Hello Philes! We’re two episodes into the revival, and I couldn’t feel more alive. So, without further ado, let’s get to the recaps, shall we? This week, we saw the season premiere, “My Struggle,” and the second episode, “Founder’s Mutation.” The first was a bit rocky, but the second – OH MY GOD. We’re back, baby.
Well, that was a little rough, right? I went into this episode with low expectations, so when the episode was over and I said, “Hmm, not that bad,” I felt like that was a win. This episode was written by creator Chris Carter, and if you’re a classic X-Files fan, you know what that means: long voice-overs, obnoxious exposition, and clunky dialogue. And – ta-da! That’s exactly what we got. But we also got some great interactions between Mulder and Scully and the set-up to an interesting new twist in the X-Files mythology.
The episode opens with a voice-over from Fox Mulder, basically catching up the audience on the previous nine seasons – he believed his sister was abducted, so he became obsessed with the idea of a conspiracy concerning aliens. But in 2002, the X-Files were shut down. “Our investigation ceased. But my personal obsession did not.” No shit, Mulder. He continues to give us accounts of people spotting UFOs in the skies throughout the years. “Are they really a hoax? Are we truly alone? Or are we being lied to?” Something tells me the answer is yes.
THE THEME MUSIC, which is exactly the same was it was in the good old days. The only change is that Mitch Pileggi now gets billing. Good for you, Mitch.
Roswell, 1947: A doctor rides a bus in the desert, alone except for a man in a business suit who is certainly working for the government – and who kind of looks like an Observer from Fringe? The bus leads the men to an alien craft, still giving off fumes from the crash, buried in the desert dirt.
Our Lady of Sorrows Hospital, present day: Dana Scully, our savior and protector, is about to go into surgery when she receives a call from Skinner. We don’t see the call, but the next thing we see is Mulder watching a clip of Obama on Jimmy Kimmel (on fake YouTube, a/k/a MindQuad) and answering the call from Scully. Skinner wants to set up a meeting between Mulder and Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale), a conservative talk show host with a strong Internet presence. He’s the definition of paranoid. “Why would I watch this jackass, Scully?” Mulder asks as he pulls up Tad’s internet clips. He quickly figures it out – as Tad tells his audience that he believes there is a government conspiracy dating back to Roswell.
Mulder and Scully meet up in downtown D.C. (or, rather, Vancouver pretending to be D.C. – it’s cool, Vancouver, I still love you), and that first meeting is awk-ward. In just a few lines, we can tell that our beloved duo hasn’t been together for awhile. O’Malley arrives, insisting that they join him in his limo – “Low flying aircraft often employ what they call ‘dirt boxes’ to record conversations. I prefer private.” Like I said before – paranoid. In the limo, O’Malley explains to them that he is close to The Truth, but he needs their help. He’s rattling too many cages in the intelligence community, and he’s aware of their experience on the X-Files. He takes them to see Sveta (Annet Mahendru, The Americans), an alleged alien abductee, who O’Malley clearly believes is the key to something. Sveta explains that Mulder interviewed her when she was just a small child, after her first abduction, but her abductions continued throughout her adult life. She shows them scars on her stomach, which she claims are from the abductions, and tells them that fetuses were taken from her multiple times. Mulder is eating this up. Scully is, as usual, skeptical.
Back in Roswell – oh, look! A CGI alien!
In the present day, Doctor Scully takes some blood from Sveta to test her claim that she has alien DNA. Sveta chooses this moment to tell Scully that, no bigs, she can also sort of read minds, which she proves by telling Scully that she and Mulder used to be a couple, but they’re not anymore, and that they have a child together. This doesn’t persuade Scully entirely, but she’s clearly shaken.
O’Malley takes Mulder to a mysterious location, where he meets scientists who has been using alien research to develop an ARV – “alien replica vehicle.” This ship also happens to turn invisible. Mulder looks like a kid in a candy shop. We’re to take away that they’re developed this with technology originally obtained from the Roswell crash.
After blowing Mulder’s mind, O’Malley drops in at the hospital to see Scully. This scene doesn’t make a lot of sense in the larger context of the episode – what’s the point of wasting a scene to make the point that O’Malley is interested in Scully? He eventually persuades her to come with him, apparently, because the next time we see her, she’s holding a glass of champagne in his limo when Mulder calls her. Mulder, OF COURSE, shows up at Sveta’s house in the middle of the night. This is such a Mulder thing to do – it made me giddy. Sveta finally tells him the truth – she doesn’t believe that aliens are behind this. She believes that the people who abducted her are men, humans. Mulder believes this immediately, because he’s Mulder (we’ll deal with this later). Mulder calls Scully, ranting about how they have been misled (“What if everything we’ve been led to believe is a lie?”) and how Sveta is the key to everything, and proceeds to hang up on her. Again, because he’s Mulder.
Mulder goes back to the FBI, and HOLY SHIT, IT’S WALTER SKINNER, looking pretty great with a beard. Mulder’s looking for the X-Files, but his former office is empty. Skinner doesn’t know where the files are, he claims, and Mulder kicks his “I Want to Believe” poster in half. Sad face. He later meets a mysterious old man on the “National Mall” (sorry, Vancouver, but I laughed out loud at this scene), who we learn is actually the doctor from Roswell. He’s been an informant of Mulder’s for about 10 years. Mulder posits his theory: that there is no alien conspiracy, that there is only a conspiracy of men, of our government, who will use alien technology against us. The old man tells Mulder, “You’re close,” but doesn’t confirm or deny anything specifically other than to say, “Roswell. That was a smoke screen.” Thanks for nothing.
Scully drives to Mulder’s house (formerly, their house – *cries uncontrollably*) to check on him, and Mulder is in the middle of freaking out. He admits that his theory is going to sound crazy, and Scully is clearly frustrated. “I’ve seen this before,” she tells him, and the audience is SO THERE WITH HER. “This is not an alien conspiracy,” Mulder insists, but Scully isn’t so sure, and she’s skeptical of Mulder’s trust in O’Malley. This scene plays out wonderfully, with a lot of emotion running between these two characters. We know by this point that Scully left Mulder, and in this moment, I get it. He’s going off about the same crap he was freaking out about 14 years ago, allowing conspiracy theories to overtake his life. Look, I’m a shipper for life, but in this scene, I wanted Scully to get back in her SUV, drive home to her classy bachelorette pad, and just go on a Match.com date with a normal guy. You can do better, Scully. We know that Mulder is nuts (JUST KIDDING, don’t take away my Shipper 4 Life membership card).
But before Scully can leave, O’Malley shows up. They all end up in Mulder’s house, where again, Mulder and O’Malley provide a lot of exposition about where the show is going. In short: there is no alien conspiracy. Aliens came to this planet in the 40s and 50s, but that’s as far as it went. We killed them and stole their technology, using it to create weapons and experiment on humans. The end game is total takeover of the planet, by a multinational group of elites, starting with a takeover of America. “It’ll probably start on a Friday,” O’Malley says, and I can’t help but wonder if Winter Storm Jonas isn’t PART OF THE CONSPIRACY? (I’ve been snowed in since Friday, so excuse me if I start to sound a little bit like Tad O’Malley…) O’Malley plans on exposing this conspiracy on his program the next day. Scully isn’t buying this. “It’s fear-mongering,” she says, and I’m inclined to agree (why is Mulder just believing all of this? Oh, yeah, Mulder), and then she drops this bomb: Sveta’s blood tests are normal. She has no evidence of alien DNA.
The next day, there is no program by O’Malley – he’s gone. His MindSquad channel disappears from the Internet, and Sveta says that she was paid to lie about her abductions. Mulder goes to Sveta’s house, but she’s gone. We see her driving, alone, down a deserted highway, and her car fails as she’s targeted by an alien craft. Sorry, Sveta. It was nice knowing you. The ship blows up Sveta and her car. At the same time, we see uniformed men rush into the facility where Mulder saw the alien ship, killing the doctors and blowing up the technology.
As Scully walks to her car after work, she sees that someone has written, “Don’t give up” on the back of her car (this is a callback to the last movie, I Want to Believe). It’s Mulder. Scully tells him that they need to find and protect Sveta, because she ran Sveta’s tests again – and she ran her own blood tests as well (“because we have a child together”). “What are you saying? That she has alien DNA?” Mulder asks. “I’m saying she’s not the only one,” Scully replies. “I’m saying someone has to stop this sons of bitches.” They both receive a text from Skinner saying that he needs to see them ASAP.
Our last scene has a familiar face. “We have a small problem. They’ve reopened the X-Files,” says… the Cigarette-Smoking Man, who’s looking a lot like the Phantom of the Opera. No, really, what?! I’ll watch the next five episodes just to figure out how he’s alive, because last time we saw him, a bomb was exploding in his face.
Rating: 6/10. Like I said, my overwhelming feeling was, “Okay, not bad.” This wasn’t the finest hour of television, but it wasn’t the worst either. The dialogue was meh, and there was too much exposition. But I’m intrigued to see where they’re going with this, because it seems like they’re just ignoring nine years of mythology.
I read a lot of criticism about the acting – specifically, that the interactions between Duchovny and Anderson were clunky in this episode. I don’t disagree, but I think that was intentional, to an extent. Mulder and Scully aren’t together anymore. They don’t see each other regularly. There’s a lot of history and feeling between them, and I thought that was apparent in every scene between them.
Mulder’s instant belief in O’Malley’s theory is infuriating, but that’s Mulder. It’s ridiculous but not out of character. Mulder wants to believe so badly that he will grab onto any thin thread. Likewise, Scully’s skepticism wasn’t unbelievable in this episode at all – I felt for her. He sounds completely crazy, and you can feel Scully’s exhaustion as she tries to talk him down, for what has to be for the millionth time.
- GET GILLIAN ANDERSON A BETTER WIG. PLEASE.
- But wardrobe department, thank you for dressing Gillian Anderson the way that you did. I don’t know who she sold her soul to in order to look this amazing, but I’m interested.
- Why is Mulder sitting in the front seat of his Uber? This is the most unrealistic part of the episode.
- What’s the point of having the “Tad likes Scully” storyline? It seemed like a waste of precious time.
- Seriously, this old man, WHO WAS A DOCTOR AT ROSWELL, has been your informant for 10 years and hasn’t told you ANY of this? Mulder. Get a new informant. This guy sucks.
- And really, guys – HOW IS CSM ALIVE?
OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, this episode was great. Like really, truly great. I almost cried because of how gory it was (in a good way). Thanks to James Wong, who wrote the episode, for his disgusting graphics.
The episode opens with Dr. Sanjay showing up to work after a rough weekend at Nugenics. Sanjay’s eye is bloodshot as hell, and he’s clearly disheveled. And there’s a weird ringing in his ears that I’m sure means nothing. In a meeting, where his coworkers complain about the strict standards imposed on them by Doctor Augustus Goldman (also referred to as “The Founder”), the ringing in Sanjay’s ear amplifies, becoming the only thing that he can focus on as his coworkers’ voices slow down in his brain. Sanjay freaks out – “Can’t anyone hear that?!” And we discover that, no, no one else hears it. Sanjay runs to a secure room and locks himself in. While his coworkers urge him to leave the room, the ringing becomes unbearable, and Sanjay takes a letter opener and jams it into his brain. (Gross graphic count – 1)
Mulder and Scully are on the case, arriving at the scene where Sanjay’s body still lies. Scully thinks this is a straightforward suicide, but Mulder’s focused on the secure room that Sanjay chose to kill himself in. Mulder bags a hard drive, but he’s stopped by a shadowy government official, who tells him that the hard drive is property of the Department of Defense and can’t be taken. Mulder asks if they can speak to Goldman, but the DOD employee says no. While Scully talks to the DOD guy, Mulder swipes Sanjay’s cell phone (using the thumb print of the dead guy to unlock the phone – CLASSIC MULDER).
Mulder uses Sanjay’s phone to contact Gupta – someone in Sanjay’s phone who Sanjay was calling every night. After an awkward intro – Gupta thinks that Mulder contacted him through Sanjay for sex – Gupta tells Mulder that he and Sanjay were seeing each other, but Sanjay didn’t give details of his personal life – but he mentioned that “his kids” were dying. Mulder’s confused – Sanjay was single – but Gupta said he didn’t press the matter.
Meanwhile, at the morgue, Scully autopsies Sanjay. Everything is normal – except that he scrawled “Founder’s Mutation” onto his palm before his death. They also realize that Sanjay angled the letter opener to puncture his auditory cortex.
Mulder and Scully go to Sanjay’s apartment in Dupont Circle (! I love when they use real places) to look for clues. As they arrive, they almost run over a young man running across the street – which I’m sure is totally unrelated, right? At Sanjay’s place, they find photos of children with serious physical deformities. As Mulder searches the apartment, he falls to the ground, obviously in pain, experiencing the same auditory interference that we heard Sanjay experience earlier.
Cut to: Skinner’s office, where the Skinman (still hot with his beard) tells them to stop their investigation. A DOD official, sitting waaay on the other side of the room (like awkwardly so, bro), tells them that they don’t have the clearance to some of the materials from the investigation. But as soon as the DOD guy is gone, Skinner tells them that the FBI has gotten increasing inefficient – it might take days for their report to get finalized – WINK WINK. The two retreat to the lovely basement office, where I see that the door still only has Mulder’s name. Really, guys? Mulder explains to Scully that he was experiencing a high-pitched auditory signal that eventually formed two words: “Find her.” Scully tells him that she might have a way to find Augustus Goldman.
The two travel to Our Lady of Sorrows Hospital (aka where Doctor Dana Scully used to work) to a special wing for pregnant young women that Goldman has funded. Scully wants to set up a meeting with him (Scully: “Doctor Goldman is under investigation.” Mulder: “Obamacare.”), but Sister Mary is skeptical. While she contacts Goldman, Mulder and Scully are approached by a pregnant woman, Agnes (a/k/a Abigail Hobbs from Hannibal), who is trying to get out of the facility. She claims that she’s stuck there at the hospital, and that her baby is “sick.” She’s clearly shaken, and Mulder gives her his card before she walks away.
Mulder’s disgusted at the idea of a wing for pregnant women paid for by Goldman, and he believes it could be part of the Project. Then, Scully brings up some real talk: “Is this what you believe happened to me 15 years ago? When I got pregnant? When I had my baby? Was I just an incubator?” Mulder responds, “You’re never JUST anything to me, Scully,” and my heart stopped. “Do you ever think about William?” Scully asks. “Yes, of course I do, but I feel like I’ve had to put that behind me,” Mulder replies. Scully thinks about him all the time, and she’s still worried that something may have happened to him, even after they put him up for adoption to protect him.
Cut to: Dream Sequence #1 (a/k/a the slaughter of my emotions). Scully walking young William to his first day of school. Scully waiting for a slightly older William as he leaves school, brushing by her to hang out with friends. Scully running to an ambulance, where an older William broke his arm, telling him it’s going to be okay. And finally, Scully in a house (pay attention to this sequence!), bursting into William’s room, where William’s face has transformed into something not human. “Mom,” he asks. “Mom, please. What’s happening to me?” Scully snaps back to the present, pulling out a photo of baby William.
Mulder and Scully visit Goldman at his research facility. Scully accuses Goldman of focusing on genetic manipulation, but he insists that he is trying to save children. He shows Mulder and Scully a series of children with genetic deformities – the same children we saw on Sanjay’s wall – kept in small, sealed rooms, which Goldman claims is to prevent contamination by other factors. Yeah, that seems legit. Goldman says he’s looking for the key to curing these genetic disorders. “Alien DNA?” Scully asks. “Is that why the Department of Defense is funding your research?” Before Goldman can answer, a girl at the end of the hallway starts screaming, and objects on a cart next to her start exploding. Mulder checks his phone – “Something’s happened to Agnes.”
Agnes is dead, the victim of a hit and run. The cops found Mulder’s card in her belongings. But the baby’s gone. Scully performs the autopsy and insists that the baby, which was surgically removed, couldn’t have survived. “Unlikely for human fetuses,” Mulder points out, reminding Scully of the Syndicate’s projects to create human/alien hybrids. Mulder did some research on Goldman and learned that his wife, Jackie, was found to be criminally insane and sent to St. Elizabeth’s (ALSO A REAL PLACE) after being accused of murdering her baby – who was never found.
Mulder and Scully pay a visit to Jackie, who is reluctant to talk at first. Eventually, she tells them what happened. Years ago, when she was pregnant with her son, she discovered that her daughter, Molly, was … different. Molly fell into the pool and was underwater for at least 10 minutes when Jackie found her – and she was fine. Breathing underwater. Like you do. It was then that Jackie realized that Augustus had experimented on their daughter as part of his project. Desperate to save her children, Jackie left Augustus, but she got into a horrible car accident. As Jackie struggles to get out of the car, she hears the same loud auditory signal that we’ve already heard in this episode. “It was in my head,” she says, “Talking to me.” And she knew what she had to do. With that, Jackie proceeds to cut her stomach – AND THE BABY’S HAND POKES OUT OF HER OPEN STOMACH. (Gross graphic count – 2). She never saw her baby again, but she thinks about him every day. “A mother never forgets,” Scully says, a wistful look in her eye. And I’m dead.
Mulder spots a janitor in the hallway and makes a connection – A1 Janitorial services both St. Elizabeth’s and the Nugenics offices. They track down a janitor working at Nugenics in the room directly above Sanjay as he killed himself – a janitor who also works at St. Elizabeth’s – Kyle Gilligan.
Our duo travels to Kyle’s house, where they are met by his adoptive mother, who is not thrilled to see them. She won’t let them talk to Kyle. Mulder collapses, the auditory signal ringing in his head, and Scully goes into Classic Kickass Scully mode, demanding that the mother tell her where Kyle is. She runs to a barn in the back, where she finds Kyle. They detain Kyle, and in the car, he explains that he can’t control whatever it is that he’s doing and that he didn’t mean to kill Sanjay. Sanjay was helping him, he says. “I just want to find my sister.”
They take Kyle to see Goldman in order to find out where Molly is. Goldman is totally detached from his biological child, running tests and taking his blood. When Kyle asks to see Molly, Goldman takes him to a girl, but she’s not Molly. Kyle knows almost immediately. He runs through the hospital, searching for her, until he finds the girl we saw earlier, causing the things on the cart to explode. This is his sister. Kyle and Molly break the glass on her door and throughout the hallway. When Scully and Mulder run to stop him, they use their powers to through them against the wall, incapacitating them. Goldman runs up, trying to stop them, but Kyle’s not having it. Using his powers, we watch as blood begins to seep out of Goldman’s ears and eyes in a slow, excruciating fashion. (Gross graphic count – 3).
Afterward, Skinner shows up, telling our heroes that the DOD has taken over jurisdiction. They haven’t found the kids. Scully points out that Mulder was the last to see them. “I blacked out after Goldman’s eyes popped out of his sockets,” he says, “Believe me, you can’t unsee that.” When Skinner walks off, Mulder reveals to Scully that he stole the vial of Kyle’s blood.
Cut to: Dream Sequence #2 (a/k/a, no, really, just kill me). Mulder and William watching 2001: A Space Odyssey. Mulder and William making rockets, and Mulder quoting Kennedy. William telling Mulder, as they watch the rocket shoot into the sky, “I’m going to go up there someday.” (I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING). And finally, Mulder running into William’s room, as he’s being abducted. Mulder snaps back to his present, where he’s looking at the same picture of Mulder that Scully was earlier.
Rating: 8.75/10. Guys. I loved, loved, loved this episode. This was a great, classic X-Files episode, on par with Leonard Betts, Irresistible, etc. Bless you, James Wong, for your disgustingly graphic visuals. Your work on other TV shows (like American Horror Story) has taught you well. The gore was legit. I loved that this episode worked in the William storyline in such a logical manner. AND THOSE DREAM SEQUENCES. Amazing. Mulder and Scully imagine William having the same room. Check the photos on the wall.
- Scully’s comment about them having security clearances made me LOL. First, it would take them months to get their clearances back, and second, Mulder would NEVER be approved for a clearance. Like, ever.
- Mulder stealing Sanjay’s phone and using his thumb to unlock it was just wonderful.
- Mark Snow, you are back in a big way, and I love it. I love that he reused some chords from the original series soundtrack.
- Scully drove in EVERY car scene, and I love it.
- Skinner got a new office, and it is as sterile as every other D.C. government office. Props to the set department.
- Scully and Mulder each share fears about William’s fate. Scully’s fear is that he ends up mutated somehow, similar to her daughter, Emily, while Mulder’s fear is that he ends up abducted, like his sister Samantha. (NOTE: I can’t take credit for seeing this comparison at first. It’s all over Tumblr.)
- Next week’s episode is written by Darin Morgan, who wrote the best XF eps: Humbug, Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose, War of the Coprophages, and, my personal favorite episode of the whole series, Jose Chung’s From Outer Space. Every review I’ve read has said it’s amazing and waaaay better than this episode. That’s hard for me to believe. Next week is going to be a roller coaster.
What do you think, fellow X-Philes? Are you happy with the way the show is going so far? How many times have you rewatched Founder’s Mutation? Leave your thoughts in the comments.