Spoilers ahead for the new season of The X-Files!
The X-Files is back! No really, this time, it is. The miniseries premiere episode felt overburdened by attempts to bring viewers up to speed. But the second episode — “Founder’s Mutation” — is a true return to form for the seminal sci-fi series.
It’s a bona fide monster-of-the-week, which involves the appropriately Orwellian-named research facility Nugenics and its founder, Augustus Goldman (Doug Savant). One of his employees, Sanjay (Vik Sahay) has a Very Bad Day at work, which culminates with him being overtaken by a loud, piercing noise and killing himself to make it stop. But not before he scrawls the words “Founder’s Mutation” on his hand. And Mulder and Scully are brought in to investigate.
One qualm worth mentioning: We get no explanation for how Mulder and Scully got a government that seems determines to thwart them at all costs to reopen the X-Files. But it’s so good to see them back on the case that it almost doesn’t matter.
We get the feeling early on that our dynamic duo faces more roadblocks than usual on their quest to uncover the truth. Department of Defense agents showing up to take evidence out from under them, and Mulder has to resort to stealing Sanjay’s cell phone to get any real leads in their case. And while Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) plays a very convincing government lackey when the DoD steps in to stop their investigation again, he makes it clear he’s still a strong ally for them.
Scully’s connections at her previous place of employment, Our Lady of Sorrows Hospital, help lead her and Mulder straight to the man at the center of their investigation. Dr. Goldman, who performs research on children with debilitating birth defects, is viewed by those at the hospital as a true savior of the unborn. That sounds all well and good, but they learn from a scared young pregnant woman, Agnes (Kacey Rohl) that everything may not be what it seems — and when she winds up dead shortly after her child is born, Mulder and Scully see the red flags a mile away.
Ultimately, it turns out that Dr. Goldman has been working for the government. He’s taking children from down-on-their-luck women — and his own wife — so he can experiment on them. Sanjay’s work helped create the mutations — including those within Goldman’s own children, Kyle and Molly. And he’s separated the siblings from one another as a means of controlling their defects. Unfortunately for the not-so-good doctor, Kyle’s mutations have some power behind them — he’s telekinetic and can get inside others’ minds. And he’s determined to find his sister.
Mulder and Scully locate Kyle, who’s been living with a foster mother. They bring him to Dr. Goldman’s lab, where he confronts his father before breaking free. Brother and sister are reunited — and before they escape, Kyle uses his telekinetic powers to make sure his father can never experiment on any other children again.
Though largely a standalone episode, “Founder’s Mutation” also touches on one of the show’s most tragic themes. It reintroduces Mulder and Scully’s son, William, who has been missing since he was an infant — and whom they both can’t stop thinking about. The episode features both parents imagining a life with their son that ultimately has tragic consequences; Scully sees him growing up and feeling the effects of the alien DNA she may have passed on to him. Mulder fantasizes about bonding with William over 2001: A Space Odyssey before watching, helpless, as he’s abducted under a beam of light, just like his sister Samantha was when they were children. Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny are particularly impressive in these sequences, where we get to see what a normal life could be like for them, only to watch them crumble as it’s taken away.
How William will factor into the rest of the miniseries remains a mystery — but as Mulder and Scully mourn his loss separately, it’s clear that his absence in their lives may be at least part of the reason for their separation.
“Founder’s Mutation” was directed by X-Files alum and Final Destination creator James Wong, who manages to creating an eerie, unsettling mood from the opening moments and sustain it throughout the episode. And with a field full of blackbirds, a hospital wing full of horrifically deformed children, an infant’s hand reaching out of her mother’s womb after she cuts it open, it’s packed with creepy moments that are designed to stick with you long after the episode is over.
Chock full of fun dialogue and a plot line that is more or less wrapped up within the hour, the second hour of The X-Files miniseries feels far more reminiscent of the original series than Sunday night’s premiere. And much more satisfying as a result.