WHAT IT’S ABOUT Spoiler alert! The world is not yet coming to an end, as indicated at the conclusion of the six-episode 10th season — or reboot of the original (1993-2001) — that aired last February. That doesn’t mean danger isn’t still imminent. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) desperately need to find their lost son, and the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) remains a danger. Meanwhile, there are still X files to get through. This 10-episode season opens with a so-called “mythology” episode (about alien DNA) and closes with one. The other eight will be about individual cases.
MY SAY Most critics savaged the 10th season of “X-Files.” Most viewers were another story. The reboot averaged around 8 million, which is huge on any network these days. Fox — the network, not Mulder — then had to do some fast thinking because the 10th season really was intended to be the end of the truth-is-out-there road. Recall the closing seconds, as Scully stared balefully up at that flying saucer, with an alien virus ravaging the planet. Close to credits, and end of this stemwinder . . . forever.
Then an 11th season got ordered. (Hey, there’s money to be made here. Why not?) Consequently, the opener (“My Struggle III”) has the look, feel, pace and pulse of a show that’s trying to dig itself out of a hole as fast as possible, and running out of shovels in the process. Without giving anything away, there’s stuff about aliens, Smoking Men, DNA, a missing kid and global contagions that come up with every shovelful. Best not to pay too close attention to the details in case “X” has to change them all over again for a possible 12th season.
But by now it should be obvious that we didn’t come to this reboot to square some old circle about alien DNA. You came for the memories. You came for the old friends, two in particular. You came primarily for the non-mythology episodes. At its best, “X-Files” always was an anthology with Dana/Fox as the common thread. The alien conspiracy business was bait held just out of reach, always with the promise of some sort of profound resolution. But, with a nod to Pete Townshend, we should all pick up our guitars and play — but won’t get fooled again. The mythology arc is absolute rubbish.
Fortunately, this new season appears to suspect that and, after that rocky opener, gets down to business. Soon enough, Scully and Mulder are puzzling over a simulated world where great brains like Steve Jobs “live” for eternity. A strange doppelgänger is stalking people. That sounds like a job for the X-Files team.
The best of the five offered for review is very good indeed, and it too is a curtain call from an old friend: Darin Morgan, who wrote so many memorable light “Files” over the years, and returns to write “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” airing Jan. 24. Revolving around the idea of “false memories,” this one doesn’t take long to launch into a brilliantly inventive parody of President Trump and Trump’s America, where Mulder himself finally concedes that “the world has become too crazy for even my conspiratorial powers!” With a cast of characters that includes someone named Reggie Something — played by terrific veteran comic actor Brian Huskey — “Forehead Sweat” is subversive, smart, intricate, bizarre and, above all, hilarious. It’s also a vivid demonstration of why “The X-Files,” after all these years and all those aliens, still deserves our attention and sporadically, even our love.
BOTTOM LINE After a ragged start, “X” gets down to business, and the result is mostly pleasurable.