Looking back at season opener Redux now, it’s scarcely believable this was The X-Files at the peak of its popularity. The myth arc isn’t merely running on fumes, it’s being serviced in a manner that borders on (unintentional, alas) self-parody. The saddest part of this is that – although my response at the time was that they should just quit horsing around and cut to the chase – the series during this phase was coming closest to the smoke-and-mirrors truth of how the conspirasphere operates.
At any rate, Redux is quite astonishing for the absurd degree to which Chris Carter employs undifferentiated philosophising, pushing his favoured narrations to breaking point. I’d hazard there are, at most, ten minutes of the episode where either Mulder or Scully are not hogging the soundtrack with their unglued musings. “I held a torch in the darkness…” utters Fox, before racing upstairs in an admittedly decent bit of action to shoot his eavesdropper (and then, it seems, blow his face off post mortem).
Unfortunately, this approach of duelling monologues smothers the episode’s – and the season’s – strongest suit at the outset: “It was all a lie from the beginning”, even to the point where “the men behind this hoax gave me this disease to make you believe”. Michael Kritschgau (John Finn) believes this version, of course, whereas, per the show’s mythology, he is himself deceived. But in its presentation of an intentional ruse on the part of TPTB, one that alludes to the Cold War being a PR battle, Redux skirts broader-still conspiracy subjects (“Nobody dropped the Bomb – no one dared”: or perhaps no one actually could?)
It was part of the show’s modus operandi to obfuscate in the name of seeking the truth, under which remit it regularly embedded scientific “fact” and established “truth”, areas a show like this would, had it carte blanche, have surely (hopefully) confronted at some point. Mulder was never going to investigate whether nukes are a hoax, or if Pasteurian virus theory is a lie. Of which, Scully is in similar territory here, investigating an easily dismissible alien corpse, but one that has a biologically engineered chimeric quality and is “full of virus” (because you can tell that through an electron microscope).
The idea of reframing the narrative is a surprisingly strong one, but Redux enacts it much too lazily, sinking us in a ponderous marsh of waffle and about five minutes of actual plot. And these horribly rehearsed submissions to committees from Mulder or Scully, that seem to occur every five minutes across this trio of episodes, are insufferable; Carter is allowed to autopilot through the same stodgy introductory material that will later inform grand-finale The Truth. Redux can’t handle the truth.
First published by Now in Full Color on 23/04/22.