The X-Files: Here's Everything You Need To Know About The Return Episode

Lucky us—the most anticipated premiere of 2016 comes in the first month of the year. I'm of course talking about the return of one of the best and most influential shows ever, The X-Files. The six-episode event continuation of the long-running sci-fi drama premieres on Sunday, January 24 at 10pm after the NFC Championship Game on Fox, and then settles into a normal Monday timeslot the very next night at 9pm. 

That means we're almost exactly two months away from the show's return, but it's never too early to get unbelievably excited, right? Especially when Fox was nice enough to make the first episode back, "My Struggle," available as a sneak preview. That's right, ladies and gents, I've seen the first new episode of The X-Files in 13 years and I'm here to stoke those anticipatory fires just a little bit more. This preview will NOT reveal key plot points from the episode, but it will hint at them, so if you're especially spoilerphobic, go ahead and close that tab, shut your laptop, and slink back to your steel reinforced, password protected mega-bunker. 

THE SHOW HAS BEEN MODERNIZED JUST ENOUGH


One of creator Chris Carter's main talking points in the press blitz promoting The X-Files' return has concentrated on repositioning the characters and the show fans remember into a contemporary geopolitical and cultural climate, but that's also something that, at least on the surface, seems easier said than done. However, by the end of the first episode, it's clear that Carter wasn't just blowing smoke; indeed, "My Struggle" dedicates much of its running time to current event talking points, from 9/11 and nefarious surveillance programs to FEMA camps and false flag operations. If the original run of the show was inspired by Art Bell and Coast to Coastthen this revival is heavily influenced by Alex Jones and and InfoWars

Predictably, the show's employment of today's conspiracy theory du jour is occasionally heavy handed, with Mulder (David Duchovny) and the amazingly named Tad O'Malley (Joel McHale) breathlessly spouting them at one another while Scully (Gillian Anderson) looks on skeptically. But of course that's not that different than how the original run handled its investigation into ufology, disclosure, and a never-ending web of plausible deniability within the government. This updating of the story provides a surprising new wrinkle to the show's larger mythology, to the point that I'm already very curious to see how longtime fans, burned by each new addition to the original mytharc, will feel about it. 

The modernization doesn't just stop at the plot, however. The show relies more on CGI here than I can ever really remember from the original run—though I didn't watch every episode of the final few seasons—and orchestrates a reconstruction of a seminal event in the UFO story on a larger scale, with much more immediate carnage, that is closer to the first movie than most of the weekly episodes. I'll admit that as I watched the premiere, I couldn't help but wish that The X-Files still looked exactly as it did in the earlier seasons (4:3 aspect ratio and all!), but the production team still finds places for creepy imagery, empty hangars, and blue-hued operating rooms. It looks good, if not exactly "1995 in Vancouver" good.


THE PREMIERE IS MORE OF A REVIVAL THAN YOU MIGHT EXPECT


Although The X-Files grew into one of the biggest hits on television during its initial run and cast such a massive shadow on television ever since, Fox and Carter still treat this opener like the revival that it is. That means that the episode begins with an extended voiceover from Mulder that summarizes 200-plus episodes of winding plot twists and heartbreaking developments, complete with still photos of some of the show's biggest moments and monsters of the week (shout out to your boy, Tooms). It also means that conversations between Mulder and Scully feature the kind of expository dialogue required to catch the audience up on the swings of their relationship during The X-Files' decade-long run on the air and in the years since the show ended. 

These moments aren't so intrusive that fans will groan heavily, but they do suggest that Fox hopes to grab some new viewers—or those that ditched the show sometime during the original run—instead of simply catering to those of us who have pre-ordered that beautiful looking Blu-ray set or listen to The X-Files Files podcast. Though that may sound off-putting to some diehards, you can't blame Fox for trying to cash in on the show's presence on Netflix for many years, where surely thousands of people watched for the first time and are as desperate for new material as those of you who were there in 1993.

Likewise, the plot of the first episode isn't so much a new story as it is a remixed medley of the show's greatest conspiracy hits. Characters are put in very familiar positions, have extremely familiar conversations, and ultimately make some of the same decisions we've seen them make time and time again. This functions to catch people up and the kind of stories the show likes to tell without going entirely off the deep-end just yet. It also offers the six-episode run a tremendous jumping off point to go any number of ways with the story—which is exactly what a first episode of any season should do, right?


OH YEAH, IT'S PRETTY GOOD


X-Files fans are some of the best and smartest out there, but I think even they will have trouble looking at this episode too critically. Sure, there are a few bumpy moments in how the show hustles to remind us about the past or reframe the alien conspiracy in the post-9/11 surveillance state, but that messiness, that occasional earnest embrace of all things fringe and conspiratorial, were two of the things that I most enjoyed about the original run. The X-Files was never anywhere near a perfect show. It was better—if more frustrating—for not trying to be, and instead regularly re-writing its own history to keep the audience on its toes.

And despite some of the notable updates to the story, this is still very much The X-Files. Mulder and Scully are here. Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) and the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) are too. Answers are found, then discredited and/or taken away entirely. Scully can't believe she's been roped into this nonsense yet again. The title sequence is intact. And so on. It was difficult not to cackle with glee each time that Mulder and McHale's O'Malley pitched new threads of global and intergalactic collusion, and it was entirely impossible not to adore every scene with Mulder and Scully together, no matter what they were discussing. 

Ultimately, The X-Files returns as it lived before: tremendously entertaining, occasionally stirring, and just a little bit frustrating. Amid the modernization, recontextualization, and reminding, the first episode back is a great underlining of the show's power—and that in a world of constant reboots, revivals, and remakes, this is one franchise to which we can still happily return.

The X-Files returns on Sunday, January 24, 2016, at 10pm.

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Dec 22, 2015
The X Files paved the way for Fringe which was short lived but the closest to the same edge that M&S brought to us all those years ago! I love both of these shows equally (just for different reasons).
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Dec 07, 2015
Waiting for the Gunmen.
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Nov 30, 2015
Lucky! I want to see it early. :O
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Nov 29, 2015
Is it necessary to watch the old show before this show? i haven't watched the old one..
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Nov 30, 2015
You should watch the old show in its entirety, cuz it's awesome. Well, the later seasons aren't as great but there are still some good episodes.

If you choose to watch only the mytharc episodes, using the xfileswiki is a great tool. It clearly outlines which episodes are mytharc & which ones are monster-of-the-week/standalones. I gotta say though that some of the standalones are the best episodes.. "Home" still gives me the willies. Between seasons 5&6, definitely watch the first movie, but skip the second cuz it's terrible. Seriously though, the xfileswiki is one the most detailed, well written, and interesting wikis I have ever seen. I found it to be a great tool when I watched the series a cpl years back.

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Nov 30, 2015
Thanks and I will definitely check out xfileswiki.. :)
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Nov 29, 2015
I am sure the first episode will summarize the old show and reintroduce the characters, but I recommend that you watch the old show. You don't have to watch all the episodes, only the mythological ones and those up to S06E12. After that it's rubbish and the trailers of the revival seem to ignore whatever after S06E12 (I hope)...
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Nov 29, 2015
Yeah, it summarizes the key points very early on (and in a kind of heavy-handed way). But, you should watch the old one.
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Nov 29, 2015
6 season seems like a lot of episodes. It's been so long I can't even remember anything that I watched. I was a kid in 1993.
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Dec 06, 2015
With the mythological ones being 4-7 every season, no, they are not a lot. ;)
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Nov 29, 2015
Can't. Wait.
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Nov 28, 2015
to me the highlight of the series was their participation in The Simpsons. Mr. Burns: "I bring love!"
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Nov 28, 2015
I watched many episodes from the original run, but in the end, without the internet to keep track of the episodes I'd missed, I was completely lost about which truths they had learned, unlearned, and relearned. I watched a couple of the movies, but I can hardly remember how they contributed to te whole story. I remember Mulder and Scully used tiny cell phones a lot, which, at the time, impressed a great deal, since they were just beginning to be used here.
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Nov 29, 2015
The first movie is the important one. I believe it directly ties the end of season 5 to the beginning of season 6. It's wonderfully done and so fantastic that every time I watch it I'm a kid hiding under a blanket by myself. I adore this series. It was my first taste of sci-fi and I never let go. I was just a child when it was on, but I remembered watching and loving it. I highly recommend watching the series on Netflix or even Hulu. The second movie was a let down, and they knew it. I assume to this day that they intended to do a third and with how much of a failure the second movie was, they never got the funding/chance to do it. They never gave us our "The aliens are here and ready to take us. Only the people that sacrificed their children get to survive. Whoops, no they don't. They're going to enslave us all anyway" moment. December 2012 came and went and the whole premise was based on the "End of the World" date. I still feel shafted by that, and I sure hope they remedy it.
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Nov 30, 2015
Thanks. So, there were just two movies? So it turns out I did watch them, but in my head it is all a mix. I'd tackle the series to catch up on the general mythology if the show were not so full of standalone "monster-of-the-week" cases.

I was in my mid-thirties back then, and I have great memories of the show, but I didn't always have the time to watch, and the cable channel that aired it wasn't just too concerned about showing pesky details, like season beginnings, endings or even the finale. Basically it was a mess, and I had no Internet to catch up with the missing eps.

That seems a long, long time ago in some ways, but no so long in others. Funny how time passes after a certain age.
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Nov 28, 2015
I WANT to believe...
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Nov 28, 2015
What does Fox intend to do with this show? Is it a one-off mini series or the launch of an ongoing series?
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Nov 28, 2015
Perhaps they'll do what they did with 24 & test the waters with a limited re-launch that shakes everything up only to disappear into the night.
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Nov 29, 2015
24 did well but I yet heard any news of renewal.
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Nov 30, 2015
IIRC, Keith Sutherland wanted to retire his 24 acting?
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Nov 30, 2015
This comment has been removed.
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Nov 28, 2015
He & Tea are divorced. Now, SHE is the one with a hit show! He need the $$$ to roll in.
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Nov 28, 2015
Not really. He has Aquarius and just came off (so to speak) Californication. He's still very marketable as well, unless there's something I don't know about. That's not mocking Anderson at all -- she does well in anything she appears in, as the lead or as a supporting role, like in Hannibal.
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Nov 28, 2015
Like all things, it's a theoretical way to make some money. I have no problem with that. I rather like giving my money to those who deserve it. Bring it!
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Nov 28, 2015
Seeing it's Fox, I imagine that'll depend largely on the ratings and advertiser revenue.
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Nov 28, 2015
No, it's also dependent on the key actors willing to do it. Without Scully and Mulder, it's really not the X-Files in my view.
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Nov 27, 2015
Tic tock, tic tock. I think we need a countdown clock.
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Nov 27, 2015
So, will this show be interesting for someone who never saw the original show or the movies or anything X?
Kinda lived under a rock during it's original run and never found the time to catch up on it...
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Nov 30, 2015
Though I have watched a few episodes here and there and the two movies (one good, one awful), I'm not by any means an expert on X-files mythology and story. But I do believe that, as Cory says in his review, FOX will try to cast as wide a net as possible and make this accessible to all: die hard fans, casual visitors of the original series and to the uninitiated. In any case, if you have the time, I guess that watching the original show (or at least those parts deemed worthy by the experts) would be a nice way to spend it.
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Nov 29, 2015
Honestly, to understand the depth and context of a lot of the plot and subplots, it's vital you watch the series and the first movie. You will be lost, even with a lengthy voiceover. Netflix or Hulu are your best bets.
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Nov 28, 2015
Then you might spend the time until then binge watching it ^^
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Nov 28, 2015
That's a good question.
I watched it religiously during it's run. I am both excited and apprehensive about the revival. I'd be interested in hearing your experience with it, when it comes.
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Nov 27, 2015
There is no good reason for Mulder looking scruffy and bum-like. He is still an FBI agent and, as in the original series, should be clean shaven. I'm tired of all the today's TV heroes looking like they sleep rough. As for Scully: her hair will be more blonde than red. That's a product of againg over the interime years. No issue there. I think the new, short, series will be fun to watch.
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Nov 29, 2015
She's wearing a wig. She wanted to dye her hair red for the series but had recently come off dying it blonde for Hannibal when they were initially filming (from what I read on other sites) and her hair would have fallen out from the abrupt change. Too much processing. So it is a wig.
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Nov 29, 2015
SPOILERS

he's not an agent anymore

END SPOILERS
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Nov 28, 2015
I don't think Mulder is still an FBI agent.
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Nov 28, 2015
In the trailer, Scully introduced him as Special Agend Mulder. So he either was rehired in the interim between the new episode and the last movie, or he will be hired during the first episode. I think, in the last movie, he got the charges against him expunged in exchange for his help with the case.
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Nov 28, 2015
Or they could be pulling a Supernatural and pretending they're FBI agents. :P
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Nov 27, 2015
I haven't heard but I hope they're shooting in Vancouver. The low dollar value would help pay for CGI, etc. I remember the show lost viewers when it relocated to LA because it lost ambience. Blame that on Duchovney because he didn't like the Vancouver weather. Well David, it's warmer now. I know they've finished most of the limited servies already but it was a thought. Bring it on!
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Nov 30, 2015
Actually, when David took the job he was told that they would only be filming the pilot in Vancouver, and if it got picked up it would be shot in LA. He stuck around for 5 years before he finally insisted on getting what he had been promised. I think that's pretty patient. :)
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Nov 28, 2015
Yep they did film it in Vancouver and they're done filming all six episodes. I thought filming on the original series had moved to LA because Duchovny wanted to be closer to his wife at the time.
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Nov 28, 2015
Then again, filming six episodes is different than filming an entire season. 6-8 weeks of working in Vancouver is vastly less than the 6-8 months they had to during the original run.
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Nov 27, 2015
Is there really a working show in this, a story that won't just jerk you around in the 6 tiny episodes they have, leaving you feeling empty and invested in something that became dishonest with secondary protagonists that don't hold up their end of the bargain? I didn't even mind Doggett, but once we got to Monica Reyes it went off the rails, I actually stopped watching the series because of the writing around her.

I want to believe, but I'm not quite there yet. This is one run that I would like to see Fox release the entire thing to reviewers so we can get a definitive word before investing time in it.
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Nov 29, 2015
They may release more at the start of 2016, especially since 1/3 of the season airs within a 24 hour period. I think your resistance is entirely founded, because I felt the same way. But the first episode *is* good. Whether or not that means the other five will be remains to be seen.
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Nov 29, 2015
Thanks, Cory, I appreciate you coming by to say that.
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Nov 28, 2015
I have all of the X-Files episodes, but I can't find a certain one I want to see again. It's the one where Mulder is in a normal world without other people. I think it's a two-parter, but I can't find it from the episode titles, nor do I know the season. It's been awhile since I watched and I'm getting old. Somebody hep me please...
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Nov 28, 2015
That's 7x21 - Je Souhaite
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Nov 28, 2015
Thanks...
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Nov 28, 2015
That sounds like the one where they discovered the Jeanie in the rug. Where Mulder asks for peace on earth, not realizing the only way for peace is no people. It is only part of the episode that takes place in but it is what came to mind when you said that. But I also stopped watching the show during its final seasons after they changed up the leads.
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Nov 30, 2015
Yep, that was it...
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Nov 28, 2015
"I should've been more specific."
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Nov 28, 2015
Season 7, Ep 21 if that is the one your thinking of.
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Nov 28, 2015
Well it is only 6 episodes so if you invest time in it it's not that much time.
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Nov 28, 2015
It's all a crapshoot JT--just go with it...
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Nov 28, 2015
I'm getting tired of investing in tv that looks promising but ends up unrewarding. I currently only have 3 shows on Fox, and they're all the animation comedies. From new Battlestar Galactica flaming out in 2 years to Supergirl getting worse from the pilot, there's been a decade of tv shows - mostly that are revivals of some kind - leaving me hollow and frustrated.
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Nov 28, 2015
I'm tired of all the killing that's going on in the world. That's pretty frustrating too. TV has never been better, btw, so suck it up and watch something good. I like that Fargo...
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Nov 27, 2015
I loved Doggett, that guy was all business like from an FBI pop up book, I remember one piece of dialogue;
"They were making a video,... you know,.. like the show Jackass"
Doggett: "In my day being a Jackass wasn't something you advertised."
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Nov 28, 2015
Doggett was Robert Patrick?
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Nov 28, 2015
Yes. Basically the same role he plays in Scorpion.
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Nov 27, 2015
It's going to be hard to watch Mulder and not think of Hank Moody.

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Nov 28, 2015
Having first lived through The X-Files, I've always had the opposite response.
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Nov 30, 2015
I lived through the X-Files first, it was my religion, I even watched the last two seasons without complaining but it's been so long and he was so good as Moody that Mulder never got in the way unless I made a point of thinking about it so i know it will take a moment to adjust. Unlike Scully who did nothing but other cop shows and bad movies so she's never not looked like anything but another version of Scully only not as good.
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Nov 30, 2015
I'll give you that she's a cop in The fall, but her character in Hannibal is nothing like Scully.
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Dec 03, 2015
missed my point, or I used the wrong words. When I saw her I wasn't over impressed so I still saw Scully but I never thought about Mulder after the first episode of Californication because Moody was a great character and David was even better at playing that part.
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Nov 27, 2015
I'm really looking forward to it now!
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Nov 27, 2015
Cory, do you know if they include the events that happened in the last movie? I hope not. I hope they find a good way of keeping M & S out of the same bed.
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Nov 29, 2015
I believe I Want To Believe is in continuity, but the first episode doesn't seem too interested in discussing it. It does absolutely address the thing referenced in your second sentence. Chris Carter has been pretty public about the fact that they're broken up now.
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Nov 27, 2015
TV.com, as much as I want to avoid spoilers, I've got one question : is ( formerly baby ) William discussed ? For some reason, he's the one thread I'd like some closure on ...
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Nov 29, 2015
mentioned
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Nov 29, 2015
Thank you. Good to know he hasn't been completely forgotten ...
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Nov 27, 2015
I can't wait!
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Nov 27, 2015
Mulder: So, lunch?
Scully: Mulder, toads just fell from the sky!
Mulder: I guess their parachutes didn't open.
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Nov 27, 2015
I haven't watched X-files since it finished, but plan to hit all the key episodes on Netflix through the Christmas boredom period. Marathoooooon!
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Nov 29, 2015
Same!
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Nov 27, 2015
I HATE all the remakes, reboots, revivals, etc that Hollywood is doing now....but I'm SO FREAK'N EXCITED FOR THIS! Damn you, Hollywood. You finally got me.
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Nov 27, 2015
Hollywood gets everyone eventually.
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Nov 28, 2015
They got me, and continue to do so...
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Nov 27, 2015
So how the hell do they "ret-con" the fact that the world pretty much ended with the Alien colonization in 2012, which the end of the original series pretty much stated was an inevitable fact?
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Nov 29, 2015
The one open thread I'm still pissed never got its own movie.
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Nov 29, 2015
They address it. Whether it's satisfactory, well...
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Nov 27, 2015
Maybe it did, but we didn't notice ?

I'm only half-joking ... The review hints at "a new wrinkle" in the mythology : what if the 2012 invasion was not your average "slaughter all humans" invasion, but the aliens taking over internet, and silently ruling the world through its influence since, through subliminal messages for instance ? How scary would that be ?
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Nov 27, 2015
Easiest way to deal with that would be something like H1N1, Swine flu or something some other pandemic use by smokey people to distribute the vaccine they developed against the aliens.

Unless I fundamentally misunderstanding the plot but it was that black glu that was the real alien menace.

That should stop the colonisation at least until they find a cure.
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Nov 27, 2015
OBEY

CONSUME

MARRY AND REPRODUCE

NO INDEPENDENT THOUGHT

CONFORM

STAY ASLEEP

SUBMIT

DO NOT QUESTION AUTHORITY

- They Live

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Dec 22, 2015
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Nov 28, 2015
One of the all time best - huge social commentary hidden in a John Carpenter masterpiece. They Live indeed!
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Nov 28, 2015

Im so glad I was around in the 80's.......they ruled.
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Nov 27, 2015
Nice One JT ;)
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Nov 27, 2015
I could quite happily skip Christmas right now and launch straight into these. I trust that Chris Carter has his heart in the right place and gives us X Philes a wonderful tribute to such an amazing show.
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Nov 27, 2015
I believe!
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Nov 27, 2015
I really hope they can recreate the magic from the first few seasons and not the mess that was seasons 8&9. I must admit that all of the trailers have looked *very* good, though.
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