UK TV review: The X-Files Season 10 (2016), Episode 4
Ivan Radford | On 05, Mar 2016
After last week’s encounter with the Were-Monster, this week’s The X-Files swings from light humour to heavy drama – a transformation that doesn’t always bring out the show’s best side.
Chris Carter’s sci-fi has always benefited from that ability to flip-flop between tones, one minute witty and silly, the next terrifying and creepy. It’s fitting, then, that after Darin Morgan returned for Episode 3, Episode 4 should be penned by Glen Morgan, the man who gave us Season 1’s Squeeze, the series’ first truly scary monster. That continued trend of bringing back old writers, though, only highlights the dated feel of much of this reboot; if you were told that these episodes were written 20 years ago, you’d probably believe it.
If this feels more like Episode 2 than Episode 3 in terms of quality, though, that at least means one good thing: we’re still in monster-of-the-week territory, which is where the show’s best episodes have always been found. This week’s creature certainly makes an entrance, ripping a man to pieces within minutes of the episode’s start. In fact, there’s a glossy horror to all of his escapades, not least a standout sequence midway through that unfolds entirely to the accompaniment of Downtown – a moment that rivals any classy horror or crime thriller you could name.
Our duo’s investigation of his murders are equally entertaining, not least because Mulder’s newfound skepticism is enough to keep things fresh. “This person was born without footprints,” Fox concludes, completely deadpan, as he examines the crime scene, “which is impossible, by the way.” The doctors prove just as amusingly insightful, revealing that the traces of our big bad are neither organic nor inorganic. Add in some weird graffiti and you’ve got yourself one intriguing beast.
The other half of the episode surrounds Scully and her mother, who turns out to be sick, possibly even dying. And so we have lots of bedside hospital heart-to-hearts, along with the now obligatory mention of William, as part of Scully’s general family picture. These newer episodes of The X-Files have struggled repeatedly when it comes to the more emotional beats, mainly because the dialogue still feels like it was created in the 1990s, but it’s testament to Duchovny and Anderson that they sell even the most heavy-handed exchanges here; if anything, they’ve gotten better at doing this stuff over the years.
What the duo’s chemistry can’t do, though, is help the script bridge the gap between its two strands, which is something Morgan strives to do – admirably, if not effortlessly. The through-line, that creating something leaves you in a position of responsibility for it, is a neat one – the idea of looking after something, particularly when framed against the garbage-themed background of homeless people, feels both modern and pertinent. But then you hear that our villain has the laughable name “The Band-Aid Nose Man” and any tension is immediately dispelled, which undermines both the case-of-the-week and its thematic connection to the rest of the plot. All that means that when we reach a surprisingly poetic denouement, the juxtaposition between Mulder’s big questions to do with the universe and Scully’s smaller questions, the kind one asks a son or a mother, doesn’t quite resound the way it wants to.
Underlying it all is the niggling feeling that The X-Files is starting to move away from its original premise – Mulder’s conspiracy theory that the whole of The X-Files was a front all along – in favour of another narrative arc to do with William, which, over the course of just six limited episodes, seems a few too many plates to be juggling. “I won’t know if he thinks of me too,” laments Scully of their boy. We’d be willing to bet that she will know soon enough. And also willing to bet that this new season won’t be returning to the heights of Episode 3 again.
Season 10 of The X-Files (2016) is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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