The final scene of last night’s Season 10 premiere of The X-Files brings to mind the similarly gasp-worthy appearance of Luke Skywalker in this summer’s The Force Awakens. In it, a post-tracheotomy “Cigarette Smoking Man” — now smoking through a hole in his neck — learns through a mysterious phone call that the FBI has reopened the X-Files. If the why doesn’t elude him, it certainly does the viewer. Learning that the X-Files have been found — let alone reopened — truly takes us by surprise, as neither of these facts was explained throughout the rest of the episode.
The Season 10 “pilot” has already proved divisive among viewers. The episode runs at a madcap pace that feels like an attempt by the producers to cram the theoretical framework of roughly 10 classic “mythology” episodes into one, at the expense of coherence. Others, like yours truly, found this to be an understandable and enjoyably silly move, with the episode simultaneously overwhelming both the viewer and Mulder, who reaches peak “technoparanoia” in the span of 42 minutes. Like him, we fans found ourselves sucked into a new-but-oh-so-familiar conspiracy without questioning how we got there.
One glaring omission, however, remains unaddressed: When and how did the X-Files actually re-open? One moment, Duchovny is a paranoid, haggard recluse who looks like an ex-member of Whitesnake battling some form of addiction, and the next, he’s trim and chipper, combing through files with a skip in his step. For fans who simply wanted to see Mulder ranting about Roswell again, it’s a perfectly minute detail. But those of us who wanted a legitimate explanation for Mulder and Scully hopping back into their smart suits are left befuddled. This return to business as usual happened almost entirely off-screen — an altogether strange choice considering the sheer drama involved in closing down the X-Files in the first place.
We understand Scully wanting to pursue the alien DNA conspiracy for personal reasons, as it relates to the alien strain found in her genome. But, as has been established, the next two episodes will deal with fairly normal case files, only tangentially related to the overarching story arc laid out in the premiere. Why would this not be an unofficial undertaking for Mulder and Scully, perhaps with the aid of their usual rotating cast of informants?
We do learn that Skinner is, in his way, sympathetic to Mulder and Scully’s plight, as he bemoans Mulder’s absence in the organization for the past 13 years. Post-9/11 America has become a clusterfuck and Skinner encourages Mulder to “do something about it,” which seemed like the first baby step toward unofficially getting the band back together, but not much else. So, how then did Mulder and Scully get access to the lost files and start investigating normal leads again? Well, that’s harder to explain.
Carter would presumably want things back to normal, as opposed to having the two going renegade as non-agents, as they did periodically throughout the series and in the films. But still, for Skinner to allow this, given that — as we know from Season 8 and the second film — he believes Scully’s child to be Mulder’s, is a lot to assume, and an all around pretty risky — not to mention unprofessional — move. Also, how does Skinner have the unilateral authority to even reinstate the X-Files? How was he able to so easily push back against the same forces that he claims, earlier in the episode, have led the “country in a strange direction?”
Granted, you’re not going to get an answer to these questions and you likely don’t care. You just want to see well-dressed Mulder and Scully in action again. The creators of the show knew that and, thus, provided just enough to make the transition work … sorta … not really. It’s a symptom of the unevenly thought-out approach to the overall return of The X-Files for this 10th season: cutting to the chase and giving the fans what they want without worrying about it making a whole lot of sense.