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THE X-FILES “This” Review: Scully and Mulder Grapple With Change

By on January 11, 2018

THE X-FILES: L-R: Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in the “This” episode of THE X-FILES airing Wednesday, Jan. 10 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2017 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Shane Harvey/FOX

 

THE X-FILES EPISODE 11X02 “THIS” REVIEW

 

BY CHRIS B

 

Somewhere between The Matrix and Transcendence lies this week’s episode of The X-Files.  If, like me, you were hoping for a hilarious Darin Morgan episode to rescue you from the drudgeries of the premiere, we got the next best thing:  a Glen Morgan action-fest sprinkled with enough Mulder and Scully humor to remind us all of why we still watch.

It starts as just a quiet evening for Mulder and Scully at their home (yes, their home) in the middle of nowhere; the agents doze on the couch with their mismatched feet on the coffee table when they are interrupted by the usual — an electronic communique from a dead friend and a team of assassins in a station wagon.

It’s always something, isn’t it?

In what is clearly a choreographed drill, the agents smoothly elude the invaders, arm themselves, and eliminate two of their potential killers before the third flees the scene.

The inexplicable FaceTime from the Great Beyond is from Richard Langly, one of the ill-fated Lone Gunman who’d perished sixteen years ago from a weaponized virus strain.  In the message, he implores, “Mulder, am I dead?  If I am, they know that I know.”

Before they can assess adequately the situation of their home invasion, two military-style Humvees arrive outside led by a sassy Russian commander who blows off Mulder’s warnings.   Scully calls Skinner, desperate for help, but Walter has none to give:  “The only chance you have is to put down your weapons and surrender to them.”

They don’t, but in the end, it matters little.  The pair are overwhelmed, disarmed, and laid out on the floor in handcuffs.  What is the team after?  Mulder’s phone, which they locate easily when the message from Langley plays again and leads them directly to it.  This may have caused our heroes to lose vital evidence to the enemy, but the distraction is enough for the agents to escape on foot into the woods.

Purlieu, at the behest of Erika Price, is behind the attack.  Their attempts fail to find out how Langly made contact; Mulder’s phone is protected by a kill switch, much to the chagrin of the sassy Russian.

Scully asks Skinner directly if Langly is dead.  When he seems to talk around the question, she calls him on it, but all Skinner pointedly repeats of the Lone Gunman is they’re “buried in Arlington.”

THE X-FILES: Mitch Pileggi in the “This” episode of THE X-FILES airing Wednesday, Jan. 10 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2017 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Shane Harvey/FOX

Mulder and Scully head to the cemetery, only to discover that Langly’s birthdate is wrong on his headstone.  I guess it stands to reason that Mulder and Langly would share this particular production date:  October 13. 

The agents work the problem.  They deduce that Byers and Frohike both have birthdates which correspond to deaths of presidents; Scully (because she’s better than Google) knows not only what president died on the fake date on Langly’s stone, but also what numbers these men hold in the line of presidents.  They use the unrepresented number as a directional to another stone, that of Deep Throat, Mulder’s contact whose death in 1994 had nearly spelled the end of the x-files.

Mulder notices that the cross on Deep Throat’s stone looks different from that on the surrounding ones.  He moves it aside to find a gold disk beneath it, a memory medallion with a QR code imprinted upon it. 

Just as they retrieve the medallion, the escaped assassin from the station wagon crew creeps out of the shadows to finish his work.  He is unsuccessful.  The man ends up unconscious and bleeding on Deep Throat’s plot while Mulder and Scully make their second escape.

The QR code on the medallion shows a building in New York that had been used as part of an NSA program, codename Blarney.  Mulder recalls he’d opened an x-file on it decades ago, so since they have no access to their office, they must rely upon Skinner for assistance.  This is a touchy business, though, and their surprise meeting in the parking garage results in pulled firearms on both sides.

Skinner shows them that their x-files are no longer bound to the Hoover Building; after the office had been closed in 2002, the x-files were digitized and are maintained by a private company so that any intelligence agency could cross-reference them with classified access.

That company?  Purlieu.  Thus, the Russians that tried to kill Mulder and Scully have had access to all of their work.

THE X-FILES: L-R: Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in the “This” episode of THE X-FILES airing Wednesday, Jan. 10 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2017 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Robert Falconer/FOX

While Skinner is distracted by a phone call, the agents click through a couple of coded files to find a message presumably left for them by Langly, which leads them to Dr. Karah Hamby, a mathematics professor.  She tells them a tale of how the company came to her and Langly fifteen years ago “with the science and the math to prove that we could live forever.”  They have a contract with them to live out their natural lives and then continue their work after they die by scanning the salient features of the biological brain and uploading them into a simulation; these would come alive in the simulated life when they had expired in this one.

Richard currently exists in this simulation, but the fact that he’s tried to reach out is evidence that the company lied about the contract to which they’d agreed.  He’s reached out to Mulder upon essentially seeing him in dreams, the repressed memory of their investigations reaching the conscious level of Langly’s simulated form.

Dr. Hamby tries to give them a formula to help Langly get through, but as she writes it out, the long-haired assassin pops up a third time and executes her.  Luckily, they are able to reconstruct her algorithms and use her phone to allow Langly to contact them once again.

Langly knows that he is not real, and Richard describes his environment like his own personal heaven, full of hot dogs and mosh pits and a losing team of New England Patriots.  Despite that, he begs the agents to destroy it, for he knows that it is a blind for nefarious activity:  “It’s a work camp; we’re digital slaves…to develop science that the elite will use to leave your world.”  Theories of space colonization will become reality for these privileged few, while their own lives are absent of choice and diversity enclosed in a wall.

I have to wonder if they were promised that those in our world would pay for it.

Evolution

Charles Darwin could never have predicted the progression of life forms offered up by “This.”

In the cumbersome mythology twist suggested in the premiere episode, it seems that life on Earth is still doomed, but the new splinter group in the shadow government that is represented by Mr. Y and Erika Price are fighting not for vaccines and assimilation, but for escape to greener pastures elsewhere in the galaxy.

All of this will be accomplished by the merciless mining of uploaded brains in the simulation.

When they infiltrate Titanpointe, Mulder is taken to Ms. Price, who had been assured by Mr. Y that she would come to understand Mulder’s worth over time, and she has, at that.  She’s quite impressed by his “instinct for survival,” which is either an extreme understatement or the cheesiest pick-up line in existence.

Ms. Price explains to Mulder that the true meaning of evolution is one life being replaced by another, over and over, and the process has little to do with the arbitrary assignations (like race and gender) that we currently apply.  She asserts that life on our planet “is about to be crushed, burned to the ground.”  The computer simulation in that building is a necessary component in the evolution of our species, and she is confident that Mulder will not want to destroy it now that he is aware that it is “to advance life, not end it.”

She claims that they can upload a consciousness through a cell phone, take a bit of a person’s mind every time they make a call.  But does that mean a person has no choice in the matter?  Not according to Price:  “Sure you do!  You could not use your phone.”

That gurgled sound you hear is every anguished Millenial swallowing his tongue at the mere suggestion of this.

While Mulder keeps the lunatic Ms. Price talking, Scully is moving through the building, taking out armed security and gaining access to the server room at the moment that Mulder is brought there for a look-see.  Then, he takes out the sassy Russian while Scully destroys the mainframe of the simulation, but by the time they return with other FBI agents, all of the personnel and equipment have been removed.

THE X-FILES: David Duchovny (C) in the “This” episode of THE X-FILES airing Wednesday, Jan. 10 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2017 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Shane Harvey/FOX

Different Worlds

Before the assault team gains entry to the house, the sassy Russian commander taunts Mulder:  “Identify ourselves?  No.  We don’t need to identify ourselves.  What kind of world are you living in?”

Excellent question.

One thing that the characters struggle to come to grips with in this episode is the degree to which times have changed.  The world that we knew during the original series run of this show has become even more mired in bizarre conspiracies, but it remains a slave to shadowy knowledge held by a few over the many. 

Skinner tracks down the agents in the woods outside their home and frees them of their bonds, “risking [his] own ass” to help them.  He tells them that the men are from an American security contractor based in Moscow, gaining ascendency over the FBI as they operate on “a classified security directive from the Executive branch.”

Surprise, surprise.

Skinner, however, is unclear why they tried to kill Mulder and Scully when they were supposed to question, not to eliminate, intelligence agents.  Apparently the rules of the game have changed.

Later, at the grave of Deep Throat, Mulder is amazed that everything they’d feared had indeed come to pass.  “He’s dead because the world was so dangerous and complex then.  Who would’ve thought that we’d look back with nostalgia and say that was a simpler time, Scully?”

No one, Mulder.  Absolutely no one.

Skinner also displays a frustration with the current state of affairs.  The world that they had known, one in which the FBI was a veritable king in the intelligence community, is gone.  “Dark forces in the U.S. government” have been replaced by scores of agencies and companies, “all of them in bed with one another while trying to exterminate each other, and that includes each of us.”

Skinner also seems nostalgic for the days when the three of them could rely on one another.  “How did we get here?” he opines.  The unseen forces that are continually making the rules that Skinner has to follow seem to be wearing on him as much as Mulder and Scully.

Skinner has the FBI director convince the Executive branch to suspend their kill orders on Mulder and Scully, which is not an easy thing since “the Bureau is not in good standing with the White House these days,” unlike its trusted force of Russian paramilitary goons, that is.

Surprise, surprise.

Ultimately, Langly sends them to the Titanpointe building in New York to shut down Purlieu’s insidious project.  They gain access through the FBI field office, but as they ascend the steps, they are apprehended by the same sassy Russian commander who mocks Mulder for running:  “Haven’t you heard?  You’re on our side now.”

How cozy.

When he had stood atop the cuffed, prostrate forms of Mulder and Scully, this sassy Russian made a pointed remark that stands out:  “Here’s what I believe:  we would’ve all saved lots of money and headaches if we only knew that Americans would’ve been just fine losing the Cold War, if only they could only make a little money off of it.”

His words bring home the overall commentary of exactly how far America has fallen when the ideals of capitalism can overrun so handily those of patriotism.

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