X-Files creator Chris Carter has never been a particularly strong writer. He’s the big idea man, and like a lot of big-idea men, they need others to sweat the details, round off the edges, and turn those big ideas into something workable. Chris Carter is the Carlton Cuse of showrunners. He’s a good manager; he hires and facilitates well. He should learn, however, to let the talented people around him rein in those big, preposterous ideas. He needs to learn to delegate.
Unfortunately, Chris Carter suffers from the George Lucas condition: Too much ego. He’s so confident in his own ideas and abilities that he’s only willing to hand them off once he’s established the outline. He dug himself quite the hole with the first episode of the X-Files television reboot, and while many critics have suggested that the next two episodes are better, it would’ve been helpful if his more talented X-Files collaborators Darin Morgan, Glen Morgan, and James Wong — who wrote and directed the next three episodes — had a better point from which to start, because the 2016 reintroduction was not good. It was badly written, clunky, and poorly conceived, and didn’t do what X-Files often did at its best: Straddle the line between Mulder’s belief and Scully’s skepticism. It kicked over the line and stomped on it, and then it picked up that line and used it to beat out the soul of the original series.
Scully’s wig was real bad, too.
How bad was the first episode, “My Struggle”? It was Kingdom of the Crystal Skull bad. It was roughly 42 minutes of clunky, confusing exposition, terrible dialogue, and a couple of wincing performances from the usually reliable Joel McHale and The Americans’ Annet Mahendru.
The gist of the reintroduction is this: The entire original X-Files series was bunk. Rather than answer any of the six million questions still lingering from that series, Chris Carter sought a reset, of sorts, by steering us into a Mulder revelation that the entire history of he and Scully’s work was a misdirect. The government sent them out to investigate small potatoes to distract them from what was really going on: Our government has been hiding and hoarding alien technology and producing alien/human hybrids to further their corporate greed. 9/11, the obesity epidemic, global warming, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars? They were all manufactured by a “multinational group of well-armed, well-oiled elites” in order to one day take over America and later, the world.
Multinational group of well-armed, well-oiled elites are my least favorite enemies. In other words, it’s as shitty plot from a bad James Bond movie crossed with the plot of Avengers crossed with the brain farts of Randy McQuaid. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson do their best to peddle Carter’s vast, overreaching conspiracy — and the chemistry between the two is as good as it’s ever been — but there’s no escaping “The Chris Carter Effect” here. There’s not a resolution in the world satisfying enough to meet expectations. It’s too big. Too overstuffed. Too nonsensical. Chris Carter pulled out the kitchen sink in the pilot episode and then he brained us with it.
I trust, however, that the Morgans and James Wong can pull it back in and, hopefully, deliver a couple of great, old-fashioned cases of the week while still servicing the season’s arc, but I’m not sure they can do enough damage control to salvage the entire six-episode run. Let’s just hope that, if The X-Files franchise survives this reintroduction, there’s enough goodwill and fan support left to reintroduce it again in another decade. By then, maybe Chris Carter will have learned his lesson and handed the baton off to a more capable writer and showrunner.