There are still ghosts in the machine on The X-Files

FOX

This latest season of The X-Files really seems like everyone is ready to truly wrap things up. We know Gillian Anderson is done, and Chris Carter has said the show is about Mulder and Scully. Without her, the show really has nowhere to go (as evidenced by what happened when David Duchovny left the original series). And with that impending conclusion, it’s nice to little bits of information heretofore unknown. Last week we learned The Cigarette Man’s real name, and this week we learned the long departed (Season 1 finale) Deep Throat’s real name: Ronald Pakula (although it was suspected at some point that his name was Ronald, but now we know for sure). And we also got the name of the new, mysterious character played by Barbara Hershey — Erika Price.

This week’s episode, titled “This”, seemed like a stand-alone as we found Scully and Mulder comfortably together at his place, zonked out on the couch, and no mention of any of last week’s events. Including zero references to William or The Cigarette Man. But as the pair find themselves attacked first by three armed assailants and then two military vehicles full of Russians, we heard one of them say Price was going to be upset that the pair killed two of the best assassins. But why when seeking help, Skinner told Scully to just surrender? And what event led to all of this in the first place?

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A ghost of sorts. The digitally spectral visage of long lost Lone Gunman Langly, asking Mulder if he’s dead. Before Mulder can give him an answer, he loses his phone to the Russians and he and Scully embark to Arlington National Cemetery where the Gunmen are buried (after they were incinerated). At one point, Mulder believed they were still alive, continuing their work from under their graves in Arlington. But finding their headstone, Mulder noticed Langly’s birthdate was wrong. And he somehow figured out there was a code there, which led him to Deep Throat’s grave and a QR code embedded behind the cross.

The code linked to a video of a building in New York, the Long Lines Building, which Mulder had opened an X-File on back in the 1990s, code named Titanpointe and used as an NSA surveillance station (the building was also mentioned in the Snowden documents). But Mulder needs to get a hold of his files, something fairly impossible to do since they’re not very welcome at FBI headquarters, so who can they ask for help? Good old Walter Skinner, of course, even though they don’t trust him. When they corner him in a parking garage, he’s just as perplexed as I am as to why Mulder and Scully have such issues with Skinner these days. I’m really hard-pressed to recall why this distrust has built up, so if anyone can refresh my memory, feel free to do so.

But Mulder is in luck because he doesn’t need to get into the building, his files are now online for easy FBI access. What’s interesting about all this is how contemporary the storytelling is, obviously referencing our current political climate, especially where Russia may, or may not, be involved. Here, the Russians are clearly working with the government and have access to the digitized X-Files. (Robert Mueller gets a name drop here too as the head of the agency who lobbied to have the files digitized.) Mulder seems upset that “his” files are now available for virtually anyone to see … but wasn’t that what he wanted all along?

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The story takes a turn when Mulder realizes everything about and related to Langly has been erased (I’m surprised no one said the server had been bleached). But one of Gunman Frohike’s files, the infamous “Spank Bank,” is still accessible and it leads the pair to Professor Karen Hanby, who had some kind of relationship with Langly and revealed that both she and he had agreed to be part of a program that scanned and uploaded their brain functions onto a server, and that their consciousness would be activated once the person had died, in effect allowing them to live forever, at least in a digital world. But before she can give Mulder more details, the last of Price’s three hitmen shows up and kills her, but Scully dispatches him before he can do any more damage.

The pair get to New York and Scully finagles her way into the FBI’s New York bureau, hoping that Langly’s theory that there was a tunnel between it and the Long Lines Building was true. It was, and they get in but more of Price’s Russians intercept them. Scully gets away and Mulder is taken to Price who explains to him that at first she wanted to kill him, but his resilience has impressed her and she seems to almost talk him into agreeing to be downloaded onto their server (if Scully can be with him, that is). Scully, meanwhile, has found the server room and a bit too easily carries out the favor Langly asked of them — to destroy this place he described as a digital Heaven — no one dies of cancer, The Ramones play every night (and don’t fight), and the New England Patriots never win a game. But it’s also a Hell, because everyone there, including Steve Jobs and Michael Crichton, are just slaves, their minds being used to help develop whatever Erika Price is working on to colonize space once the human race, and most animal life, is obliterated (by the Smoking Man’s alien hybrid virus).

Scully succeeds in shutting down the server, but by the time she and Mulder get a team of FBI agents back to the server room, everything is gone, including Erika Price. Back at Mulder’s place, the pair crash on the couch again, but Langly reappears on Mulder’s phone urging them to destroy the backup before he is wiped off the screen and replaced by the face of the assassin who killed Karen Hanby.

This was an okay episode that gave us just a bit of mythology in what could have just been a stand-alone episode (that harkened back to season one’s “Ghost in the Machine”), but it did have a funny exchange about Frohike when Mulder asked Skully if he looked 57 when he died, and Dana responded, “Frohike looked 57 the day he was born.” Upon their return to Mulder’s destroyed living room, he quipped, “We gotta take a trip to IKEA.” But one of the most interesting, politically charged lines came right at the opening in place of the usual “I want to believe” tag line with something that seems directly pointed at one particular, politically powerful person: “Accuse your enemies of that which you are guilty.” A rather pointed jab.

The X-Files airs Wednesdays at 8:00 PM on FOX.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Tell us in the comments below!

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. This is a good review, thanks for the reading! At the last paragraph you made a mistake, as the usual opening line is The Truth is Out There, and you also wrote Scully as Skully.
    I`ll come to read more reviews from this season episodes, you wrote this one quickly, its the first one that I read about This.

    • Thanks for the feedback. I was thinking back to last week when I Want to Believe changed to I Want to Lie, but you are correct. Thanks for reading!