During the New York Comic Con panel for “The X-Files,” a 17-year-old boy stepped up to the microphone to ask a question, and just like that, longtime fans saw what the new generation looks like.
It’s a generation that never had to wait week to week to see Fox Mulder and Dana Scully’s latest exploits, huddled in a dark room, giddy with anticipation as that eerie theme song blasted, promising mystery, conspiracy and sexual tension. But that day they did. We all did.
Gathered in NYCC’s Main Stage, 3,000 “X-Files” fans witnessed the rebirth of the series that made the masses want to believe. Titled, “My Struggle,” the first episode of Fox’s limited revival not only needed to succinctly set up what Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) have been up to for the past 13 years, but also had to provide an accessible entry point for newcomers to the franchise. And it did an admirable job, thanks to some smoldering voiceover, new discoveries and next-level TV spectacle.
In the old days of “The X-Files,” fans would’ve killed for the kind of alien screen time offered in this episode. There’s a dramatic (and surprisingly sharp-looking) spaceship crash, followed by a plot about a multiple abductee — with scars to “prove” her story! — and a brutal alien extermination. How these elements tie together sets up the arc for this season, folding in new characters like a doe-eyed farm girl who believes she has alien DNA, and Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale), a TV personality who preaches about the evils of modern America and alien conspiracy. It’s this bloviating bloke who reunites Mulder and Scully, following the dissolution of their relationship neither is ready to address head on.
While Scully has settled comfortably into surgery since the FBI shut down the X-Files investigations, Mulder has seemingly spun out. He’s living off the grid, where not even his old boss Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) can find him. And he’s abandoned his crisp suits and clean shave for slouchy casuals and a scruffy near-beard. But once there’s the possibility of discovering that ever-elusive truth, a spark ignites, drawing the two together and setting up a chain reaction that will lead to notoriety, death and the miraculous return of the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), as was teased in the latest promo:
There’s plenty in the episode for X-philes, including a return to Mulder’s forgotten office, where pencils still protrude from the ceiling. And the lurid enigmas personal and extraterrestrial that are the show’s calling card are easy to step back into thanks to delicate expositional dialogue and the comfortable chemistry of Anderson and Duchovny. Admittedly, the former eases back into her role more seamlessly than the latter, who strains to bring believable passion into Mulder’s climactic monologue. But it’s difficult to care when you’re just so glad they’re back.
“The X-Files” returns Sunday, Jan. 24, on Fox.
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