This has the difficult challenge of following up both last season's finale as well as the movie sandwiched in between. What makes it even more challenging is the fact that so many of the show's major players at this point (Spender, Gibson Praise, Fowley) were entirely absent from the movie. So we have this kind of unbalanced script which tries to make reference to both, resulting in a season premiere that has some interesting moments and sets up some promising stories for the sixth season, but also suffers from ridiculously poor characterization.
The regression of sorts of Mulder and Scully in particular is disappointing. Last season ended with Mulder still bruised over his newfound belief that aliens didn't exist, and The Beginning re-writes that sense of conflict. He's now once again the entirely believing FBI agent in hot pursuit of the truth, and the shades of gray which made his character so interesting last year have mostly been ignored. Likewise, the progress Scully made last season and her gradual coming-around to the idea of extreme possibilities has also been re-written. Forget about the Scully that actually willed Mulder to continue seeking the truth, he we have the season one-ish skeptic, relying on her convenient bout of 'passing out' whenever Mulder tries to convince her of the existence of aliens. It's just kind of disappointing.
However, there are some great aspects to the episode. I like that Mulder and Scully haven't automatically been transferred back to the X-Files. They're instead going to be flying under the radar for a while, investigating cases without the pressure from the higher-ups. Likewise I'm enjoying the characterization of Spender and Fowley, essentially evil doppelgangers of our two leads. And Gibson Praise, too, is an interesting character. I spoiled myself via IMDb, though, and it turns out he's not the all-important character I expected him to be, at least based on the number of appearances he made in the show. Eh.
While there are promising elements to the premiere, I'm troubled by the regression of Mulder and Scully, and that familiar feeling of treading water that the show has constantly employed since at least season two. I still like this show a lot, but it's obviously become crazily problematic during the conspiracy hours. C+
Guest stars William B. Davis (The Cigarette-Smoking Man); Chris Owens (Jeffrey Spender); Mitch Pileggi (Walter Skinner); Mimi Rogers (Diana Fowley); Jeff Gulka (Gibson Praise); James Pickens, Jr. (Alvin Kersh); Christophr Neiman (Car Pool Man); Kim Robillard (Homer); Arthur Taxier (Bart); Alan Henry Brown (Scientist); Scott Eberlein (The Black-Haired Man); Wendie Malick (Maslin)
Writer Chris Carter Director Kim Manners