The ’90s nostalgia is going strong on television.
I’m not entirely opposed. It’s nice to think back to a simpler time, when the biggest political drama involved Bill Clinton’s sex life. And say what you want about the fashion, the ’90s generated some truly remarkable TV.
But do I want to see it all rehashed? Not really. D.J. Tanner’s antics were funnier in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Will & Grace felt far more compelling two decades ago. I can’t imagine I’ll be particularly impressed by Roseanne; I’ll find John Goodman’s reappearance after that bizarre finale too distracting.
The one exception that I am happy to see carrying the story forward in style? The X-Files.
As with any reboot, there’s a certain comfort in the familiar. Scully is as optimistic as ever. Mulder remains grounded in factual analysis. The two work together as perfectly as they did when the show seemingly wrapped. Their teamwork makes the reboot enjoyable, no matter its faults.
There’s more to the reboot than the ol’ team, however, and that’s a good thing in light of the latest announcement: Gillian Anderson is leaving for good. I will mourn the loss of her unforgettable character, but I think this could be a real opportunity for a show that has gone about as far as it can with its central relationship.
With or without Scully, what The X-Files accomplishes (and what some TV reboots have not bothered to try) is actually bringing the story into modern times. I’m not just talking pop culture references here; there’s a definite shift in the way the world works, and that completely changes the dynamics of the show. For example, Mulder can no longer rely on random newspaper clippings as he conducts in-depth research. Information is more available and plentiful than he ever imagined. Mulder confronted this new reality throughout Season 10 and has again in the first few episodes of the new season.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the latest season? Tie-ins to the concept of fake news. This may be a familiar trope to those who watched the original series, but it feels newly prescient in 2018.
Another clear accomplishment of The X-Files reboot: It acknowledges that many viewers are completely new to this universe without tiring vets with drawn-out explanations. We don’t need to rehash all the mythology of the original series; if newbies want to do the work, they can find it all on Hulu or DVD.
Rather than bore us with out-of-date details that age the series, The X-Files starts fresh, revamping a structure viewers know and love: monster of the week. Some of the mythology seems lacking, but growing pains are to be expected after returning from a long hiatus. I have full confidence that the showrunners built on the reboot’s strengths while trimming the fat and discarding the few concepts that didn’t work in Season 10.
I’m not necessarily against the idea of reboots; I just want something that feels fresh. That’s exactly what I got with The X-Files in 2016, and I see signs of it with the new season. The truth is out there — and I’m willing to keep watching this surprisingly refreshing reboot to find out what, exactly, that means.