Jun 14, 2017

[TV] The X-Files: Season 1 Review

I do appreciate the extent of iflix's content library and how they've managed to include complete series runs for various genre shows. And while there's a lot of new stuff out there that might be fun to watch, there will always be somewhat older stuff that also deserve a little geek love and devotion.

The X-Files is a show that played a prominent role in my younger years and I made a good attempt to watch as many episodes as I could. But given the nature of syndicated broadcast television during a time before DVRs and binge-watching through on-demand television, I missed out on a good number of episodes and ultimately never quite finished watching the entire series.

Fast-forward to today and I'm glad that iflix's current content cycle includes the full original series run of the show from the 90's. I don't know how long they'll maintain this in their library, but for now I'm doing my best of taking advantage of the show's availability. And thus I'm presented with the fun option of watching the entire run and posting reviews as I go along.

Synopsis: The X-Files is a science fiction drama series created by Chris Carter. It debuted on September 10, 1993 and originally ran for 9 seasons. More recently a 10th season was released attempting to add to the story beyond the movies the show had also inspired.

The series begins with FBI Special Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) being tasked to work with fellow agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) in the X-Files department, a special division dedicated to unsolved cases with unusual circumstances. Scully was selected for this role given how much of a skeptic she is given her background as a medical doctor. This may help determine if Mulder's conclusions are valid or merely the subject of his beliefs related to the supernatural and the existence of extraterrestrials.

But as Scully joins Mulder in these various investigations, more and more she's exposed to phenomena that can't quite be explained by science. They encounter cases that seem to involve ghosts, werewolves and even aliens. But at the same time it's hard to gather actual evidence to help her conclude that Mulder is absolutely right in his more eccentric beliefs. And as she communicates her findings further up their chain of command, it's apparent that there are efforts to suppress their findings or at the very least ignore them.

What I Liked: Man, watching this show brings up so many good memories of late nights watching this and scaring myself a little silly. Watching it with fresh eyes makes it hard to believe that Duchovny and Anderson were ever that young and yet not much has changed over the years. Mulder and Scully are some pretty amazing characters that really stand out and thus giving the show even more power and impact.

And despite the typical monster of the week format we see in a lot of shows in this nature, the show also tried to setup an intriguing meta-plot from episode one given characters like the Cigarette Smoking Man and his secret storage facility somewhere in the Pentagon. Each new case reveals some interesting possibilities and adds more and more to the overall mythos of the show. And it all makes for a brilliant tapestry of a narrative.

What Could Have Been Better: Given all that, the freak of the week format still has a lot to be desired and this first season really had Mulder and Scully really going all over the place with a wide variety of cases. This first season was like a testing ground for various story concept ideas and all that good stuff, thus they can be dealing with a strange human-like creature in the forest one day and then some ghostly apparition in another.

There's also very little time allocated to true character development beyond the archetypes that the pair represent - the believer and the skeptic. We do get a bit more back story for Mulder given his childhood trauma related to the possibly extraterrestrial abduction of his sister, but Scully doesn't get quite as much attention beyond the odd date or mention of her family.

TL;DR: The X-Files may feel a little dated in terms of its time period and elements related to the setting but the stories being told are practically timeless. There's just something special about the show that really builds up over time and this first season sets up the world quite well. Thus the season gets a worthy 4 mysterious cases with no answers out of a possible 5.

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