In 2016, a miracle happened. The X-Files returned to our TV screens for the first time since the series ended in 2003. Like welcoming an old friend, fans eagerly waited for the next chapter of Mulder and Scully’s pursuit for the truth.
Truth be told, Season 10 was a mixed bag. There were plenty of positives. Series creator Chris Carter assembled fan favourite writers in Glen Morgan, James Wong and Darin Morgan back for the writing room. The series was naturally brought up to date to reflect the modern world we live in. Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny demonstrated that the chemistry was still there, even if their on-screen characters were notably estranged.
But with a limited run of episodes (six in total), the episodes always felt like a teaser for more to come. While the connections between each episode was subtle, it was a jarring experience switching between mythology and standalones. Some concepts had brilliant ideas but were let down either by rushing or cramming too much into a 42 minute episode. By the time it built up a momentum, the series had finished.
With Season 11 around the corner, it will be interesting to see how the stories play their part in the continuing mystery but structure wise, whether there will be a better flow between episodes. Early buzz suggests it does.
So, without further ado, here are the best episodes from Season 10, ranked from five to one.
There’s a lot to absorb in ‘My Struggle’. The mythology takes a swift misdirection. It focuses on the “conspiracy of men” and poses new questions and challenges on the changes. Mulder and Scully’s relationship gets a complicated and frosty dynamic.
But despite the flaws, ‘My Struggle’ hits the ground running, wasting no time to get up to speed.
The interesting aspect about ‘My Struggle’ is how writer and director Chris Carter brings the show up to date. The opening monologue serves as a reintroduction to the X-Files world and Mulder’s paranoia takes centre stage. The UFO crash scene is The X-Files at its most cinematic, keeping in line with tradition of making a mini-movie every week. He takes advantage of modern technology, capturing the paranoia and the suspicion it holds, from Mulder covering up his webcam on his laptop to Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale) mentioning dirt boxes.
One topic that should be congratulated is the addition of Mitch Pileggi’s name to the opening credits. Throughout the years as Walter Skinner, he has played an integral part in Mulder and Scully’s adventure. His on-screen appearance was brief during Season 10 but he fully deserves the recognition.
My Struggle II
‘My Struggle II’ came across as the third X-Files movie that fans have been dreaming about – viral outbreak, possible start of the alien colonisation, double-crossing friends, the Cigarette Smoking Man up to his old tricks and Mulder and Scully the only ones who could possibly stop it. It’s a real shame that a lot of those elements were crammed into a 42 minute episode!
Once those obvious faults, uneven plots, sheer frustrations and the ‘I’ve lost count how many times alien DNA was mentioned’ are taken away, The X-Files can still deliver on suspense and that mostly works. It’s a race against time and it ends on a massive cliffhanger that would probably make you yell at your TV screen.
One of the most confident elements from ‘My Struggle II’ is how the episode puts science centre stage and its depiction of women in science. With Scully and a much better handled Einstein (Lauren Ambrose) working together as counter-points, they become positive influences in the debate. But the episode is also great in seeing The Cigarette Smoking Man fully embracing that embodiment of evil, reshaping the world in his own image.
With so many unanswered questions, especially how the new developments tie into the complex mythology we know, thank God for Season 11 because everyone wants to know what the hell happened next.
There’s so much going on in ‘Home Again’ that in hindsight it could have made three great episodes. You have a social commentary about rich and poor divide and our attitudes towards the homeless. You have a commentary about art and how artists should be responsible for the work they create. Lastly, you have a commentary about small mysteries in life that cannot be solved. While a lot of the elements can be jarring, Glen Morgan’s script and direction does strike a chord.
There’s one thing that cannot be denied about ‘Home Again’ and that is the brilliant performance by Gillian Anderson. Through Anderson’s performance she becomes the glue that holds all those tricking elements together. Scully goes on an emotional rollercoaster, triggered by the sad death of Mrs. Scully (Sheila Larken). The episode exposes a vulnerability as she begins to bury herself in the case. At one point, she’s even a little reckless when she takes down a suspect with a gun without thinking.
The episode has been criticised in the past for being too reverential about William, considering it was covered by ‘Founder’s Mutation’. But ‘Home Again’ subtly re-establishes the need for Scully to see her child again.
The episode might be rough around the edges but Anderson nails it.
The investigation is not even the main interest in ‘Founder’s Mutation’. In fact, the mystery is mostly paper-thin and straightforward. However, the real reward of James Wong’s script and direction is how the case draws personal parallels for Mulder and Scully.
Whether you’re a fan of it or not there is no denying that the William storyline from Season 9 was clumsily handled. The sudden need to give up the child robbed the audience of an emotional impact between the two agents. In ‘Founder’s Mutation’, William’s absence is tackled head on and acknowledged.
There’s a sadness in this family tragedy. Mulder and Scully have daydream fantasies being parents to William, seeing themselves as a protector and a source of wisdom. Their dreams start off as idyllic before turning into a personal nightmare. Scully’s reaction is of course expected since Season 9 and I Want to Believe covered that loss. But seeing Mulder’s reaction was the surprising thing because it signifies that no matter what he does, he quietly feels that same heartbreak.
Wong is able to use those parallels to an underrated effect. He plays on the parental fears of Mulder and Scully knowing William is out there but wonder how he’s impacted by their absence. He creates paths of relation where Scully can identify with Agnes and Mulder with Kyle in their tragic stories. It’s one of those rare episodes where The X-Files may not deliver on one aspect but uses the time to devote a real, human and emotional core.
Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster
If there was a standout episode from Season 10 then it truly belongs to Darin Morgan’s ‘Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster’. The X-Files has always been known for its dramatic takes but when it does comedy and hits all the right notes, it’s a treat.
In theory this episode shouldn’t work. It exists in its own unique and surreal world. But Darin is the only writer who could pull off something as daring, juxtaposing and quirky as this. In a love letter to the fans, Darin Morgan parodies the show on an extreme level with Easter Egg references. The dialogue is sharp and witty and like all of Darin’s episodes, Mulder is always at the centre of those jokes almost testing the legitimacy of his beliefs.
But another significant reason why ‘Were-Monster’ is a gem is how Darin flips the natural convention about monsters by portraying them as the victim. In Guy Mann (a wonderful performance by Rhys Darby), not only does Darin build sympathy for the character but uses him as a brilliant and accurate social commentary on the world today.
As the third episode of the season, David and Gillian were hitting their stride as the iconic agents and it shows.
And the worst…
‘Babylon’ is not the worst episode I’ve seen. That title still belongs to Season Seven’s ‘First Person Shooter’, but ‘Babylon’ is definitely the weakest out of this season. The episode does have valid questions about faith, religious symbolism and how Mulder and Scully seek out their opposites in Einstein and Miller (Robbie Amell) to validate their theories. However, the execution was messy, rushed, muddled and tonally all over the place. And yes, not even Mulder line dancing could save this one.