lauren Ambrose) and Miller (Robbie Amell), to investigate the incident. The agents must find a way to communicate with one of the men involved who lies in a comatose state to prevent another attack.
I’m just going to say this right at the top – I hated this episode. When I initially learned about the overused and profoundly racist trope of Muslim suicide bombers as the premise, I cringed hard. Then, I thought maybe the writers might turn it on its ear, and do something different than nearly every other show or movie has in the last fifteen years. Even as I started the episode and watched two young Muslim men pray before entering a building, I kept hoping there would be a twist later in the episode that reveals a conspiracy to implicate them and trigger even more Islamophobia in order to act as a smokescreen. You know, like they mentioned earlier in the revival.
Boy, was I wrong. Not only are the two men responsible for the bombing, and other members of the group shown building more bombs, but the episode makes a lazy attempt at telling us that extremist Muslims are a small percentage of the religion – just like most ideology. The problem with this attempt is that it does just that: it tells us and does not show us enough to outweigh the crux of the plotline. They could have easily gone another direction, and I’m very disappointed in the writers and whoever else thought this was a good idea. It goes from a very serious issue to silly within a few scenes, and left me feeling confused about the tone, on top of being pissed off about the handling of the subject matter.
As for the young agents – I wanted to give the characters a chance, but both lack any likable qualities and just act as foils to Mulder and Scully. Miller is a believer. Einstein (… okay seriously, that name?) is a skeptic AND a medical doctor. See what they did there? Another huge problem I had with the way they wrote Einstein is that she comes off as shrill, by-the-book nearly to a fault, and in one odd moment, seemingly jealous that Miller didn’t “consult” with her when he went to Texas with Scully. At one point, Mulder tells her to “shut up and sit down” and I shouted at my TV. That is so unnecessary and felt against Mulder’s character to do, and frankly just gross.
And I have to address that horrendously bad, country-fried hallucination scene. Firstly, it was too long. Just way too long, and probably was a way to pad the episode’s run time. Secondly, the sexy country dancers and close ups on their tits were just as misogynistic as Mulder telling Einstein to be quiet. It transitions into a scene where Einstein is using a riding crop on Mulder to add to the sexist bullshit and the raising of my blood pressure (he later refers to this as “fifty shades of bad,” and I wanted to hurl things at my TV). I’ve never experimented with hallucinogens, but I feel like no one trips out like this. Ever. Please feel free to correct this if you have personal experience, but it just comes off as ridiculous.
The revival could have done without this episode entirely. Its only good scene involved Mulder and Scully holding hands while The Lumineers played in the background (“I belong with you / You belong with me / You’re my sweetheart”), though the dialogue could have been better. But that isn’t enough to make the episode even remotely watchable. Given how short a time frame they have, the writers should have picked another plotline for this episode and tightened up the last one. They don’t have the same kind of room to stretch their legs and have a bad episode like they did in the full 22 – 24 episode runs. As for the racist tropes, this isn’t the only time they’re guilty of using them or the exoticism of non-Western cultures (see also “Teliko,” “Hell Money,” and even my beloved “Arcadia,” just to name a few). Why, after so long they hadn’t learned from those mistakes, I’m not sure.
Another problem I’ve noticed within the revival is that, with the exception of “Founder’s Mutation” and the parody episode, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-lizard,” the MOTW episodes have not been played completely straight as the others used to be. That is what I enjoy about my favorite MOTWs – they aren’t winking at you through the entire episode or being overtly silly in most cases. Humor is always part of The X-Files, certainly, but the past two episodes have felt too much like parodies of how their characters would react in these situations. The writers have packed in a few too many callbacks to the original series, and it’s gotten to the point of not being funny, but clunky. I want my clever dialogue, not too much referential humor. Knowing that they are capable of better writing and storytelling makes me annoyed that they aren’t tightening up the middle of this series.
They could do better. They could do so much better than this.
What did you all think of the episode?
Images courtesy of Fox and The X Files Source.