RogerBW's Blog

The X-Files season 10 07 November 2016

2016, 6 episodes. FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully continue to look into strange occurrences.

Well, at least it isn't a reboot. Thirteen years after the show was cancelled, and over twenty after I stopped watching it, significant numbers of the original cast and crew have been brought back – even though some of the women are over 40 years old and therefore unemployable by normal television standards.

TV has changed a great deal since this show went off the air (when CSI was still a new and different thing), and the direction and visual style are very old-fashioned at times: we don't stand for great thumping chunks of expository dialogue any more (if we ever did), especially when they don't actually exposit anything much; many shows manage to maintain suspense even while turning the lights on from time to time; and most shows don't end the season on a cliff-hanger any more.

The season falls neatly into two sections: the two "arc" episodes, the first and last that effectively form a two-part story, and the four "individual" episodes in the middle. Sad to say, the arc episodes are vastly inferior: repeated catchphrases ("you so badly want to believe"), throwing in trigger word on trigger word (chemtrails, microwaves, vaccines), raking up random gunk off the bottom of the pond that's this show's excuse for a mythology, raising the stakes with a massive disease outbreak, and then… suddenly one guy with a web show is the only face of news, with all the actual news networks unexplainedly absent. It's just dull, tired retread that looks as though it was shot on a shoestring.

Over in the individual episodes, though, it comes closer to working. Sure, Duchovny looks as if he's been left crumpled in a cupboard since the show was last on TV and reels off his lines as if he's counting the seconds till the bar opens, and Anderson's wig is a constant distraction, but here at least the writers are having some fun, and giving the actors something to work with. These aren't Desperately Serious like the first and last: we have a were-creature that turns out to be desperate to change back from human to its native animal form, and Mulder tripping out on mushrooms to try to talk to an unconscious terrorist but ending up in a music video. I've never been able to take conspiracy theories seriously, because as soon as one tries to check anything it all comes apart in inconsistency and bad argument, so I quite appreciate these comic interludes.

The X-Files is a show from before TV storytelling got smart, with this season written and directed by people from its original era, and it shows. There's nothing here to bring in new viewers. The storylines are minimally updated for an age when people actually have mobile phones and Internet access, and a whole different set of conspiracy theories are in the zeitgeist, but that updating leaves scars on the plots, especially when someone as paranoid as Mulder is supposed to be is still happy to carry and use a smartphone. While the show tries to paint itself as iconoclastic, it brings on Muslim characters only and explicitly to be suicide-bombing terrorist bad guys. The three weakest episodes are the ones written (and directed) by Chris Carter himself.

Ratings dropped by around 40% after the first episode, but were still high for modern broadcast television, on a par with Supergirl's first season and rather better than Gotham's. I can't really see why it should have been so popular. For myself, I was mildly entertained by the middle episodes, but there's no emotional involvement, nothing here to bring me back for an eleventh season. As of this writing, there have been rumours but no confirmation that this will happen.

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