Written by Chris Carter
Directed by Kim Manners
You almost find yourself involuntarily squinting at The Beginning's opening shot. After five seasons of grey skies and creepy forests, The X Files finds itself being filmed in Los Angeles now and the first scene involves a blazing sun and a desert location. It really is a new beginning. As well as that, the episode poses a small headache for Chris Carter. Not only does this episode have to continue elements from Fight the Future, it also has to take on board events from season five finale The End, so on top of scary alien creatures on the loose we get the story catching up with Gibson Praise, Jeffrey Spender and Diana Fowley.
Given what the episode has to do and what happens in it, it's no surprise to see that The Beginning is a very, very busy episode and yet, there's something a little lifeless to proceedings, which is a surprise since we're entering a season of The X Files that will see it at its most creatively boisterous. The episode is packed full to the brim with grisly set pieces, heavy character drama, darkened power plant set pieces and the CSM at his manipulatively evil best, and yet for everything that goes on during its very busy forty five minutes, The Beginning sometimes feels a little dull.
Worst of all, coming on the heels of Fight the Future, it features Carter backtracking on his own character development in order to get a little drama out of proceedings. The final moments of The X Files on the big screen seen Mulder and Scully find a new verve and drive to their quest, almost as if the subtle conflict between them that had developed over the final stages of season five was resolved and they had found a way to bridge their differences in order to keep going.
Maybe it was because the script to the movie was written during the fourth season and maybe it's because new dramatic impetus was given to proceedings in the shape of Diana Fowley, who returns this episode despite being at death's door at the end of season five, but there's a real backtracking here to the drama that is a little disappointing. Scully's declaration that if she quits, they'll win, was the movie's biggest emotional beat, as Mulder implores her to walk away, she doesn't thus strengthening their resolve and yet, Carter casts Mulder as a bit of an ass here as he blatantly rejects Scully throughout almost, siding with a character (Fowley) who blatantly betrays him come the episode's conclusion.
Of course Scully doesn't come squeaky clean either. Whilst the character doesn't deserve the attitude that she receives from Mulder at the end, it is disappointing, coming after the character seemingly found a new resolve to her and Mulder's quest at the end of the movie, that she's back to being a knee jerk sceptic, simply brushing off Mulder's theories just because it's her role in the story. Oh sure, Carter writes a beautifully played scene in which she tries to recreate the movie's final moment but gets rejected for her troubles but it smacks of trying to find a way not to change the series' status quo and makes Mulder look like a jackass while it's at it.
It's a little infuriating, but the episode does have a good quotient of genuine drama to make up for it. There's something dramatically gripping about how Mulder and Scully are up against a more visible threat at the FBI in the shape of Spender and Fowley. Fowley's allegiances are unknown at this stage, but it's clear that Spender is reporting to Daddy Smoking Man and it gives the scenes playing out in the corridor of the FBI a real dramatic charge, plus, by the end of the episode, our two heroes are permanently off the X-Files and reporting to a new boss. It does have an exciting feel for events in the long run.
In saying that though, the episode does feel a little slow. I say it feels a little slow, I'm not sure it actually is, but it comes across that way. On paper it all sounds tremendously exciting, we get to see Gibson return, the creatures from the movie return, specifically in a very graphic teaser, and there's something disturbing about seeing Spender and CSM conspiring in Mulder's basement office with the I Want to Believe poster replaced by photos of Bill Clinton and Marilyn Albright, but it feels that if you were to miss parts of the episode you would in the end not miss too much. We get obligatory scenes of Scully running around a hospital shouting at the staff, Mulder and Fowley in a darkened power plant where Homer Simpson has seemingly been killed and yet the power plant scenes, for all their atmosphere, are dull and a little lifeless, despite showing a Syndicate agent literally having his head beaten in by an extra terrestrial.
It's a mixed bag, it's both good, and boring, dramatic and uninteresting and whilst the last five minutes is very intriguing, especially its final scene which is beautifully shot by Kim Manners and new DP Bill Roe, it has the distinction of opening season six with a both a bang and a whimper. Maybe a loud whimper, but let's not be too despondent, because there are great things ahead for the show.