A fast paced-action thriller becomes a standout episode as The X Files continues its eleventh season. Baz Greenland reviews…
Now this was a great episode. There is a definite marked confidence to the series so far; Chris Carter and his crew have found their groove after the quasi-experiment of season 10 and two episodes in, The X Files feels exciting. Last week it was frantic car chases, this week it was Mulder and Scully engaged in gun fights and running from their lives against hostile mercenaries. And thanks to the amazing chemistry between Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny and an intriguing mystery, This was a blast from beginning to end.
Glen Morgan, who wrote and directed the atmospheric, emotional journey that was 2016’s Home Again was back to pen and helm this installment, which saw Mulder receive a phone video message from the long-dead Langley (one of the infamous Lone Gunmen, who met their end in season nine’s Jump The Shark). Attached by armed mercenaries and deadly black ops unit, Mulder and Scully find themselves on the run, desperate to solve the mystery of a mysterious NSA facility in Manhattan and get their lives back.
Morgan does a fantastic job of balancing the action with the intimate character moments between Mulder and Scully. Duchovny and Anderson slip into these characters like an old glove; from the opening scene where they doze on the sofa to the quips and banter throughout the episode, we witness two people with years of shared history; in fact its sometimes hard to tell where Mulder and Scully end and Duchovny and Anderson begin, such is the natural charm of their relationship on screen. As much as I loved the sight of Scully sliding under a table to take out armed mercenaries, or jumping over a stairwell to escape the enemy or Mulder kicking ass against a much younger NSA guard, it was moments like the two of them basking in their mutual love for a diner’s bran muffins or Scully using her pre-Google knowledge to reel off old Presidents that gave This its warmth and depth.
It certainly was an episode for shippers who mourned the break-up of their relationship by the start of season 10. These is a deep closeness between these two characters that was apparent in episodes last season like Home Again, but doubled down by Morgan here. It might not be a reconnection of romantic feelings, but there is a sense that these two agents have moved beyond that, so close are they in each other’s company.
The mystery is also a huge entertaining part of the episode – the death and resurrection of Langley leading Mulder and Scully to their graves in Arlington Cemetery and a clue hidden in the gravestone of none other than Deep Throat! It was a huge, lovely callback to the season one finale The Erlenmeyer Flask that saw the murder of Mulder’s original informant, and a clue to a secret NSA facility where the world’s greatest minds have been uploaded into a mainframe to survive the upcoming viral apocalypse planned at the hands of the Cigarette Smoking Man. Again, the visions seen in My Struggle II become a driving force for the show’s final season; it’s a welcome narrative structure that leads Mulder face to face with Barbara Hershey’s Erika Price, the conspirator and rival to the Cigarette Smoking Man we saw in the season 11 opener.
Already, Hershey is delivering a welcome villainous presence, the like we hadn’t really seen since the likes of John Neville’s Well Manicured Man in seasons three to five. She is certainly stronger than the stock villain that is the Russian black ops leader that hinder’s Mulder and Scully at every step. And talking of villains, I am still struggling to understand why Skinner is back to being a murky grey characters once more; he had so much character growth in the later seasons of the original run that it’s hard to reconcile with his path now. However, it does at least give something to his character and his motivations to reopen the X Files and put them under FBI control after they were sold to nefarious secret agencies and black ops units, widens the mystery of the show too. I love the idea that companies saw the files on the likes of Patrick Modell and Eugene Victor Tooms and thought they could replicate them for their own ends.
This ended with Mulder and Scully destroying the servers and freeing Langly, over for Price to cover everything up before the two agents could use the FBI to open an investigation. And that final twist with poor Langly trapped in a back up server was a dark twist, worthy of the show’s earlier seasons where the threat was never truly defeated. There was a sense of confidence in this episode that really made use of the revival formar. Episodes like Mulder and Scully Meet The Were-Monster may have been more bold and experimental last season, but This was really showing what The X Files could be in this modern era of Trump and Isis. It’s just a shame we’ve only got eight episodes left of the whole series…
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