“Founder’s Mutation” Recap: Tormented by an ear-splitting shriek that only he can hear, Dr. Sonny Sanjay (Christopher Logan) commits suicide. Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate, though they don’t get far due to the classified nature of the research in question. Mulder nabs the dead man’s phone and sees a history of texts to someone named Gupta (Vik Sahay). Mulder meets up with Gupta at a bar to ask him about the victim, but Gupta initially mistakes it for a hookup. Gupta mentions that Sonny had been acting strangely in recent weeks. Sonny and Gupta had a secret relationship, and they met in a secret apartment. Meanwhile, Scully conducts an autopsy on Sonny and notices that he wrote the words “Founder’s Mutation” on his hand before his death. Mulder and Scully visit the secret apartment to look for clues, and they find a wall full of pictures of children with severe genetic deformities. While investigating, Mulder suddenly hears the same loud shrieking noise and falls to his knees in pain.

Later, Skinner informs the pair that they can’t look at files recovered from the apartment because they are the classified property of the Department of Defense. Mulder managed to make a few copies though, and they point to the reclusive head of Sonny’s research firm, Augustus Goldman (Doug Savant). He happens to be working at the same hospital as Scully, which Scully uses as leverage to get a meeting with him. While there, they are pulled aside by a young pregnant woman named Agnes (Kacey Rohl), who begs them to help her escape. She previously agreed to let Goldman’s firm have her baby, who suffers from some genetic deformity, but she has since changed her mind. Mulder gives her their card.

This makes Scully think of the child she had with Mulder fifteen years prior, whom they gave up for adoption in order to keep him safe. She imagines the life she gave up, and regrets her decision. She thinks that Agnes and the other pregnant women may be being used as incubators for children with alien DNA, much like she was all those years ago. Scully can’t help but feel guilty for giving up her child, even if it was for his own protection. The two then meet with Goldman to visit the wing of the hospital where the children are being studied. These are the same children on the wall of Sonny’s apartment, and they’ve been here since birth. Though Goldman insists they are working to cure these deformities, Mulder speculates that Goldman is looking for a founder’s mutation – in other words, he’s trying to find the mutation which will kickstart the next phase of human evolution. Later, they learn that Agnes was killed after stepping into traffic, but her fetus had been removed.

They go to speak to Goldman’s wife, Jackie (Rebecca Wisocky), whom Goldman has kept in a mental institution for many years. Jackie tells them that when her daughter Molly was two years old, she witnessed her breathing underwater, and deduced that Goldman had experimented on her. Pregnant with their son, Jackie attacked Goldman and drove away, but she crashed her car. She pulled herself out of the wreckage and began to hear the shrieking noise, which she says was her unborn son trying to communicate. She cut open her stomach to let him out, but when she awoke later he was gone.

On the way out of the mental ward, Mulder notices that one of the janitors is wearing the same uniform as a janitor he saw at Sonny’s office. Security footage showed this janitor acting strangely in a room directly above the room where Sonny killed himself, and at the same time. Kyle also previously worked in the hospital where Jackie stays. His name is Kyle (Jonathan Whitesell), and they track him to his home. Kyle’s mother refuses to let them speak to him, but when Mulder pressures her for information, he’s beset by the shrieking noise again. Scully rushes out to the barn where she finds and arrests Kyle.

Kyle explains that he learned he was Jackie’s son while working at the mental ward, and that she asked him to find his sister Molly. They take him back to Goldman’s hospital, where he introduces Kyle to Molly, though he recognizes right away that Goldman is lying. He rushes off to find the real Molly in a different room, and the two share some sort of telepathy. Kyle kills Goldman and incapacitates Mulder and Scully, before freeing Molly and escaping. Later, Mulder imagines the life he could have had with the son he gave up.

Review: Now, that’s the X-Files I know and love. As an original-run episode, “Founder’s Mutation” wouldn’t be particularly memorable. But as the immediate follow-up to the rocky start of this miniseries, it’s practically revelatory. The pieces finally fell back into place with this one. As I mentioned in the last review, this show always thrived in the standalone episodes which focused on Mulder/Scully interplay, as opposed to the large-scale lore episodes. “Founder’s Mutation” follows the former formula, with surprisingly melancholy results.

Duchovny is still a little stiff for the most part, but Anderson is fully back and as good as ever. The direction also took a major step up from last week, in no small part thanks to the reduced scale of the action. The premiere episode began and ended with CG flying saucers crash-landing and blowing up cars, respectively. This episode is entirely on a human level, even when the paranormal theatrics come into play. This gives the direction some breathing room, and allows for an end product that at the very least looks like a competent piece of filmmaking.

A lazier reboot would have put Scully’s development back to square one, because that’s the version of the character that we all know and love, right? Instead, The X-Files follows up with Scully’s arc as we last left it. She’s not the impenetrable skeptic she once was. She’s much more willing to believe some of Mulder’s outrageous suggestions, so long as they line up with some semblance of scientific logic. She even straight-up asks Goldman if the children he’s working with have alien DNA, which prompts him to say, “I was told you were the skeptical one.” But a true skeptic doesn’t deny contradictory evidence, she incorporates it into her understanding of the world. As a result, Scully feels like an actual person, and not a replicant version designed to appeal to a fan’s memory of her. The same is true of Mulder, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Of all the dropped threads from the original nine seasons, I didn’t expect Mulder and Scully’s son William to be the one that got picked up again, but in retrospect it seems obvious. The “loss” of him is in many ways the most traumatic event that either of them experienced on the show, so it makes sense that it’s stuck with them for so long. The dream sequences where the two wonder what their lives would have been like had they kept William are heartbreaking. Scully’s is nightmarish; she first imagines William breaking his arm after she lets him go off to play alone, and then imagines his face beginning to show signs of alien deformation. Scully is terrified that she gave up the ability to protect her son from things he can’t understand, condemning him to suffer alone.

Mulder’s dream is decidedly more upbeat, but possibly even more tragic. He imagines himself watching 2001: A Space Odyssey and launching homemade rockets with his son, the latter complete with a picturesque sunset backdrop. He’s haunted by all the things he’ll never be able to share with William. The final shot holds on him for a long time, sitting all alone in his house. In the last episode, Sveta noted that Mulder had been depressed for a while. It seems like Mulder is contemplating his mortality, in which case William becomes a symbol for his inability to pass himself on or create a legacy. This anxiety could extend to the entire miniseries. In a world that’s changing more quickly than ever before, did this show leave behind something significant? And if it didn’t, does it still have a chance to do so?

Grade: B+

Etc.:

  • In 2002, you wouldn’t have gotten away with showing a man shoving a letter opener into his brain at 8PM. Look how far we’ve come!
  • Kacey Rohl! Between her, Anderson, and the color palette of Scully’s dream, it was a Hannibal reunion tonight.
  • My ears were ringing for a good five minutes after it first happened to Mulder. So immersive!
  • “The truth is in here!” “Yeah, I’ve heard something like that before.”

 

My Struggle | Founder’s Mutation

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