The X-Files S10E02 “Founderʼs Mutation” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Channel Five, Mondays, 9pm
Writer: James Wong
Director: James Wong
Essential Plot Points:
- A scientist hears a terrible whining noise in his head and kills himself by stabbing a knife into his ear.
- Mulder and Scully investigate, uncovering a secret lab trial – possibly run by the Department of Defense – which is experimenting on children, apparently giving them terrible mutations by doing something to them in utero.
- The head of the trial, Augustus Goldman (Doug Savant), assures them he’s actually trying to cure the kids.
- Mulder starts to hear the whining noise himself.
- Scully wonders if her own baby with Mulder, the long-lost William, might’ve been one of these mutated kids.
- The Agents track down Goldman’s wife, who tells them she also has a long-lost baby who has the mutation. He turns out to be named Kyle and the source of the whining noise – he’s psychic.
- Mulder and Scully take Kyle to see their dad and also his sister, one of the imprisoned kids (she can breathe underwater, it seems).
- Kyle ramps up his whiny noise until his dad’s head all but explodes and escapes with his sister.
Ahhhh, this is better! Still not a perfect episode by any means, but a million times better than that turgid opener – not least because Scully doesn’t look bored and Mulder isn’t ranting like a manic street preacher (in the old, pre-musical sense of the phrase). And there’s even a scene in which the Agents report to Skinner in his office (seriously, why has that man not been promoted yet?!) while a mysterious governmental official in the background locks up all the evidence – just like we’ve seen on the show since day one. Nice touch.
(There’s also fun to be gleaned from the fact that Skinner is his usual unhelpful, pouty alpha-male self right up until the guy leaves, and then suddenly he’s on the Agents’ side again – a big old bear with a heart of gold, that’s our Walter.)
The story itself, much like the alien conspiracy in episode one, is X-Files 101. It doesn’t feel that fresh, true; hell, we must’ve seen every variation possible of “the government is experimenting on babies” during the show’s run, and this certainly isn’t the first time that we’ve wondered about the origins of baby William (Scully was supposed to have been sterile before she had the little lad). However, liberal use of gore and excellent make-up effects make the investigation interesting. And while we’ve seen worse gore on shows like Fringe, Supernatural or Grimm over the years, we have to remember that The X-Files kick-started all that in the first place, so it’s not really fair to play such things off each other.
There are also some genuinely compelling moments, such as Goldman’s wife leaping into a pool to save her child, only to see the little girl sitting there quite happily, breathing away; or the birds gathering every time Kyle uses his powers (apparently because the frequencies attract worms; weird how only the crows noticed…).
Sure, the episode ends with Mulder and Scully thrown around by Kyle’s psychic powers, and Scully doesn’t have her usual, “There must be a rational explanation for that!” moment. Or, indeed, does she decide it’s proof of special powers. Someone does say to her at one point, “Dr Scully, I was told that you were the rational one.” So were we. These days, she’s clearly somewhere in between.
One final thing: while Scully’s dream sequence about what her life with William might have been feels jarring and out of place, it is utterly lovely seeing her dropping him off at school with a smile on her face. Likewise, Mulder’s fantasy also seems odd in the flow of the episode, although it makes more sense coupled with Scully’s. And him quoting JFK’s famous, “We choose to go to the moon,” speech at his son while teaching him to build rockets is just heart-clenchingly sweet. (Although, given the realities of actually having a child, chances are young William would probably have preferred being indoors on his PlayStation than outside with his boring old dad.)
- Dr Sanjay’s bloody eyes are really gross. Incidentally, kudos to Christopher Logan for his performance – it’s incredibly disturbing.
- Mulder is back in his suit!
- The agents are back in their basement office!
- Mulder using the corpse’s fingerprint to access his phone while nobody is looking – bonus points for sneakiness.
- Mulder mentions The Syndicate, one of the over-arching Big Bads of the original series. Good. They haven’t been forgotten, then.
- The baby climbing out of Jackie Goldman’s belly? Groooooooosssss.
- The X-Files is filming in Vancouver again, back where it started. How do we know this? Well, half the cast of Continuum turning up is one clue, not to mention the fact Dr Sanjay’s workplace is the headquarters of Alec Sadler’s tech company on that show… Alec Sadler himself, in old age, being played by The X-Files‘ William B Davis. Oh Vancouver, what a tangled TV web you weave.
- Anderson tweeted about this episode… Once seen, never forgotten.
- Mulder accidentally propositioning Dr Sanjay’s gay lover is an amusing – and somehow inevitable – moment; after all, how do you go up to a stranger and say, “Do you want to go somewhere private?” without that being misinterpreted? Brilliant. However, the fact the guy then thinks Mulder is keeping his homosexuality hidden and tells him, “The truth is in here,” pointing at his heart… hmm. Over-egging the pudding, maybe? Or perhaps we’re just being a little too critical of what’s actually a rather silly scene.
- Mulder goes to a bar. Scully gets stuck with doing an autopsy. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and it’s basically the equivalent of them being a married couple and him going for a pint after work while she cooks the dinner…
- “Was I just an incubator?” asks Scully earnestly. “You’re never just anything to me, Scully,” Mulder replies. What a smoothie.
- Nowhere in the episode do we get an explanation for why Mulder heard the whining noise at Dr Sanjay’s apartment. Yet beforehand there’s a pointed shot of Kyle’s face on Scully’s dashcam, proving that he was nearby and therefore responsible. Was that supposed to be used later to identify him? Perhaps it was cut out – luckily it’s easy to figure out on our own.
- Mulder’s little, “This is how I’d bond with my kid,” fantasy features him showing William the film 2001: A Space Odyssey – specifically, the scene with the monolith appearing to our ape ancestors. Earlier on in the episode we also see a TV screen in the hospital showing a newborn baby being cuddled in (what looks like – feel free to correct if you recognised it) an episode of the Planet Of The Apes TV show.
- Given that the episode is about the next stage of human evolution, there are two subtle, or not so subtle, messages here: 1) we evolved from apes; 2) we could evolve back into them. And were aliens involved…?
- Best Quote: Mulder: “I blacked out after Goldman’s eyes popped out of their sockets.”
Reviewed by Jayne Nelson