The best episodes of the current X-Files miniseries, and by "best" I mean the only one that's been above average, play with the series' past instead of being dragged down by it. Last night's episode, "Home Again," is an airless mess that's been choked by the weight around its neck.
The monster of the week makes little sense, and lacks even the most basic cultural or historical tie to an existing myth or creature. The X-Files found some of its best stories by mining obscure but existing urban legends or historical stories for its beasties, but the writing in Home Again doesn't even go that far.
This episode attempts this trick, but Mulder himself slaps the explanation down as making little sense. The X-Files introduces a homeless version of Banksy, states he's magical, and that's that. There are some shocking moments of horror movie-style violence, especially for network television, but those are the few moments of whimsy and fun in an otherwise dour episode. The monster has the sort of plodding inevitability as a really bored Terminator. It doesn't make for compelling television and, again, Mulder seems tired and impatient with the whole thing.
This week's uncanny creation seems like an interesting idea someone came up with, but no one bothered to whittle it down to its thematic essence. That's a problem that has plagued this entire season: Kind of interesting ideas held down by unimaginative writing and constant references to the show's own history.
When Mulder makes a joke about their flashlights and today being "the good old days" or something similar before the lights cross and make an X-shape I didn't feel nostalgic, I just groaned. We're already watching, X-Files, calm down. You don't have to try quite this hard.
And then there's Scully's story
Scully has to deal with her mother's death, which brings a few more mysteries in a series already filled with them. There are so many great story threads hanging from past episodes that introducing more with only two more episodes to go in the miniseries is frustrating.
But the long play seems to be the return of Mulder and Scully's child, who may or may not have been an experiment with alien DNA and was adopted in secret in order to keep him safe. Scully brings the two stories together with a cringe-inducing line about whether they treated the baby "like garbage." Outside of that line, which should have been devastating but came off silly, the two stories are more or less disconnected.
The larger problem is that our two leads don't solve a case, nor do they do much to limit the damage of whatever monster they're chasing. Some of the best X-Files episodes happen when Mulder or Scully just witness something that changes them while trying to save who they can, but even that doesn't seem to happen. The episode brings up their son without moving the story in any direction.
The one redeeming quality of "Home Again" is that it shows how strong the relationship remains between Mulder and Scully. They care about each other deeply, if not romantically, and comforting each other in times of personal stress feels natural when it happens. Scully calling Mulder a "dark wizard" and the hugs they share here is a warm reminder of the strength of the two leads.
This is an hour that treads water, but provides few thrills while delivering a few groans. With only two episodes left something has to happen to end the franchise on a satisfying note.