X-Files Flashback: ‘The Beginning’

Season 6, Episode 1
Director: Kim Manners
Writer: Chris Carter

The X-Files Season Six marked a turning point for the series in multiple ways. First, it was coming off of a Season Five ender designed to end the series in favor of motion pictures. Never wanting to kick a cash cow to the curb, Fox stepped in and requested a sixth season. Second, The X-Files motion picture – The X-Files: Fight the Future – popped up over the summer and made a mild splash. Critics complained it didn’t feel cinematic enough and appeared to be more of a 2-hour extension of the television show, and Season Six directly refers to the events of the film, reaffirming the complaints of film critics in a sense. Third, and most importantly, the series stopped filming in its formerly Canadian locales and relocated to Los Angeles, which changed not only its look and feel but, judging from the season premiere alone, affected its tone as well.

So, “The Beginning” is indeed a sort of rebirth for the series. The X-Files are re-opened, but Mulder and Scully aren’t assigned to them. The Smoking Man rejoins the Syndicate that tried to kill him (minus the Well-Manicured Man who died in the film), but there’s a sense that he’s more in control than he was before. He’s more obviously the puppet master. Additionally, again judging only from the Season Six premiere, there is more at stake as a brutal alien is born which begins ravaging humans – not something we’ve seen often before. After a few very competent and engaging seasons, The X-Files for the first time in a while feels to be new and dangerous again. I have little idea of where it’s heading, and I’m excited about that.

“The Beginning” kicks off with a group of scientists returning home to their pre-fab Arizona homes with one scientist shivering uncontrollably. After entering the house and jacking the heat up, he sits on his sofa where he begins to scream, a hand protruding Alien-like from his stomach. The next morning, his coworkers arrive to pick him up, but he doesn’t respond. One man enters the house looking for him, discovers his body with a giant gaping hole in his chest, and is shortly, violently mauled to death by an unseen creature. The Smoking Man tells the Syndicate about the alien and of his intent to kill it while Mulder and Scully petition to be reassigned to the newly opened X-Files. Their petition, of course, is denied, but Skinner shares confidential information with them regarding the alien in Arizona.

Scully and Mulder travel to Arizona against policy to investigate and find Jeffrey Spender and Diana Fowley in charge. During their stint, Scully pulls an alien fingernail out of the wall while the Smoking Man drives by with boy psychic Gibson Praise (bandaged having been inexplicably operated on) in tow. Gibson tells the Smoking Man the alien is no longer in the house having moved to a nearby nuclear power plant where it kills another man (in a sequence comically featuring a man named “Homer”). At the power plant, Mulder and Scully find the escaped Gibson and care for him. Upon further analysis, it is determined that Gibson has alien DNA in him, but he is kidnapped again before anyone can determine what to do next with him. Gibson is taken to the power plant where Mulder and Fowley have found alien goo near the warmest areas of the plant. Mulder witnesses the alien kill Gibson’s kidnapper but not Gibson himself. In the end, Mulder and Scully are told to leave the X-Files alone, but Mulder continues to try and rebuild them. Gibson, meanwhile, is trapped in the power plant with the alien who has shed its skin and retains the traditional grey alien form with which we are familiar.

I am of two minds on “The Beginning.” First, on the positive side, it establishes a new era and a new sense of purpose for the series. Actions have heft and weight to them. Mulder and Scully’s separation from the X-Files creates a challenge for the writers to logically place them in the center of the action when they may not necessarily be there. The Smoking Man’s relative independence makes him more of a rogue agent than ever before, which is a good thing. The series needs a successful and clear villain, which they have ear-marked the Smoking Man. All of this is an exciting turn of events and, as I’ve mentioned before, gives me a sense of unexpected activity for the first time in a long while. On the negative side, I’m not exactly sure I’m 100 percent satisfied with the direction they’re taking. I do miss the beauty of the Canadian settings in favor of the more generically bland Los Angeles and surrounding areas. Additionally, the Alien knock-off alien threat (the alien virus implants a fast-growing alien inside the host) feels less interesting and a bigger shift-left from the bees and black oil of earlier episodes.

Overall, “The Beginning” is a very accomplished episode that organically folds new thoughts and new characters into the heartbeat of the series. As such, it begins to travel different and exciting territory – never a bad thing. But the mythology of the series and its ever-changing attributes will most likely bring the series crashing down, I suspect. Chris Carter doesn’t really seem to have a good handle on what he wants the ultimate mythology to be, and it shows. Yet, for now, “The Beginning” is a good enough place to start in shaking up the series and making it feel new again. We’ll see how long this can last.

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