The X-Files “My Struggle” Review (2016 Mini-Series, Episode 1): The Little Green Men (in Black) are Back!


Full disclosure: I was a full-on “The X-Files” geek back in the day. It was the second show I ever fell head-over-heels over, with the first being “Twin Peaks,” which also featured star David Duchovny, and was a big part of what led me to it in the first place. While more of a horror fan than a sci-fi one, the great thing about the original series was that it wasn’t just one genre.

It was also part government conspiracy, in the mold of the movies of the 50’s Red Scare era and the 70’s Watergate era; as well as one of the original modern crime procedurals, beating “CSI” to the punch by a considerable margin (though both certainly owe a debt to Thomas Harris’ work, notably “Red Dragon” and “The Silence of the Lambs”); and, of course, part monster-of-the-week fear fest, in the mold of the classic 70’s series “Kolchak: The Night Stalker.”

All of these combined hit the sweet spot for this viewer, who was hooked from the very first episode on. Airing on a Friday, it started out as more of a cult series, but eventually moved to Sundays, where it became a full-on, much-beloved phenomenon, running from 1993-2002, when it finally retired, eventually spawning two big-screen movies, which were moderately successful, both in terms of box-office and reception from the die-hard fans and critics alike.

The last movie, “I Want to Believe” proved the last iteration of the show for some time, with talks with FOX eventually leading to this: a six episode mini-series “event.” If successful, more are a distinct possibility, as is a third film, which creator Chris Carter has reportedly already written. So, the big question became: could the mini-series recapture the magic that the films didn’t quite manage? While too soon to say overall, I’d have to say, as a hardcore fan: so good, so far.

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It’s near-impossible for a longtime fan to watch this and not feel a twinge of nostalgia. It’s the TV equivalent of the latest “Star Wars” movie. As with that franchise entry, this iteration wastes no time playing on fans’ heartstrings, with nods to all sorts of past episodes and moments that will hit the sweet spots for those who know their “X-Files.”

Beginning with a montage of what could be considered photos of some of the show’s “greatest hits,” then that familiar theme and those wonderfully old-school credits kick in and i felt all warm inside almost instantly. If you didn’t feel the hairs on the back of your neck tingle at least a little bit when you heard/saw that, you weren’t a real fan.

I’ll allow that it sometimes gets a bit carried away with that sort of thing- did we really need the borderline clichéd, not to mention a bit too on-the-nose conversation with Mulder (Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) in which the former actually says, within the dialogue: “The Truth is Out There,” one of the show’s signature catch-phrases? Probably not.

But, even so, it is nice to see Mulder back in “I Want to Believe” mode, especially after the “Oh no, he didn’t” move of his kicking and ripping the famed poster with said proclamation during a visit to his old stomping grounds. (It was nice to see the pencils still stuck in the ceiling, though!)

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We begin at- where else?- Roswell, right after the famed flying saucer crash that allegedly occurred back in the late 40’s, unofficially kicking off the beginning of the whole “aliens are among us and the government are actively covering it up” conspiracy in earnest. A doctor is brought in to inspect the premises- and the alien on site, which is promptly shot dead by the military as soon as they see it. How much you want to bet that lead guy in charge was the Cigarette Smoking Man?

Either way, the doctor in question (Rance Howard, “Nebraska”) later contacts Mulder, who gets in touch with him in return after the latest events, in what is no doubt supposed to be Mulder’s new “Deep Throat” connection, to take the place of the original one. The events in question revolve around a young woman by the name of Sveta (Annet Mahendru, “The Americans”), who claims to have been abducted and experimented on throughout her life, with the scars to prove it. But was it aliens? Or something even more nefarious?

According to Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale, of all people, of “The Soup” and “Community” fame), a conservative blowhard in the Bill O’Reilly mode, with a healthy dose of alien conspiracy theorist Art Bell for good measure, it’s the government who is to blame- not the aliens.

Positing that the government took the technology and alien DNA from the Roswell site and used it to their advantage to do everything from splice it into human DNA during faux abductions like Sveta’s to use it to spy on people, control climate change and basically take over the world in general, he enlists Mulder and, by extension, Scully to prove his crazy theories are right on the money, with the plan of exposing everyone concerned on his internet show.

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At first Scully, ever the skeptic, balks at O’Malley’s insane theories, and fears for Mulder getting fished back into a wormhole of wacko conspiracy types and falling back into bad habits. After testing Sveta’s DNA and discovering nothing, she’s even more convinced that O’Malley and Sveta are running some sort of con. However, a second round of testing proves that not only was Sveta telling the truth about having alien DNA in her system- but so does Scully.

Naturally, no sooner has this happened than everything is swiftly covered up. Sveta goes to the media and says that she lied at O’Malley’s behest, who paid her to do so. Then she immediately goes on the run, later to be killed by what would appear to be an alien spaceship, but could well be the government’s approximation of one, used to do their dirty work, given the circumstances. Likewise, O’Malley’s website vanishes from the internet, with O’Malley himself either also killed or at the very least, driven underground. (We never see one way or another, as of yet.)

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It’s clear that the cover-up is in full swing, giving Mulder and Scully good reason to reteam together and seek out the truth once more, with an assist from good old Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), who’s still toiling away for the FBI. Though he and Mulder butt heads as per usual, it’s obvious that he’s in his corner, despite Mulder’s paranoiac tendencies.

Decidedly not in Mulder and Scully’s corner, however, is the long-thought-dead Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), who may be down, but he’s hardly out. Covered in burn scars from the attempt on his life, he’s also turned to smoking via one of those neck-breathing devices, which is all kinds of gross, and informs someone that “we have a little problem- the X-Files are being reopened.” And we’re out.

So, needless to say, a whole lot of exposition, and general craziness to take in, much of which it’s hard to say whether we should take at face value, least of all O’Malley’s rantings. Of course, Mulder has long suspected a governmental cover-up of all alien activity, so that’s nothing new, nor is the prospect that they may have done some experimenting with alien DNA on humans of their own, and not the aliens themselves, as Mulder once believed.

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Notably, there’s Scully herself, who, as fans know, gave birth to a baby that may well be part-alien. Though we don’t really get into that this time around, previews for the weeks to come show that we will indeed, which is good, as that was one plotline that has been left dangling for some time now. Is it her and Mulder’s kid for real, or was she likewise implanted with a baby, just as Sveta was? The latter would seem to be the case, but we’ll see. Regardless, Scully has alien DNA in her, so that means the baby, however it might have got there, likely does as well.

One thing I may be more excited for, though, is the return of the monster-of-the-week thing, which we also got a glimpse of, both in the trailer and the making-of special that aired on Saturday. I’m also excited at the prospect of the return of writer/directors Glen and Darin Morgan and James Wong, all of whom wrote some of the best episodes of the series proper.

As much as I love Chris Carter, much like George Lucas before him, he actually fares better as an overseer of what he created rather than a writer/director himself. As tingle-inducing some of this episode was, there’s no getting around the fact that some of the writing was a bit on the clunky side, and, aside from the excellent flying saucer crash at the beginning and the bit with the government-created spacecraft (featuring a cameo from Hiro Kanagawa, who also appeared on the original series), a lot of the staging was also a little ham-fisted as well.

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Not helping matters was the involvement of McHale, who I like just fine under normal circumstances, being a huge fan of his former shows, but who kind of took me out of it whenever he appeared, as if I were watching a spoof of “The X-Files” rather than the real deal. Annet Mahendru fares far better, but given her last scene, I don’t imagine we’ll be seeing much of her again, save perhaps in flashbacks, at best.

Of course, the core group is present and accounted for, and reportedly, other familiar faces will pop up, though I’m not sure how as of yet, including The Lone Gunmen (who were also seemingly dead, last we saw them, a la the CSM) and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish), who, along with Robert Patrick (who was busy with CBS’ “Scorpion” and won’t be returning) was part of the much-maligned final seasons, in which Duchovny was barely present half the time.

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Thankfully, Duchovny and Anderson were very much onboard for this season, albeit in limited capacity, with both having other things going on that would have kept them from committing to a full season. Duchovny has the lead on NBC’s summer series “Aquarius” and Anderson, who typically lives in London, has her own series, “The Fall” to get back to, hence the limited format.

However, both have expressed interest in further episodes or even another movie, should this mini-series prove a success. (No word yet on whether Duchovny will also reprise his role on the aforementioned “Twin Peaks,” which is also coming back in 2017 in its own revival.) Obviously, this is great news, and given that Carter has already said this run of the show will be left decidedly open-ended, one can only hope it will come to pass, as nothing sucks worse than being left hanging by a show you love, am I right?

So, yeah, although the premiere might be a little wobbly- much like that flying saucer in the opening scene- there’s every reason to hope that things will get better from here on out and that the truth is, indeed, still out there. Let’s just hope the storyline isn’t TOO out there moving forward, lest they scare away potential new fans. We shall see.

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What did you think about the premiere episode of “The X-Files”? Looking forward to more? Or were you disappointed? Were you surprised to see the Cigarette Smoking Man back in action? What did you think of McHale’s more serious acting turn here? How about Mahendru’s? Do you think they’ll be back, in some capacity? Are there other familiar faces you’d like to see return? What do you hope to see in future episodes? Which were your favorites: the conspiracy-driven ones, or the monster-of-the-week ones? Sound off on this and more down below, and be sure to join me tomorrow for the special follow-up episode, airing Monday night!