The X-Files Season 11, Episode 2
Posted by Sage
One of the many reasons why Chris Carter’s mythology episodes have been so disappointing is that actually, the rest of The X-Files revival has been exciting, fun, irreverent, and even poignant. “My Struggle III” was an offensive disaster of an episode, minus a few Mulder and Scully moments. (And you can see Kim rip it to tiny shreds with her Wolverine claws here.) But “This” – THIS – is what my show is all about. I just wrapped my third time watching the second episode of Season 11, and my appreciation for it just keeps growing. I have some nitpicks about the case, but LBR, that’s not why I’m still here after 25 years.
It starts off on precisely the right note. While fans were rightfully upset that Mulder and Scully were “broken up” for some nebulous, Carter-y non-reason in Season 10, what we really missed was the intimacy. They’ve been all up in each other’s business since Scully showed up at Mulder’s hotel room wearing a bathrobe and a sensible pair of white panties. So though it’s not clear until later in the episode what exactly is happening in this opening scene (and you’ll have more questions later too), you can glean that our two favorite people dozed off while they were in the middle of something, feeling comfortable and safe in each other’s company. (Also probably holding hands ala Ron and Hermione in The Deathly Hallows. Search your feelings. You know it to be true.) And though I hope Mulder has a bed at 227700 Wallace Road, couches are very important to them. Head canon has always been that Mulder’s is where they did it the first time — that ratty piece of furniture has history.
RIGHT, back to the actual X-File. The agents are awakened by a voice from the beyond: Richard Ringo Langly, calling out to Mulder through static on his cell phone: “Mulder, I need to know: am I dead? If I am, they know that I know.” The Lone Gunmen SHOULD be here, and killing them off for good was one of the show’s biggest latter-years mistakes. (Then again, if CSM can survive an entire missile and Jeffrey Spender has his face back, why couldn’t another “secret science” miracle have saved the conspiracy nuts? Continuity is not this show’s strong suit.) In their absence, the show keeps reaching back for them. And sometimes, it’s not for the best. (*cough* Babylon *cough*) But this creepy, Black Mirror-ish message coupled with the home invasion action scene set to Langly’s favorite band that immediately follows is one hell of a cold open.
— Gillian Anderson (@GillianA) January 11, 2018
Last year, they were complaining about stairs. This year, Scully has gone full Atomic Blonde and Mulder has already killed SEVERAL people, just two episodes in. It’s jarring, but acceptable. Because who among us didn’t ascend to the heavens the first, second, and tenth time they saw the “Scully Slide”? It’s a bummer that their house got destroyed, but “We’ve gotta take a trip to IKEA” is hint #2 that Mulder and Scully are shacked up again.
The source of the disturbance is a mouthy Russian and his cronies, who are looking for Mulder’s phone. Obviously they know that Langly or something pretending to be him is trying to get in touch with the agents. They’re planning to kill them after they obtain it, but the agents manage to escape, handcuffed together like so many fan fics have predicted. The premiere left them still unsure about Skinner’s loyalties (the dead horse, she is beaten), but it IS pretty sketch that Uncle Wally seems to know the men who invaded their house and only seems moderately concerned that they wanted to do more than chat. He asks his kids to get in the car with him and they just STAND there, like the hot-headed teens that they are. Mulder and Scully leave on their own with money from Skinner’s wallet, the knowledge that their pursuers are a private security firm with a government contract, and a hint about whatever the hell is going on with Langly. The Gunmen ARE dead, Skinner has assured them. But they’re not really gone.
There’s a supernatural shade to the clues that Langly and the rest of the Gunmen were able to leave for their friends, and the episode is more enjoyable if you just shrug and accept it. In Arlington Cemetery, Mulder and Scully use clues from their headstones and presidential birth and death dates as a key (“Who needs Google when you’ve got Scully?” “Right?”) to find what they’re supposed to find. It’s a “memory medallion” on Langly’s monument, basically a 21st century mourning invention where visitors can scan a QR code with their phone and see a message of remembrance. (If Frohike has one, it’s probably X-rated.) Still pursued by one of the nameless assassins, Mulder and Scully find themselves a computer to keep following the trail. And I appreciate the muffin scene not only because they are so, so married (Scully’s picking off his plate), but because we RARELY saw them stop for sustenance in the good ol’ days and even more rarely saw Scully dig into a meal with relish. Chasing down ghosts is hungry work.
Langly’s message points to the Long Lines building – a real, windowless skyscraper in Tribeca – also known as Titanpointe, the headquarters of the NSA’s Project X. And this is all true. As far as the public knew until 2016, the Long Lines building belonged to AT&T and housed telecommunications equipment, hence the lack of light. But The Daily Beast’s Intercept received documents about the building leaked by none other than Edward Snowden that “taken together with architectural plans, public records, and interviews with former AT&T employees” indicate that it is a major surveillance hub for the federal government. The piece goes on to say that the program includes monitoring of communications by “the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and at least 38 countries, including close U.S. allies such as Germany, Japan, and France.” And it appears that the telecommunications giant partners with the government in order to run it.
Great X-Files come from taking real stories that are already almost unbelievable and then adding that science fiction element. So, in this case, the NSA isn’t just spying on our country’s political allies from an imposing tower of a building right in the middle of New York City, but also housing the minds of our most accomplished deceased. Setting aside for a moment that the most likely Gunman to follow a woman into a simulated afterlife is Byers (and that no Gunman ever would have kept a girlfriend a secret), it’s a not entirely unfathomable idea that certain agencies would try to mine the thoughts and talents of the dead. It’s sort of the ultimate in surveillance, since in theory, there’s nothing one could do about it, even if they knew. Tragically, Langly seems very aware that he’s no longer really himself. (“You’re real and I’m not, is that right?”) But unlike Steve Jobs, the Gunman beat the odds and figured out a way to let the world know that what Purlieu Services is really up to, and he had the perfect person to tell. Because indeed, WHO HASN’T?
And it would seem that “This” IS a low-key mythology episode, since the uploading of consciousness is being done in service of Erika Price and Mr. Y’s plan to colonize space with the elite of the elite. In order to destroy the server, as Langly requested, the agents first have to find it. And this, for no other reason than fun, involves Mulder doing a Hannibal Lecter impression while Scully charms and then lets down a horny junior agent. (“Sorry, bro. Married to the bureau.”)
Scully is left to find the equipment on her own when Mulder is captured and put in front of Erika Price. She negs him a little bit (“After our last encounter, I was disappointed by you.”) and attempts to sell him on the idea of life eternal – existing outside of prejudice, the next step of the human race, yada yada yada. Mulder plays along and really sells it by requesting that, if he were to sign up for fast-track program, that Scully be embedded with him. It’s a stretch that Erika would grant his request to see “the face of God” for himself, since it’s just a bunch of metal and wires. But I think that a flaw of the Syndicate (and now this new version, whatever they’re calling themselves) has been to overestimate the amount of power and control that Mulder wants. (He lived like a hermit for like ten years, shouldn’t they understand him by now?)
In the ensuing scuffle, we learn a little more about Mulder and Scully’s sex life, as if we didn’t already assume they’d discovered the recreational use of handcuffs. Because they’re inexplicably badass action heroes now, Mulder holds off the Russian long enough for Scully to shut down the machine, and with it, whatever remained of Richard Langly. (Or so she thinks.) And then, gratuitous feeling of the chest for way longer than is necessary. Scully doesn’t even have a good excuse.
But it’s not the smartest move to go TOGETHER back to the FBI through the underground passageway to get some backup instead of one of them staying with Erika Price. (Also, how did they explain this to the tunnel security guy?? I want that deleted scene.) Of course she’s gone when Mulder and Scully return, along with the server, which has been wrenched right off the wall. The intelligence slave camp lives on through the backup, whereabouts unknown. Langly isn’t giving up, so perhaps his own Plan B will come into play later in the season. Or maybe The X-Files will just drop this storyline forever. The odds, unfortunately, are about even.
- From my notes, first scene: “their little feeeet.”
- Aye, nice Hannibal reference.
- They have a landline. <3
- Skinner lookin’ like a SNACK in that FBI cap.
- “Everything we feared came to pass. How the hell did that happen?” Okay so I agree with Kim on leaving Tr*mp proper out of The X-Files. However, I don’t think the show can ignore that the FBI itself has been treated like an enemy of the state. Mulder and Scully used to be the agency’s rogues, now the agency ITSELF is rogue. So it was a very smart choice to work in this contract intelligence agency with no responsibility to the truth or the American people, just to the people who are paying them.
- “I’m gonna open an x-file on this bran muffin. i gotta get to the bottom of why it’s so freakin good.” Every Mulder line in this episode is cute as hell.
- After Scully called him “Walter,” Skinner went home and wrote about it in his diary.
- There’s an Easter egg for a future episode in this one but I’m not telling you where.
- “OUR HOME.”
- Related: “You look good.”
- Memory Langly’s reaction to Scully’s name is so sweet. She was their friend too.
- Joke’s on the new Syndicate, nobody talks on their phones anymore.
- I know they sometimes have to magic them from place-to-place but thank you writers for not denying us “Mulder and Scully Take The Bus.”
- I can’t believe this is real dialogue, but: “Scully, you look so adorbs just there. All curled up in a ball in the booth of a skanky bar with your fingers wrapped around the grip of an assassin’s Glock.”
Alrighty, guys, are we feeling better about this one? Let us know what you think about “This” in the comments!
Featured Image Source: Shane Harvey/FOX