TV Review: The X-Files (Season 11, Episode 3)
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The instant ‘written by Chris Carter’ glances upon the screen, X-Files audiences across the globe groan internally and prepare for an hour of a nonsensical narrative. Which is sad, really, since he created the iconic show in the first place.
However, as was demonstrated in the original run of the series, Carter does have the ability to pull fantastic gems out of the bag at a moment's notice, and ‘Plus One’ is certainly one of those compared to his recent spate of episodes. ‘Plus One’ slightly redeems Carter in the ‘revival’ of the show via a classic – albeit slightly perplexing – monster-of-the-week, with no strand of mythology in sight.
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Harmless on the surface but deadly underneath, telepathically connected twins Chucky and Judy Poundstone (both portrayed by the legendary X-Files alumni Karin Konoval) continuously play an innocent game of hangman on opposite sides of Henrico County, Virginia; with a weird (and never fully explained) twist. After reviewing cases of multiple victims being killed by their own doppelgangers, Mulder and Scully head to Virginia and investigate with surprising results.
The use of telepathy, doppelgangers and a strange way to inflict murder, Carter utilizes these oh-so-X-Files pieces to complete a largely conflict-free episode. At least, that is, regarding the mythology which is not explored at all in this episode (thank god). With a passing comment here and there between Mulder and Scully, the episode largely focuses back on what made The X-Files so great in the first place.
‘Plus One’ takes an outlandish story that evokes nostalgic ties back to similar episodes of mass hysteria in The X-Files past, including ‘Folie a Deux’ and ‘Fight Club’. The latter episode isn’t a great link back – it was a largely panned episode, also written by Carter – but it explores similar themes presented here; even involving twins.
Where ‘Plus One’ falls short, however, is in its comprehensive flow of the narrative. The plotline of the episode is simple enough on the surface, and it is easy to follow. But once you begin to think about the inner mechanics of Chucky and Judy’s telepathy and why they are able to summon doppelgangers of their victims to entice them to kill themselves is unknown. What we do know is that they killed their parents in a similar way (two games of hangman with the names ‘MOM’ and ‘DAD’ hang on Chucky’s wall), and that the two themselves also have doppelgangers that do not kill them until they succumb to their sibling rivalry when trying to kill Mulder and Scully.
It’s not integral for something as basic as the supernatural linearity to make sense – it rarely does – however, there comes a point where too many questions begin to arise against whatever Mulder and Scully are investigating. We never even know if they understand what they are facing either; all we can take is the face value that they understand what they’re looking at, and we don’t - which is not good in the long run, even for a monster-of-the-week episode.
What redeems the majority of this episode, however, are a few short yet historic scenes between Mulder and Scully placed amidst the carnage and chaos of their investigation. The case understandably gets under Scully’s skin and allows her to comfortably open up to Mulder by asking him to hold her, to which he beamingly abides. They then have a deep conversation regarding worries of their age, fears of finding someone else to have children with and what will happen when their investigative days at the FBI inevitably end.
These fears are mostly voiced by Scully – understandably so – hoping for an answer she knows Mulder can’t give her, as their future will always remain uncertain. It’s certain that they’ll always be together, but they have constantly lived under a cloud of ambiguity from the beginning; continually threatened by something or someone that could tear them apart. Their relationship is fraught with so much guilt and insecurity related to what they’ve been through – and what they’ve inevitably had to put their son through – and until they find William, part of their relationship will always remain estranged.
This is until they can feel more comfortable discussing their inner feelings with one another; something they’ve always struggled to do (and are thankfully getting better at), and until Scully can fully understand that Mulder wanted William as much as she did, and it’s not her fault that she needed to give him up to protect him.
It’s a miracle that we got this sort of sequence out of Carter, let alone the two majestically having sex, twice. It’s canon, guys, the couple that has forever remained weirdly platonic by their creator is finally letting them do the deed without strings attached.
We made it, guys. The shippers won. Mulder manically tells Scully to ‘put a dimmer on that afterglow’ after seeing his doppelganger in the bathroom mirror, to which a partially naked Scully replies ‘come back to bed’. What is life?
‘Plus One’ ends up being a shippers dream rather than a stellar monster-of-the-week, and I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way; especially if Carter is finally warming up to the idea that Mulder and Scully do not need unnecessary relationship drama that he previously instigated in I Want to Believe and the beginning of season ten.
I’m watching you, Carter.
The X-Files airs on Mondays at 9pm on Channel 5.