Here’s an unpopular and potentially heretical X Files take: the show’s mytharc, Fox Mulder’s ongoing search for the truth behind the shadowy alien conspiracy, the beating narrative heart of the show, ended up becoming one of its weakest elements. The long-running plotline became so garbled and unruly in its later series, that there was almost a sense that episodes were being improvised on the fly. The mytharc would eventually incorporate warring alien factions, tediously realised super soldiers, seemingly deceased characters miraculously returning to life and credibility-stretching revelations about the parentage of major characters. Your memory might identify the point of no return as around the fifth or sixth series, but the damage was done as early as the second season; when naff alien bounty hunters made an appearance and the details of Mulder’s sister’s disappearance, his entire raison d’être, were muddled.
Mercifully, despite some notable misfires throughout its initial nine season run, the show managed to provide decent monster-of-the-week excitement at least up until it’s eighth series, despite dwindling appearances from David Duchovny.
With this is mind, the 11th series plays out almost exactly as one might expect: a ten episode run that begins and ends on a pair of mytharc stinkers, but actually delivers some decent stand-alone fun in the middle. My Struggle III picks up where season 10’s cliffhanger finale left-off, but does so with a dreadfully cheap narrative swerve that’s only slightly more sophisticated than the old “it was all a dream” tactic. The finale, My Struggle IV provides something in the way of closure, but it’s so leaden and tedious, easily the worst episode in the series, that you wonder why Chris Carter felt the need to resurrect the conspiracy stuff anyway?
The meat in the sandwich, so to speak, is of mixed quality, and is unlikely to convert many previous non-believers, but should satisfy hardcore fans and, let’s face it, who else is watching at this point? There are the odd missteps along the way: This sees the return of Lone Gunman Langly in a meandering tech-thriller and Plus One finds Mulder and Scully investigating a pair of telekinetic twins in a tonally inconsistent outing. Elsewhere the series is pretty sure-footed: The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat is a self-reflexive outing that amusingly mis-remembers the origins of the show in the best traditions of the X Files comedic offerings; while Rm9sbG93ZXJz is a creative, almost wordless story in which a gang of angry domestic robots including a vacuum cleaner harass the FBI pair in an episode that could have been culled from a series of Inside No. 9.
Walter Skinner’s character gets a bit more flesh on his bones courtesy of Kitten, featuring a surprisingly creepy Haley Joel Osment in dual roles, while Nothing Lasts Forever stays on just the right side of hysterical with a cabal of organ-stealing vampires pursued by a vengeful hunter. Mid-series offering Ghouli riffs on the idea of internet meme bogeymen like Slender Man before morphing, surprisingly, into a mythology episode that actually delivers pathos.
Running through the series is sense of currency that identifies it as a product of Trump’s America. Conspiracy theories intertwine with laments about the rise of fake news and explicit criticisms of an administration that trades in a currency of confusion.
If this is to be the end of The X-Files then series 11 has given a decent account of itself without troubling the heights achieved in the show’s first five years. But Duchovny and Anderson so obviously slip back into their roles with such ease that, despite some mixed results and an ongoing conspiracy story that has eked out the last vestiges of any interest, it’s fun to spend time with them again.
Dir: Chris Carter, Glen Morgan, Kevin Hooks, Darin Morgan, James Wong, Carol Banker, Holly Dale
Scr: Chris Carter, Glen Morgan, Darin Morgan, James Wong, Gabe Rotter, Shannon Hamblin, Kristen Cloke, Benjamin van Allen, Karen Nielsen
Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, William B. Davis, Annabeth Gish
Prd: Chris Carter, Glen Morgan, Grace Gilroy, James Wong, Gabe Rotter
DOP: Craig Wrobleski
Music: Mark Snow
The X-Files Season 11 is out on Blu-Ray and DVD now.