Review: The new 'X-Files' is a huge and satisfying departure from the original episodes

X files mulder scully foxFrank Ockenfels/FOXFBI special agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson).

There will be a pretty huge shift in “The X-Files” world when it returns for its first season in 13 years on Sunday.

Creator Chris Carter will argue that it doesn’t erase everything FBI special agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) have done for the past nine seasons, but it’s a pretty hard turn in their  —  and our — understanding of what they have been looking for all these years.

“What if our work, the X-Files, everything we’ve been led to believe in, is a lie?” Mulder asks Scullly as the first episode progresses.

I’m not trying to sound any alarms. Truthfully, fans of all types — original X-philes, the lax viewer, and those who are just coming aboard — should enjoy this dysfunctional family reunion at different levels.

That is, if you forgive the first episode for some faults. It’s heavy on exposition. But that seems like a necessary evil when a series returns after a very long time and people of varying historical knowledge will probably be watching. There’s a pretty good recap of the series up front, and then buckle up — there’s a lot to be achieved in this first episode.

X-filesEd Araquel/FOXAfter 14 years, ‘The X-Files’ returns for a six-episode season this January.

Mulder and Scully have aged in all the right ways — if that were possible. Their chemistry is intact. The knowing glances, the curt responses, and the sense of complicated romantic entanglement are right where we’d think they should be. But they have been estranged for some time.

Scully has returned to medicine, helping kids (which plays well later when she and Mulder discover something that may endanger their child, William). And Mulder has continued his search for the truth, but way more off the grid. They’re brought back together by conservative web-series host Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale), whose discoveries will forever change how the agents view their mission and our world. (I won’t reveal the reveal before the premiere.)

After the rupture in the first episode, the second episode brings back some normalcy. It’s one of the standalone (or “monster-of-the-week”) episodes “The X-Files” is so good at. The next “mythology” episode arrives with the final sixth instalment in this limited new run. But don’t put away your notebook for the four episodes in between. There are tidbits that serve the bigger arc of “The X-Files” story.

X Files joel mchale foxFoxJoel McHale, far right, plays a conservative web series host who helps place the agents on a new path to answers.

We’ll see series favourites return from death, like The Smoking Man (William B. Davis) and The Lone Gunmen (Melvin Frohike, John Fitzgerald Byers, and Richard Langly). FBI boss Walter Skinner is back to re-open “The X-Files” office, complete with Mulder’s pencils stuck in the ceiling.

This new chapter celebrates the show’s ability to jump from very serious, to almost campy, then snap right back into dire. At the same time, the world has moved on over the last decade. Modern technology, social media, and Edward Snowden have made it so we know way more about institutions and each other than ever. And for a show that tells us the truth is still out there, what we thought was the truth had to change, too.

“The X-Files” returns Sunday at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Fox.

Watch the first minute of the revival’s opening episode below:

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