The X-Files: Founder's Mutation

Case: A scientist commits suicide under strange circumstances.

Destination: Washington D.C. and D.C. adjacent.

Scully: "This is dangerous."
Mulder: "When has that ever stopped us before."

'Founder's Mutation' is our first good ole monster of the week standalone of the mini. Or is it? Somebody cue Mark Snow!

The X-Files coming back has had a much bigger impact on me than I could have predicted. I have lots and lots of feelings that are not at all easy to process. Thus, I'm trying to approach this review like an EMT whose own relative needs to be put back together after being strewn across a hundred feet of highway, and rely on my training.

But really, how does a hardcore fan of this series begin again at this stage? James Wong, writer and director of 'Founder's Mutation', is certainly not a bad way. An episode with glimmers of 'Shadows', 'Eve', 'Humbug' and 'Hungry' that has a cameo by the actress that once played Scully's therapist (Christine Willes), and this strange transition back into the world of Mulder and Scully is eased. Wong is characteristically and wonderfully still insane, crafting images from the page to the screen that will reside in our brains next to those from 'Tooms' and 'Squeeze', 'Die Hand Die Verletzt' and the piece de resistance, 'Home'. I'm still not used to seeing Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in these roles again, both seem somewhat restrained or trepidatious. That's not a criticism, just an observation. I can't imagine what it would be like for an actor to go back to these characters. Everyone involved really has so much baggage, as it were. (Although, it absolutely bears mentioning that Mitch Pileggi seems at complete ease in Skinner's shoes. Kudos! He's an anchor once again.)

Be still my beating heart

The single greatest thing (read: the one with the most moxie) this episode did was bring back the idea of William. For those of us that agonized over the introduction of this child into this show's universe and his subsequent exeunt stage left with nary a reference to what could only be a mammoth development in Mulder and Scully's emotional life, I am ecstatic by his re-introduction here. I mean just the acknowledgment of him -- we are making real progress here, people! To me, the weight of 'Founder's Mutation' was in the respective daydreams of Scully and Mulder. (I was particularly struck by Scully's parental fantasies drifting not just to the first day of school but something like a skateboarding accident. That came off as real sophistication for the sheer unexpected nature of it.) I give the creative team a shit-ton of credit for their effort to pull this off, and in a very X-Files way. Yet, ultimately, the realization that both Mulder and Scully are broken, perhaps beyond repair, is almost more than an unconditional fan of theirs can handle.

There are many delight-filled flourishes here, too. A few drop-deadpan comments by Mulder that literally made me laugh very loudly, the care and concern that Mulder and Scully continue to have for one another, their unspoken understanding, acceptance and frustration that they are not exactly in the swing of things again, are all incredibly special to witness. One quick note about Scully, she is so much more on board than she ever has been, god love her because that makes total sense for the character! At long last! A note about both of them (and by them, I mean both the actors and the characters), age has served them well. Though there is a restraint, as I mentioned earlier, they are, by and large, more comfortable in their own skin than ever and in the way only wisdom and maturity can orchestrate. What about the short work they made of the DoD guy in Skinner's office?! They literally did not give a shite. Ha!

There were some weird holes in the story as well, but I found most of the scenes to be effective and interesting and engaging for one reason or another. I really liked the scenes that reflected Mulder and Scully's issues, both overt and secreted. I.E. the visit to see Dr. Goldman's wife in the mental institution. Her retelling of the story of Molly underwater was fantastic! But even in its uneven, fucked up logic was a very distinctive X-Files feel. Bless. The structure of the stories on this show are unlike any other, for better or worse.

As challenged as I am to sort through what I am feeling about all of this (and, truly, I am aiming to be more and more articulate throughout the rest of this run), I am also powerfully aware that this show fills holes in me that I didn't even know I had. And I am extremely excited, come what may, for the rest of the revival.

How's everyone else faring?

Other Thoughts

-- This show is so pretty. That shot of the drill in the keyhole foreshadowing suicide by letter opener was inspired.

-- Doug Savant.

-- The bar, then men's room, then bar scene with Mulder and Gupta was so good. I don't know what else to say about it except that.

-- The wireless keyboard.

-- A1 Janitorial. Who doesn't love a little Breaking Bad love?

-- Adored Mulder stealing the blood.

-- Much has been speculated about the order of 'Founder's Mutation', in a world where the TV viewer now knows too much for their own good. This episode was supposed to be later in the mini but got moved to the 2 spot. To me, it was a choice to give the season more cohesiveness because, as I mentioned before, this isn't exactly a standalone by The X-Files own standards. It's in that hybrid category like 'Red Museum' or 'Fearful Symmetry'. There are themes in it that were present in 'My Struggle' and perhaps seeing that these episodes were aired over two consecutive nights, maybe in hindsight, they won't feel so jarring as the later episodes would have.

-- Well, look who we have here:


-- Kill me now pt. 1:


-- Pt. 2:


-- Pt. 3:


-- And, finally, pt. 4:


Quotes

Scully: "I think we need time to prove this theory." (Has Scully ever been more of a team player, I ask you!)

Mulder: "You don't like cats?"

Mulder: "I blacked out after Goldman's eyes popped out of their sockets. Believe me, you can't unsee that."

Final Analysis: At times fun, creepy, clever and indelible but really stands out for the courage to bring back the very tricky storyline of William.

13 comments:

Dr. Johnny Fever said...

The bad thing I found with the flashbacks was that it gave me a glimpse at the X-Files revival I really wanted. I don't mean I wanted a revival with William, but rather the versions of Mulder and Scully in the flashbacks are the Mulder and Scully I was hoping for in the main stories.

To clarify, I was fine with Mulder and Scully initially. The actors are older but I took a deep breath and accepted that the older ages meant the "feel" was going to be slightly different. You can't expect David Duchovny to still be in his early 40s! It was all good.

Then the flashbacks happened. That's where I saw the Scully I was missing. That's where I saw the Mulder that I wanted back. Those flashbacks had the "feel" I was longing for, and then the flashbacks ended and it felt like a cruel joke.

And just to show that I'm not entirely grumpy about my favourite actors getting older, I can't believe that Mitch Pileggi is 63! Maybe he was a little wider that I remember, but he's still 100% Skinner :)

Heather said...

Dr. Johnny, I know. I don't think it's age that rubbing you wrong. It's the fact that Mulder and Scully are depressed, despondent and have lost their joie de vivre like crazy. The more I think about it, maybe they moved up this episode to give a peek into this 6 ep arc. It's like look, these two are a freaking mess and here's why. Now let's all watch together to see what events take place to shift their current states. Them working together is only going to breathe life into both of them, them dealing together with the choices they've made in the past -- even better. Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you're watching.

Mallena said...

Really hope you are right, Heather. Something about this revival is depressing and I hope there is a plan to have M & S come back to life. Maybe a hug from Mrs. Scully would work. I liked the way she didn't always call him Mr. Mulder, she also called him Fox, like he was her son too. William was a big misstep in the original series, especially when Scully had to give him up. Too cruel! Mrs. Scully should have taken him and gone into witness protection or something. Ooh! Maybe she did, and M & S are just pretending not to know where he is. Those William scenes could be real. I'm a genius! Or not.

Billie Doux said...

I liked this one, too. I thought Duchovny and Anderson looked a lot more like their younger X-Files selves this time. Maybe it was because they were back in suits. And it felt like an episode of The X-Files, even though, like the other commenters, it still feels like the reboot is finding its way.

I hope we're going to get some sort of answer about what happened to William. Or maybe this episode *was* their answer about what happened to William. They never really did give us clear answers about anything.

Loved the birds. Were they doing a little Hitchcock homage, too?

And let me add to everyone else's praise for Mitch Pileggi. He feels just the same. Love the beard.

Heather1 said...

I have to admit that I haven't watched much of the X-Files. But I saw this and went... OMG... Gupta is Lester! Of course, of Jeffster "fame". I had just been thinking about that actor and wondering where and when he'd pop up.

Heather1 said...

And Abigail Hobbs together with Bedelia Du Maurier. OK... I'll stop now.

Heather said...

Dr. Johnny: I reread my comment to you, and I am very sorry if it came off as 'No, that's not what you're feeling." If your issue is with age -- I completely respect that!

Mallena: Aw, Mrs. Scully... sniff. You propose something more believable and lovely than anything the writers did. I hope _you're_ right. :)

Billie: I loved that Hitchcock nod, too!

Heather1: Hannibal sigh.

mazephoenix said...

Wonder if Abigail would have fared better with Bedelia as her shrink?
Probably not. Was fun seeing Kacey Rohl again.
Umm..the main story was very old school X-files..I liked it.
Both Scully and Mulder seem so sad, and worse if probably to come.
Mulder never found Samantha, right? Or he found out she was dead.

Heather said...

mazephoenix:
TXF dealt with the end of the Samantha storyline in 'Closure'. It's open to interpretation but I always read it as Mulder letting go of the search and accepting that she's never coming back. The actual details were nebulous at best. But there was a Moby soundtrack! :)

mazephoenix said...

Thanks, Heather. I figured she was dead, but it was so complicated that I kind of forgot what really happened.

TheShadowKnows said...

There were about six different "explanations" about what happened to Mulder's sister over the course of the show. Who knows, I guess.

ChrisB said...

I found this episode to be emotionally draining. I agree that the reintroduction of William was a bold choice. Overall, I think it worked. Like you, I loved the daydreams. So ordinary, yet so touching. Isn't it interesting that Scully's daydreams involve taking William into the outside world while Mulder's are all based at home. Such an insight into these two people and what they value most.

They've ramped up the gore factor, haven't they. More than once, I had to look away so that I wouldn't have to "unsee" anything as Mulder says. Whew.

Great review, Heather.

Mark Greig said...

Now this was an episode of the X-Files. Not a great episode, mind you, but it certainly felt more like the show I loved than the mess that was previous episode.