Sunday, January 24, 2016

Fight the Future, said the Smoking Man (An X Files review, Spoiler light)

Nearly a decade and a half after it's closure, X Files returned to the line up of Fox. X Files was always a great way for me to end the weekend in my youth, as it was infinitely entertaining to think that the teacher I'd take orders from the following morning may be indirectly serving a cabal of men who's agenda was to be complicit in an alien invasion. Of course I knew better. Kinda.

X Files had never been a series to be modest in approaching conspiracy. It's taken numerous shots at all things controversial from vaccinations to the Kennedy Assassination. Whether these conspiracies were the creations of men, extraterrestrials, governments or corporations - or sometimes, all of these at once, X Files doesn't refute the possibility. It goes to say, the last fourteen years have given the shows creator, Chris Carter, plenty of new muses. He all but says so roughly half way through the premiere of this new season, in a scene involving fan favorites Fox Mulder and Walter Skinner. None can say that there is no room for speculation for us in the real world or those in Chris Carter's universe, the post September 11th world has given opportunity for norms that could never be justified in a free society. The X Files series had shut down not long after America had wanted to trust their government, and it's remaining episodes chose to focus on conspiracies of men, not governments or aliens. Save of course, what we thought was the finale.

Discovering the truth behind the lie isn't confined to the shadowy corners in this day and age, at least not in the real world. In the age of Alex Jones, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange these are topics that are widely available to anyone with a modicum of curiosity and even five minutes worth of internet access. Even broadcast journalism pays an homage to conspiracy, for when they denounce it's possibility they give it credibility. As a result, there are few in the States that can say they haven't heard of the theory that September 11th was an inside job, or any other multiple theories that aren't canonized in the history books.

Understanding all of this is paramount in making an honest critique of the continuation of the series. While the familiar glow of Mulder and Scully's flashlights in a dark hallway may be gone, we cannot say Mulder's pursuit of truth has gone with it. Mulder, through meetings with a character that blends Alex Jones (I'd dare not say someone like Alex Jones, the similarities are almost blatant) with a cable broadcast journalist that has an inflated sense of self worth (or maybe not), has a crisis of faith in his crusade. He is left to wonder if aliens, though a presence, aren't at the helm of all the intrigue he's experienced. Instead, he wonders, if this is a conspiracy of government alone, using alien technology in a post September 11th police state. This justification goes on to bullet point all of the concerns an inquisitive person would have in such a world, ranging from wiretaps, the Patriot Act, chem trails, militarized police, FEMA camps and so much more that I imagine a viewer not familiar with the big tent of conspiracy likely became overwhelmed. All of this goes to say, the set up of this premiere appears to be focused on conspiracies in our world that can either be proven to be true or false, and perhaps much less to do with an alien force that we can't relate to or understand.

Avid viewers might recognize this plot point (and even the scene and montage that reveals this plot point) from an episode in the fourth season of the original X Files, in an episode named after the location where Judas betrayed Jesus.

I can't say this is a bad turn for the show, but I can say I feel like I'm watching a much different show. It's a nineties conspiracy show that evolved for the modern world, with all of it's revelations and speculations. I'd say InfoWars should prepare to update it's servers, as there will likely be a lot of people that suddenly have a lot of questions.

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