It’s in the Genes
A collective sigh this week as it came true that the second episode of The X Files Season 10 was an improvement on the first. In advance of the series reboot debuting, many of us had heard that the series would definitely get better after the clunky premiere. I was hoping it was true and “Founder’s Mutation” largely delivers. The opening teaser was odd, creepy, even funny. Sanjay, a worker at the genetic lab Nugenics, slowly falls apart in the company lobby then in a meeting (complete with a murder of crows outside the window) and then in a computer lab to the tune of an unbearable, high pitched screech that could only be stopped with the self-inflicted jamming of a letter opener in the ear.
Hello Season 10! This is what I’m talking about!
And hold up, what is happening X-Files? You’re giving us Blacks, Indians AND Gays all within the first ten minutes? Yeah, they might be tangential characters, but hope remains for more meaty representation this season.
Throughout the episode, there are little sci fi fandom moments, the first being when actor Aaron Douglas, Chief from SyFy’s Battlestar Galactica shows up as a security employee. If we remember, his BSG character dealt with a version of pilot Boomer who didn’t know she was a Cylon, whose other incarnation gave birth to a Human/Cylon hybrid baby. Tricky little X-Files writers!
At the crime scene, Mulder gets up to his Old School antics and steals the victim’s cell phone. Mulder’s funny, impish quality barely survives the two decade leap, but it’s nice to see when it peeks out.(Who can forget him once singing the theme from Shaft in a half dazed moment in “In the Blood?”) You could imagine that in his old age his indignant irreverence might sound like the Bernie Sanders of science fiction.
Strangely enough, both actors sound old. They speak slower, with more laid back and slightly gravelly voices. It takes some getting used to. Yeah, they both used to have this strange speech pattern back in the day. But I keep wanting them to pick up the damn pace and energy. I mean, they’re not in a home. Yet.
At a bar, Sanjay’s friend thinks Mulder is trying to pick him up when Mulder tells him he wants “to talk.” The friend goes on his knees in a closet to give Mulder a blowjob, and when Mulder declines the offer, the guy tells Mulder to stop tormenting himself and face The Truth about being gay. What’s not to love about this scene?
As we venture into autopsy territory with Scully, I wondered, will she still have a neck splattered with blood like she did several times in the first episode? Not this time, but she gets to break back the fingers of the victim to find what Sanjay wrote on his hand: “Founder’s Mutation.” Yes, we’re back to the hybrid, genetic mutation, evolution/corruption of the human species conspiracy.
Scully and Mulder find a wall full of photos of extremely deformed children that are very hard to look at, in part because this stuff actually happens in real life. It becomes one of their Big Clues. There is really no mystery happening here, just rehash.
Then Mulder hears the high pitch tone. Oh-oh. I thought: infected when he touched Sanjay’s hand to get the phone? Or something happened when he bumped into the young janitor? (Yeah, I caught that moment.)
When Scully and Mulder follow the mutation trail, and have a chat with the conservative, uptight Sister Mary at a Home/Lab for wayward pregnant girls, we get our next fandom treat: the birth of Milo from Escape from the Planet of the Apes playing on a TV screen in the background. (Evolution!)
Our investigative couple finally talk about their who-knows-where-he’s-at son, William, and reminisce that he’d be fifteen now (WHAT!?) Then we get a fantasy flash back to the boy’s first day of school, with Scully there to nurture, lead, shelter, protect and advise…everything she has never gotten a chance to do. It was moving to watch her imagine all the days and years and moments she’s missed. Worse yet, it’s a parents’ nightmare to think of all the moments when her son might have needed her and she wasn’t there. Especially when his hybrid genes might be expressing themselves in his teen years to make him look like a Grey.
Back at the Home/Genetic Lab, we see these poor, deformed kids are real and in sealed rooms and clearly, guinea pigs of Doctor Goldman, supposedly studying ways to help them. (Yeah, right.) Clearly a sinister saint. One of the pregnant girls, Agnes, asks Scully and Mulder for help in getting her the hell out of there.
Not long after, a call comes that Pregnant Agnes got hit by a car and killed, and her baby was surgically removed. These are some ruthless ass scientists.
Scully and Mulder visit the good doctor’s wife, who’s been locked away for killing her missing baby years ago. We get another mom flash back, this one quite creepy as Mrs. Goldman describes finding her other child, little Molly, under water in the family swimming pool, giving us an nice reveal. Though I’m not sure how Molly’s singular mutation incorporates both breathing underwater and telekinesis, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
We also find out that Mrs. Goldman was in a car accident while pregnant with Molly’s brother, and after crawling out of the wreckage, heard that lovely screech and suddenly “knew” she had to cut the baby out to release it. And we see this, with the advanced unborn ready to roll. Yuck and yeahhh.
Scully and Mulder figure out that the Janitor service that Nugenics and the Home both used has a high school drop out, Kyle Gilligan, working for them. In a security video, he is seen reacting in another room just as Sanjay cringes at The Sound. They find the kid living with the woman who found him as a babe in the street after his mom’s car accident.
Turns out the poor kid can’t control how he gets into people’s heads. He just wants to find his sister, Molly. (Shades of Mulder’s long search for his sister.)
When Scully and Mulder take Kyle to the Home Dr. Goldman can examine him., Kyle is inadvertently reunited with his sister, even though daddy Goldman tries to prevent it. The siblings can both do creepy stuff and seem more powerful together than apart: that screech sound makes their dad’s nose and ears bleed and his eyes pop out of his sockets. (Nice kids.) Scully and Mulder get batted down the hall by Molly’s telekinesis. The bro and sis also communicate with their minds. Shades of Marvel’s Pietro and Wanda. Where’s Xavier when you really need him?
Nothing gets fully resolved (are we surprised?), but we get treated to another Fantasy Flashback. It’s Mulder’s turn this time, eating popcorn with his son while watching the ape and monolith scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Apes, the missing link, and the next evolution of man figure prominently as motifs in this episode. When Mulder stands helpless as William is abducted, we get another parent nightmare, and this one hits Mulder hard, since it’s by aliens and exactly how he witnessed it happen to his beloved sister.
We’re left at the end with a slow pan back from Mulder sitting alone at a kitchen table. And with that, the episode puts a sad coda on a storyline that explores wordless loss, regret, rumination and fear for two characters who have so often faced the unspeakable.
- The bar closet
- Mulder’s one word quip to conservative Sister Mary: “Obamacare”
- Scully’s hairline. Still so wrong (except in the flashback)
- The circular genetic conspiracy argument
- After the third time, that damn screech
The word is that episode three is even better. We’ll see…
A Native New Yorker, Melody is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter, as well as a film and web series producer. Her play SWEET MERCY, about the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur, was developed by NY Stage & Film (starring Danai Gurira). In Film and TV her wheelhouse is Sci Fi and Horror: Her horror screenplay MONSTROUS was a Top 3 Finalist at 2014 Slamdance. THE DEVIL YOU KNOW was Finalist for a Creative World Award. Her sci fi script BREAKING THE FOURTH won the Woodshole Film Festival. Melody is writing and co-producing THE NEXT ITERATION, a web series about the effects of biotechnology on a future Black community. In Spring 2016, she is directing her first film, THE SOUND OF DARKNESS based on her supernatural script about the legacy of racism in the U.S.