After a somewhat shaky pilot, The X-Files miniseries gives us a much stronger second episode with “Founder’s Mutation.” The plot is a classic slice of series in the “monster-of-the-week” vein: A suicide wasn’t simply a suicide, but only Mulder sees that there’s something weird; Scully goes along with him, all the while thinking he’s overreacting; the plot eventually ties back in with Mulder and Scully’s personal life in an organic way that adds resonance to both threads. Plus, Skinner gets to be awesome!
Dr. Sanjay works at Nugenics, developing experiments for the not-at-all-ominous-sounding Founder, whom no one gets to see. He’s driven mad by a ringing in his ears, and finally suicides with a letter opener. When M&S investigate, there’s obviously a meathead guard, and of course Mulder antagonizes him. Scully diverts the guard while Mulder steals the doctor’s phone. I like criminal Mulder.
Mulder meets a friend of Dr. Sanjay’s named Gupta, and thinks they’ve gone into a coatcheck room to have a pleasant conversation about THE TRUTH when Gupta begins unbuttoning his pants. “Hey there, guy, I want THE TRUTH, not a close encounter!” says Mulder, at least that’s what he says in my mind. Gupta, whom I freaking love tells Mulder to stop hiding, taps his chest, and intones, “The truth is in here.”
Mulder tells Gupta that Dr. Sanjay has died, and then the two men drink while Gupta tells Mulder about his friend. They hadn’t been physical in a long time, Gupta says, because Sanjay was too worried that “his kids were dying.”
Hmmm, what kids? M&S break out their flashlights to investigate the doctor’s apartment, and Mulder is struck by the same ringing that Sanjay was! He hears a voice saying “find her”. Later, a Fed shows up to confiscate the files Mulder took from the apartment, and Skinner is gruff and growly and for a second I was very confused, but the second the Fed leaves Skinner turns to Mulder with little pink hearts bursting all around his head, and says, “I imagine you made copies?”
Scully provides contact with Sanjay’s boss, Dr. Goldman, through Our Lady of Sorrows and Apparent Shaming of Unwed Mothers Hospital. We learn that An OMINOUS NUN runs an equally ominous program for girls… but, this is The X-Files. These girls are clearly being implanted with something, and forced to incubate mutants, and holy shit it’s Abigail Hobbs from Hannibal! OK, it’s not actually Abigail, it’s Kacey Rohl playing a girl named Agnes who wants to escape, but how awesome is it that Gillian Anderson is just importing all of her old costars? Huh. Abigail. I’m sure this will go well. Oh, and the women are all watching Planet of the Apes. Oh yeah, this is gonna go great.
Dr. Goldman gives them a tour of his live-action X-Men homage. These are Dr. Sanjay’s kids, being kept in sealed rooms so the “experiments” won’t be tainted. I’m not sure which of these conditions are real, but they all look pretty hard to live with. Scully talks to one boy (named Adam, ugh…) and Scullys all over the place with her obvious desire to take all these kids and run. I was sort of hoping the show would go there, but instead, we learn that Scully is worried that William, her son with Mulder, was a genetic experiment. What if he’s dealing with mutation right now, and she isn’t there to help him?
M&S visit Mrs. Goldman, who’s being held in a mental hospital against her will. Dr. Goldman’s story is that she tried to kill their children, but her version is slightly different. See, she realizes that Molly had been mutated when she found out she could breathe underwater. Mrs. Goldman was extremely pregnant at the time, and, not being a fool, realized that her Moreau of a husband was messing around with their kids’ DNA. She took off, wrecked her car, and self-C-sectioned to let her baby, who had begun communicating with her telepathically, escape. She and Scully bond over being the mothers of freak babies.
We then learn that Agnes has died after being struck by a car, but there was no baby in her womb. Hmmmm…
In the interest of wrapping up—Mulder realizes the janitor he saw is connected, and in fact he turns out to by Kyle, Mrs. Goldman’s son. He’s inadvertently causing the ear-ringing when he tries to reach out to people telepathically, but really he just wants to find his sister. Mulder sees no parallels here at all, nope not a one. Mulder and Scully sorta/kinda arrest Kyle, and take him to Dr. Goldman, who takes a blood sample. But then Kyle goes Rogue, and he and Molly Wonder Twin the shit out of the hospital before Scanners-ing Dr. Goldman’s brainmeats till his head exploded, and then Quicksilver-and-Scarlet-Witching the heck out of there—what I mean is, they escape together. Naturally Mulder cadges the blood sample before the Feds get there. Happy ending, X-Files style.
So, what do we think? Personally, I think last night’s episode was already stronger than the premiere, and I have high hopes for the rest of this mini! It does feel strange to have two X-Files nights in a row, though.
If nothing else, The X-Files has not forgotten how to do a classic MOTW cold opening. Dr. Sanjay’s ear-ringing and suicide manage to be creepy as hell, while establishing sympathy for the poor man. This is what Dr. Sanjay’s eye looked like:
See? Creepy as hell. Back in the day, The X-Files was on at 9:00pm because it often tipped into being a straight-up horror show. So it was interesting to see that the miniseries will be aired normally on Mondays at 8:00, and that last night’s episode was one of their most gruesome ever. We got that eyeball, a letter-opener-suicide, a self-C-Section, and mutated child prisoners, and that was all before a guy’s head exploded. Good stuff!
I’m not sure if this happened for anyone else, but when the ominous nun came onscreen a promo for Lucifer floated up right in front of her, which was fun.
The show has done the mutant/gifted children plot before, and I’d really like them to pay it off at some point. Is there just a new generation of mutants, all in their 20s and 30s now, hiding out across America? Have they had kids? Is this thread ever going to lead anywhere?
During the premiere, I was pleased with the show’s willingness to drop real historical facts to justify Mulder’s rants. When Sveta expresses doubt, he doesn’t pile on more conspiracy theories, he goes straight to the Tuskegee syphilis experiments and the life of Henrietta Lacks, two well-documented cases of a white US government exploiting African-Americans. Today, when a Fed goon threatens him, he goes straight to Edward Snowden. It’s an interesting line to walk to put some distance between Mulder and the real army of Glenn Becks he helped produce – Mulder is on the side of the oppressed. He antagonizes security guards who use their muscle indiscriminately, doctors who would experiment on helpless children, a Catholic order that would use conservative morality against young girls. It was a canny move on the show’s part, given all the think pieces that have explored The X-Files’ influence.
I’m still thinking my way through the extended memory/fantasy sequences imagining Mulder and Scully’s lives with William. I found these scenes emotionally affecting – it was also interesting to see how their visions differed. Scully is the caretaker, walking William to a big brick school, picking him up, comforting him when he breaks his arm. Mulder is the Platonic idea of a dad – first introducing William to 2001 (providing a nice mirror to the apes shown during the hospital sequence), then teaching him how to build a rocket. Both visions end in horror. Scully walks in to find William’s face mutating into a Grey’s face, while Mulder finds William recreating his sister Samantha’s abduction. I really liked the vision of each of them as parents, but you’ll notice that even in these fantasies they’re not working together as parents. You get the sense that each of them believe they’d have separated, even if they’d been able to keep William. Scully keeps him during the week and makes sure he gets to school before she heads off to surgery, while Mulder has him on weekends for late night movie sessions and experiments in the yard that he tries to hide from Scully. I find this very interesting. It’s as though the old Scully and Mulder relationship is here – the absolute trust and care for each other, but all the flirtation and romantic tension has been drained from it. I could see them as totally platonic co-parents.
I don’t know if I’m OK with this future. I think I may need to fight it.