After a premiere episode that refreshed the series conspiracy mythology, The X-Files returns to the familiar cold-open, monster-of-the-week vibes for which it is known. In episode 2, “The Founder’s Mutation,” strange things are happening to a scientist, who bursts a blood vessel in his eye and hears piercing sounds no one else can hear at a meeting. Black birds swarm just outside the window. He flees in terror, regaining consciousness locked inside a room at a data terminal, his colleagues screaming for him to open up. His pain returns, and only recedes with a stab wound to the head.
At the crime scene, Mulder steals the dead man’s cell phone, telling Scully that he’s old school (nevermind that he uses said dead guy’s fingerprint to unlock the phone). But of course, he’d only be halfway there without Scully, who informs him that “Gupta,” a name assigned to an oft-called number in his phone, means “secret,” telling him she’s old school, a.k.a. “pre-Google.” Later, after realizing their dead scientist, Sanjay, had a secret life as a gay man, Scully remarks that it’s hard to believe in 2016 Sanjay still had to keep his secret. On cue, the camera shows the pair using the fancy cameras in a car to avoid hitting a young man. This old/new dichotomy seems to joke at the dynamic duo’s advanced age, while presenting them as still-capable investigators, not quite out of touch.
Even just through the first two episodes, there are numerous aesthetic and thematic ties to the original series. One fun thing we noticed is the soundtrack cues; the dramatic music played as Scully pulls a letter opener, which she dictates “destroyed the auditory nerve” out of Sanjay’s head. Another? Mulder coming under attack from the monster of the week, putting him in danger, but also giving him clues that others wouldn’t have. In Sanjay’s sparse gay love pad, he experiences the same piercing pain and noise as Sanjay, hearing a voice saying “Find her.”
Their search conveniently leads them to the hospital that Scully has been spending her time at post-X-Files, assisting in surgeries on genetically deformed childrean. It just so happens that the hospital is funded by Augustus Goldman, “The Founder” of Newgenics, Sanjay’s company. At the hospital, Scully confronts Mulder about the past of the child they’ve had together, asking if she was like these women, if she was an incubator. “What if he’s out there somewhere, like one of those kids on Sanjay’s wall, fighting for his life?” she wonders. Mulder, her rock, assures her that “All we can do is pull the thread, see what unravels,” reminding her “You’re never just anything to me, Scully.” Cute.
Scully is soon daydreaming of the life with her son that she gave up. “All you have to remember is I love you,” she tells her kid as she drops him off for school, giving him diabetes in the process. The kid breaks his arm after school, is taken to the hospital. Later, in his room, he sees himself looking all fish-alien like in the mirror, asking her “What’s happening to me?”
Mulder and Scully manage to visit the hospital facility again, this time with “The Founder,” who shows them kids locked up in rooms with various deformities and disabilities. We learn that Agnes, a woman who approached them at the hospital desperate to escape, is found dead with Mulder’s card in her pocket. Her baby had been cut out. Oddly, something similar had happened to the Founder’s wife, Ms. Goldman, and they decide to interview her. She tells them of her little girl that fell in the pool, was underwater for 10 minutes, “Not only was she alive…she was breathing underwater,” she explains, fully convinced that “My husband did something to the embryo.” When she tried to run away with her son, she gets into a car crash, hears the piercing noise, and the voice tells her to cut out the baby. “I think about him every day.” Scully, already in too deep, immediately empathizes with her despite admitting to Mulder that she knows everything the woman is telling her is delusional, but she trusts her anyway: “A mother never forgets,” she commiserates.
Mulder stumbles upon a lede at the facility where Ms. Goldman stays, discovering the cleaning service contracted by Newgenics. When they find their suspect, they approach his house, but his mom is combative. Then the black birds arrive. “bad things happen when the birds gather” mom says. When they round up her son Kyle, he says Sanjay was helping him, and that he’s looking for his sister. Scully can only think of one person who might know where she is: Goldman. He pretends to show him his sister, but Kyle intuits that it’s not. Running out in rage, he miraculously finds her in another room. “I didn’t know I had a brother,” she says, as they join hands through the glass, which shatters. Then they start tossing people around the room with telepathy. Mulder “blacked out after I saw Goldman’s eyes pop out of his sockets.” Fun times.
The episode ends with Mulder’s own daydream about the life with his son William that he gave up; watching 2001: A Space Oddyssey with him, shooting off rockets in the backyard, quoting Kennedy. His scene of course, ends with William being abducted by aliens. What will the monster be next week?