If you didn’t catch “My Struggle III,” the first episode of season 11 of The X-Files, you missed a stunning transformation.

Apparently, Fox Mulder has turned into Philip Marlowe.

There’s plenty not to like (as Daniel Kurland points out in an extended critique over at Bloody Disgusting) about this opening episode, but to me the most cringe-worthy decision was to have David Duchovny launch into several voice-over monologues as his character is driving to track down the Cigarette Smoking Man. Such sudden and protracted narration creates a jarring note in and of itself, and the actual content of Mulder’s expressed thoughts makes these scenes that much more difficult to sit through. His lines sound incredibly stilted, as he frames what is at stake and poses a series of questions to himself (Kurland’s article cites the following passage as a prime example of Mulder’s purple turn: “I was running only on adrenaline and Scully’s premonitions, but was it hope I should be feeling, or fear that Scully’s right and that a man that I had come to despise, my own father, was alive? And if he were, he had become mad with power.” ). If the writing here were any lazier, Mulder would be in danger of going comatose behind the wheel. Not since Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun has there been such laughable use of hard-boiled voice-over; the problem is, the audience is meant to take Mulder’s words seriously.

Critics who screened the first half of season 11 have reassured despairing fans that subsequent (monster- rather than mythology-based) episodes do get much better. So there is hope that The X-Files can go down swinging in what appears to be its final round. Based solely on the premiere episode, though, the show looks like a washed-up fighter who unretires to chase one last payday and ends up giving a legacy-tarnishing and utterly embarrassing performance.

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