Here we go. "Founder's Mutation" is a much better direction for the refreshed X-Files than the messy and ultimately pointless wheel-spinning of the first episode, even if ultimately very little is accomplished. But hey, this is The X-Files. Every step forward has to be combined with two steps back.
Mulder and Scully are back in the FBI — although I have some concerns about a global conspiracy that can't keep the two of them from acing their background checks after the events of the previous films and seasons of the show — and they're back investigating cases that seem to have at least one foot in the paranormal.
Which seems a bit weird, considering this episode begins with what seems like an open and shut case about a scientist's suicide. Although that suicide does happen to take place close to a computer system filled with top-secret data about a Department of Defense-funded genetic experiment with children who may or may not have been created using alien DNA.The usual stuff, at least for this show.
But there is no official indication that anything uncanny has taken place, and nothing that would allow two newly re-appointed FBI agents with a reputation for strange cases to step in and take over.
Which, again, makes little sense. Scully makes a point about their clearance level, which again seems to have been granted again based on nothing other then Skinner's say-so, and I hope the show's writers at least pretend to address the issue of why Skinner would make that call in the first place.
But we do have some subtle character progression here. It's strongly suggested that this isn't their case at all, Mulder is just muscling in because he believes it may get them closer to the truth, and he's certainly comfortable more or less stealing evidence in two separate occasions on this episode. The X-Files themselves are not the most thing important thing anymore, as Mulder seems to be a bit more willing to simply plunge ahead to figure out what he needs to know about alien-human hybrids while using his position as an excuse, not an introduction. Scully is even a bit hurt at how much she's being kept in the dark by ...
Oh hey, it's Abigail Hobbs from Hannibal! I think Kacey Rohl is a fascinating young actor, and I'd love to see if she can bring the same vulnerable but dark power to ... OK, she's dead and they took her character's baby, nevermind.
Anyway, Mulder and Scully had a child named William together in a previous season and, if you'd like to try to piece together that entire story I wish you well and can't follow you down that path. It's madness, and helps to show just how convoluted and impossible the show's lore ultimately became. This episode wisely ditches the more in-depth how and why of the child's conception, and introduces the young man in the simplest way while having both Mulder and Scully look back on the 15 years they may have shared with him had their lives taken another path.
Both scenes are filled with regret and even horror, as they imagine normal moments of being a parent mixed with what could have happened if William had begun his own mutations or was taken in a flash of light. It's a nod to the inevitability of isolation when you decide to fight back: The conspiracy would have come for William, no matter how normal they could have tried to make his life.
The takeaway seems to be that they made the right choice in allowing William to be adopted without either of them knowing where he is or how he's doing so he can be saved from their sometimes personal war against the world's conspiracy theories and shadowy figures, but what if William is locked up anyway, without ever knowing he had a mother and father who loved him?
There is a scene in this episode where we're introduced to children with terrifying genetic disorders, being kept in small, locked rooms while they're "treated." What if William ultimately suffered the same fate?
The actual mystery of this episode, a sort of high-pitched hum that may have driven a scientist to commit suicide and later leads Mulder to Scully to government's experiments on children and ultimately to watch two of these experiments disappear into the night, is much less interesting than how it moves the characters a bit further down their path.
Both Mulder and Scully have lost much to the shadowy people who lie at the heart of the secrets they're trying to uncover, and this episode does a good job of looking at two people who are now much older looking back at their wreckage of their life. Whatever possibility may have existed for a normal, happy life is now gone, and they're stuck watching the eyes of government scientists being ripped from their heads as possible alien hybrids throw them around the room telekinetically.
So it goes.
Odds and ends
- "You're never 'just' anything to me, Scully." D'awwwwwww
- If you have any misgivings about body horror or violence, maybe sit this one out? From William's arm bent the wrong way to a character giving herself a self-administered C-section after a car accident, this was a hard episode to watch
- If you don't value your own free time, learn about William!
- Seriously though, what the hell is Skinner's motivation with any of this? It makes no sense to me
- Mulder's fantasy about William growing up only to be taken as a young man was heartbreaking. Both he and Scully have given up nearly everything in their crusade, and have next to nothing to show for it but regret and hurt
- "The truth is in here."