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THE X-FILES “Plus One” Review

By on January 18, 2018

THE X-FILES: L-R: David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in the “Plus One” episode of THE X-FILES. Co. Cr: Shane Harvey/FOX

 

THE X-FILES “PLUS ONE” REVIEW

 

BY CHRIS B

Two questions:

1) If your doppelgänger kills you, is it homicide or suicide?

2) Is Kathy Griffin in this episode, too?

Arkie Seavers wants to know the answer to at least one of these questions.  When he crashes into a tree, sans seatbelt, he has only himself to blame—literally and figuratively.  Thus is the medical diagnosis which accompanies this incident and the ones that have issued before it from the unfortunate souls in a single Virginia county who reported seeing their doubles, just before meeting their own ends.

When our agents decide that Arkie is too stupid to have concocted his nonsensical story, that paradox (along with some corroborating crime scene evidence) pushes them to look into the other incidents.  At the psychiatric hospital, the doctor is unconcerned about a “suicidal contagion” infesting their community, labeling the events as “a kind of outbreak” of mental illness.  She introduces Mulder and Scully to a patient named Judy, whose room is covered in drawings from games of Hangman that she plays telepathically with her brother, ones which are solved with the names of victims like Arkie Seavers.

When Judy takes Arkie’s puzzle and draws a sad face upon its empty head, his fortunes turn.  He ends up handcuffed and strangled to death in his jail cell.

The plot thickens when it turns out that Judy’s “insufferable” brother happens to be Chucky Poundstone, the trustee who’d found Arkie’s body—more so when Mulder discovers that Judy and Chucky are twins, that Chucky has identical Hangman drawings all over his house, and that Mr. Poundstone indicates there’s an unseen person eavesdropping on their conversation (just as his “miserable slut” of a sister had done).  Though Chucky goes on to accuse his sibling of cheating and breaking the rules of their game, it makes sense:  “It takes a dipwad to know one.”

While Scully remains firm on a diagnosis of mental illness, Mulder is not ready to rule out ghosts.  Scully is quick to point out that he could be right, “except for the fact that they don’t exist.”  (Is it mere coincidence that happened to be her exact opinion on vampires in “Bad Blood”?  Perhaps the scripts have doubles as well!)  She cites studies that have proven that stimulation of different parts of the brain can cause the feelings associated with spectral evidence, ones which her partner is happy to label as, well, dookie.

Chucky sees that Arkie’s lawyer believes that his client’s death may be “supernatural” in nature, prompting him to open a new Hangman game with his sister sporting the four letters of the lawyer’s first name.  When Mulder and Scully return to the twins, each respectively accusing Chucky and Judy of somehow being able to manipulate the lives of those around them (and, therefore, playing a starring role in the recent deaths), the game for Dean is ongoing.

THE X-FILES: L-R: Gillian Anderson, guest star Denise Dowse and David Duchovny.
Co. Cr: Shane Harvey/FOX

Judy reveals to Scully that people can protect themselves from their doubles by taking pills, ones given to her by the nurses every morning.  However, she refuses to stop playing Hangman with her brother as without that for a distraction during the long days in the hospital, she’d “go mad.”  The pills, according to the nurses in question, are merely rolled up bread.  But they both take them every morning, “in case they have secret powers.”  (Good call, Judy; being in the hospital too long apparently can drive one insane.)

Scully tries to proceed upon the staid reasoning of Sherlock Holmes—eliminate the impossible and what remains, however improbable, must be the truth.  For his part, Dean rushes home to try to rid himself of all potential suicide devices—tools, guns, ties, and belts.  However, before he can clear out his collection of Samurai swords, his double appears and takes up a blade.

Poor terrified Dean quite literally loses his head.

It is not long before Mulder and Scully become the subject of the Hangman game between the twins.  After a restless night that finds them sharing a bed, Scully must “put a dimmer on that afterglow” and get back to work, for the twins have each targeted the agent that he or she despises, but when the other sibling won’t play along, they target one other, just as they had their own parents.

Game over.

Ship-Shape

Finally.

It comes to no surprise for any long-time fan of The X-Files that Mulder and Scully are a bonded pair.  But like so many characters, they seem to have suffered from the ill-conceived, frankly ridiculous superstition that allowing a pair to definitively cross an unseen border into romance would kill the entire series.

But love doesn’t destroy fiction; bad writing does.

THE X-FILES: David Duchovny. Co. Cr: Shane Harvey/FOX

Still, while our agents have been given some allusive dialogue and pronoun use, a few suggestive scenes (like a green t-shirt being adjusted while an unclad Mulder snoozes nearby in “All Things”), and a couple of smooches, their connection has been kept largely at bay.  Even William, their child, could not bridge the gap for us, as he was apparently created in a laboratory, not between anyone’s sheets.

Thus, to have our agents finally seek each other out, twice, for some blatant naked time was gratifying to see.  Anyone who knows and loves these characters could scarcely deny them this; they have suffered innumerable losses and basically led lonely, sombre lives.  To keep them from each other at this point would be cruel and senseless.  Together is the only way these two people can endure; together is how they should always be.

While this move has been a long time in coming, I cannot say that it impressed me.  I’ve spent too many of my television-watching years falling in love with characters who, despite being perfectly matched, were never permitted to fall in love with each other, and for even more asinine reasons than these two.

For instance, if Fox had extended itself and allowed Abbie Mills and Ichabod Crane to become a couple, it would have made a clear statement.  Racism eroded by true love?  I would have been impressed.

Or if the BBC had possessed an ounce of vision and allowed Sherlock Holmes and John Watson to become a couple, it would have been transformative.  Homophobia crippled by soulmates?  I would have been impressed.

So at this point, I have to wonder:  if even two heterosexual white people had to wait a quarter century for the network gods to give them their due, how long will it be for the rest?

Scully, Too

Scully meets “demon Judy” and, while dodging spoonfuls of Dookie, suffers through a verbal beatdown in which Judy not only refuses to help stop the killings, she suggests that perhaps Scully should be next so that Judy could have Mulder to herself; after all, she pronounces Scully, “a hosebag…past her child-bearing years, [thus] all dried up…not even half a woman.”

Scully initially lets the attack roll off, as she should.  However,  the words seem to rankle and cause her to suffer a lingering self-doubt, going so far as to ask Mulder if he thinks of her as old.  He, of course, assures her that she’s “still got some scoot in [her] boot,” but she seems less than convinced.

As her fears advance, she even crawls in bed with Mulder and worries aloud that he might “meet somebody younger who wants to have kids,” thereby leaving her all alone.  Despite the deafening tick of her biological clock, she pronounces herself unable to have children of her own as she doesn’t “have anyone to have one with, even if [she] could.”

Clearly, I’m not opposed to Scully seeking a cuddle (and infinitely more) from Mulder, and I certainly don’t begrudge her seizing the opportunity again once the case is concluded—the girl has well-earned every single bit of that happiness! 

However, I don’t know why it surprises me that Chris Carter would suggest that every woman in her forties, even one as formidable as Dana Scully, is just a few words away from a breakdown over her colossal irrelevance in the grand scheme of things, particularly not after he casually suggested in the premiere episode that this same woman bore a child after being raped by a skeevy old man.

Later, Scully sheepishly tells the freaked lawyer that “it can’t haunt you if you don’t let it.”  Well, this attitude about the worth of women does haunt us—all of us—and this is exactly how it is permitted to do so.  If there’s anything that 2017 reminded us, it is that women suffer regular and systematic abuse by the system, one that is still firmly controlled by an enclave of men whose current self-pitying fear of being men is the ultimate in irony.  In this battle, the stories that we tell matter.  Thus, a shift in the societal narrative must be accompanied by a distinct shift in creative narratives as well.

So if it is basic equality for which we all strive, I’ll stop being aggravated by this plot twist when Mr. Carter pens an episode devoted to, say, a pathetic, aging white guy who scrapes and claws to avoid the abyss by popping handfuls Viagra and Flomax, using his position to victimize the women he sees as threats to his fading manhood, while desperately trying to reboot his glory days before a skeptical, semi-apathetic audience. 

For an encore, perhaps this hypothetical guy could actually invite a woman into his writer’s room, unless what he fears most is being the one who is “censured for an abuse of power.”

Judy seems to be right about one thing:  “Nothing hurts like the truth.”

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