This X-Files review contains spoilers.
The X-Files Season 11 Episode 2 Review
Welcome to 2018, Mulder and Scully. For the first time during The X-Files revival, an episode finally felt like it accomplished what Chris Carter and his writing buddies set out to do in the first place. They maintained that bringing the show back from the dead (or is this all just a simulation?!) wasn’t a reunion tour, but a chance to tell fresh new stories with old friends. In The X-Files season 11 episode 2, “This,” we got the best of both worlds and a glimpse into a startling new one.
The episode was written and directed by Glen Morgan, who’s known for delivering some of the series’ best Monster-of-the-Week episodes and more recently was the showrunner for Amazon’s creepy anthology Lore. Morgan builds off a poorly-executed premiere episode by infusing some style into the mythology Carter clearly wants to pepper throughout the early part of this season. “This” initially feels like a standalone, with the Ramones’ cover of Joe Jones’ “California Sun” the perfect background to a wild shootout in Mulder’s house (though later in the episode Scully says “We can’t go to our home” wink wink wink). Quickly, the episode becomes what Morgan described as his “X-Files does North by Northwest” and Mulder and Scully go on the run from two waves of attackers with deep ties to a major conspiracy.
You can see how the episode loosely follows Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 thriller. Instead of an innocent Cary Grant being followed by spies from a mysterious organization working for the government, Mulder and Scully learn their new enemies not only work for the shadowy group we met in the premiere episode, led by Mr. Y (A.C. Peterson) and Erika Price (Barbara Hershey), but also are the same group with Russian ties that digitized the X-Files. To throw Mulder and Scully off the case, they deleted two important files, one of Richard Ringo Langly, who died 15 years ago along with his pals The Lone Gunmen, and the other of Titanpointe, a real-life NSA spy hub in Manhattan.
How does this all connect? In the most Black Mirror way possible! Rather than making fun of Mulder for using a camera phone, The X-Files gets with the times by incorporating the ethical, moral, and technological dilemma that is cloning a person’s consciousness and preserving it in digital form. It’s not all that different from the rough concept of how Black Mirror’s “San Junipero” envisioned an afterlife, but here Morgan uses it as a form of digital slavery. On one hand, Langly is watching the Ramones, eating pizza and donuts, and weirdly having lots of digital sex I guess. But he’s also forced to use his brain, along with other deceased geniuses of our time, to progress science to serve the elite. Continuing on a plot thread from the premiere, Langly warns Mulder that the bad guys are trying to get the elite to space while the rest of the world burns.
While we got a one-dimensional Russian baddie, Hershey plays Erika Price with deliciously sinister intent, a potentially great addition to the X-Files mythology if they can stick the landing in the back half of the season. Once again The Smoking Man’s masterplan is given lip service, but we still need to get to the truth about these warring factions of the syndicate. We’re closer now to understanding what Price’s group wants, but the true intentions of CSM remain a mystery.
With Morgan behind the camera, a rekindled chemistry between the show’s leads, and action sequences that seemed to come out of 1997, “This” further puts The X-Files mythology back on the path to redemption. It also has something to say about government infighting and how our worst fears about our relationship to technology and tenuous grasp of the truth make this world scarier every single day. So far my favorite quote of the season is when Mulder is staring down Deep Throat’s grave: “He’s dead because the world was so complex and dangerous back then. Who would have thought we’d look back with nostalgia and say that was a simpler time.” That could be a thesis for The X-Files season 11.
Oh, and this was pretty great too:
Skinner: “The bureau is not in good standing to the White House these days.”
Mulder: ‘The FBI finally found out what it’s like to be looked upon as a little spooky.”