I have only recently been properly introduced to the bizarre and brilliant world of the ‘X Files’. As a child, I saw the occasional odd episode every now and then. But due to me being very young and often too scared to watch them, I never properly followed the series from start to finish. I personally blame Tooms. Even when I eventually got around to watching it back to back, I still had to skip the Tooms’ episodes, as they just freak me out too much. So, I watched the first few episodes and instantly got hooked. I then preceded to box-set all of the original nine series, finishing just in time for Season ten’s arrival. It’s not often I stick with a series past eight seasons. Five is my optimum unless its comedy. But there is something about the magic of ‘X files’, which kept me wanting more. I was slightly unsure of how Season ten was going to go down. Although it is still Chris Carter pulling the reins, it was a big gap between season nine and ten. Despite Mulder and Scully looking significantly haggard and, in some cases, a little too plastic, season ten did a really good job of continuing in the ‘X files ‘fashion.
I was very surprised when it was announced that there would be an eleventh season. The end of season ten was a massive cliff hanger but with a programme like ‘X files’, there is never going to be a definitive end. Also, I thought that Season ten would serve as a special reboot, being only six episodes to round off the series, which ended rather abruptly after nine, without adequate explanation or a sense of finality. Whilst Chris Carter could have ended it after ten, I am secretly glad he decided on another season. As a principle, I don’t enjoy storylines which drag on and on, but I am too enamoured with Mulder and Scully to let them go. Not just yet anyway. Like season ten, Chris Carter makes it apparent from the start of eleven with his not so subtle references to Trump and Putin, that both reboot seasons have a topical political and economical relevance. In fact, one episode addresses the current technological implications and although the idea of attacking robots is ridiculous, the rise of artificial intelligence and sentient technology is something that is happening right now.
Season eleven is a nice balance of old and new. On the one hand, Chris Carter’s style of storytelling remains mostly the same. The first, middle and final episode revolve around the main narrative, which has been going since all the way back in season one. Then surrounding these episodes are single case episodes, ranging from the hilarious to the horrific. Mulder and Scully though older and a little altered, are for the most part the same. Mulder is still an encyclopaedia of conspiracy theories and Scully is that distinct mixture of religious and scientific. The changes that are defined are primarily in the cinematography, editing and choreography. With the advancement in cameras and editing software, ‘X files’ has finally after twenty years become very pretty to watch. Certain episodes where Mulder is racing through traffic or Scully is having a firefight with some government goons look more like a clip from ‘Taken’ or ‘Skyfall’, then ‘X Files’. For someone who is a fan of retro but also a bit of an action nut, it is a dream come too. It has all the classic elements of the original ‘X Files’, the humour is still corny, the writing a little camp but the punches hit hard and the pace and tension of some of the more dramatic episodes is intense.
For all its new drama and intensity, the creators have still found time to have fun. One thing I have always enjoyed about the ‘X Files’ is that it doesn’t take it self too seriously. Granted it will drop a fair few darker and serious episodes but for every few that are dramatic, there are a few that are silly and side splitting. The funny episode in this season is a corker. It focuses on the Mandela effect and the whole episode was genuinely hilarious. It rivalled the darker ones in terms of it’s entertainment value, as the writer’s sense of humour and observational comedy was so on point. This is part of the reason ‘X Files’ has sustained such a long life. Carter has his overarching story set in his mind but that doesn’t mean he is afraid to bring the world of Mulder and Scully up to date. It has evolved and morphed, absorbing and encompassing aspects of life, politics and the world that are socially relevant and important. There is also a nice attention to detail regarding Mulder and Scully, both in terms of their relationship and their own lives. One of the strongest aspects of the show has always been their relationship and it is no exception in this season. If anything, they are at the top of their game. The way they interact and react to one another is executed so well. Their chemistry just works. Their shared humour is spot on and their moments of intensity feel genuine and deep.
Now that I have gushed about how much I love the ‘X Files’, I must take a little time to mention a few aspects I feel didn’t quite work. ‘My Struggle’ was the title for the first main narrative episode of the tenth season and since then each one related has been named the same with a corresponding number i.e. ‘My Struggle II and III’. These episodes were done well. They continued to explore the burning questions Mulder, Scully and the audience wanted to know. However, I found the first episode of the eleventh season a tad disorientating and over complicated. The main narrative arc has always been convoluted but Carter has kept a certain sense of continuity to how he has approached the episodes. In this instance, there is a bit of time displacement. I won’t give away too much, but the start of the eleventh season jumps back in time. This wouldn’t be such an issue but at the end of the first episode there is another time jump. This leaves for an almost clunky transition to the second episode. Perhaps if it had been more defined, it wouldn’t have bothered me so much. But even in the past, Carter has always kept a certain sense of order to his episodes. Season eleven just felt a little bit jumbled up for my liking.
The other aspect that I think missed the mark was the brief inclusion of the new, younger Mulder and Scully, Agent Einstein and Agent Miller. In season ten, these two characters were introduced and joined up with Mulder and Scully to save the day. This was a great narrative mechanic, as it provided a constant source of amusement watching the older ‘X Files’ agents interacting with the younger ones, in the most amusing of situations. It was also a nice way to hint at the fact that at some point soon, Mulder and Scully would most likely pass the torch on to them and they would end up becoming the new Mulder and Scully. In season eleven, apart from one brief scene, the younger duo were absent from the season almost entirely. It seemed a shame and a waste of two seemingly new additions to the programme. Also, although the storyline with William is very well done, I found the actual character and actor playing him very whiny, annoying and dislikeable. The only parts I did enjoy with him in were when he was displaying some impressive parkour skills and demonstrating his ability to trick people with his mind. These handful of aspects were a shame because everything else about the season was great. As much as I have always enjoyed the main storyline arc, over the years I have built up a certain fondness for the filler episodes. Instead of annoying me like most filler episodes do, they have always been preferable regarding ‘X Files’. I think its because they can be broken up into individual cases, allowing for a greater range of themes and concepts that can be explored.
‘X Files’ Season eleven is a mixed bag of fruit. On the one hand you have some brilliant ideas for episodes, including killer robots, the Mandela effect, supernatural occurrences during Vietnam and a creepy cult. Mulder and Scully’s relationship keeps getting better and better, adding more depth and humour to an already strong on-screen chemistry. The production values are very pretty, benefiting from an increased budget, better cameras and improved choreography. The episode which focuses on deceased Lone Gunman Langly is a clever way of reincarnating a much-loved character but not in the manner you might expect. Additionally, Skinner’s character is well developed both throughout the whole season and in his own specific episode. The main storyline is good but suffers from a not so great performance by Miles Robbins playing William and the fragmented timeline, starting at the end and jumping back and forth, lets it down slightly. Having said that the final fifteen minutes are truly epic with enough jaw dropping twists to have you screaming at the television at Carter’s mastery as a writer. Being blunt I would have preferred that the two seasons be combined into a singular, longer twenty-episode season, as opposed to throwing in visions and alternate timelines. Overall though, the ‘X File’s still has enough magic and mystery to it for it to be enjoyable eleven seasons on. After having giving eleven seasons of my life to the show, I still want to believe.
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