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“Founder’s Mutation” went a long way to righting The X-Files ship after the disappointing “My Struggle.” The dialogue was snappy, the plot (on the whole) made sense, and the episode was well-paced, save for two pretty glaring missteps. The Scully and Mulder presented in “Founder’s Mutation” were much more in line with the characters I remember from the show’s heyday. Mulder didn’t go off into one of his manic phases, and he and Scully worked quite well together. But I’m not about to let the show off the hook for it’s shortfalls- especially after a 14 year hiatus.
Had the episode been a one-off look at a devious and, frankly, disturbing government plan to experiment on kids, it would have been a good episode. And when the action centered around figuring out this particular government secret, I was focused and entertained (although, I figured out from the get-go that the janitor was the key- all those years spent watching Law and Order and recognizing the “killer pattern” have ruined suspenseful whodunits for me). But as soon as we started entering the fantasy land of “Life with William,” the episode lost its spark.
Mentioning William within in the context of the storyline along with Scully’s great speech regarding her guilt over giving him up rang true and added a nice note to the proceedings. But jetting off into ultimately dark fantasies regarding what might have come to pass had Mulder and Scully kept William broke the magic of the episode. The sequences were extremely heavy handed and didn’t fit with the overall aesthetic of the episode. Normally, I’m an advocate of the show, not tell, approach to storytelling, but in this case, these were unnecessary diversions that served almost no purpose. We know Mulder and Scully wish they had their son, and we know that there remains a lingering fear that something sinister may have befallen him in the ensuing 15 years. We don’t need to see hypothetical fantasies.
In addition to the strange inclusion of the William interludes, there were a few narrative shortcuts that could have been taken out had the episode been given the extra few minutes from those fantasies. I would have liked to know a bit more about the process of obtaining the young women for the experiments, and perhaps some additional time with the girls themselves (it may just be the Hannibal fan in me hoping for some more time between Gillian Anderson and Kacey Rohl, but Rohl was criminally underused in the episode- which seems to becoming a recurring theme in this mini-series, getting great actors and under using them). Perhaps even some more time seeing how Kyle and Molly’s powers complemented each other, and why they were so much stronger together. I assume that since the pair obsconded into the night, they may make a return at a later point in the series (perhaps with William, since we spent so much time imagining what his childhood could have been), but considering there is still a lot of mythology to trudge through over the next four episodes, I’m not going to hold my breath.
But this episode was significantly stronger than “My Struggle,” which is reason to celebrate. I loved getting to see Skinner play ball with the Department of Defense, only to offer his support to Mulder and Scully immediately after. I’ve really missed that particular dynamic, and I’m glad to see it’s back in play. It was also great to see Mulder and Scully back to normal (or, at least as normal as they can be). It was a bit disconcerting that no mention was made of the events in the previous episode, and there was no fallout from the pair operating on opposite sides, but I guess I can overlook that as it meant the return of some great banter and some of that trademark chemistry. I would love for the show to stop referencing current events and name dropping things that have happened since the show went off the air- we all get it, this is set in the present. But, again, a minor complaint. All-in-all, it was great to see the show slowly but surely inching back into top form. If it continues this uphill climb, things can only get better. And that gives me a great deal of hope.