The truth is still out there
I saw 2008's I Want to Believe, an atmospheric, inert X-Files movie featuring Amanda Peet and Xzibit, in theaters, with a few friends from high school. Afterwards, we stood in the parking lot and sighed together in confusion: what were we doing here? I had watched the final episode of the series, "The Truth," in 2002 and had a similar feeling. It wasn't bad, but it made me uneasy, like the version of the show I considered the GOAT sci-fi series only existed in my mind.
My relationship with the show has retained that same distance. I’ve listened to episodes of Kumail Nanjiani’s very funny, sneakily perceptive X-Files podcast as comedians riff on plot lines of episodes I’ve never seen. I've read recent interviews with Chris Carter, comprehensive lists, and pointedly mixed early reviews of the new episodes. I'm still absorbed by all the passionate cultural ephemera that swirls around the show, but I’m hesitant to return to the scene of the crime.
I get it: it's pathetic to place this much emphasis on these anxieties about childhood pop-cultural artifacts. There are few sadder sights than the Star Wars fan blubbering about George Lucas retroactively ruining their childhood, the man-child enraged by an all-female Ghostbusters movie, or the wrestling fan crying out, "It’s still real to me, dammit."
Unless you are a fanatic, the cool default response on the Internet to the current nostalgia cycle, a phenomenon cultural critic Simon Reynolds correctly identified as "retromania" back in 2011, is to approach every reboot, remake, re-imagining, and quasi-sequel with a weary resignation. "This was going to happen anyway," we tell ourselves. "So at least it's happening the 'right' way."
But I can't watch The X-Files that way
There's something different about it for me. While I'll buy a ticket for every new Star Wars movie until I keel over and die, I have very little interest in checking out these new X-Files episodes. The idea of viewing the show outside that late-night-syndicated midnight hour only makes me nervous -- I'd rather let it exist in my memories.
Obviously, I would never suggest other people should avoid the show for the same reasons. Enjoy your nostalgia trip! I bet the Darin Morgan episode is excellent! Keep shipping Mulder and Scully! And, honestly, it’s not that I’ll never, ever watch the new episodes of The X-Files.
I recently purchased an antenna for the TV in my apartment, after a few months of living with only streaming TV. It's been fun to idly scroll again, exploring the local channels and their late-night oddities. Maybe I'm searching for something? That sense of spontaneity and serendipity that doesn't exist in our OnDemand world of streaming services, peak TV, and unlimited choice. For better or worse, that's the environment that the new X-Files has crash landed in.
Sometimes it's transformative to not read the plot description. To go in blind. To surrender to the fates of an unknown schedule. Maybe one day I'll stumble upon this new X-Files mini-series with the antenna. Or, even better, maybe I’ll discover something new.
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Dan Jackson is a staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment and he, like Mulder, enjoys sunflower seeds. He's on Twitter: @danielvjackson.