The X-Files remains a cult-hit TV series with a crowd of very passionate fans – even twenty-two years after it first premiered on Fox. The truth-seeking exploits of FBI agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) struck such a deep chord with both sci-fi fans and conspiracy theorist fanatics that the unique series managed to stay on the air for nine seasons (until 2002), and spawned a 1998 feature film, followed (eventually) by a 2008 sequel film that paled in comparison to the original.
Talk of The X-Files returning to television has gone on as long as the series has been off the airwaves, and after so many years, the possibility seemed as remote as one of Mulder’s alien abduction theories. However, now the X-Files is set to air a 6-episode miniseries in early 2016, and though some early trailers and teasers have given us an idea of what to expect, we haven’t really seen enough to know if creator Chris Carter and Co. have managed to catch lightning in the bottle, twice. But thanks to a recent previewing screening of the premiere episode during New York Comic-Con 2015, we finally have some early reviews for the X-Files revival that we can judge by.
X-Files Revival: The Early Reviews from NYCC
TV Guide – Creator Chris Carter has taken great advantage of the new world landscape when crafting this revival, incorporating post-9/11 conspiracies, the Patriot Act and the militarization of the police into the new mystery, all the while tying them back to Roswell-era alien cover-ups. In fact, The X-Filesso nicely lends itself to these modern issues that it’s hard to believe how much the Fox drama pre-dated many of them. Scully’s skepticism is also put to an interesting new use, as she now finds herself not only questioning the science, but additionally the benefit of sharing the truth with the public.
IGN – Generally speaking, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson have slid back into their most identifiable characters for this new adventure. There are some clunky and weird dialogue moments where they literally yell the slogans from the show at each other — “The truth is out there, Scully!” and the such. But fortunately, these bits are outweighed by the scenes that do work, and one senses that this episode, and that dialogue, is weighed down too much with the expository need to catch up potential newcomers to the show.
Collider – For die-hard fans, this new series will be a must watch, if this premiere episode is any indication, though new viewers may want to brush up a little more on the series and its inner workings before diving right in. Duchovny and Anderson make this pilot ooze with charisma and help lead us along the path of the unknown. While I don’t think this is on the same level as Marvel’s Jessica Jones and Starz’s Ash Vs. Evil Dead (both of which I also was able to see at NYCC) it still made for a good time and should be a nice miniseries to satiate those dying to know whether the “truth is still out there.”
JoBlo – This episode seeks to provide one or two smiles, but otherwise it’s a fairly grave affair. (Even McHale mostly plays it straight, the comedian’s inherently sarcastic personality isn’t at all capitalized on.) But… it’s undoubtedly reassuring to see Mulder and Scully back together, simply from a fanboy POV. Duchovny and Anderson wear their characters as comfortably as ever. The characters indeed seem older, more tired, but that’s to be expected; the episode does carry with it the palpable feeling that the world has passed these people by while they continue struggle to cope with their complicated pasts. Duchovny gets to rattle off a few patented Mulder speeches with vigor, while Anderson is at her skeptical best. While what they’re saying isn’t anything very new, the actors are still able to create some dynamic chemistry. A brief appearance by Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) adds to the feeling of excitement for what the future holds.
Indiewire – Episode 1 doesn’t have all the ill-fated effects of being sucker-punched squarely in the face, but it does elicit a rather dizzying reaction. So much is said, so many pieces are put in motion, and so little of it actually holds the meaning for the audience that it appears to carry for the characters. Much of the plot itself was too convoluted to spell back for you if I wanted to (and, again, I do not. Indiewire maintains its spoiler-free review policy). What I can say is the motivation for these characters is grounded squarely in actions taking place off screen, and that, in and of itself, is a huge problem for the current show.
The Telegraph – The pace of the action has picked up in the intervening years, however, with one particularly dizzying, rapid-fire monologue from Mulder, cut with spooled images of nuclear weapons and paranormal happenings … And both the storylines and the context feel fresh and contemporary, allusions to Edward Snowden and the NSA spying scandal perfectly chiming with the widespread paranoia currently peaking across the US.
From this lineup of reviews, it seems that there is a pretty clear consensus: Basically, the new X-Files miniseries brings back the nostalgia of the Mulder/Scully relationship, and has found a way to bend modern context to the advantage of its mythos (conspiracy theories are easy in a post-9/11, big-brother-watching world). Despite those advantages though, it seems as though the premiere episode has trouble establishing a clear and exciting narrative drive, while new characters seem thinly-drawn and, in some cases, miscast (Joel McHale).
Ironically enough, another groundbreaking cult-hit series is experiencing a modern revival – and facing similar criticisms: NBC’s Heroes Reborn. Despite that mixed reception, there are a number of hardcore fans who are enjoying the new miniseries – and hopefully the same holds true for The X-Files. Otherwise, what was the point in bringing it back at all?
The X-Files revival will premiere Sunday, January 24th, 2016 on FOX.