Monday, January 25, 2016

REVIEW: 'The X-Files' - Mulder & Scully Investigate a Research Lab That Brings Up Memories of Their Son in 'Founder's Mutation'

FOX's The X-Files - Episode 1.02 "Founder's Mutation"

When a scientist suddenly commits suicide, Mulder and Scully investigate what unseen force may have driven him to it. What they uncover is a laboratory where extreme genetic experimentation has been going on for decades, breeding subjects who possess unexpected and dangerous powers - and who harbor deep resentments.

When the revival of The X-Files was first announced, many fans rightfully speculated on whether or not Mulder and Scully's son would be referenced at all. That was an awkward addition to the show during its original run. Many fans enjoy the two agents as a couple. It has certainly become common in the procedural genre to have the two partners in crime eventually become partners in bed as well. Mulder and Scully never really had the time to actually make William. But he showed up nevertheless with both of them as his parents. It hinted at possible nefarious plans afoot. However, it was also a plot thread that was able to neatly go away - with Mulder and Scully putting William up for adoption in order to keep him safe in this world. And now, all of these years later the two are once again working together and that does bring up old feelings of the past. Feelings that they may not be willing to embrace.

This hour makes it clear that both Mulder and Scully miss and worry about William a lot. Their first case back at the FBI and the X-Files forces these feelings to come up. They investigate a research facility that may be genetically altering human DNA to create humans with special abilities. Now that Scully knows that she has alien DNA inside her, she worries about what that means for her son. This episode features dream sequences for both characters as they embrace the world they could have had with William but the constant worry they always have as well. They have no idea where he is and if he is better off with his adoptive parents. Neither one of them makes a meaningful effort to find out where he is either. They may as well sometime in the future. But right now, it's all about the angst and the pain of that decision. This case and being partners again forces these complicated emotions to the surface. Scully wants to be there dropping her son off at school. Mulder wants to share the wonders of science with his son. But they also fear that he will be injured or abducted just as soon as they get too close to him. That's a danger highly present in this episode. It could hint at troubling times for the future.

Bringing up William is a way to form a connection between Mulder and Scully again. Besides the X-Files, he is the one thing that connects them together in this world. They are both determined to work these cases and uncover the clues that will unravel this new conspiracy within the government. In doing so, they are reminded of the painful decisions and actions of their past. They still make an effective team out in the field. They have each other's back when they are investigating this case that gets weirder and more complicated the further they dig. But this also highlights how effective Mulder and Scully are as lifelong colleagues and partners who care about each other. The romantic angle always feels a little forced. Mulder and Scully don't really open up to each other over how distraught they are about William. That shows that they are still holding back from each other a little bit. It's all because of the romantic tension between the two. It doesn't hinder the investigation at all. But it does keep this episode from fully snapping together.

However, "Founder's Mutation" is a much better episode than last night's season premiere was. It's not quite good yet but it is making progress. That's a good sign for what's to come later this year. The plot is just a little too jumbled to make a whole lot of sense. There's almost too much happening that doesn't make it feel like the investigation is all that consistent. It's a cool idea to focuses on how this research facility was creating children with genetic abilities that many people may not be able to understand. And yet, so little time is actually spent on those people with the abilities. Instead, the hour lingers on the mystery of why this high-pitch noise keeps disrupting this world and doing harm to only one person at a time. Not enough time is spent on the kid, Kyle, who is actually responsible for this power. He is reunited with his sister - who also has some telepathic abilities. But that has very little to do with how the story actually got started.

Dr. Sanjay's suicide at the start of the episode showcases a sense of paranoia and conspiracy. He is trying to retrieve files before this horrible noise eventually kills him. He jams a letter opener in his ear just to get away from this pain. That's a tense way to start the episode. Mulder and Scully's investigation is complicated by the Department of Defense not being all that forthcoming with the type of research happening at this facility. It's a roadblock within the government that Mulder and Scully have to work around. That's thrilling because of the government conspiracy at play this season. But then, the perspective shifts around halfway through the episode. Mulder and Scully suddenly get a ton of access to this facility and the research that the Founder is actually doing in this place. It's a jarring shift that doesn't completely track well with the opening plot moments. Sanjay was worried that the children he was treating were dying - which never really becomes relevant to the plot. Yes, the episode shows off the horrible genetic deformities and illnesses of the children at this facility. But it's still not enough to make sense of Sanjay's actions at the beginning of the episode - namely because he doesn't get any information to Kyle.

It also remains unclear whether or not the Founder was actually using alien DNA in order to treat these kids and help create genetically advanced humans for the next generation. There was always an air of distrust with him. The pregnant women being kept at the hospital was enough of a display of that. But it was all a tad too complex and messy to really add a whole lot to the hour. It's thrilling once Mulder and Scully confront Kyle and reunite him with his sister. But it's largely just an excuse for the show to cause supernatural panic and peril in the facility's hallway. And then, the episode has a very abrupt ending. Kyle and Molly being reunited and running away together is the resolution of this case - even though Kyle is responsible for two murders by the end of the hour (Sanjay and the Founder). Mulder and Scully have his blood sample which should provide more clues. But it just felt like the ending was where the show should have been at the halfway point. The stuff in the middle was just filler material that didn't add a whole lot to the story - which unfortunately makes this episode less effective than it is trying to be.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Founder's Mutation" was written by James Wong and directed by James Wong.
  • This episode also features two Marc Cherry alums - with Doug Savant from Desperate Housewives and Rebecca Wisocky from Devious Maids. Neither one of them really had a lot to do though. They were largely expositional roles. Plus, the Founder really wasn't as reclusive as all the hype said he was.
  • Lots of familiar Canadian actors in this hour too - including Battlestar Galactica's Aaron Douglas as the head of security, Falling Skies' Ryan Robbins as the representative from the Defense Department, Hannibal's Kacey Rohl as the terrified pregnant woman, and Continuum's Omari Newton as the guy who thought Sanjay just had a rough night.
  • It was also quite amusing that Chuck's Vik Sahay thought Mulder wanted to go someone more private in order to have sex. That was amusing for a moment but the show's treatment of that plot point really wasn't that great.
  • The pregnant woman who reaches out to Mulder and Scully is killed when she gets hit by a car. Her baby has disappeared which is strangely never brought up again. So, it largely plays as another unnecessary tangent.
  • Not another great episode for Skinner who largely just laments how much more complicated his government job has gotten. There's even more red tape to cut through now then there was in the '90s.
  • The proof that alien DNA is inside her is making Scully more of a believer. When she questions the Founder about it, he even bluntly takes note about her suppose to being the practical one. It's a swap in the typical roles that really isn't all that pronounced - at least not yet.