THE X-FILES’ latest, “Plus One,” featured Mulder and Scully doing what they do best: investigating a weird case, all while having some sort of verbal sparring match that played out on-screen like flirting or foreplay…or whatever. This time, some sort of mass hysteria was causing people to commit suicide after being confronted with their evil twins; and then there was the actually insane brother-sister duo of Judy and Chucky. What did all of those doppelgänger sightings have to do with innocent deaths? And what, exactly, does Chris Carter want viewers to think about the Mulder-Scully relationship this week? In a world where one plus one, should equal two, THE X-FILES continues to try to sell the idea that one plus one just equals more ambiguity.
The “monster” of the week. Despite “Plus One” having been penned by Carter, this week’s Big Bad wasn’t a part of THE X-FILES’ mythology. Instead, it was either that little bit of evil inside of us or a certifiably insane brother and sister in the midst of the world’s deadliest game of Hangman. After seeing their doubles, a number of people committed suicide in a variety of different fashions — everything from hanging, to jumping off of bridges, to something involving a lawyer’s massive collection of samurai swords.
It was “almost like a kind of outbreak” of some new form of schizophrenia, according to medical professionals. And while Mulder was quick to believe that something evil was afoot, Scully took a lot more convincing…as she does. In fact, when Scully first met with Arkie Seavers, the latest person to claim having seen his evil twin before trying to off himself — yet the only survivor, so far — she basically blamed his “perpetual state of inebriation” and was ready to be finished with the case.
But then Ms. Scully met “Little Judy” and found herself investigating her half of the case — the female half — while her partner was off investigating Judy’s brother, Chucky Poundstone.
Yes, it’s 2018, and Mulder and Scully are investigating opposite ends of a case, based on gender assignments. Apparently.
While Special Agents Spooky and Skeptic were busy trying to get to the bottom of things, Arkie managed to do what he couldn’t do the first time around: die. (If at first you don’t succeed in crashing your own vehicle and sending yourself to a fiery death, try, try again and kill yourself in jail.) Then, once whatever was attacking fuzzily innocent people was finished with Arkie, it turned to his lawyer. “Your paranoia is only going to feed on itself, warned Special Agent Rational, “mass hysteria is just a symptom of fear gone wild.” Rather than playing it cool as Scully suggested, the man instead chose a date with destiny and his manly-man collection of sharp objects.
Somewhere in the middle of all of this, the “evil” side of Little Judy managed to put Special Agent Medical Doctor so much on the alert that she was incapable of using a word other than “dookie” for the excrement that had been flung at her during an interview, and the woman added insult to injury by telling Scully that she was past her child-bearing years and “all dried up.” As a reminder, Dana Katherine Scully — a full name used by one Fox William Mulder when flirting with his partner over her sudden, seeming dismissal of her Catholic upbringing — has been “all dried up” since her abduction, when men stole her ova from her (among other things). You’d think that, after referring to her as “barren” for years and then dropping the bomb in “My Struggle III” that she had been “scientifically impregnated” (medically raped), we’d leave Scully’s fertility, or lack thereof, alone.
Given THE X-FILES’ history, though, we’d all know better.
Anyway, back to the case.
After her “dookie” meeting with Judy, Scully was visibly shaken — but not as shaken as she was after seeing her own double. This is Scully, though, so she had to rationalize it away. This is the same woman who saw her father’s ghost in her home the night he died and once spent Christmas Eve in a haunted house on a not-date with her partner. But Scully remains convinced that ghosts are absolutely not real — just lik everything else she’s seen while working on The X-Files. In fact, Special Agent Medical Doctor is so good at science-talking away the unexplainable, she even lectured her evil twin itself about why it wasn’t real.
The case ended with both Judy and Chucky dead, having each played the other’s name in their magically deadly game of Hangman. But not before THE X-FILES blessed us with Mulder versus Evil Mulder…and not without leaving that frustrating, yet somehow satisfying, lack of any real conclusion to the case.
We love a good mystery, folks.
Well. We love a good mystery, as long as it’s actually a good one and not the forced so-called “mystery” of Mulder and Scully’s status. Two FBI agents ask for rooms at a hotel, but there’s only one available. Dana Scully’s eyebrow raises at Fox Mulder’s insistence that they’ll take the room. Sound like fanfiction? You bet…right up until, well, the conclusion wasn’t quite the same as what’s out there on the good ol’ internet.
THE X-FILES’s most consistent saving grace has been Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny’s natural chemistry, so any time that’s on full display, viewers are in for a treat. Sometimes, like in the case of “Plus One,” though, that treat has a little bit of bitterness at its center.
To Carter’s credit, Scully showed some real insecurity and emotional vulnerability in this episode; and it was a breath of fresh air compared with years and years of her constantly being “fine,” no matter what the situation. The first instance was when she actually asked Mulder if he thought of her as old, following the aforementioned “dried up” conversation with Judy. To Duchovny’s credit, Mulder’s reaction was a beautiful display reassurance, complete with a gaze that reflected nothing but love and respect in response to his partner’s serious, if completely ridiculous, fear.
Even with the outdated ageism involved in a whole conversation about a beautiful, vibrant woman possibly being too old to be desirable and lines like, “you’ve still got some scoot in your boot,” the scene managed to be golden. Why Scully needed Mulder to scoot his boot out of the room afterwards, though, is another piece of damaging evidence in the biggest X-File of them all.
Later, when Scully wandered over to Mulder’s side of the suite and asked him to hold her, it seemed as if THE X-FILES’ viewers were finally in for the payoff they’ve deserved for decades. But here’s where “Plus One” took ambiguity to an absurd level: The characters actually discussed whether or not they’d be spending time together since “sooner or later,” they’d be faced with retirement. To recap, Mulder and Scully shared a home in THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE. They were, quite obviously, back to sharing that home in “This.” Why, then, would they need to still work together in order to see each other? And why, in the name of God, did the whole, “what if you meet someone” conversation need to enter the pillow talk in “Plus One,” like, at all?
Then, there was the gut-punching element to the conversation, namely, the question of whether or not Scully would ever want to have more children. Forget the fact that she had to give up her first miracle baby “to keep him safe.” What Carter really wanted his loyal audience to take away from this scene, while Mulder had Scully snuggled up against him after being asked to hold her, was that she didn’t have any candidates for her potential children’s father. To quote Scully herself, “sure. Fine. Whatever.”
Oh, and let’s not get started on Mulder’s “woman of science” comment, given what is now, apparently, known about William. Because, again, the background here isn’t pretty.
But then it was back to one plus one equaling two — as it should — when the two agents turned toward one another and smiled in such a way that could have only indicated something decidedly not platonic was about to happen. Mulder even mentioned something about “afterglow” to Scully when he was frantically trying to wake her up, having seen his doppelgänger in the mirror after leaving his bare-shouldered partner in bed to go rinse out his mouth. Adding even more evidence toward the idea that this partnership was anything but platonic, once the case of the week was as solved as it was going to get, Mulder awkwardly hinted at getting some more cuddle time in Scully’s room. Although she initially shut him down, the loaded looks were definitely out there — much like the Truth, whatever that even is at this point — and Scully muttered to herself, after staring longingly at her recently-closed door, that it wasn’t “out of the realm of extreme possibility.”
…and then she opened that connecting door to Fox “Heart-Eyes” Mulder, casually leaning against the frame, waiting for the invitation that he just knew was coming.
Was this supposed to be Carter’s idea of working his characters through their reconciliation after THE X-FILES’ tenth season saw them broken up? Because I’d say Scully’s whole, “Mulder, I can’t sleep,” followed by asking the guy to hold her in bed was indicative of that breakup having been long-since ended. That is, of course, unless there are people out there who just ask to cuddle with their work partners all the time without it actually being anything more than “friendly.”
THE X-FILES works best when Scully and Mulder are doing their thing, complete with rambling theories that somehow manage to be flirtatious and bickering about “extreme possibilities” that somehow reads as foreplay. Just let it happen. It won’t change the dynamic or make the series less interesting because that is already the dynamic and already what makes the series interesting. Any attempt at hiding from the way that Anderson and Duchovny have consistently played their characters is a waste of television gold and actually causes the kind of muddying-up of the point that makes the series less entertaining — not moreso. In other words, forcing Mulder and Scully to be anything less than what they so clearly are to one another is, quite frankly, something that continues to ruin an otherwise brilliant pairing.
With only seven episodes left, probably ever, it’s really okay to say that one plus one actually equals two…and Mulder plus Scully equals a depth of feeling so far beyond platonic that there probably isn’t even word for it. Even “love” just seems like a gross understatement at this point — as it should.
- “Come back to bed.” Yes, please do. And don’t leave again, you fool. Work? What work?
- What was with all of those “surprise” appearances by Mulder in Scully’s bedroom? The first one was enough, but continuing to do that and play with the idea that the person shocking Scully from her restless sleep might have been Evil Mulder instead of the real thing was way overboard. It’s not exactly as if Scully hasn’t almost done the dirty with not-Mulder before. And I think, in 2018, that we’re far beyond this particular plot device. Thanks.
- “Something about this case is getting under my skin.” No, actually, the honest, open side of Scully that we saw in “Plus One” was awesome. This is the work of the Chris Carter that made Dana Scully, and THE X-FILES itself, excellent. Even in the midst of all of the missteps, there’s good reason for viewers to continue to show up.
- “Well, if he was in his right mind, he might’ve called you.” This was flirting.
- “Does that FBI health plan of yours cover anger management, Agent Mulder?” I’m guessing not, considering how many times Foxy’s flown off the handle and started attacking people that put his girl in danger.
- “Tell it to the hand, G-Man.” The 90s called. They want their bad lingo back.
- “One taste of Little Judy, and he’d forget you even exist.” Sorry, Judy. Diana and Cancer Man tried messing with Mulder’s brain to make him forget about Scully years ago. He had the “perfect life” and everything; but Scully still managed to save him, as always.
- “Correct me if I’m wrong, Scully. And I know that you will…” This is indecent, Mulder. The same goes for your “young Dana Katherine Scully” line, questioning her lack of belief that the devil exists. (He does. His name is Lucifer, and he’s the main character on one of FOX’s best series ever…but I digress.)
- The Ramones in “This.” A punk version of a David Duchovny song in “Plus One.” Hm. THE X-FILES is trying to be very punk rock this season; but you know what’s the most punk rock? Just letting Anderson and Duchovny do that thing they do. Just saying.
The next all-new episode of THE X-FILES airs on Wednesday, January 24, at 8/7c on FOX.