The X-FIles (2016) Ep. 1 Review: Everything You Know is Wrong

This article contains spoilers for the first episode of The X-Files (2016).

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Imagine a world where aliens are real, the paranormal is practically normal, and every single conspiracy theory is true. No, I’m not reading Infowars or listening to an episode of Welcome to Night Vale. I’m talking about a newly refurbished The X-Files, which premiered Sunday night to much advertised fanfare and the squeeeee! of Mulder/Scully shippers everywhere. As someone who was a believer when the show first aired (and also a fan) but is now a stout skeptic, I thought it would be fun to take a skeptical look at the new series. 

The X-Files, when it originally aired, was in many ways a product of its time. Its hodgepodge mixture of paranormal pseudoscience, government conspiracy, and extraterrestrial visitation was real enough to strike a chord with an end-of-the-century audience not yet used to the Internet and still reliant on print media for most of their information. At the time, Agent Mulder’s dusty basement office filled with drawer after drawer of tantalizing clues pointing to the possibility of extraterrestrial life was all-too believable and created a rich backdrop for monster-of-the-week tales and the show’s long-and-twisted conspiracy mythology.

A lot’s changed since the show was cancelled in 2002, with the Internet fundamentally altering the way we receive, process and share information. Stories of paranormal phenomena nowadays gain instant scrutiny and vehement debunking, sometimes within hours of first reaching social media; basements full of dusty files have been replaced with digital repositories of information accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world; blogs and podcasts are filled with all manner of paranormal and conspiracy-mongering; and shows like Supernatural, Fringe, and Warehouse 13 have done to death the TV tropes that The X-Files established.

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Returning to that oft-dipped well would have been the wrong move. Series creator Chris Carter, who penned last night’s premiere episode, seemed to know this, and so he upped the ante to help The X-Files leap into the 21st century. He did it by upending the whole government/alien colonization plot and ratcheting the conspiracy theory up to eleven.

To whit: the alien colonization plot that fueled all ten seasons of The X-Files was, we are now told, an elaborate ruse elegantly orchestrated to make Mulder and Scully chase a decade of lies. All of it was just a cover-up for the real conspiracy, the one where the Shadow Government, through such organizations as FEMA and the Bilderberg Group, are encouraging global warming and sowing the seeds of global conflict so that, at some point, they can overthrow global governments and establish One World Order under the pretenses of saving the human race, after which they will all move to space stations and watch the rest of us die off.

That’s right. The X-Files has gone full Infowars.

Or something like that. To be honest, the conspiracy talk was flowing so fast and furious last night, and the pacing of the episode was so frenetic, that we didn’t get a good sense of what exactly this new conspiracy was. As someone who regularly deals with conspiracy theories, I was able to follow most of the episode’s references (though even I needed to reach for Google occasionally, like when they brought up “dirtboxes”). I can’t imaging the typical viewer could make heads or tails of half the Gish Gallop of conspiracies that served as the episode’s core plotline.

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It was all a little disappointing — not that they basically made ten years of continuity pointless (plenty of shows do that), but that Carter felt the need to do so in one sloppy, slapdash 42 minute episode. Had this revelation been given the entire 6 episode series to play out, with clues leading to Internet speculation and fan theories, it could have been an awesome end-of-series bombshell. That’s the way television works in 2016. Instead, the episode was just one sign of many that The X-Files, for better or worse, is still stuck in the 1990s, when episodic storytelling was the norm and people couldn’t go back and rewatch the episode the day after it aired.

Did the world really need a revival of The X-Files? Probably not. Even so, I freely admit that the fangirl in me was geeking from the moment that intro music kicked in, even as my inner skeptic was cringing at the ham-fisted attempt to make Alex Jones’s fever-dreams seem like tense, thrilling storytelling.

I referenced Welcome to Night Vale at the beginning of this post. I think that’s actually an apt yang to The X-Files‘ yin. The idea of aliens and government conspiracies have become so familiar to us nowadays that we laugh at them more than we fear them. While I’m happy to see Mulder and Scully on the air again, I hope this little reunion is just that: a little reunion. I can’t see The X-Files sustaining a whole new series once the rosy shine of nostalgia and fan service have worn off.

 

About Alison Hudson

Alison is a writer and educator living near Ann Arbor, MI. She blogs regularly about skepticism, games, and the transgender experience.
This entry was posted in Conspiracy Theories, TV & Media and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to The X-FIles (2016) Ep. 1 Review: Everything You Know is Wrong

  1. vonmazur says:

    Great, but did they explain Mulder’s leaky water bed and porn collection??

  2. anne cameron says:

    I didn’t watch it all… I switched to Knowledge Network because I wanted to be sure I didn’t miss a single second of “Inspector Morse”. By the way, his first name is “Endeavour”. Well, Morse didn’t disappoint and it doesn’t sound like I missed much of “X Files”.
    Of course, you realize, over-exposure and conditioning us to mock all conspiracy stories IS the crux of the big conspiracy. “we laugh at them more than we fear them.”. Be careful, they live among us, they look like us, they work beside us, and there are more of them all the time. Laugh while you still can. You won’t be laughing when the scoop scars are on YOUR body!

    • Alison Hudson says:

      Yes, I’ve heard that. But the funny thing is that argument only arose when people started pointing out to conspiracy theorists that if there WAS a conspiracy, why were they allowed to talk about it so freely on YouTube and blogs and such? As Brian noted in his ep. on conspiracy theories: even evidence against the conspiracy becomes evidence for the conspiracy. 🙂

  3. Stephen Connell says:

    @Alison Hudson whats the big surprise that Chris Carter wants to squeeze a little more juice and cash out of the X-Files orange? Its not as if he has created anything of note of late or after the original run of the X-files and comes across a one trick pony with not much else to offer.

    • Alison Hudson says:

      Fair point. I thought Carter had done SOMETHING in the past decade, but a look at IMDB tells me that, no, Carter has LITERALLY done nothing in his career but The X-Files and various spin-offs / related series. I suppose he spent the last 14 years living off the $$$ he makes from XF royalties.

  4. anne cameron says:

    Is that an orange? Really? I thought it was a lemon.
    silly me.

  5. William J Granger says:

    Spoiler alert:
    Nice article and I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t keep up with all the conspiracy stuff coming at me at such a frenetic pace. The opening sequence was pretty cool, but I feel more than a little cheated that 10 years of their work is up in smoke. Sorry I think alien invasion plot line is more believable than the new plot line that they dreamed up.

  6. Ethan says:

    It’s a perfect revival because the show is exactly as they left it. Nothing’s changed except the plot and the presence of smart phones. Too many series are destroyed by trying to keep up with the times, this one hit the old style precisely as it should have. Episode 2 shows that even more clearly as they jump right back into the show people know and love.
    BTW, the central plot is not revealed but it looks to be leaning towards mk ultra eugenics.

  7. Will says:

    I hope Alison never takes a crack at a Harry Potter or Toy Story 3, because there’d be no coming back from that.

    I know a lot of the History Channel looks all X-filey nowadays, but I’m pretty sure this was on Fox prime time.

  8. Graham says:

    Good grief, they’d have done better if they’d ripped off John Brunners ‘The Jagged Orbit’ which has fire-arms manufacturers bankrolling extremists of all stripes so that the average middle American will buy all the guns, swords, spears, mantraps and mini-nukes (All covered by the 2nd Amendment) that they can carry…

  9. Ed Graham says:

    I watched just to se where they might be going this time around. Were the two stars as bad the first time. Seemed to be the worst acting I’ve watched on a scripted drama ever…

    • William J Granger says:

      Well, I thought they were two good actors the first time around, but …now I can’t believe how much they both have aged. I used to think Scully was pretty good looking, not so now. Ditto for Mulder, and his actions remind me of the word “schmuck”.

      • Vin (aus) says:

        Surprise! It’s called ageing. The original series aired in the early 90’s..smh at these people who expect someone NOT to age in almost 25 years. I think you have a BIG shock coming your way when you look in the mirror in a couple of decades.

        • William J Granger says:

          Sorry, but I don’t think it is just an age thing. And it is not just how the look in terms of aging. Think of James Bond never going out in the field but sitting behind a desk all day shuffling agents around. You get the picture now?

        • Stephen connell says:

          Yes I agree thats why Chris Carter is still pushing the same BS 25 years later. We have moved on but he is still stuck in the 90s

  10. Jeffrey Patten says:

    Probably the most important moment in the first episode was when Mulder met with the scientist/physician who apparently recovered a dead alien body from Roswell. Mulder told him what new conclusions he had drawn, and the guy initially mocked him, but then threw out the teaser that Mulder ALMOST had it right. I would imagine that the rest of the series will involve that “almost”.

  11. Ken says:

    It’s a TV show people…

    • Graham says:

      Unfortunately that’s not always the case. Even in the 1990s there were people making the claim that the episodes were dramatized versions of events that the ‘powers-that-be’ had covered up.

      Exactly how Chris Carter had managed to find out about these events was never explained, but then conspiracy theories seem to be more about innuendo than proveable facts.

      • Jeffrey Patten says:

        Yeah, speculation is always true, and evidence that the speculation is not true is simply regarded as further evidence that it IS true.

      • anne cameron says:

        Well, the variously initialed groups , FBI, CIA, who knows who else kicked off a big investigation into a science fiction writer ‘way back when because in a story he had his rockets coated with ceramics… which was some kind of HUGE secret… from which we got Corning Ware, eventually. But “they” figured he must have had an “in” and was leaking secrets …

        innuendo is great but , really, some of the stuff the initialed groups have done is so bizarre no mere writer could have imagined it… Google MK Ultra…just for a start….

  12. anne cameron says:

    No, Ken, it’s not. You only think that because they’ve influenced your mind, inserted a worm into your amygdala which has switched off your shyte-sniffer so you can’t tell what is from what isn’t. Worse, you can’t tell what isn’t from what is.
    Poor lad.

  13. NoseyNick says:

    Maybe I missed something, but I thought that was the WHOLE POINT of X-Files. It’s not a documentary, it’s pure conspiracy fantasy FICTION?

    • Jeffrey Patten says:

      Quite right. The thing that is most enjoyable about the X-Files is that it lets us see at least one version of “what would happen if these outlandish conspiracy theories were true?” A few people who watch the show are “true believers”, but they’d believe in the conspriacy theories with or without the X-Files, and with or without evidence.

      • Stephen Connell says:

        Yeah and Chris Carter even fell for the conspiracy theory That his No 1 writing team Morgan and wong hijacked the second season of his other series Millennium while he was in control of the X-Files even though he put them in control of Millennium’s second season. Oh wait,he did complain that Millennium’s second was hijacked by the writers so there ,some conspiracy theories are real!

        Evidence you say? He complained about on a Millennium Dvd’s extras segment.
        I have the box set.

  14. Swampwitch7 says:

    I recommend you all spend your viewing time on Penny Dreadful. Not a conspiracy theory in sight, just intensely interesting Victorian weird fiction in a beautifully crafted format that uses all the best stuff you thought you saw on X-Files before they disappointed you.

  15. Hardy Eustace says:

    “To whit”?

    Homer nods. 🙂

    • William J Granger says:

      I thought last night’s episode was pretty weak and far-fetched myself if that’s what you are referring to. A were-lizard that hibernates for 10,000 years but comes to life and takes a human form, speaks perfect English with even a British accent, becomes manager of a cell phone store in less than a day….Come on, give me a break.

      • Roland says:

        No that was a genuine New Zealand accent.

        • William Granger says:

          Kiwi, I thought it was Aussie. Another miracle.

          • Vin (aus) says:

            Rhys Darby is a comedian probably best known in the USA for his role as the band’s manager from ‘Flight of the Conchords’. When you see his character from that show, it’ll make you see the were-lizard ep in a whole new light. the guy is a proper funny comedian who does ‘cringe’ to perfection.

          • Roland says:

            As an Aussie I can’t understand how anyone could confuse the two accents !!!!! and I recognised Rhys because I had seen him in ‘Flight of the Conchords’, but a great opportunity wasted, he could have played a were-sheep !!!!

      • Geoff says:

        I’m sorry that you appear to have completely missed the humour and slap-stick of it all.

        • William J Granger says:

          I didn’t miss the humour, I just didn’t think it was funny, not to mention being inappropriate in a dramatic production.

      • Ian says:

        Hey guys, thanks for the spoilers! That episode doesn’t air in the UK until tomorrow!!! BTW, X files is a fantasy, no more, no less! If you want the GENUINE TRUTH and REAL EVIDENCE of weird paranormal crap you need to watch History channel or Discovery channel these days!(For the benefit of anyone who doesn’t understand irony, I’m being ironic there!)

  16. stephen Connell says:

    I thought it might be intelligent then I realized this is a show created by Chris Carter and thought silly me.

  17. anne cameron says:

    This is GREAT… look at the number of comments… I don’t immediately remember any other topic which got as many responses and comments… hope you are all having as much fun with this as I am… and, incidentally, I haven’t watched any episodes since the first one and I didn’t watch all of it… but the comment section is almost addictive!

  18. Alex Krizel says:

    I’m waiting for it to come out on Netflix.
    Gonna be great.
    I miss the show.
    It’s fiction, but it’s fun.

  19. mudguts says:

    I can finally comment.. Ep 1 showed a fair bit of fun. The team isnt as uptight as your general conspiracist and his work partner/ friend..

    Mulder knows that everything has been a lie from his own “memories”

    And boy has Scully loosened up!!!

    • Castiel says:

      I was fun, and the gallop thru the conspiracy theories just made me laugh. At one point I was shouting them out loud at the to, trying to guess which was gonna be next! Got a few before they were mentioned too! Mwahahaha!

      • Mudguts says:

        Yep.. I have been enjoying the new show. 4 eps now (not going to spoil for catchup folk).

        My partner gets Mulder being some sort of pathological liar (to himself) but has pointed out that the cool, cool Scully isnt always so and has beliefs of her own.. Just not Mulders history.

        The show is going great guns and maybe Mulder finally is cured.. I doubt it tho.

        I liked the fit between the old show, millenium and the lone gunmen.

        I hope the producers dont wreck it. Those Forensic shows on the other channels are abysmal.

  20. Grsnt says:

    I don’t think you get it.
    These new X files are designed to discredit THE TRUTH.
    What was and what will always be.
    The never ending cover up of
    Aliens and flying crap.

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