‘The X-Files’ Review: Revival Will Appeal to Old-School Fans, But Few Others

A weak start hampers Mulder and Scully’s comeback

The nostalgia factor continues to kick it hard in television with the anticipated six-part return of “The X-Files.” But as audiences gear up for more of FBI agents Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), one has to wonder if the show was better left in the past, where it could simply remain as one of the biggest game-changers in TV history. The adventures of true-believer Mulder and skeptic Scully as they explored the paranormal aired from 1993 to 2002, helped establish then fledgling Fox as a legitimate broadcaster, and expanded the boundaries of hour-long drama.

The revival’s premiere episode, “My Struggle,” serves as an appropriate catch-up of sorts, with series creator Chris Carter at the helm in the writers’ room and in the director’s chair. Unfortunately, as many fans remember, Carter served the show best when he allowed other writers to do the heavy lifting.

Sadly, despite the plentiful Easter Eggs for fans, the Episode 1 is to dense in mythology, calling attention to some of the show’s original problems; with so much to solve in only six episodes, it seems impossible to wade through it all. Add in a conspiracy theorist character in the form of Joel McHale, who is better off sticking with comedy, and the result is a clunky hour of bad one-liners and exposition. Not even an important guest-star appearance from Annet Mahendru, who is a strong player in FX’s “The Americans,” can save some of the dialogue from coming across as a campy foray into the past.

That dialogue is perhaps at its worst in one specific scene between Mulder and Scully, as they argue for what feels like the one millionth time over wanting to believe. It couldn’t feel more contrived.

The narrative tightens up in Episode 2, at least, as the series settles into a Monster-of-the-Week format. That allows Duchovny and Anderson to play to their respective strengths, but it also feels like the show is marking time. Why being everyone back and set up a dramatic arc just to shelve it by Episode 2?

Regardless, hungry fans are probably thrilled to have the show back in whatever capacity. The smartest thing that this revival does is play to those fans, who will forgive its flaws, while limiting the run to a six-episode taste. A full-length season might have sent fans running faster than you could say “Heroes Reborn.”

“The X-Files” premieres Sunday night at 10 p.m. on Fox.