THE FOUNDER’S MUTATION – 8/10.
Now that’s more like it! Last week’s season premiere was underwhelming to say the least. While it was an undeniable thrill to see Mulder and Scully return to our screens, the overall delivery was poor. The dialogue wasn’t great, the story felt confused and Joe McHale’s celebrity conspiracy nut felt completely out of place. That is why I am delighted to say that the second episode in this 6 part mini-series felt like a definite step in the right direction, successfully mixing classic X-Files elements with the new conspiracy storyline and a very modern aesthetic.
With the X-Files officially reopened Mulder and Scully investigate the apparent suicide of the unfortunate Dr Sanjay. Sanjay was an employee of Nugenics, a shady company performing research on behalf of the D.O.D. After being tormented by a high frequency noise that only he could hear, Sanjay chose to silence it using the old ‘letter opener in the earhole’ technique. Suffice to say all is not what it seems at Nugenics. The trail leads to evidence of genetic testing on children, perhaps as the end result of alien DNA being introduced to pregnant women. A search of Sanjay’s abode comes to a sudden end when Mulder hears the same crippling sound that led to the scientist’s suicide.
Nugenics’ founder is a genetic scientist named Dr Augustus Goldman, a secretive figure referred to as ‘The Founder’ by his employees. Generally when a scientist has a nickname like that it’s safe to assume that he is up to no good. In their attempts to make contact with the elusive doctor Mulder & Scully encounter a pregnant girl named Agnes (Hannibal’s Kacey Rohl… god I miss Hannibal). Agnes is part of a Nugenics programme studying unborn children who have been diagnosed with defects. She claims that all is not as it seems and that she won’t let the scientists take her child away.
When we finally meet Goldman he is more cold clinical scientist than cackling super villain, his private facility houses countless children in sealed chambers. The children all suffer from severe mutations and were presumably taken from their mothers at birth. Goldman claims to be seeking a cure but quickly dismisses the duo when Scully mentions alien DNA. But when Agnes is found dead with her unborn child surgically removed the agents decide to dig further in Goldman’s past, discovering his institutionalized wife. She claims that Goldman experimented on both her daughter, Molly, and her unborn son, who she cut out of her own womb after hearing the familiar high frequency sound.
The pieces of the puzzle lead to a shifty janitor that appeared in the opening moments of the episode. For the record I called the shifty janitor right away, never trust a shifty janitor or an overly sweaty teacher. The Janitor is revealed to be Goldman’s son, Kyle, who has the ability to communicate telepathically via the torturous frequency. Mulder and Scully make the frankly terrible decision to take him to his father’s lab where Kyle soon discovers his sister in one of the sealed chambers. It appears that Molly shares Kyle’s gift and their reunion leads to a Scanners/Carrie style finale that ends with the not-so-good doctor’s brain outside of his head and Molly and Kyle on the run.
This really did feel like the X-Files of old with a strong and engaging case linked in to the overriding alien hybrid conspiracy. It was also very nice to have multiple references to William, the child that Mulder and Scully were forced to abandon. This episode features dream sequences from both agents fantasising about the happy life that they could have had with their son. Both sequences end with William suffering a dark fate, a reflection of their growing fear that their son could carry the alien DNA that caused the mutation in Dr Goldman’s children.
It’s good to see the show picking up steam, with just 4 episodes left in this run, there is far too little time to waste on sub-par episodes. Everything just felt so familiar and right in this episode, the chemistry between Duchovny and Anderson is as strong as it has ever been. It is a credit to their performances that they manage to make everything feel so natural even when the story is at its most fantastic. Full disclosure, I wouldn’t be writing about the X-Files if I wasn’t a huge fan. Just as Mulder wants to believe, I want to love this fleeting return and if this is a sign of things to come it seems as if my faith will be rewarded.
POINTS OF INTEREST
- The episodes featured some great prosthetics and practical effects. By comparison I found the CGI used in episode 1 to be quite jarring.
- And the winner of line of the night goes to… “I’m old school Mulder, pre-Google.”
- No sign of the Cigarette Smoking Man in this episode, safe to assume he is enjoying a throat smoke somewhere.
- As the alien hybrid conspiracy continues to develop it seems more and more likely that young William will make his return. But whose side will he be on?