TV-Review: X-Files Season 10 Episode 2

The X-Files have returned with a limited six-series run and with the second episode called Founder’s Mutation they’re really back – as in business as usual in a very good way. Mulder and Scully are in the FBI again running the good old X-Files department, meaning they are called out to all the strange cases… and that means the Monster of the Week concept is back too. This could have meant a boring, paint-by-numbers affair, but instead this episode is as classic as it gets – even more so than the first one, which now feels more like an introduction. This new season of The X-Files is currently being shown on Channel 5 in England with a three-episode delay compared to the US broadcast, but the episodes are also available on Amazon and iTunes everywhere following the American schedule – although I’m sticking with the UK TV broadcast, so the reviews are a bit delayed as well.

‘Monsters of the Week’, a term that was probably really coined long before the X-Files existed, are usually a rather scary affair and Founder’s Mutation is no exception. Written and directed by James Wong, who had worked on several classic episodes of the series in the 1990s, the story revolves around an unexplained suicide in a secretive genetics research company, which leads to Mulder and Scully trying to find out more about the research the laboratory is doing. Then their investigations are shut down by the department of defense, who have a contract with the company – but thanks to their benevolent boss Skinner, they are allowed to continue working on the case under the radar and discover unsettling things. Although this episode is only loosely connected to the grand mythology of the series, the overall theme is very familiar and has been explored several times before – and this time around, the story fits perfectly into the X-Files universe again.

The plot itself is actually not that important, because the episode is really all about Fox Mulder and Dana Scully going back to work and dealing with their past, which comes back to haunt them when they encounter children in the company’s research clinic. The contrast between seeing the two back at work after all this time as if nothing has happened to wrestling with the absence of their child is startling to say the least, but very effective and allows the actors to really shine in their roles. Especially Gillian Anderson brings Scully to life with a depth reminding of the best episodes of the series, but David Duchovny also does an amazing job portraying Mulder in a low-key, yet wholly believable way. The two agents are not only back because their names are in the script and wearing their familiar work clothes, but it feels like their hearts and souls have returned too.

This episode also benefits from a terrific supporting cast. From the unfortunate first victim played by Christopher Logan and Vik Sahay as his co-worker to Doug Savant as genetics company founder Augustus Goldman and Rebecca Wisocky as his institutionalized wife, everyone here is absolutely excellent in the best tradition of the series. While there is of course not much room for the characters to unfold, the actors all give almost frighteningly intense performances. Mitch Pileggi also makes another welcome appearance as Walter Skinner, who once again proves to be an powerful ally to Mulder and Scully.

If this solid episode has a fault, it’s the somewhat lazy way the topic of genetic research has been used. As usual, it’s just the MacGuffin presented as the Monster of the Week designed to be as scary as possible with quite a bit of blood around, but even though Scully gets to do the customary autopsy of the first victim (without Mulder blinking an eye), the whole reason remains even more nebulous than usual for the series. It feels like this episode is just a set-up for more and maybe that’s exactly what is going on. The story is as serious as the X-Files get and, apart from a few snarky moments involving Mulder’s unorthodox investigation methods, almost devoid of humour, which works well for this sort of plot.

Founder’s Mutation is a strong episode that goes back to the roots of the series and makes good use of the X in the X-Files. While monsters of the week can be also disappointing instead of scary, it’s good to see that the former hasn’t happened in this short season where every episode counts.

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