The X Files: 11.03 Plus One
The newfound confidence The X Files has found in season 11 continues with this latest offering from the show runner Chris Carter. While he had written some brilliant episodes, he arguably hadn't scripted a 'great' episode since season eight (though season nine's Improbable was quite good). The three 'My Struggle' mythology episodes have had a number of problems and season 10's Babylon was mostly terrible; fortunately, freed from the trappings of the myth arc, Plus One emerges as evidence that Carter can still write a great episode. And as much as I enjoyed last week's This, Plus One is the most memorable episode to date.
There are three core aspects to Plus One that made it so appealing; the premise, the guest characters and the continued exploration or an older Mulder and Scully dynamic with all their shared experiences.
Evil doppelgangers always make for good storytelling and the idea of people seeing evil versions of themselves stalk them for days and eventually kill them was an intriguing idea, brought about by a twisted game of psychic hangman between a twin brother and sister. I like how Carter didn't feel the need to fully explain these twisted abilities; for all Scully's attempts to explain away a mass of doppelganger viewing an hangings as some form of shared hysteria, the spiritual nature of the tale left it open ended even when the culprits were finally dead.
And what a great set of culprits they were. Thabo Ketshabetswe's creepy prison guard was an amusing, sneaky piece of work, picking victims from the lowlifes in society in a way that almost made the killings seem quasi-justified. His interactions with Mulder as the FBI agent visited his home were hilarious, claiming that he had just 'tidied up' as Mulder waded through the mass of hoardings and then trying - unsuccessfully - to play Mulder at his own game.
But it was Karin Konoval that truly stole the show as the institutionalised Little Judy Poundstone, a delightful, loveable woman who shared a much darker personality in the twisted, spiteful Little Chucky Poundstone. Konoval, of course, has already played one memorable role as the terrifying mother under the bed in season four's horrific Home (plus a smaller role as Madame Zelma in season three's Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose) but arguably this is an even better use of her talents and her interactions with Scully, both as Judy and Chucky, were mesmerising to watch.
There was a great blend of atmospheric horror and a health dose of comedy too, not just from the interplay between these characters. The death of the lawyer, impaled on his own samurai sword was both tragic and hilarious - disposing of his guns and then realising he was in a room of deadly swords gave the episode a truly dark, comic edge - pun intended.
But a lot of the joy in Plus One came from the increasingly confident, mature and heartfelt relationship shared by Mulder and Scully. Carter is great and exploring the emotional ties between these two agents, but that often centres around the heightened drama of the big mythology episodes. Here, he gets to explore an older, seasoned pair in the trappings of a more traditional case of the week setting. Like last week's episode, it is as much Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny having fun playing off one another as it is Scilly and Mulder. It's also a big episode for shippers with a very overt suggestion that they sleep with each other and Scully choosing a physical relationship at the end, though in true Carter fashion, he still plays coy with the details of what happened.
The X Files has been on strong form for two weeks now, maintaining a consistent, 'return to form' level of storytelling. Plus One had plenty of intrigue, atmosphere and humour and the interplay between Mulder and Scully continues to be a success. Roll on episode four...