The X-Files are open again, the much-anticipated, six-part miniseries having premiered Sunday on Fox. But despite having pulled in a huge viewership — early projections have the audience at some 13.5 million people — not everyone was happy with the reunion of FBI agents Fox Mulder (played by David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (played by Gillian Anderson). Some fans were willing to overlook flaws in the reprise, content with just having the show back.
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"Did the new X-Files have issues?" one fan tweeted. "Absolutely. Did any of them hamper my enjoyment? Not a one. I'm in!"
Others were less forgiving.
Reviews didn't go that far, but many felt the show's return to be lackluster. In the first installment of the X-Files revival, former investigative power couple Mulder and Scully have split, the first factor that prompted Kaly Soto of the New York Times to label the reboot's premiere "unsatisfying." Throughout the show's nine-year run, the agents' chemistry kept fans hooked. In the 2008 movie, X-Files: I Want to Believe, Mulder and Scully were together and even had a child. Unfortunately, the partnership has dissolved in the eight-year interim.
Their attraction hasn't evaporated, though, but was buried under unwieldy exchanges in this first episode. "There are entire scenes of 'My Struggle' where the dialogue feels clunky and out of sync with not just our memories of the show's greatness, but the way real people in the real world talk to each other," Indiewire's Liz Shannon Miller wrote.
And then, Mulder's trademark conspiracy theories seem to have lost their charm: As Soto wtrote, they no longer sound "rebelliously romantic." Rather, they strike the viewer as "a piece with the frenzied and feverish age in which we now live."
The show opens with extended ruminations on Mulder's latest, less-than-compelling theory: What if humans had been behind alien abductions all along, Mulder wonders in a lengthy spiel — which Laura Bradley at Slate called "a seriously confusing snooze-fest" — and what if these dastardly few have been using their fellow man as guinea pigs for the testing of alien DNA, under the instruction of the U.S. government? This is a surprising tack to take for a man who spent the show's nine seasons digging deep into the truth that aliens were out there. In Soto's words, it was "one of the many, many frayed threads wrapped throughout this episode."
But it means that Mulder and Scully are together again, at least in a professional sense. However, their awkward communication, coupled with an untenable plot line, meant the revival fell short for many viewers. According to Variety's Brian Lowry, "The harsh truth in here is that it's as if creator Chris Carter and his collaborators have forgotten what people liked about the show."
Again, though, there seem to have been enough crowd-pleasers to keep viewers happy.