‘The X-Files’ Miniseries Recap, Episode 1: “My Life’s Become a Punchline”

The X-Files is back, but is the world they return to still the same? As our own Tom Hawking explores in his pre-air writeup, now that we’ve discovered that some of the conspiracies are true, Mulder (David Duchovny) doesn’t sound as crazy. From the premiere of the first episode — delayed for a bit by football — it’s clear that his crackpot theories already sound a little less insane. In fact, they’ve become so commonplace that the President can joke about it on TV — and at the show’s start, Mulder seems to have accepted his fate. “My life’s become a punchline,” he admits.

The first episode of this new six-episode miniseries was written and directed by none other than the series creator, Chris Carter. The intro shows stills from previous episodes — manifested as literal X-Files, and we get a quick recap from Mulder, on the state of the X-Files the department and some basic “facts” that amount to the current state of conspiracy. “People only laugh, and only Roswell is remembered,” he laments. ”But we must ask ourslves, are they really a hoax, are we truly alone? or are we being lied to?” Indeed.

The original series relied on obfuscation, giving you just enough information to be tantalized, without offering any concrete evidence or answers. It was part of the appeal; the mystery let us empathize with the plight of Mulder, who was doomed to see just enough to help him keep believing, but unable to convince anyone else. And just in case you were unsure of this miniseries’ difference from the original, there’s this: you don’t wave to wait longer than 15 minutes to see an alien. And you don’t have to wait more than a few seconds to see a man in black pump it full of bullets.

Scully and Mulder were always ahead of the curve when it comes to mobile communications. They’ve traded in their suitcase phones for smartphones, but the first phone call felt significant; they spent much of their time in danger, separately, connected only by the invisible thread of the wireless phone. This time, Scully (Gillian Anderson) is trying to connect Mulder with Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale), a right-wing cable news talking head who has a habit of spewing the same theories as Mulder, blaming the government for coverups of massive scale and scope.

When they meet, Mulder pop-quizzes O’Malley on his UFO/conspiracy knowledge, trying on his skeptic suit. This disturbing trend will continue, and intensifies when they introduce Sveta (Annett Mahendru), a multiple-abductee who Mulder once interviewed while investigating an X-File. She’s convinced she has alien DNA, so Scully decides to test her blood (and her own) to make sure. A few minutes later Mulder gets to see a real-live UFO running on “zero-point energy”, hovering in front of him, with its “gravity warp drive” that makes it disappear. The first time around, how many seasons did we have to wait for just a glimpse of something like this?

Later, as O’Malley walks in on Scully testing herself for alien DNA, and we discover that not only did they know each other, but it seems like they used to date. It’s unclear what the point of this plot development is, because it goes nowhere. Meanwhile, Mulder has found a new Deepthroat, an elderly doctor who was there at the Roswell crash, mortified by the Man in Black who executed the alien they found. Of course, he won’t actually tell Mulder what happened, rather, he wants him to find it himself so he can “confirm” it. “You’re nearly there, you’re close. Roswell, that was a smokescreen.” Come on, buddy, we don’t have 23 episodes to figure this out, you better cut to the chase.

The rest of the episode progresses in the X-Files formula. Scully, Mulder, and O’Malley meet at Sveta’s house, Mulder and O’Malley lay out the latest conspiracy: fake alien abductions performed by a “a well-oiled, and well-armed, multi-national group of elites that will cull, kill, and subjugate.” Cool. Good to know. Of course, the second O’Malley decides to go on air with “the truth”, “they” get Sveta to change her story, blow up the evidence, and kill O’Malley’s show. After we see Sveta visited by a strange craft, she appears to meet her end. The loose ends are tied up.

Of course, as one door closes, another one opens, and Scully reveals a shocker: actually, Sveta did have alien DNA (good thing Scully ran those tests again), but so does Scully! This proves important not just for a convenient McGuffin, but also a disturbing tonal shift — when investigating the strange occurences around the birth of her son, Scully tends to ditch her skepticism and becoming even more of a true believer. The Smoking Man (William B. Davis), who makes his return in the episode’s final scene, smoking through his stoma with the help of a minion, seems to get this: “We have a small problem: they’ve re-opened the X-Files.”