wishful thinking

Against My Better Judgment, I Am Hugely Excited for New Episodes of The X-Files

Spooky. Photo: 20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

There are six episodes of honest-to-goodness X-Files on the horizon, written by Chris Carter and starring Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny, and, one has to figure, a few other people from back in the day. And I am so pathetically happy, even though I know better. Bringing back old shows is almost always a bad call, and X-philes have been through this before with the 2008 movie I Want to Believe — to no small disappointment. I know I should be filled with healthy skepticism, with an eye to 24: Live Another Day, that I should be thinking about seasons eight and nine, and if that’s something I really still believe in, hm? But I can’t help it. I am oddly optimistic about a new X-Files.

It’s not just that I loved the show (though trust, I did! I do! I always will!). It’s that its themes are still hugely relevant, perhaps even more relevant now; ideas about surveillance, about sacrificing humanity for security, about the ethics of whistle-blowing, about technology as a substitution for intimacy or identity, about the tools we build to help abdicate ourselves from human decency. The X-Files isn’t paranormal for paranormal’s sake: It’s using paranormal stories to drive at themes of loneliness and alienation, the feeling of being the only one who thinks as you do, the fear that living a truthful life is tremendously dangerous. I bet Fox Mulder has things to say about drone strikes. I have to think Dana Scully would have some questions about whether you should send DNA samples to some company, just to see what they can tell you about your genetic profile. And my guess is that the Lone Gunmen know a lot about WikiLeaks. What are the costs and benefits of privatizing space exploration? Who is actually benefitting from the anti-vaccine movement? Are those just weird YouTube videos … or is something else afoot?

Six episodes strikes me as an appropriate length to tell a whole mystery arc and still get in some of X-Files’ signature quirky humor. Consider this my plea for Darin Morgan to write for this revived season; his “Humbug” and “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” are locks for any list of the show’s best episodes, and they helped define what the non-mythology episodes were capable of. (If you haven’t listened to comedian Kumail Nanjiani’s superb X-Files podcast ”The X-Files Files,” block off a day and start with the Darin Morgan episodes.) I’d be perfectly happy with six monster-of-the-week installments. Give me a true follow-up to “The Post-Modern Prometheus” or “Bad Blood” or “Home” or “Small Potatoes” or “The Rain King” or “Unruhe.” If they free people from a secret cult, great; if they uncover a nefarious government program, wonderful; if they capture a herd of marauding chupacabras, that’s fine, too.

Maybe what makes me most excited about a return to the show is that nothing else scratches quite the same itch. Black Mirror is so relentless, and Orphan Black isn’t as funny. I am too old to watch Supernatural. The bar here is weirdly obvious, sort of like it was for the Veronica Mars movie: Just … do your thing, bring everyone back that we want to see, employ your traditional patterns of banter, and have the right people kiss. The fact that VM was able to achieve this proves that shows with a specific-enough vision can come back with that style and excitement intact.

So I’m blocking Monica Reyes from my memory. I’m pretending nothing else has ever been rebooted, and I’m ignoring how much I didn’t care for Chris Carter’s Amazon pilot. Let’s look to the future. The new episodes will probably have to acknowledge whatever alien contact did or did not happen in 2012, and maybe revisit what exactly their semi-secret son William is up to. Maybe Gibson is due for a reappearance, too? Is Cigarette Smoking Man alive? Or does his death perhaps set this new season in motion? Oh, my heart is full just thinking about it.

It’s Okay to Be Excited for New X-Files