Halfway through X-Files s10, here are my (in-progress) thoughts:
- Quality: Variable so far, as to be expected from the depth of Chris Carter’s involvement. Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster, which aired last night, was more than everything I hoped for. Founder’s Mutation was fine, but not really my jam. My Struggle was . . . a mythology episode. Which is to say, it’s hard for me to be objective because I care so little about the mythology.
- Offensiveness: Needs to be broken down into subparts, because it’s a hefty topic.
- Casting: Actually way better than I’d hoped for, in general. It seems like there was a concerted effort to include as many women and, particularly, people of color (and women of color) as possible. This is not to say it’s perfect–there’s a South Asian nurse in the first episode that Scully repeatedly just refers to as “Nurse” like it’s her whole name, and the writing (and thus casting) of the trans character in last night’s episode couldn’t have been more stereotypical . . .
- But it could have been so much worse. Which is not an excuse, but does imbue with me with an unexpected sense of relief. Though Annabelle (the character in question) checks off every 90s-stereotype box, the show seems to be attempting inclusivity, even if it fails. More than anything, it feels as though the show’s traditional power brokers (middle-aged white men, mostly straight, all cisgendered) were trying to work out their own personal understanding of gender issues via the character/minor plot thread. Though totally out of place and not executed with any particular grace, at least there was an attempt to engage.
- On the other side: I don’t have any real problem with Scully serving as a fantasy figure for other characters on the show, in theory. But in (fictitious) reality, the show refuses to let the audience in on Scully’s own desires and interests, except in the most oblique of ways . . . so the more I think about it, the more frustrated and disappointed I am that MASMTWM featured just such a Scully sex-fantasy. This is, really, only the second episode (out of 205, plus two movies) to engage with Scully’s sexuality. The first had her sleep with a guy who later tried to kill her. Ughhhhhhhhh.
- The revival episodes that have aired so far have played with the idea of narrative authority within the X-Files universe in a way that is an interesting (and appreciated) departure from the original series. Founder’s Mutation, in particular, looks past the traditional X-Files milieu of “Rich White Men Make Decisions and Control Things, With Malice” to the lives of people affected by those decisions. I read a fantastic article about this that I, strangely, did not save and now cannot find. Regardless of quality, I appreciate that the show has made attempts to engage with 21st century cultural shifts.
- And, the whole revival has been worth it, if only for MASMTWM. What joy, what darkness, and what a truly surprising (and fun!) hour of television. Give Darin Morgan all the awards. Three of my favorite pieces of criticism about the episode: