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TV Review: The X-Files - Season 11 Episode 2 "This"

Episode: "This"

Synopsis: An old friend reaches out to Mulder and Scully in a seemingly impossible way, revealing a chilling secret..

REVIEW: I was very harsh on last week's season premiere episode of The X-Files and justifiably so. When this series is good, it is really good but when it is bad, it is damn awful. Even if last week's episode left a bad taste in your mouth, tonight's installment will surely prove that everyone involved with this series still have what it takes to turn in a great hour of television. Unlike Season 10's standalone episodes, tonight's hour serves as both a Monster of the Week entry as well as progressing elements of the series overall mythology. A timely story that feels like it would fit right in on Black Mirror, "This" is a cautionary tale about virtual existence and what it means to be alive. Plus it features the return of one of the Lone Gunmen who have been dead for seventeen years. Remember, this is The X-Files and anything can happen.

Picking up an indeterminate time after the premiere, "This" starts out with Mulder and Scully asleep on their couch together when armed men come up their driveway. At that same moment, Mulder's phone comes to life with the image of Langly who claims to be dead. It is an eerie warning that is followed by three armed mercenaries opening fire on Mulder and Scully. What follows is a beautifully edited action scene that may be one of the best this series has ever had. Writer/director Glen Morgan, responsible for some of the series best efforts, handles the action scene as well as numerous funny moments in equal measure. Not long after dispatching their would be assassins, another two vehicles arrive. This time their leader is a Russian accented man who claims to be in the right. Scully calls Skinner who tells them to surrender. Of course, they don't but are eventually captured by the armed soldiers.

Eventually making their escape, Mulder and Scully meet Skinner in the woods and he gives them enough cash to get away. Mulder and Scully realize that Langly must be alive or sending them clues to find him so they head to Arlington National Cemetery. There, they decode clues embedded in the dates on the Lone Gunmen's tombstones which leads them to the grave of none other than Deep Throat. It is a very cool callback to Mulder's first season source. We also learn his real name was Ronald and Langly left a microchip with a QR code on it. This leads the pair to a digitzed archive of the Lone Gunmen's files (including Frohike's spank bank folder with Scully's face as the icon). They then head to a woman named Dr. Hanby who was romantically involved with Langly. As it turns out, she and Langly were a part of a program that created a virtual simulation to house the consciousness of the brightest minds after they die. Before she can give the directions to shut it down, Hanby is killed by the last assassin from the opening scene whom Mulder takes out.

Waiting at a seedy bar, Mulder and Scully are contacted by Digital Langly again. He claims he is a slave within the simulation and those in control are using him and other geniuses like Steve Jobs and Michael Critchton to mine their intellects for wealth. Langly implores Mulder and Scully to head to the Long Lines Building in New York to shut down the servers keeping him alive. They sneak in via an FBI field office which has a tunnel to the Titanpointe building. Once they arrive in the facility, the agents are ambushed by the Russian and his mercenaries. Scully manages to escape and make her way to the server room but Mulder is taken to see the head of the facility. It turns out to be none other than Erica Price (Barbara Hershey). She spouts a lot of reminders about Mulder's father and his evil plan for world domination while claiming her ambitions are purely for the good of mankind. Mulder doesn't buy it and he manages to stall long enough for Scully to start shutting down the server.

Mulder and Scully manage to escape and get back up. They return to the server room and find all of the computer equipment is gone along with Price and any hints that anyone was ever there on the 24th floor. Mulder and Scully then return home to clean up the mess left after the ambush at the start of the episode when Mulder's phone goes off again. Langly returns, seemingly still alive and stuck in the simulation, but before he can say anymore, one of the creepy assassins rears his ugly face in the frame and the episode comes to an end.

I loved this episode! Feeling like classic X-Files, "This" had great action, a ton of funny dialogue (especially from Gillian Anderson who gets to make a shout out to Hannibal). It was also a great blend of a standalone with direct connections to the premiere mythology story, something Season 10 failed to do. I am expecting that most of this season will not connect back to the overall mythology, but it was nice to see them do it here. Most of the best X-Files episodes were timely and this hour managed to make a lot of connections to the current state of American intelligence agencies as well as the simmering tensions with Russia. The timeline may be a little hazy, but I would say this season takes place in 2017 even though the last episode picked up right after the finale set in 2015. That haziness does make it hard to tell why Mulder and Scully are FBI agents but also have mercenaries after them, why the X-Files are shut down again despite being reopened last season, and why Mulder and Scully are back to work like nothing happened in the previous hour. Those plotholes are the only reason I am not giving this great hour a perfect score.

Next on The X-Files: "Plus One" airs January 17th - A spate of deaths, in which the victims were plagued by their own doppelgangers, lead Mulder and Scully to a pair of twins playing a dangerous game.
 

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