The Lone Gardockimen presents: The X-Files 10×02: “Pryde of the X-Men”
X-Files episodes can be divided into two categories: mytharc episodes, ones that advance the alien colonization plot; and monster of the week episodes, standalones that see Mulder and Scully deal with paranormal issues disconnected from the greys. I believe Chris Carter ripped off this set up from either Fringe or Supernatural. Since the mytharc eventually devolved into some nonsense about supersoldiers that retconned itself every chance it got, the monster of the week shows were looked upon more fondly. You could watch them absent of context. Better yet, episodes like “Tesos Dos Bichos” and that vampire one based mostly on David Duchovny’s real life (complete with then-girlfriend in a guest role) can be safely ignored, consigned to the memory drain. In my personal experience I’ve found at the very least they have more rewatchability, as a lot of the mytharc is dependent on its relationship with the rest of the series, barring some standouts like “Anasazi”. This preamble has a point (I think): “Founder’s Mutation” is The X-Files back to business as usual. The ramifications of the plot likely won’t be felt outside its confines. No matter how many supermen or superwomen our agents may encounter in the hour, they’ll be tailing ghosts or manimals next time out. So let’s go. “Founder’s Mutation”!
I’m putting Bearded Skinner in all of these articles, I don’t even care.
Things begin promisingly when an Indian gentleman working for a mysterious company is disturbed by a noise only he can hear. Perhaps he’s actually got dog DNA and that’s why he hears it. When in X-Files land, only rule out possibilities when given conclusive evidence to the contrary. The piercing sound’s really fucking up Dr. Sanjay’s day. (Yes, Dr. Sanjay.) Crows are gathering outside, his co-workers are talking in slow motion, things are shaking, it felt like I was in college on Adderall again. The noise gets so bad dude retreats to the lab and does the old Pi special with a letter opener. I’d argue all television shows should begin this way. Can you imagine trepanning opening every episode of The Big Bang Theory or Last Man Standing? Not only would it be fascinating to watch, in the latter case they could pare down the cast to just Loretta and it could become a Justified spinoff.
“Founder’s Mutation” is indicative of what the revived X-Files is trying to do, namely what the original couldn’t or wouldn’t. The question “have you ever wanted to see a guy get ready to suck off Mulder?” has been answered with an emphatic yes in fan circles, but it’s only with this episode do we see it appear onscreen. It’s more tease than anything, as the would be blowjob giver is neither Krycek, nor Skinner, nor that guy from Dream On (fanfiction circles are fucking weird). See, Mulder goes through the deceased’s phone and finds a “Gupta” listed. (Sanjay and Gupta? COME ON!) Scully helpfully points out that “Gupta” means “secret”, specifically “secret gay lover” in this instance. “The truth is in here”, Gupta says, pointing to Mulder’s heart. You know, 21st century and all, fuck it, turn Mulder gay. David Duchovny’s definitely in the “gay for pay” stage of his career. Alas, this is but a character shading diversion to the main storyline, which is about Sanjay’s place of work, the cleverly named Nugenics. Going to Sanjay’s gay apartment results in them finding a crazy wall of freak kids. I know that sounds insensitive, but they are freak kids. It suggests Nugenics is fucking up the genome, something you’d never expect from a company called Nugenics.
This is like 30% of David Duchovny’s experiences in enclosed spaces.
Now Mulder’s hearing the sound, and the sound’s giving him the job of “find her”. Reminded me of ghosts in bad horror movies who want the protagonists to solve a mystery or find their dead body and how horribly they go about presenting this information; by contrast, Soundy is on the ball. The investigation requires them to meet the mysterious Founder, and fortunately Scully can lean on her old job to get his whereabouts. Our Lady of Sorrow’s got a dark underbelly: an entire room of homeless pregnant teens with monster babies. “Desire is the devil’s pitchfork”, the exposition lady at the hospital says. I’d think the pitchfork I see on all sorts of devil branded candy would be the pitchfork, but what do I know. When one such girl comes up to Mulder, saying she wants to keep her possible frogman baby, and Mulder gives her his card, you just know she’s not long for this world. You just know that card is just a means for the cops to call Mulder when the girl inevitably ends up with a slashed throat or a deadly allergic reaction to peanuts.
It was disappointing for the Founder of Nugenics to be shrouded in such mystery for the first half, only for him to be offhandedly revealed as the gay dude from Melrose Place. Remember, he died in that offscreen car crash? (Not to be confused with the car crash that was the 2009 revival.) The way they played up his reclusiveness and the tendency for everyone to call him The Founder, I was expecting him to be some sort of a manimal, or, like, an eyeball in a jar. “Founder’s Mutation” makes up for that by giving us a plethora of Morlocks to gawk at, like the lizard skinned one, to the big headed one with a monocle, one with huge hands, I think I saw Marrow in there, etc. Remember, kids, not all genetic disorders allow you to wear cool red shades at night or encode in you abstinence-only education. Sometimes you look fucking weird and some jackass on the Internet makes jokes about you.
My parents told me this would happen to me if I masturbated too much. So far I’ve avoided it!
True to form, that girl I mentioned winds up dead with her belly cut open, the classic case of hit ‘n’ run ‘n’ also cut out a fetus. So Mulder and Scully head out to Arkham Asylum to visit Founder’s wife, who ended up in a similar situation a couple decades ago, only in this case the baby was calling from inside the womb. That’d make a great twist on When A Stranger Calls. Melrose Place dude has been creating mutants all this time, starting with his own children (the wife found her 2 year old daughter being an Aquaman in the pool). So when she discovered that, nine months pregnant she splits and a Tetsuo: The Iron Man accident again occurs. There’s this awesome moment where she’s getting the noise whammy and she figures out the baby wants out so she takes a knife and opens herself up, while she’s lying there as a victim of a car crash. It felt like I was watching an awesome shitty 80s exploitation movie. I’ll say this: my roommate called the culprit immediately. The moment early on when the camera fixed on a janitor for 2 seconds, he said “that’s the guy”. Then again, he too is a janitor so I think they’re better at profiling their own kind. The wayward boy wasn’t trying to kill Dr. Sanjay, he just can’t control his powers well. No Xavier Institute for him yet. All he wants to do is find his sister, and the feds know exactly where she is. Once reunited the two kill their dad, Mulder saying Founder’s eyes popped out of his head. Last time we see Melrose Place he’s bleeding from all orifices. Have we ever seen a head explode on The X-Files? Feels like we should. It’s a case in which Mulder and Scully don’t solve anything, and really they’re responsible for two super-mutants being on the loose. Better hope James McAvoy finds them first.
In this episode there’s a lot of content about Mulder and Scully’s long lost son, William, and to my surprise it wasn’t as annoying as I would think it’d be. I hated the last two seasons and the worst bit of that was the pregnancy, the birth, the baby having magic powers and everybody being after the baby. It turned Scully from a badass fed to a Xanax-ODing single mom and gave room for Monica Reyes (aka “Whale Sounds”) to plant insidious roots. So, you know, when I hear the words “William” or “our son”, my body’s instinct is to roll eyes and mutter a “jesus christ”. But The X-Files makes the inclusion organic, since it does relate to the case, and the loss of William becomes sort of a Samantha for both characters. Fantasy scenes show what could’ve been; Scully being the kind of mother to walk her boy to school every day and Mulder being the kind of father who’d let his kid play space but under his motherfucking conditions. Of course they’d have to watch 2001 together. “But I wanna watch Road Chip, dad!” “TOO FUCKING BAD!” Gillian Anderson really sells the emotion in these scenes; it’s clear not knowing all these years has taken a toll on her character. William could be a perfectly normal kid, he could be posting pictures of his penis on Facebook, neither of them knows, and their fears reflect that (she imagines him all alien; he of course thinks of another abduction). As long as the show doesn’t provide them closure in that respect the dredging up of the kid will be worth it. He’s better off as an emotional beat instead of an actual character.
I’m never gonna stop throwing up.
It is jarring at first to hear the word “Obamacare” come out of Fox Mulder’s mouth. Fortunately for everyone, the pop culture references aren’t overdone and are decently integrated into the script. It doesn’t feel like that fuckin’ Seinfeld Today Twitter account where it’s all about Jerry on an iPhone while George runs afoul of trigger warnings. Scully’s able to match up security footage with ease thanks to advances in technology since the show’s end. Skinner saying that the FBI’s bureaucracy has increased to the point that their closed case can take a few days to get into the system, basically a means for them to continue to pursue leads despite “officially” giving the case to the Department of Defense, was a nice touch. Skinner’s always been on his agents’ side, but now he’s less pragmatist and more “let me see what I can do to help you out, even if it skirts legality”. It must’ve been boring all those years, supervising agents who rooted out domestic terrorism and capture serial killers who can’t control people via suggestion. Nobody knocking on his apartment door at 3 AM with a fugitive in tow, therefore no one witnessing shirtless Mitch Pileggi. I guess I expected a bigger transition between 2002 and 2016, but it’s a credit to the show that it’s pretty smooth. Come on, though, in the interim Scully couldn’t have gotten her own desk? Maybe it’s become conditioned, like how now I’m used to sleeping on a futon and having a real person bed would confuse and disturb me.
“Founder’s Mutation” is a back to basics Monster of the Week, with classic subject matter that doesn’t feel like well-trodden ground. As Mulder states, the Syndicate tried making alien-human hybrids; that they failed doesn’t mean the government would necessarily stop trying to create monster people, similar to the persistent attempts to rebirth the woolly mammoth so we can point and say “we have an elephant with fur all over it, we can shave those fuckers and make a fortune off mammoth fur blankets”. The title, by the way, refers to a mutation in DNA that creates something distinct, so there’s a double meaning there. The Founder didn’t mutate into a fly-man or anything. Like all good MOTWs, the show is enriched by one’s familiarity with the rest of The X-Files but would not suffer from lack of knowledge. A newbie can definitely view this. Like, if you don’t know the William backstory, just assume Mulder and Scully fucked and had to throw away the evidence lest they get a week’s detention for breaking FBI fraternization rules.
Line of X-Files dialogue I wish I could use when talking to women: “I’m a doctor, you can tell me anything” – Dr. Dana Scully, doing nothing to reassure a young woman who’s already paranoid about doctors