A little late to the rush but here's our recap and review of the second episode of season 11, entitled "This" and written and directed by Glen Morgan.
Go ahead and click after the jump, but be warned, plenty of spoilers abound.
PYC-9103 - a black beat up Oldsmobile station wagon speeds down a road at night. The unremarkable house, the messy insides of this residence. The TV is on, a gun in its holster and keys on the kitchen table, and then a garbled voice calling, “Mulder! Mulder!” Another corner of the living room; walls covered in clippings, the Lone Gunmen’s picture on a frame, sunflower seeds, pencil sharpener scrapings, an alien bust, a cytology report, and then, X-Files. The report talks of experiments being done in Hong Kong. And then feet, two pairs, propped up on the same coffee table.
Back to the car. A masked goon drives to the sound of punk rock. The other two cock their guns, getting ready. It’s an African American guy and a long hair dude that’s super creepy. They’re jamming to this song.
Back to Mulder and Scully snoozing and sitting on the couch. The garbled sound continues. It’s coming from a cellphone between them. Scully wakes first to the light that reflects off of it. It’s Langly’s image, grainy, “Mulder! Fox Mulder!” Scully wakes him up. The bad guys continue their ride to California Sun by The Rivieras that was covered by The Ramones. Mulder starts coming to and recognizes his friend “I believe my name is Langly - Ringo Langly” the man says. Mulder is perplexed by this and so is Scully. The men arrive at a driveway, get out of the car and start walking toward the Unremarkable House. Guns in hand.
Langly continues to talk to them through this transmission. “Am I dead? If I am, they know that I know.” Scully wonders what is it that he knows, just then they hear a creak that alerts them to the presence outside their home. A shadow through the window and a door slowly opening, they look at each other with practiced skill, and Mulder whispers: “Go!”
They bolt from the couch, Mulder pushes it to block one of the men as Scully runs to the kitchen, slides under the table, grabs her gun and topples the table to use it for cover. The masked man comes through the front door, Mulder runs upstairs. Masked man shoots, and long-haired man does too coming through the side door from the study. Scully shoots back, hitting the black man behind him. The masked man covers for him, making his way through the living room as the long-haired man takes cover behind the couch and Scully hides behind the table. Mulder emerges from the landing of the staircase and shoots the masked man. Scully alerts him to the other one hiding behind the couch but that one slithers out. Mulder checks that the other two are down, as they hear a car take off outside. As they look at each other startled by what just happened, Langly continues to try to get their attention through the cell phone that’s landed between all the debris. “Mulder, am I dead? They know that I know.”
“Accuse your enemies of that which you are guilty” - The tagline comes from Goebbels, the infamous German propaganda minister for Hitler.
When we come back, Mulder is surveying the disaster and Scully calls in the shooting from the landline, - her badge number: XF072161. The incident happened at “Agent Mulder’s residence: “Farrs Corner - 227700 Wallis Road.” So we’re supposedly in Springfield, Virginia. Maybe they shop at Kwik Mart for slushies. Maybe Bart is the local troublemaker.
Scully hangs up and starts placing evidence in Ziploc bags, including the cell phone from which Langly communicated through. She scolds Mulder for poking at one of the dead men with a pencil, tainting the evidence carelessly, while he’s being careful with the phone that delivered the message. "You said ‘taint’” - Oh Glen Morgan, you’re 14. Mulder thinks “this may not be related to that” and he doesn’t want to hand over the phone as evidence. Mulder was gone when the Gunmen died, and he wonders if they could be alive, but Scully dismisses it. She was at their funeral in Arlington. She never saw their bodies though, because they had been exposed to the Marburg virus, which is a convenient way out for many stories in the X-Files realm if you ask me and Joe Harris.
Anyways, Mulder is stressing about it and thinks that the fact that they never got to see their bodies and Langly’s messages are too much of a coincidence. Scully thinks that this was a warning that they were going to be attacked. Mulder is not convinced, but he jokes that they have to take a trip to Ikea. Oh boy. Just then, headlights shine through the windows, and they’re on alert again. It was too soon for law enforcement to show up. There are two Humvees outside, and they only have 22 rounds left to defend themselves. The landline rings. Mulder tells her not to answer in fear they can pinpoint their location in the house through it.
“Identify yourselves!” Mulder shouts at them but a guy claims to not be able to hear them, to answer the phone. The phone continues ringing, and Scully proposes they call Skinner, even though they haven’t talked in a couple of weeks, and they don’t know where he stands. He agrees they should. Mulder continues to shout threats to them, “armed, federal agents” and the people outside claim this is bad for Mulder and Scully, and that they need to come out. Scully is on the phone to Skinner, who advises that they surrender, and that he can’t explain why on an open line. Scully is stunned. The guys outside, who have an odd accent from some East European country, tell Mulder that they know what they did, referring to the shooting, Mulder insists they were defending themselves but the guy won’t listen, almost smugly pointing out that the dead guys were wearing bodycams to sustain their claims. Scully tells him about Skinner’s recommendation, but why should they surrender and to whom? Why are they under suspicion? At any rate, Moose and Squirrel get ready for action, putting on their jackets and Mulder continues to shout warnings to them to identify themselves. “We don’t need to identify ourselves. What world are you living in?” Yes, Mulder. What world are we living in?
The Russian guy gives orders for his goons to march in. As Mulder and Scully stand nervously, the men enter the living room. Scully is the first to shoot at one of the men entering the study. Madness ensues. Both of them responding to the shots issued at them. Poor Unremarkable House. But the soldiers are too many, and Mulder and Scully are subdued fast and set on the floor.
Enter the Russian dude, or as IMDB identifies him “Commander Al” - one of his guys tells him that Price - as in Erica Price - is going to lose it because Mulder and Scully killed two of their best operatives. So now we know that the syndicate is involved in some way. They claim that she’ll want them to finish the job and shoot the agents. However, the one in charge is more interested in Mulder’s phone.
Commander asks Mulder for his phone, but Mulder only replies with a smart-ass Orwell reference. Then noticing Mulder's UFO poster, the Commander makes fun of Mulder, claiming that things would have been easier if Russia had known that the US would have been fine losing the cold war if they could also make money out of it. The Commander gives orders for his soldiers to find the phone and to kill their hostages after it's found.
The men start tearing the place apart, and that’s when Langly gives himself away, continuing to call out for Mulder through the phone transmission. Commander finds the phone hidden in the oven. “Am I dead?”, he asks. “Well, well, well... Ringo. You’ll never get to know, and neither will these two,” Commander replies referring to Mulder and Scully… who have traded looks and are prepared to take on one of the soldiers. Catching their captor by surprise, they make a quick escape out of the house, jumping off the porch, and running through the woods—all while handcuffed. Commander isn’t pleased.
They continue to run, the soldiers are spread throughout the woods looking for them. Mulder and Scully arrive at a clearing when a set of headlights come at them. It’s Skinner wearing an FBI cap. Mulder questions why Skinner told them to surrender to men that are not US intelligence. In response, Skinner uncuffs the pair. He then tells them that he is risking his ass being there, and that those soldiers were only supposed to question them. He also reveals that these men are part of “Purlieu Services” - an American security contractor with its headquarters in Moscow. Mulder questions why a Russian company would have pull over the FBI, and Skinner tells him that a security directive from the Executive Branch (*cough* You-Know-Who *cough*) has authorized these actions. Skinner is oh-so-amused by this.
Apparently, Purlieu is not supposed to kill any intelligence agents, but obviously that is no longer the case. So Skinner urges them to come with him. But they don’t trust him, so instead Skinner offers them some money. Scully keeps his utility knife and asks: “Is Langly alive?” Skinner is as weirded out by this question as anyone would be. He claims they buried him in Arlington. Is it a vague answer? Is it just semantics? We’ll see. Skinner takes off.
Meanwhile, at the Unremarkable House, Commander and the gang are trying to figure out how Langly contacted Mulder. However, Mulder has a kill switch on his cell phone and it self-terminates once they try to break into it.
Mulder and Scully take off to Arlington National Cemetery. There among the headstones—many of which feature quite a few easter eggs from cast and crew—we find Byers, Frohike and Langly’s. Only that this last one has the wrong birthdate, and it’s turned the other way around. The banter is great, even down to the quirky Scully-Google reference. They’re here to follow a game of clue. The detail leads them to another headstone, one of a Ronald Pakula - a.k.a. Deep Throat. The moment is a bit somber and makes me want to hug all things. A man that was killed because the world was so complex, yet as Mulder points out, those were simpler times. The moment is great and Mark Snow kills it, and god okay, fine, I’ve missed feeling this way because of this show!
Mulder laments that everything they feared came to pass and wonders how they got there… Scully then points out that these stones shouldn't be connected. Deep Throat died in 1994, 8 years before the Lone Gunmen. How is Langly leaving breadcrumbs and clues at Arlington, a place in which he didn't even know he would be buried? Mulder considers that, and then realizes that the cross on Deep Throat’s headstone is different than the rest. It protrudes because it can be moved, and it hides a memory medallion that they take out thanks to Skinner’s utility knife. It may hide a video for them to watch once the code gets scanned, but unfortunately Mulder’s phone is back at the house.
In the dark, trouble lurks: the long-haired dude is cautiously walking toward them with a gun. Scully notices and is for a moment confused about whether the man is a gravedigger before the he takes a shot at them, narrowly missing. They take off, separately, to try to reduce his focus and escape, but he zeroes in on Scully and almost takes her out until Mulder catches him from behind. They struggle, Scully takes the gun, and he ends up hitting the man in the head as they fall on to Deep Throat’s headstone. He seems to be dead. Maybe.
The next morning, Mulder and Scully have breakfast at “Shire’s Internet Cafe” in Annadale, Virginia. Is there such a thing still? An Internet cafe? Anyways. Mulder scans the medallion and wants to open an X-File on their muffin… the one they’re eating that is. Scully is about to make sweet love to that bran muffin, which she claims she'd still eat even if it came out of an alien’s butt. The medallion opens up a video of what New Yorkers call “the long lines building” which is also an NSA hub spot named Titanpointe, referenced in Edward Snowden’s documents. A mass surveillance station for a program called Blarney that started in the 70’s and expanded after 9/11. Scully doesn’t get why Langly just didn’t tell them this was about a building instead of leading them on this goose chase. Mulder knows there’s something about this building, he opened an X-File about it in the 90’s with info that Langly provided, in fact... He needs to gain access to the files. Scully notes so… an x-file, that is in the office, that they can’t go to… okay, then… sure. I love Scully’s delivery of that line.
They sneak into the FBI parking garage and hide until they can intercept Skinner coming out to his car. They tell him to not get in, but Skinner is startled at the sight of the gun Mulder is carrying and requests that he put the gun down while holding on to his own weapon. Mulder is reticent, claiming to think that Skinner is working for people that tried to kill them, which well, it's not an entire lie. Skinner defends himself; the world is different from what they used to have before. Every player in the intelligence agency world, technology, and private security business are in bed with each other while actively trying to kill each other. That puts them on the list as well.
Scully gets between the two men and pleads for his help, “even if [they] don’t trust” him. The man concedes. Skinner comes out from behind the car and wonders, “What is this? How did [they] get here?” Well, I have a few explanations, including Chris Carter, but I digress. It just hurts, guys. Remember when Skinner drove with Scully to see if they’d find Mulder in the desert, and then when he was the only one she’d be fine to cry to? ‘Memba that?! Ugh, it hurts.
Scully fights back. What about them? They were the ones just assaulted and now they’re blocked from their home and office. They don’t want him to get them out of this problem, but they need to see the X-Files. But they don’t need access to the office to see the actual files.
It turns out that in 2002 after the X-Files were closed, the agency lobbied to then FBI director Robert Mueller—currently known as grandmaster papa of the mother of all investigations, and please hurry up—for jurisdiction, so they could cross reference research about telekinesis, MK Ultra, and remote viewing, with Mulder and Scully's findings. The agency hired people to digitize and maintain the files online for any US Intelligence agency to have classified access. It turns out that Purlieu was the agency they hired to do this work. The Russians that tried to kill them have had access to all of their work. Mulder is pissed off that they weren’t told when the X-Files were re-opened. Scully wants to know if Skinner working for Purlieu… but Skinner is taking none of this. They were both gone, he was left behind to deal with this mess and the files were too important to sit there gathering dust. Also, the knowledge in them belongs to everyone. That’s right. I’m with Skinner on this one. You two were out there going to Caribbean islands and what not and blogging to each other and he had to deal with Bush and Bin Laden and bad fashion. Fine, some of that was fanfic—good fanfic I might add—but you catch my drift. He had to make decisions while they were not there to make them.
The control over the files was reverted to the FBI when the unit was reopened. Mulder takes a seat by the computer and starts browsing while Skinner takes a call. According to the archive, the files that contained information about Titanpointe or Project Blarney are gone. A simple search about Langly drew no results but there were related files. Then they hit the motherload. Mulder makes theater of what he’s reading, saying that all has been erased about him, even though they’re browsing through folders that belong to Frohike and Byers, including one named “Spank_Bank_v3” with Scully’s face as an icon for the folder. I want to be mad, but like, I’m sure we children of the 90’s 1) had this icon in our folders, and 2) boys are gross, let's get over it. Frohike wasn’t the most proper of men. Then there’s a folder named “53rd_3rd” with a picture of Karah Hambry. When they open the picture, it says: “If they scrub me, go to her.”
They close all windows when Skinner wraps his call. He tried to cancel the operation that’s targeting Mulder and Scully, but the White House isn’t loving the FBI much these days. Mulder makes fun of this, and I cringed a little, but we’ll go back to this.
Then we move to “Semple Technical Academy” in Bethesda, MD. Bless all these people for never, ever, moving away from the DC area, cause boy it would be difficult to tell an X-File if they had. There we find Karah Hambry (Sandrine Holt, House of Cards). She’s now a professor. Mulder presents her with the memory medallion and she instantly knows why they've come. Scully tells her they’re friends of Langly's. Karah says that she had thought that if she hadn’t seen them in five years, that she never would and could finally stopped regretting. Five years from when? Langly’s death? Maybe.
Mulder explains that he received a message on his cell. “Asking if he was alive?”, she guesses. He confirms. She recommends that they go because Purlieu Services is watching
She goes on to explain: “They came to us 15 years ago,” and I’m already… I’m sorry, but TLGM died in 2002. But you know… I’m going to continue with THIS. Apparently, they were presented with the science and the math that proved that they could live forever. They signed up for a contract in which they could live their natural lives and continue their work after their death. They were taken and their "biological brain" was scanned. Purlieu then uploaded these scans to a simulation. The two minds could never exist at the same time, so their simulations would come into consciousness once they were dead. They made plans to reach out digitally if Purlieu lied about life inside the simulation. If Langly is making contact then Purlieu must have lied. Karah and he wanted a life eternal together, so they took the deal. She’s pained by this. They had theorized what to do in case they’d lied to them. How would that life know that they’re a simulation? So they planted cheats: the quality of the imagery wouldn’t be enough, the technology would be limited and restricted, and Langly, being who he is, he managed a way to break out and communicate. She thinks that he reached out to Mulder because they have theorized enough to figure out that they’re living in a simulation. Perhaps his subconscious recalls them investigating this subject matter.
“Maybe he saw Mulder in his dreams…” Scully quips, almost incredulous. “Who hasn’t?” Mulder retorts. She smiles a bit. It’s not the moment for banter, guys. Even Karah is like “keep it in your pants, guys.”
Anyway, she thinks that Purlieu is aware that Langly is trying to reach out to expose the simulation, but they don’t have the cell try to help him communicate again. That’s when we see a shadow approach. Karah gives them her cell phone, saying that she modified it to be able to have a video signal and that they have to help him by making this side easier to reach. They will have to edit the sim card to Mulder’s number, and follow a set of steps, but then… the long-haired man enters the room and shoots Karah dead. Scully responds, killing the man. Mulder takes the slide where she had been writing the instructions. Scully questions that he’s taking evidence, but the dead man by the steps will suffice as evidence of this crime.
Cut to Chili’s - I mean, some bar where The Rivieras are playing again. Mulder and Scully are in a booth; she’s napping, he’s fiddling with the phone, trying to connect. There are no fajitas. If anyone is actually reading this recap, congratulations, we’ve managed to retro-engineer fanfic into the show, even if only for Gillian Anderson’s feed and their social media people trolling Tumblr. Also, shout out to the Chili’s social media accounts for possibly not having a clue of what we’re talking about and still playing along. Anyway, dude comes by with two beers and startles Scully, who points his gun at him. Mulder stops her from shooting this poor guy. Mulder calls her “adorbs” because she’s all curled up in a ball in the booth of a skanky bar, holding a gun. She smiles. I wonder how much has Glen Morgan hung with his daughter.
Mulder tried to figure out Karah’s algorithm with what little he knows about “phreaking”—trying to see if they can get another transmission. But they can’t abuse the connection, as it can be traced. Just then, Langly reaches out again. He can’t believe that he’s talking to not only Mulder but also Scully. Then it dawns on him that he’s not real. It’s heartbreaking. He starts describing his world; at first, it almost sounds perfect. No one dies, you can eat whatever, “The Ramones are here and they don’t fight!” Oh, Glen Morgan! He goes on and on about how great and free it is, or is it? He’s begging Mulder to destroy this world.
He’s figured out that they’re in a work camp, where they’re using their minds to develop science that the elite will use to leave our world. They’re aiding them with theories about space colonization so they can develop their plans. In reality, it's a nightmare, there’s no choice or diversity and the worst is that they’re aware of it. All the great minds are there, slowly realizing their mistake, even Steve Jobs is there. And they hate it, they’re the opposite of what they were in their earthly lives. His plea is for Mulder and Scully to go to Titanpointe and shut down the simulation.
They head to NYC, on a Greyhound bus, with Gillian’s children in it apparently, and they plan to storm this place using Snowden’s advice. Supposedly, there’s a tunnel from the FBI field office to the building, and Mulder thinks they won’t raise suspicions because Scully “looks good” - okay then. Remember when Castle did this, sorta, but it was Kate Beckett that suggested it, and not the guy goading the girl to do it? Okay, fine, I’m not gonna go there, because this episode is good and really this is mild, and Mulder gets kicked in the ass later.
They get to the FBI Field Office at the Jacob Javits Federal Building, and Scully is dragging Mulder in, gun in hand. She identifies herself, saying she’s too tied up to show her ID, “XF071261” - this is different than the beginning one by one number. Intentional? I don’t know. The agent up front thinks she wants to take him upstairs to holding, but instead, she acts it up for their part. “No, I’m taking him to Titanpointe. The NSA guys want to question him.” This makes the dude suspicious, as she says that it could help if he could get them into the Tunnel… and she winks an eye at him. Oh, Scully, you’re so bad at this, but it works, as the dude suggests that after she drops him off, she could come back and repay the favor.
Okay, so what is this dude thinking? What are we suggesting of FBI agents now, Glen Morgan? The dude turns around and Mulder makes puking gestures at Scully, but they let them through. Even when the agent suggests that they “uncuff” Mulder - who really isn’t cuffed - Scully makes the argument that this guy is crazy, Hannibal Lecter-level psycho… ha! The dude is freaked out about that, so he lets it go. They continue to move through the tunnel, and they get to the door at Titanpointe. The dude tries again: “So hon, where’s your home office?” to which she replies: “Sorry bro, married to the bureau.” Yes, pretty much. Workaholic among other things? Poor boy. He leaves.
They get to the elevators, and Mulder thinks that if they go into the elevators they’re bound to get caught. His guess is that the computers will be housed near the exhaust opening on the upper floors. So up the stairs they go. In heels. Because Dana Scully. I’d be crying in three languages by the time I got to the 10th floor, let alone the twenty-nine floors they have to climb. But they don’t make it that high up. By the time they get to the 25th, they get caught. They run up but another group of goons appears. Scully jumps to the other side of the stairwell and runs while Mulder is left to fight the group on his lonesome. I don’t cringe at the first four or five punches - ‘cause well, I’m still wanting to punish him over the “you look good” thing - but past that I’m like, okay, stop it now. In comes Commander Al, this time not in assault gear, smugly mocking the fact that he doesn’t have to run since he’s technically on their side now.
They take him to the 29th floor, where Erica Price is waiting for him, in the world’s most sinister, yet underused, stylish boardroom. She confesses that she was disappointed by their last encounter, not quite seeing the point of him. But that Mr. Y had assured her that she’d change her opinion since they’d be seeing him over and over. She’s now an admirer of his instinct for survival, to which Mulder wonders if she’ll then stop sending assassins to kill them. But she’s not quite convinced yet, and in fact, he still hasn’t answered if he’ll kill CSM for them. She claims he doesn’t understand what’s about to happen.
Meanwhile, Scully is on the 24th floor, looking for the computers. Erica Price explains that the world is a progression of one life being replaced by another, over and over. Evolution. Scully hides in a dark hallway, and then a room, and a goon finds her but she overpowers him, and makes it out.
Prince continues to explain the situation to Mulder; the replacements aren’t black and white or any kind of binary choice, it’s really about control. He needs to understand that most animal life on this planet is about to be crushed, “Burned to the ground”. The syndicate believes that the computer simulation is necessary for survival and evolution. When they leave the planet, this life will have evolved into that. As a way to preserve the many minds that they probably can’t carry over. And of those minds, the only one that thought of communicating out, and to this world and to Mulder, was Langly. “And to think that the company wanted to kill him.” But she thinks that he’d see the beauty in this simulation now and not want to destroy it. The simulation exists to advance life, not to end it.
Mulder hesitates, and asks if he were to actually kill CSM, would he be able to upload himself to the cloud and could Scully join him. But Erica warns him; it won’t be her, or him for that matter. It’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, they can upload a mind through a smartphone and no one is even aware they’re doing it. They take pieces of our mind when we make a call without a pain to speak of. But they have to die to be able to live in this world. But Price argues that he and his loved ones never die. At the end of the day, if they can upload someone through the phone, no one really has a choice, other than not using their phones.
Mulder is either still bluffing or still hesitant. He’d like to see the simulation but Price says that very few have seen it and they don’t even know what it is. Scully has made her way to the computers, and they're just as Erica has described—just wires and lights, and not quite the marvel you’d expect. A bunch of PCs all neat with neon. But Mulder says that this is the closest he’ll get to seeing God in this life or that life.
Then, it seems like she agrees to show him in some way, and send him with the Commander who takes him through the halls, cuffed, to a secured door. He spots Scully hiding nearby and takes advantage of a bad maneuver to get into a fight and overpower the Commander. Scully comes out of hiding and asks the ever important question: “Why do you operate so well with your hands tied behind your back?” He smirks smugly and answers: “As if you didn’t know.”
She gets in the computer room and Mulder goes to get the gun that the Commander has dropped. But he’s back at it, and going after Mulder. They fight while Scully figures out a way to shut down the computers. There’s tempered glass covering them, but once again, Skinner’s trusty utility knife comes in handy and she manages to break the panel and get into the chamber. One by one, she switches them off while Mulder fights over the gun with Commander Al. Scully gets to the last module, and sadly, says goodbye to Ringo.
Then there’s a knock on the door and she’s ready to pounce again… but nope. It’s Mulder, who’s kicked ass and taken names, but is definitely old and about to throw up from getting his ass kicked. He also got his phone back. He plans to take them back through the tunnel to the FBI field office and open a case on Erica Price and come back and get the computers… you know, once they stop low key touching each other.
Sure enough, when they come back everything is gone. Prototypes, computers, decoration… the minibar… what did they expect?
Cut to them arriving back at the Unremarkable House. The place is just done. Probably better to hire a backhoe and call it a day. They halfheartedly start picking up papers, but give up on it and crash on the couch. Then from the newly recovered Mulder phone, Langly appears again. “Mulder! They know that we know! Destroy the Back-up!” He’s afraid. And then we see that the long-haired man is now inside the simulation as well… and he gets punched.
This episode is such a breath of fresh air compared to last week’s premiere, but honestly, it is almost a disservice to go into any kind of comparisons. Always one of my favorites when it comes to writing for Mulder and Scully, Glen Morgan wrote and directed the episode. He surprised me with “Home Again,” and he has done it again with “This”.
I’ll admit, when the episode started, I thought we were going to veer into the comics territory; floating the idea that the Lone Gunmen are alive is something that Joe Harris embraced fully for his own revival. But instead, we do kind of a revisit of the episode, “Kill Switch” but from a different angle, including it in the explanation of the mythology from the syndicate, and with quite a few Easter eggs that will have us dissecting this episode for weeks, looking for clues.
Having seen the upcoming episodes, I found quite a few that are smartly intertwined with narratives that we’re yet to explore. Pay special attention to pictures, props, files; there was some detail work in here.
But back to the episode. I love this Mulder and this Scully, and I know I’m contradicting a bit something I’ve said in my past review: how can we have them be “normal” – the world ain’t ending – after that tumultuous first episode? Well, if I have to make choices of which episode I want to forget, guess the one I’ll choose? I thought: I’ll have to sacrifice reality for the fact that these two seem to be back at cracking cases, with beers and a supper consisting of soup and crackers -sorry guys, no pasta for you, or fajitas for that matter. But let’s not be simplistic about this. Unpacking the episode, we’re fooled to believe that we’re going to fall for old structures of telling stories in this show.
So… Why is it great? They’re together almost the entire episode. And I’m not alluding to any brief entendre or cutesy moments. What really works is Mulder and Scully working together. The rest is a bonus, to be honest, and it’s good. You may make the argument that is not the dramatic sexual tension, but honestly, I prefer the normal banter that alludes to the real comfort of being around each other for years. Vomit jokes, the use of certain words, goading each other, muffin jokes.
The incorporation of the technical side of conspiracy, with the presence of the syndicate’s plan as the center of the plot itself, is a turn that sort of crawls into awareness without us realizing it. You’re not aware that this is actually at its’ core, a mythology episode, in a way. It’s a mythology episode without the gravity that usually they have, but still so effective because it allows us to know even more of these details that we barely learned in the first episode.
It’s killing me though that we have to deal with Skinner not being a complete ally at this moment, even when they walk that line back and forth. I don’t know if I dislike the writers for writing this situation, or if I’m responding to not liking what Skinner is doing… mostly the first. The pain he’s going through is palpable and I start to remember all the times he put his life on the line for them and I get so conflicted, but I do get the point where he had to make decisions while they were away. I would have preferred to see him vent out on his own sacrifices in anger, come out to them with a slight heart to heart, as much as he could at some point, earlier than this. In season 10. Instead of “Babylon”, perhaps? I’ll give it to Mitch Pileggi, even when I hate Skinner a little, I love him, and I can’t wait to see more of him.
Now onto Dean Haglund. I must admit I dreaded it when I started hearing he’d be back. Don’t get me wrong; not because I don’t like him or the Lone Gunmen, I love them. But, you know, bringing back people that have been dead already in this show has been miss and miss. But I’m happy with this solution. I can live with it. I can believe it of the character. Even fantasizing about this hidden love story between Karah and him is a nice thought, even when her explanation of why he reached out to Mulder is a bit abstract. Scully’s reaction to him realizing that he’s dead… yup, it hurt. She was the one to see them dead, so in a way, this is a repeat of that torture for her. It is true to the character that he would despise the lack of freedom, the lack of identity, of self-ownership… It makes me wonder if he suggested this exit to Frohike and Byers, and if he didn’t, why didn’t he? Still, it was such a nice way to incorporate many things that were presented before in the original run of the show.
Even the Deep Throat inclusion made me want to hug things. Oh, the good old times. And don't forget about Mark Snow… in an episode where Glen Morgan’s choice of leitmotif music was pretty powerful, Mark seriously pulled at my heartstrings so many times. Starting with the Deep Throat moment and the Cemetery fight, with all it’s changes in pace and pitch… to the fight scene scores.
On another technical comment, I love that this episode looks like a classic X-Files episode. There’s no need to fix what isn’t broken. There’s just so much knowledge put into the work in this episode, which speaks of the care put into the details. And I’m thankful for it. And while you still question things here and there, the rest is powerful enough that you don’t get dragged out of the story by objecting the use of some mild sexist choices that are a bit out of character, and well, logic.
For the sake of being a math geek -the kind that no one likes - let's talk about timeline inconsistencies:
- The You-Know-Who timeline: Hear me out. Season 10 takes place in the Obama years. We stopped the clock at “My Struggle 2”. Granted, it was never quite established who was the president at the season 10 finale, but the episode happened then. Then we land on “My Struggle 3” where we have a teaser with plenty of You-Know-Who references. Even when that monologue doesn’t necessarily tie to any event in the actual actions of the episode… there it is, the You-Know-Who years. Then we land on “This” – which has supposedly taken place two weeks later. And there, the FBI is at odds with the White House, Russia is collaborating with them… and well… this timeline is sort of falling apart from reality a bit. I’ve seen the next episodes and there’s not quite much explanation of “when” we are.
- The Langly timeline: Karah mentions that they made this deal 15 years ago. But… Langly died in 2001/2002, depending on “when” you place season 9. It’s a bit insane, honestly. I would have added a bit more leeway in this range. There was no reason why they couldn’t have done this a bit earlier.
Time spaces aside… Aren’t we glad that THIS exists!? I know I am. And I hope to get a PDF of the X-Files since they’re a collective asset now ;)
Tune in next week for “Plus One” – and be forewarned, you may want to bring a cuddle buddy.