Halfway through the six-show revival of The X-Files, Fox Mulder, played by David Duchovny, comes to the same revelation that strikes many middle-aged, soon-to-be senior citizens right between the eyes as the reality of living on a fixed income: His life’s mission has been utterly meaningless.
Mulder has devoted his life to searching for the source of UFOs and aliens only to finally believe they don’t exist, and never have. The government – or if not the federal government, a coalition of the One Percent – has been spinning the fallacy of extraterrestrials for half a century. The motivation for the ruse is the only mystery remaining.
Gillian Anderson’s character, Dana Scully, also confronts and accepts that reality. On top of that, Scully realizes the partner she spent the early years of her adult life with is probably the best she can get, and that is going to be good enough.
The romantic tension of “will they, or won’t they” has been replaced by the grim reality of two seniors just trying to make it work.
Scully is much more comfortable in the bed which she has made than Mulder, but part of her new mission in life is fluffing the pillows and helping to make the bed in which he will be lying.
Anderson told the New York Times she is also more comfortable with being an icon in an iconic science fiction TV show.
“For a very long time, I just could not think about it anymore; I was so ready to be done,” Anderson said. “If I was to look at the bell curve of my ego, I would say that it would have been harder at other times to do this series again, had I not proved to myself — and to other people — in the interim that I could do other things.”
Duchovny said he had come to embrace the concept of backing off the accelerator.
“We’re probably a little slower than we were, but we’re just trying to get it right,” Duchovny told Variety. “If there are only six (episodes), you can focus on those six, as opposed to trying to get 24 right.”
When X-Files debuted on Fox in 1993, Scully was the skeptic whose role it was to question and poke holes in Mulder’s veil of pure belief. Her mission from her superiors in the FBI was not so much to show Mulder the error of his ways as it was to discredit him in the law enforcement agency and speed his professional exile.
Nine seasons later, Mulder was gone, Scully became the point person on the mission to solve the unsolvable and answer the unanswerable. Just as soldiers fade away rather than die, X-Files — the longest running show of its genre in the U.S. — slowly evaporated into irrelevance.
The tenth season of X-Files is much more loose and carefree than the original nine. The show seems much more willing to laugh at itself. The opening episodes also answered one of the questions that casual fans had wondered about — Scully and Mulder did have sex.
The first time around, some X-Files fans just wanted to play drinking games triggered by, say, the first time in each show that Fox and Dana turned on their flashlights.
Even without alcohol, the first go-round of The X-Files could be a little hard to follow.
The initial iteration of The X-Files focused on Mulder’s conviction “the truth is out there.” Sporadically, the series’ focus on Mulder’s belief that aliens had abducted his sister when she was a child. There was a plot line in which Scully was abducted and returned. The best shows were often the standalone episodes that ignored the “aliens are real” thesis.
“Through three episodes, it’s averaging more than 11.4 million live viewers — a higher average than Season 1 and Season 9. Factor in L+3 (people who watched the show within three days after its original airing, live plus three) viewership (including an estimated 25 percent bump for Episode 3, a conservative number since Episode 2 rose by 30 percent), and that number rises to 15.1 million viewers; an average in line with Season 3 and better than five of the original nine seasons.”
Chris Carter, the creator of The X-Files, told the New York Times that just as the first nine seasons reflected the public’s fascination with space aliens and ETs coming to visit, this mini-season is very relevant to this new millennium of our discontent.
“There’s something in the wind right now,” he said. “People seem concerned, more than ever, about whether the government is really looking out for their best interest. It’s always been there. But lately it’s ratcheted up.”