THE X-FILES’ latest episode, Glen Morgan’s “This,” was exactly the follow-up that the series needed after its eleventh season’s less-than-stellar premiere. Agents Mulder and Scully found themselves tossed into the middle of a mystery, and trying to find answers meant getting shot at and handcuffed pretty much constantly. Whatever exactly was happening, though, it happened to Mulder and Scully together; and their partnership was as complex and fascinating to watch as ever.
After “My Struggle III,” I asked the question, “we came back for this?“ with a pretty large dose of upset incredulity. It turns out that, all confusion aside, the strongest elements of “This” were, in fact, exactly the aspects of THE X-FILES that made its return something to look forward to.
There’s no place like home…for a gun fight. There’s nothing quite like settling down on the couch with your platonic work partner, feet up on the coffee table in your shared home, and drifting off to sleep. That’s where THE X-FILES found Mulder and Scully in the opening for “This,” but the couple’s chance at some shut-eye was interrupted by a message from an old friend. Richard Langly, one of The Lone Gunmen, was trying to send his old friends a message; but it wasn’t coming through very clearly.
Was the message garbled because it was coming from beyond the grave, or did Casa Scully-Mulder just have bad reception?The only thing that was certain was that Langly was in some kind of a panic, and he asked the one question that anyone watching THE X-FILES in 2018 and seeing their favorite FBI agents snuggling up at home might think: “Am I dead?” But, of course, Langly’s question had nothing to do with seeing Mulder and Scully napping; it was the start of something much bigger.
As the Ramones’ “California Sun” blared in the background, the agents defended themselves in a shootout with persons unknown. When they thought their home was clear, Mulder started poking around for evidence while Scully called Skinner for help …only to be told that she and Mulder should surrender. Skinner was unable to be of any help, but he couldn’t explain why over an open line. Next up, more enemies surrounded the house and, eventually, overpowered its owners; but just as one of the shadowy Russian bad guys was distracted by Langly’s message, Mulder and Scully decided to get the upper hand and take a run for the surrounding woods.
Cue Skinner giving a rambling speech about how “different” things are these days before seemingly refusing to answer the question of whether or not The Lone Gunmen might still be alive. What he did do in a standard X-FILES move, however, was drop just enough of a hint to get the ball rolling: He mentioned — twice — that everyone’s favorite deceased geeks were buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
…and that was just the beginning.
We’re not 100 on the plot here, but whatever it is, it’s THE X-FILES at its best. Ok, the rest of the storyline for “This” gets a little bit confusing from here. And no, it’s not just because, as a double-degree-carrying Mathematics scholar, I’m scratching my head as to why Mulder had random scribbles about a cosine function with him at Chili’s.
Picture it: Mulder and Scully in a graveyard, decoding a message from The Lone Gunmen, which leads them straight to Deep Throat’s grave. Is it the 90s? Nope! It’s 2018, the year of our totally absent lords!
After noticing something out of place on the headstone, Mulder and Scully found a memory medallion, which featured a QR code (see: I told you it was 2018!), which they couldn’t scan without going to a public computer, apparently. This gave the partners more questions than answers, some of which will probably never be answered. See also: How are these two lovely people taking naps together and sharing one another’s bran muffins if they’re in a purely “platonic” relationship?
Skinner was able to help answer some of the more X-Files-ish questions by giving Team Trust No One access to electronic versions of the files. Mulder noticed that Langly had been scrubbed from the records. But Frohike’s files were still out there, including “Spank_Bank_v3” (ew?), which featured an old picture of Scully as the folder’s icon. Of course, anything involving his girl’s photo was going to get Mulder to click; and what he found was the name of a person to reach out to, should The Lone Gunmen ever be “scrubbed.”
This sent Mulder and Scully off in search of their newest contact, who said a lot of confusing things about brain simulations. The real takeaway in this scene, though, was that she and Langly “wanted a life eternal together,” and, upon hearing of that concept, Dana Scully couldn’t stop herself from glancing at one Fox Mulder.
We get it, Dana. You’re immortal, but you don’t want to be immortal if you can’t have your Foxy with you…but not-at-all in a romantic way, of course.
Just as they were about to be given a big lead, Mulder and Scully’s household shootout buddy showed up; and Special Agent Badass did what she does best: She used her perfect aim and ended lives — this time, with her gun instead of her eyebrow. Death By Eyebrow is so much less messy, but all of that FBI training has to get used sometime.
With nothing better to do, Scully and Mulder went on another meal date. This time, Mulder talked about how “adorbs” Scully was over beers and conspiracy-laden, incoherent cosine function scribblings. The agents didn’t see God at the restaurant, but they did receive another message from beyond the grave; Langly’s latest involved the culinary delights (hot dogs and donuts) of heaven. Oh, and he mentioned something about sex, which caused Mr. and Mrs. Spooky to give each other a heart-melting look. No big deal.
This is THE X-FILES, though, so what we really need to know is that Langly explained way too much more about the mystery of the week for anyone but Mulder and Scully to understand.
And then we took a bus to somewhere involving Russians and Erika Price. Are we having fun yet? Because Fox Mulder was definitely having a lot of fun, especially when he was yammering on about…I still don’t know what…as his partner pretended to listen.
By the time Mulder and Scully reached their destination, they managed to have a plan: Handcuff Fox Mulder, treat him like a prisoner to break into enemy territory, and then do the divide and conquer thing. Now, normally, splitting up is a bad idea — especially on THE X-FILES. It usually means that one partner or another will come far too close to death for comfort after making one too many ridiculous moves.
Plot twist! In “This,” the separation actually worked. Mulder was able to distract Erika Price, allowing her to psychopathically ramble about crushing humanity (as THE X-FILES’ conspirators do) as Scully systematically took out every loser in her path. It was as if Mulder was the brains, while Scully was the brawn.
Then, when a presumably long enough amount of time had passed, Mulder asked to go see the super computer housing all of those simulations with promises of (virtual) eternal life. Who did he run into? You guessed it: Scully…and more bad guys. This was where the partners reversed roles; Scully became the brains that shut down the computers, while Mulder battled his way through however many guards Scully had managed to save for him to toy with.
It seemed as if THE X-FILES was finally going to end an episode with some real closure, but anybody who’s watched even one episode of this series knows better than to expect that. Erika Price got away, so Mulder and Scully would have to open up a real case against her some other day.
And so, it was back to unremarkable home, sweet unremarkable home. The agents had to clean up the mess that had been left in their house after all of those gunshots and fist fights…or not. After glancing at each other — in unison! — and shrugging, Mulder and Scully decided they’d had enough. They dumped their files back in the rest of the mess and made their way back to the couch, put their feet back up, and tried to go back to catching some shut-eye.
It was back to dreaming about things that the partners (apparently) no longer had the energy to actually do at the end of a case…but not before Langly and Dead Henchman Dude sent them one last message.
The end…for now.
Additional thoughts on “This.”
- See? It’s really not that difficult to make THE X-FILES fun. Just let the stars do what they do. “This” was fun! And the case of the week was difficult enough to follow that the episode definitely requires another viewing, all while not being so heavy-haded as to be a distraction from the central characters’ shared journey.
- “Who needs Google when you’ve got Scully?” Well, considering even Scully had to Google surgery once…
- “Mulder, that’s evidence.” “He’s evidence.” These two really bicker like an old married couple…probably because they not-so-secretly are one.
- Speaking of married: “We can’t go to our home.” Emphasis on “our.” Thank you very much.
- More on marriage! “Sorry, bro. I’m married to the Bureau.” Dana Scully, shutting down sexual harassment by confirming her marriage to (her partner at) the Bureau, all while hubby gags at just the thought of this dude’s awful line about a “home office.” Feels good, feels organic, thank you.
- “Everything we feared came to pass. How the hell did that happen?” Fox Mulder, describing
viewers’ reaction to the season premierethe sad state of affairs in 2018, especially as compared with 1994.
- Actually, all jokes aside? Mulder’s sad speech at Deep Throat’s grave was a gutting emotional moment, right smack in the middle of all of the action an excitement. Well done, Mr. Duchovny. Well. Done.
- “I don’t care if it came out of an alien’s butt. I’m going to eat the whole thing.” Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully as Gillian Anderson, am I right?
- THE X-FILES’ two most important characters were able to act as true equals here, and it paid off, to delicious results — possibly even as delicious as an alien-butt bran muffin.
- “Why do you operate so well with your hands cuffed behind your back?” “As if you didn’t know.” They have done dirty things with handcuffs. It’s canon. They have also held hands in the middle of the forest, in front of their possibly-shady boss, while handcuffed. Amazing.
- Mulder asked if he could be with Agent Scully in Immortal Computer Simulation Land if he was a good boy and killed his daddy. Again I ask, “plot? What plot” because we’re all here for the goods in “This.”
- And yes, Mulder, please kill your father this time around. XOXO, Everyone.
- Dana Scully can add “Action Hero” to her Medical Doctor, Physicist, and Special Agent titles, by the way. That Scully slide and the jump over the railing in the stairway were quality. What a refreshing break from, well, that.
And now, it’s time to Scully-slide into the future.
The next all-new episode of THE X-FILES airs on Wednesday, January 17, at 8/7 on FOX.