Sunday, March 18, 2012

The X-Files: Within (8.1)

The most radical X-Files game-changer so far occurs with the arrival of a new series regular -- Mr. T-1000 himself Robert Patrick. As a result, Within sparkles with newfound momentum, Scully anchoring the series as she relentlessly pursues the missing Mulder all while keeping her pregnancy a secret. Thankfully, Scully and Doggett's partnership isn't immediately easy. There's already suspicion and tension between them, Scully throwing a drink in his face during their initial meeting and later accusing him of spying on her. At the same time, their dynamic throws things for a loop with Scully suddenly the believer, and Doggett the one skeptical of any kind of supernatural UFO hoodoo. Chris Carter's season premiere is a tightly scripted opener to the 'new' X-Files.

Both Scully and Skinner appear to be slightly different people, the brief character work hinted at in Requiem surprisingly intact this year. Both Gillian Anderson and Mitch Pileggi seem relieved to be able to introduce new angles to their characters, Anderson in particular giving Scully a melancholic, mournful intensity that has been absent for a while. Robert Patrick, too, is an engaging performer, and makes Doggett somebody we can't exactly root for just yet, but is intriguing enough to follow.

Those visions of Mulder are also ridiculously effective. They're surprisingly brutal and ambitious, David Duchovny strapped to some horror movie dentist chair with the skin pulling and mouth drilling. It's exactly the kind of terrifying worst-case-scenario that Scully would be dreaming about, and I liked the ambiguity over their origins. Are they real? Has Mulder even been abducted? Was that really Mulder in the desert?

The only area where Within stumbles is in the reappearance of Gibson Praise. While everything else here feels rejuvenated and fresh, and with a lot of the show's baggage of yesteryear dumped last season (Krycek, Samantha, the CSM, etc.), it's disappointing that midway through the hour we have the FBI contriving that this kid is at the center of the mystery once again. Praise, an interesting character who at one point was described as the most integral element to the entire alien mythology, hasn't been around since early season six and has lost any power he may have had on the audience in the interim. Eh.

Within gives the show a resurgence of energy, throwing questions at us that don't feel tired. There are a couple of annoying blips that bring to mind the convoluted insanity of old X-Files, but generally this is a strong opener to the year. B

Guest stars Mitch Pileggi (Walter Skinner); James Pickens, Jr. (Alvin Kersh); Tom Braidwood (Melvin Frohike); Dean Haglund (Ringo Langly); Bruce Harwood (John Fitzgerald Byers); Kirk B.R. Woller (Agent Gene Crane); Jeff Gulka (Gibson Praise); Jonathan Palmer (Principal); Marc Gomes (Agent Danny Mosley); Christine Firkins (Thea Sprecher)
Writer Chris Carter Director Kim Manners

No comments:

Post a Comment