Let’s address the alien in the room: The X-Files season 11 premiere was rough. In “My Struggle III,” a theme that the series is desperately trying to get fans to love, Scully and Mulder tackled (or should I say, stumbled through) the impending alien DNA invasion arc, which ended in the pair’s convenient decision to wait for their son William to find them rather than the other way around. Passivity has never been this duo’s strong suit, so their inaction in the season 11 premiere seemed frustratingly out-of-character. Thankfully, though, season 11, episode 2 of The X-Files did not “struggle” with this problem. The second episode of the season, titled “This,” playfully incorporates all of the elements that once made this show one of FOX’s best as we follow Mulder and Scully on a hunt for a group of mysterious attackers.
1) Mulder and Scully Work Together to Fend off Foreign Enemies
Within the first five minutes of this week’s episode, I felt transported back into the Golden Age of ’90s TV, when Mulder and Scully dominated primetime with their inspiring teamwork and gut-busting moves. The episode opens on Mulder and Scully’s peaceful morning nap being interrupted by a FaceTime call from Langly, one presumed-to-be-dead member of The Lone Gunmen. Before he has a chance to explain his cryptic message (“if I am [dead]…then they know that I know”), a creak on the porch catches Mulder and Scully’s attention, and the pair rush to defend themselves against unnamed Russian assailants before we even have a chance to process it all.
2) The Lone Gunmen Are Back
The Lone Gunmen were a huge part of the original X-Files series, so much so that they even earned themselves a (short-lived) spinoff series. So, while we may not see them in the flesh in this episode, the very mention of their name is enough to get my X-Files fan senses tingling.
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3) ‘The Truth Is out There’ Is a Deep-Running Theme
After the unexpected Russian attack, Mulder and Scully are faced with another group of unnamed attackers, who roll up to their house in vans and immediately start berating them for killing their friends. One line of dialogue stands out. After Mulder attests “We defended ourselves!” one of the men outside yells: “They were wearing body cams, so … you know how that turns out for the ones who weren’t!” Not only does this draw a clear connection to the issues of today, but it also resurrects a theme that was central to the show during its original run: the idea that the truth is out there, and it’s constantly being manipulated by those in power for their own purposes.
4) ‘Trust No One’ Also Returns in This Episode
“The truth is out there” is not the only original X-Files mantra to make an appearance in this episode. Last week’s scuffle between Mulder and Skinner (“You smell like smoke!”) has once again caused a riff between the two characters, which we see when Mulder and Scully run into the forest and find Skinner waiting for them. Mulder and Scully’s hesitance to believe Skinner’s claims about Langly (“We buried him in Arlington!”) and their refusal to go along with him remind us that, in the end, Mulder and Scully can trust no one — just each other.
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5) Mulder and Scully Need to See the X-Files (the Original Documents)
Suspicious of Skinner’s assertion that the Lone Gunmen were buried in Arlington, Mulder and Scully visit the grave site to investigate, following a set of clues on Langly’s grave that lead them to a mysterious golden medallion with a QR code attached to none other than Deep Throat’s tombstone. When scanned, the QR code reveals an image of an NSA building that Mulder once had an X-Files case on. Meaning? In order to solve this wild goose chase maybe-not-dead Langly has sent them on, they need to access their original X-Files documents. But in true X-Files fashion, the pair learns from Skinner that the X-Files (now digitized) have been hacked.
6) Government Conspiracy Theories Abound
While any trace of Langly has been removed from the digital X-Files, Frohike’s file leads to a picture of a mathmetician and a message: if they scrub me, go to her. The agents track the math professor down and question her about the medallion and the note. Her response? The same service keeping track of the digital X-Files approached her and the Lone Gunmen decades before with evidence that, through science, they had found a way to make humans live forever: they can be immortalized in a simulated universe. If Langly is reaching out, she says, it’s because something is wrong in this new universe, and he wants to alert her and everyone else.
7) The Dark, Unresolved Cliff-Hanger Ending
After conning their way into the Titanpointe branch of the NSA building, Mulder and Scully fight their way into shutting down the simulated universe to save Langly and all of the other brilliant souls trapped in this government-controlled digital world. The mission appears to be successful … that is, until the end, when it’s revealed that there was a backup network and Langly is still trapped. This is a classic trick in the X-Files: the agents appear to correctly identify or solve a problem, only to have the “truth” be revealed in the final few seconds, usually without their knowledge.
Will Langly and the other Lone Gunmen be forever trapped in this digital universe? Will Scully and Mulder encounter more twisted technological X-Files going forward? Will Black Mirror and The X-Files ever have a crossover episode (this one certainly felt close)? Let us know what you think in the comments!
The X-Files airs on Wednesdays at 8/7c on FOX. Want more news? Like BuddyTV’s Facebook page!
(Image courtesy of FOX)