The X-Files 11×02, “This,” is where Glen Morgan captains the USS MSR and sails us into the sunset as we all wave to Chris Carter, who stands desolately on the shore of My Struggle Island.
Come aboard with me as I review “This.”
It Was The Ship Of Dreams
I’m not gonna lie, the bitterness that I carried from “My Struggle III” initially made it difficult for me to enjoy “This”. I thought that Chris Carter had tainted (“You said taint.”) the franchise to the point of no return. Luckily, MSR lives on in spite of him. And that’s what is good about this episode. Probably the only thing good, in my opinion, but I’ll get to that later. Let me just focus on the positive for a minute. It’s so rare I get to do that with this show nowadays.
The transition from 11×01 to “This” worked a lot better than I thought it would. Although the dialogue that points it out is a little weak and expositional, but necessary, nevertheless. It brought back bad feelings, though, okay? Mulder and Scully haven’t talked to Skinner in a couple of weeks, but isn’t he still their superior and aren’t they still agents working under him?
*deep breath* Don’t get bogged down on logic and details, Erin.
The point is, I was able to get past the horrors of last week easier than anticipated.
And the reason I was able to was because “This” is like watching fan fiction come to life. The amount of Mulder/Scully banter and physical contact is astounding. Platonic what now? This is an old married couple, and if you can’t see that get your eyes checked. The domesticity and comfort the characters show in this episode is a lot of fans’ head canons. I happily await the slew of IKEA fics to come (as well as those handcuff ones…).
Mulder: I’m gonna open an X-file on this bran muffin. I gotta get to the bottom of why it’s so freaking good.
Scully: I don’t care if it came out of an alien’s butt, I’m going to eat the whole thing.
If you’ve never read X-Files fan fiction, these are exactly the kinds of exchanges Mulder and Scully have. Gillian Anderson, who live-tweeted the episode, informed us that she ad-libbed her line. This is not surprising for two reasons: 1) because she is a very funny person, and 2) because she has apparently read some fan fiction. She advertised the night’s episode by referring to the most famous of X-Files fics, “The Airport,” AKA “The Chili’s Fic.” And just when we think she’s simply caught wind of the fandom’s many references to Chili’s, she refers to something that actually happens in the story. Gillian read “The Chili’s Fic,” and you cannot convince me otherwise.
Anyway, back to “This.”
David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson have slipped back into these roles that they made iconic. It was hard for them to do that in Season 10 because of that ridiculous break-up. If you have the characters be that extremely out of character, you’re setting your leads up to fail. Here, though, Glen Morgan allows them to shine. And shine they do, almost to the point of being blinding. There is so much touching and affectionate teasing, my shipper heart didn’t know how to handle it. I mean, Mulder called Scully “adorbs.” It doesn’t get much better than “This.” (Aside from a sex scene, but “not even I would be so far fetched.”)
Special BAMFs Dana Scully And Fox Mulder
It is super refreshing to see Scully kick ass after being thrown around (literally and metaphorically) like a rag doll in “My Struggle III.” The opening scene set to The Ramones’ “California Sun” is so much fun. The stunts are amazing. These “old” people (to which David and Gillian keep referring them) are pretty dang spry. And this action maintains throughout the episode. The agents are jumping flights of stairs and making harrowing escapes while handcuffed together. These are the heroes we deserve.
The scene at Arlington cemetery is excellent, as well. Not only are these two shown to be physically proficient as our heroes, but intellectually. “Who needs Google when you’ve got Scully.” The way they figure out the clever clues is delightful, and the callback to Deep Throat is a nice, sentimental touch.
We’ve always known Mulder and Scully to be these bad-ass agents, and the two of them working on this classic-style X-File on the fringe of law and order is a true return to form. This is what fell by the wayside when Chris Carter let his shitty mythology run rampant. We only got glimpses of it throughout The X-Files’ eighth and ninth seasons, and it was virtually absent in Season 10.
Like Scully kicking her feet up in the Unremarkable House, I’d like to make myself at home here.
Hello, It’s Me, Debbie Downer
My strategy going forward is to live as though Season 10 and “My Struggle III” don’t exist. I already do this with certain episodes (“3?” I don’t know her.) and even entire plotlines (Mulder’s brain disease). However, the fact that we were made to go through Season 10 at all will forever enrage me. The only cure? Not more cowbell. It’s MSR.
If you take away the MSR element (I’m not even just talking about romantically) and look at the story itself, it is mediocre, in my opinion. The plot is hard to follow — even without Gillian’s distracting tweets. It seems out of character for Langly to have ever allowed some secret corporation to upload him…or whatever. And this love interest is way out of left field. It serves as the deus ex machina, contrived and bland.
The scene between Mulder and Erika Price is shot somewhat pretentiously. The set dressing and the camera work is ostentatious; although, Barbara Hershey is great. It’s nice to see her not getting interrupted by Mr. Y every five seconds. (Mr. Y — as in WHY is he even this show, amirite?) We can’t have a woman be the head of an evil syndicate all on her own? Thanks, Chris Carter, for yet another one of your misogynistic points of view showing up on my favorite TV show.
I hate to complain about anything after everything this episode gives us, but The X-Files opened itself up to extreme criticism when they made us excited about a revival and then let us down royally for an entire season. You throw a bunch of MSR at us and expect us to lose our shit — I mean, we do — but we should’ve had it way before “This.”
- The opening credits tagline is changed to “Accuse your enemies of that which you are guilty.” Did Carter suggest this? It has his blowhard name all over it.
- “Agent Mulder’s residence.” Really? That’s unnecessary. Once again, did Carter weasel his way in here somehow?
- “Frohike looked 57 the day he was born.”
- “We can’t go to our home. They’ll be waiting for us at our office.” The word “our” is the real MVP.
- Okay, this Spank Bank business. I laughed out loud at first, but it stayed in the back of my mind like an icky albatross. It’s in poor taste, especially after “My Struggle III.” It reminds me of the “crack” joke in 10×03, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.” It’s funny initially, but never sits right because of its gross offensiveness.
- This WHOLE scene that takes place at
Chili’ssome dive bar is insane. Project it on my gravestone, please.
- Scully’s wink. [kisses fingers like a chef] Perfection!
- Mulder’s “gag me” face. Wow.
- “This guy is like Hannibal Lecter-level pyscho.” I screamed.
- “Sorry bro, I’m married to the Bureau.” Scully called someone “bro!”
- “Could Agent Scully be with me?” My heart!
- “Why do you operate so well with your hands cuffed behind your back?” “As if you didn’t know.” CAN YOU BELIEVE?!
- Scully has her hand on Mulder’s chest for the longest time.
- This episode begins and ends with Mulder and Scully snuggling on the couch in their home. Hashtag: Blessed.
The X-Files airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on FOX.