The X-Files: This
January 10, 2018 8:28 PM - Season 11, Episode 2 - Subscribe

Per IMDB, "A chilling secret is revealed when an old friend reaches out to Mulder and Scully in a seemingly impossible way." Per me, "FBI special agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully fall asleep on a couch in front of the TV, only to be awoken by a mysterious phone call."

Here's a recap from the AV Club, which is mostly fine.

I would like to simply say that this was as good an episode as one could hope for on network TV and that it looks like I am getting my wish, in a way, with a certain key plot point about the conspiracy this episode.
posted by ProfLinusPauling (32 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, it was certainly better than last week’s show. I guess they’re not running with the retconned history of The Lone Gunmen, unfortunately.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:53 PM on January 10, 2018

I thought they got fuzzy with their math when they talked about how long ago the Lone Gunmen died. If they died 16 years ago then Langley didn't sign up for the framework 15 years so.

It's strange to have the show reference the president and this administration without being overly explicit. It seems like they're trying to play the field. Maybe they gained a lot of Trump supporters last season with the terrorism and conspiracy radio show stuff.

I chuckled a few times, raged 0 times, got some nostalgia tickles by seeing tlg without their death and sacrifice having some dumb fucking retcon. I'll call this one a win!
posted by toomanycurls at 10:43 PM on January 10, 2018

Ugh, what a dumb episode. The whole plot was just a mess of incomprehensible crap. Duchovny definitely comes across like he is phoning it in. A lot of the outdoor night scenes were so dark we couldn't tell what was going on. The whole bit where Mulder put "algorithms" on his phone was idiotic. Copying peoples brains or whatever through cellphone use? Are they really still stuck in the 90's when it comes to understanding how tech works? Why did they only send one guy with Mulder to lock him up? Why suddenly decide to let Mulder live because "they know he is on their side now" or whatever? What did Scully shut down the mainframes with . . . a leatherman? There was no sense to the bad guys, who were bizarrely incompetent at everything they did. At least the writers weren't stupid enough to ignore the inevitability of a backup.

Yeah, I yelled at the teevee a lot last night when I watched this.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:38 AM on January 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

And hanging a lampshade on the incomprehensible and improbability of the cemetery clues based on death dates on the tombstones of people who didn't know they were going to die or be buried in Arlington. I kept expecting the big reveal to be that Mulder and Scully were in a simulation all along to wave away the ridiculousness of the plot, especially after they were for whatever reason suddenly sitting in a black void listening to Langley-bot instead of sitting in the diner.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:42 AM on January 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

"Better than last week's" is a low bar to clear, but they cleared it. I feel like this was a good episode if you mainly care about the personal relationships between the characters and a weak episode if you care more about the plot/mystery-of-the-week.

I'll give them points for finding a creative way to involve the Lone Gunmen without awkwardly retconning their deaths; and the notion of involving a Russian private company that gained access to the X-Files as a government subcontractor is one of the first really promising glimmers of not only understanding how the world's changed since the 90s but understanding how to use those changes for the benefit of the show. Mainly I just wish the writers had spent a little more time polishing the details and doing their research. I also felt like they couldn't quite decide whether to play the interactions with the Russians seriously or not; they landed in this weird, awkward, too-stupid-to-be-taken-seriously, too-threatening-to-be-comical area that I couldn't quite figure.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:12 AM on January 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

So, what is with the long-haired killer (who is obviously destined for a big boss fight around season's end) that is stalking M&S? In Arlington, when Mulder tackles him down, what happened? Did the killer turn into just a pile of empty clothes? It was hard to tell. And, based on the killer's final appearance, are we to assume that he is able to be transmitted out of the simulation and reformed into living matter in the physical world?
posted by Thorzdad at 9:42 AM on January 11, 2018

That was one of the scenes that was too dark to really get a good idea what was going on. We re-wound it a bunch of times because our first impression was also that he disappeared, but it looks like the long-haired guy was just slumped over with his head against a tombstone, blood running down the tombstone and his head. Or maybe that black alien oil stuff. Couldn't really tell with the crappy dark video.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:43 AM on January 11, 2018

Yeah, my impression was that the shot lingered to just demonstrate that the killer appeared to be dead. I think the first shot was just clothes and Mulder reacting/pulling his hand away because he felt or saw the blood, and then it cut to show the killer's bloody head against the tombstone. When Mulder says something like "He's an X-File!" after they shoot him in the lecture hall, it's because he thinks he was already dead.
posted by AndrewInDC at 10:52 AM on January 11, 2018

My only significant problem with this one was that it seemed like we were missing something by never seeing inside the simulation. Maybe the show's creators felt like this whole virtual world was such a big, epic thing that you either had to set a significant part of the episode there or never see it at all. And if we'd seen it, it's possible it could have made for some of that divisive X-Files WTF nuttiness on the order of First Person Shooter way back when or that MUSH ROOM crap last season. Maybe there was just no place in the running time where they felt like they could fit some stuff where Langley goes to see the Ramones or whatever, and maybe they'll do something like that when/if they return to this simulation plot. But it did feel kind of weird to just have Langley DESCRIBE all this stuff, without us ever glimpsing it. (And I kind of wished all three Lone Gunmen were in there, but maybe they felt it was more poignant to just have Langley alone.)

I never got the feeling the assassin guy had vanished. It seemed like either he died in the cemetery, came back to life and then in the end he was dead again and inside the simulation, or he didn't die when his head got wacked but at the end he did die and went into the simulation. Maybe he has the ability to enter and exit the simulation, I'm not sure.

The snide Eurotrash Russian guy was a fun new type of villain for them. Before we saw his face I honestly wondered if they'd stuntcast Tommy Wiseau. ("Oh hai, Mulder...") I felt like this episode went a long way toward course correcting from the conservative wingnut insanity of some of the last season, but I'm still wondering how much of what we saw back then is supposed to be real and how much was coma-vision. Like, the Joel McCale Glenn Beck dude... was he even real? I guess I'd have to go back and re-watch the last season to parse it all out, but I'm not so eager to do that.

It's so weird for a show to essentially say, "Our big gambit last season didn't work, so we're totally not doing that." It's a massive retcon on the order of the infamous Dallas "It was all a dream" thing. But what we're getting seems like such an improvement over where they were headed, I guess nobody's complaining.

The cemetery code thing was pretty wacky, but this show has ALWAYS been full of wacky stuff like that. With the X-Files, you kind of just have to accept that sometimes the plot goes wacky on you. Part of the fun of the MOTW episodes was that the premises could be silly as hell when you thought about them, but they were often still scary.

So are Mulder and Scully together again, as a couple? They seem to be living together, and kind of snuggly, and I feel like I missed something there. Last we'd seen them, it seemed like they were exes on good terms. I kind of prefer them as a couple at this point, but maybe they're just REALLY close, snuggly exes.

(Apparently my spellchecker recognizes Mulder, but not Scully. Stupid sexist spellchecker!)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:39 PM on January 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

are we to assume that he is able to be transmitted out of the simulation and reformed into living matter in the physical world?

They should make a movie about that! With Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington! Holy living fuck that was in 1995.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 4:19 PM on January 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

It just looks like a client server.
posted by snofoam at 5:58 PM on January 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Scully: How do you operate so well while in cuffs?

Mulder: You'd know.

They do seem to be back together. I thought that had to be just Mulder's place and Scully was visiting, because it was so messy, but later in the episode Scully referred to "our house".

Definitely better than last week, but still not good. I really don't understand why the writing's so bad.
posted by orange swan at 7:16 PM on January 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

I guess I'm hitting an age "touchstone" and I spend more attention on actors that I've "grown up with."

Mitch Pileggi is aging well - or at least cryostasis well by makeup artists as proxy.

Same with Duchovny. Anderson has always been physically attractive. Her transition into maturity has beeen ... weird; I like her looks but the weight loss is a little bit more than what strength training would give - since Anderson was never on tv with weight to lose.

She looks unhealthy - but is that what FOX wants the viewers to think about it, in this instance?

Also her role in the Gaimen thing; American Gods.

Yeah. Media = handcuffs
posted by porpoise at 10:17 PM on January 11, 2018

I found this legit enjoyable to watch. Yeah the tech explanations made no sense but name me one single tech episode in XF history that did. The action scenes were entertaining, they both got some good gags in. It felt like, yknow, season 6 middling motw episode, but everyone was really old. I'LL TAKE IT.

I mean, the entire joy of XF tech episodes is loling at how silly the explanations for everything are. They clearly were very much aware of that and went all out going as ridiculous as possible. The "client server" line was the tip of the iceberg. "I phreaked my phone" made me actually laugh out loud.

IDK. This felt like coming home to me. I guess my bar for XF is way lower than many of you, but I watched through the end of season 9 on network TV and boy do I remember how terrible this show can be. A goofy tech MOTW with Langly in it and a couple good jokes? I'll take it!
posted by potrzebie at 11:31 PM on January 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh and loved the "Warm California Sun" musical motif. Are they shooting in LA or Vancouver this season?
posted by potrzebie at 11:38 PM on January 11, 2018

Tagline kind of immediately pissed me off AGAIN...
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 1:37 AM on January 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hate to say it but the tech in this episode actually kinda makes sense for the x files. The stupid alien animation on the phone did make me laugh. QR Code. X Files being digitized. Prominent display of the Samsung branding on laptop.

WHEN THE FUCK DID MULDER LEARN HOW TO FIGHT? He has always been complete shit at fighting/self defense.

Good things in this ep:
The line about Frohike looking 57 when he was born.
"He saw Mulder in his dreams..." "Who hasn't?" This struck me as an actual almost classic Mulder quip.
Hannibal Lecter level psycho. lol. (Also, yay fan service?)
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 2:29 AM on January 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Jesus this return is *rough*.

All this episode did for me was make me realize we will probably not get a single monster of the week episode. We're stuck too deep in conspiracy nonsense.
posted by graventy at 9:00 AM on January 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

All this episode did for me was make me realize we will probably not get a single monster of the week episode. We're stuck too deep in conspiracy nonsense.

This this this. I am grimly watching because of stupid loyalty to what this show meant to me *coughcoughcough* years ago, but holy crap. It started and I said "creature of the week PLEASE creature of the week", but creature of the week.

I never cared about the stupid black oil, and I don't care about whatever nonsense is going on this time. Do they not realize that what was good about The X Files were the characters, their arcs and relationships, and the FREAKING CREATURES OF THE WEEK? Apparently not. Bleah.
posted by biscotti at 12:20 PM on January 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

I am hopeful for MOTW eps. Next ep is written by Chris Carter, I think. AFTER THAT there is an ep written by Glen Morgan. The ep after that is written by James Wong.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 1:55 PM on January 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Did anyone else feel like that shot of the three hitmen heading towards Mulder and Scully's place, with them peacefully asleep in it, was a call back to the three inbred Peacock boys driving towards Sheriff Taylor's house in the "Home" episode? I noticed that when Skinner accessed the X files for Mulder and Scully, the one to come up was labelled "Home, Pennsylvania".
posted by orange swan at 2:18 PM on January 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

The woman who played the mom in that episode (Home) is playing a new character in an episode this season. I didn't notice what file opened on this ep because I was laughing over Samsung product placement and Frohike's spank bank.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 3:39 PM on January 12, 2018

(I learned that last night when I was looking to see who wrote episodes for this season.)
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 3:41 PM on January 12, 2018

It was nice to see lots of (maybe too much?) classic Mulder/Scully interactions, if a little forced, and classic indiv Mulder, indiv Scully - again, if a little forced.

But the show is definitely still stuck in '90s sensibilities.

"Spank_Bank_v3"?! Sandrine Holt as "sexy maths prof"?!

Also, the disparity between what tech is achievable and what the public thinks tech is achievable ad what tech is in the show. The show's running straight into "Dr Who" fantasy-presented-as-"scifi" territory.

re: MythArc

Feels like they're doubling down on crazy/stupid rather than have a conclusion in mind.

I'm still all in on that it'd be a better story if it was all just a huge scam on "secret society cosplay" oligarchs.

re: He has always been complete shit at fighting/self defense.

Yeah, but Scully also apparently leveled up on infiltration and empty-hand assassination. Neither of which are current-training independent.

Not to mention that they're a decade or two older than at the peak of the show.
posted by porpoise at 8:39 PM on January 12, 2018

I wonder if there's any relevance to THIS MAN being in the photo with the Lone Gunmen.

Otherwise, I have a soft-spot for gibberish, 90s style techno thrillers.
posted by lmfsilva at 8:12 AM on January 14, 2018

Nerdy film note: Kim Manners was responsible for the look of the original XFiles (and the first 4 or so seasons of Supernatural). He had that dark, washed out thing down pat and was the master of crazy props, basements, cheap yet satisfying monsters and that particular grungy atmosphere. The new X-files is trying to re-capture that moodiness but it's just dark. Like- I can't see what's happening, dark. It's not moody or atmospheric, there's just not enough light. Probably somewhat down to digital vs film but I think a lot of it is the Manners aesthetic was just so distinctive and since his death I don't think anyone can pull it off the same. Most of the X-files crew went to Supernatural with him and presumably will remain there in stasis through Season 124 so I doubt many of them work on the rebooted XFiles.
posted by fshgrl at 3:52 PM on January 14, 2018

I watched this for the first time last night, and's dark. Not "ooh, that's grim" dark-- "I can't see what the hell is happening" dark. I spent probably the first ten minutes of the episode yelling at the TV for someone to TURN ON A LIGHT already.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:59 AM on January 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

And, based on the killer's final appearance, are we to assume that he is able to be transmitted out of the simulation and reformed into living matter in the physical world?

No, I think that was just the digital version of him. The meat version was dead.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:54 PM on January 24, 2018

Mitch Pileggi is aging well - or at least cryostasis well by makeup artists as proxy.

Same with Duchovny.

I saw a promotional photo of Duchovny a few years ago when he released a book, he didn't have a team of make up artists and he looked his age, especially with un-dyed hair.
posted by FallowKing at 8:04 PM on January 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Ramones hook pulled me thru the whole show. Bummer no zombie Joey, Deedee, Marky, or Johnny.
posted by mwhybark at 12:16 AM on March 27, 2018

fwiw the QR code on the challenge coin thing spells out - it's incorrect and should have been a
posted by porpoise at 8:35 PM on September 23, 2020

This wasn't such a terrible episode. The science/tech was so crap even I knew it was, but the action was good. The cold open was actually quite compelling, what with Langley's freaky phone call and Scully rolling over that table, grabbing her gun, and then flipping over the table to use it as a shield was badass. I don't think the wood would have protected her from any bullets but at least it kept her out of sight.

Why wouldn't Scully and Mulder have access to the X-Files when they're working on the X-files?

I am so fed up with the "can we trust Skinner" thing. How many times does the man have to prove his integrity?
posted by orange swan at 10:38 AM on October 15, 2020

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