'X-Files' Season 11 is Mostly Standalone Stories and Not Mythology Episodes

Tuesday, 08 August 2017 - 7:30PM
Tuesday, 08 August 2017 - 7:30PM
'X-Files' Season 11 is Mostly Standalone Stories and Not Mythology Episodes
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The "Monster of the Week" formula gets a bad rap these days.

Some shows benefit from small, contained stories that can be told quickly, with their own beginning, middle, and end, to communicate something interesting and powerful that wouldn't fit a more drawn-out, episodic storytelling. In spite of this, a lot of TV shows end up following one big plot over the course of their entire runtime, leading to an awful lot of filler episodes along the way.

So it comes as a relief to know that the eleventh season of The X-Files (and the show's second season post-revival) will feature smaller, self-contained episodes for the most part, instead of one big conspiracy. This is good news for anyone who felt that the long-running stuff from last season dragged a bit compared to the zippy, fast storytelling of the one-shot episodes. 

According to Fox chairman David Madden, eight out of the show's ten new episodes will be self-contained:

Opening quote
"We're really proud of last season. We had the responsibility to explain to the audience what had happened in the intervening seven or eight years. We're free from that responsibility this time and can just plunge in and tell the stories. We're having a lot of fun doing it. Eight of the episodes will be stand-alone stories so they will be classic 'Mulder and Scully plunging into new adventures.'"
Closing quote

It does make sense that last season was structured in the way that it was. Like other revivals that come years after the original series ends, it's important to have some space for audiences to catch up before things ramp up again. But it's arguable that the X-Files revival leaned a little too heavy into this, trying to fill in the blanks with a big conspiracy when all anyone wants to see is some classic stories about disposable monsters and bogeymen that present some kind of immediate, interesting twist.


It's hard not to compare the new X-Files to Black Mirror, a show that's built in such a Monster of the Week manner that we don't even get the same protagonists in every episode. This anthology structure, filled with unique settings and rules in each new episode, make for compelling (if incredibly bleak) sci-fi storytelling that comes free from any incumbent baggage that could potentially slow things down.

The only problem with this kind of storytelling is that it's inherently a lot harder than just making a bunch of episodes about a growing conspiracy threat. Finding a powerful story arc or designing particularly spooky monsters takes time and effort, and it's a lot easier to paper over the cracks with a bunch of episodes about Mulder and Scully essentially cleaning out their email inbox after having been away on vacation for so long.

Of course, the fact that we're getting more standalone stories is only a good thing if the writers can deliver interesting content. If these stories can't provide a solid punch, the show is essentially a waste of time, and considering how wildly the quality of the last season varied between episodes, there's a real danger that we might get the next new Slenderman in one episode, and then just a guy with a bed sheet over his head in the next.

Hopefully, though, when all is said and done, season eleven will be all the better for giving us a series of unique creepy situations, rather than just a bunch of episodes that are designed to build up the X-Files mythos. Ultimately, the world is developed more through compelling one-off characters and spooky monsters, than by giving us a long, drawn out explanation of how Agent Scully's spent her time while the show was off the air.

Besides, in a Monster of the Week formula, it's easy for fans to skip the dull episodes at the internet's recommendation. The X-Files season 11 is scheduled to come out late 2017 or early 2018.

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