X-Files

Before starting to review one of the greatest–in my opinion–TV shows of all time, let me put some suspense and psychological pressure on you first.

We live in a world where people often have to seek a balance between privacy and convenience. Every gadget–phone, tablet, laptop or desktop PC, electronic book, or even a watch–asks its user to share personal data. Sometimes, it is only an email address. Sometimes, it is a full name, date of birth, and a number of a banking card. Starting from iPhone 5S, people started to upload their fingerprints into their gadgets, and iPhone X goes even further encouraging users to scan their faces. All this makes using our electronic devices more comfortable and fun. On the other hand, how can anyone be sure their personal data remains intact?

When you start using an application or service, it asks you permission to access your data. You allow it, believing no one else will lay their hands on it. However, it is enough to remember the recent scandal around Facebook disclosing users’ personal data to third parties in order to start doubting the security of your personal information. People’s ability to forget is sometimes fascinating: several years ago, the United States resented the fact that secret services had been monitoring Skype. Julian Assange and Edward Snowden–the two people who stirred up the whole world–were accused of nonsensical crimes and ostracized in no time, almost immediately after they leaked sensitive governmental secrets to the public. Who remembers them today? Who remembers about enormous privacy violations, governments spying over hundreds of thousands of citizens, or huge data breaches?

There is one thing that makes even the most bizarre conspirology theories seem credible: a slight chance that they might be true. On one side, believing in mass surveillance or the military hiding the truth about UFOs is ridiculous; on the other hand, Wikileaks and other similar incidents have proved that trusting governments unconditionally is naive. There is always a downside, a hidden fist, a devil in a snuffbox. For example, we all know that secret services such as the CIA protect us, ensuring national security. However, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has recently disclosed previously-classified documents proving numerous facts of tortures and “enhanced interrogation techniques” used against CIA detainees. Or, we all agree that Osama bin Laden was one of the greatest criminals of recent decades. At the same time, investigations revealed his family’s business connections with some of America’s top officials.

Sometimes such conspiracies are true, sometimes they are fictional, sometimes a little bit of both. Our minds work in such a way that we must always seeks for connections between things we experience or witness. It is just a part of our evolutionary survival mechanism. The fact is that one can never be sure of anything he or she has not personally seen, heard, or touched–and even in this case, there is a vast field for interpretations. And this is exactly the premise X-Files is based on.

I seriously adore this show. Skillfully utilizing urban legends, popular conspiracy theories, personal drama, and intricate plot twists, Chris Carter (the show’s creator) depicted a convincing and somewhat frightening underworld we live side by side with. The atmosphere of paranoia, secrecy, and hopelessness in disclosing the truth–this is what makes the show unique and alluring. There were many dramas on TV about aliens and monsters, but only X-Files managed to make people believe in them, or at least doubt the conventional outlook.

The two main characters, agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, work for the FBI. However, the area they specialize in is peculiar: they prefer investigating cases that reek of paranormal activity; and the so-called “X-Files,” after which the show is named, are an archive of strange, unexplainable, and bizarre incidents. Fox and Scully work under Assistant Director Skinner–a stubborn bureaucrat, but at the same time a fair and honest officer. The main subject agent Mulder is interested in is extraterrestrial life. When he was a child, he witnessed aliens abduct his little sister. Driven by the desire to learn and expose the truth about aliens, Mulder starts working for the Federal Bureau of Investigations–only to learn that the truth is not only horrifying, but also well concealed and thoroughly guarded.

During the course of their investigations, Mulder and Scully come across a number of weird crimes and oddities. For example, in one of the episodes, they investigate a series of murders in a small town; the killer turns out to be a psychotic teenager who somehow developed the ability to control electricity and create lightnings. In another episode, Mulder and Scully discover and chase a bloodsucking creature that dwells in sewers and infects the population with parasites. By the end of the episode, agents learn that the creature is a human-helmint hybrid, which was born as a result of radioactive emissions. Vampires, specters, secret societies and cults–this is what the two agents have to deal with on a regular basis.

What I love is how Mulder and Scully complement each other. Mulder is an enthusiast of everything paranormal and inexplicable: he eagerly believes in aliens, monsters, and ghosts, never doubting the fact they exist. Scully, on the contrary, is a convinced rationalist and skeptic. She always looks for a pragmatic and realistic explanation of the extraordinary phenomena she and Mulder face. Mulder and Scully debate and argue over every case they work on, each defending his or her own outlook and methods of investigation–but together they form a strong team that leaves no crime unsolved. And it is always up to the viewer to decide which side he or she is on: the realists or the romantics.

Every couple of episodes, the storyline addresses the main subject of the show: a worldwide conspiracy hiding the fact that alien lifeforms had contacted humanity in the past. Governments and corporations hide every single evidence of extraterrestrial life not disdaining any methods–and it is Mulder’s goal to disclose this truth. His personal war with the system, his struggle against all levels of bureaucracy, denial, and lies, is what moves the global plot of the show forward.

What I do not like is that sometimes Mulder is too willing to look for paranormal activity where there may be none. When investigating a crime, he assumes the involvement of supernatural powers too quickly, when there are more rational and realistic possibilities to explore first. Other than that, X-Files is a great show, one of the best I have seen in many years.

P.S. Oh yes, and the music is amazing. The whistling soundtrack playing in the opening sequence is probably familiar to everyone, and has long become a symbol itself: a symbol of everything mysterious, spooky, and conspiring.

4.7/5

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