The X-Files Revival Premiere Goes Shockingly, Daringly Political (Spoiler-Free Review)

Saturday, 10 October 2015 - 2:52PM
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Saturday, 10 October 2015 - 2:52PM
The X-Files Revival Premiere Goes Shockingly, Daringly Political (Spoiler-Free Review)
The X-Files was always political to some extent, capturing the paranoid anxieties of a pre-9/11 America. But that was a much less politically fraught time, and the original series still always stopped short of declaring a stance in such a way that would be applicable to the bipartisan political landscape. But in the X-Files revival, they're pulling out all the stops in more ways than one, and are more explicitly left-wing than ever before, to an extremely risky degree.



Joel McHale joins the cast in a recurring role as Tad O'Malley, a prominent right-wing talk show host and paranoid conspiracy theorist who teams up with a reluctant Mulder to uncover the alien conspiracy we all know and love (which has an unexpected twist in the revival, but I won't get any spoiler-y than that three months ahead of the premiere). We first meet him when Mulder watches a video of O'Malley flexing his gun nut muscles and whining about his Second Amendment rights. Mulder's reaction is the same as mine: "Why would I talk to this jack-ass?" O'Malley is clearly a riff on talk show hosts like Bill O'Reilly to some extent, which leads to one of the best lines of the episode: O'Malley bristles at a comparison to Bill O'Reilly, and says, "What O'Reilly knows about the truth wouldn't fill an eyedropper."

McHale's character is a wonderful addition, partially as a result of his performance and chemistry with Duchovny and Anderson, but also because he embodies a more realistically commonplace conspiracy theorist than Mulder ever did. In real life, most conspiracy theorists are very right-wing, and they would take their Second Amendment rights very seriously. The show treats him with some measure of respect, but also uses him as a political foil to Mulder and Scully. 

The entire revival series has a political bent that is extremely left-wing; Mulder claims that we are in "more danger than ever before" from the government, not because they're trying to take away our guns, but because they're "policing and spying on us." The entire show is openly a critical commentary on our government's right-wing policies, such as the Patriot Act and NSA surveillance (my dream for this show would be for the Long Gunmen to become Edward Snowden), and with the "policing" comment, maybe even Ferguson. I enjoyed all of this, because I'm a huge liberal, but many of their fans may not see it the same way. It is on Fox, after all.

The revival premiere wasn't perfect, by any means; there were some pacing and exposition issues, especially since it felt like they were trying to burn through a ton of material when they were only given six episodes. But this newfound political daring illustrates what the revival is doing best: taking risks. They had all of the elements they needed to rest on their laurels: Duchovny, Anderson, Skinner, Smoking Man, the original creator and writers. They could have just delivered more of the same, and we all would have been happy. Instead, they're taking the X-Files mythos in a new and timely direction, which is already commendable, even before we see how it all turns out.
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X-Files Revival Premiere: Shockingly Political (Spoiler-Free Review)