The X-Files S11E03 “Plus One”
Director: Kevin Hooks
Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi
Writer: Chris Carter
Review by Michael Walls-Kelly
It seems everyone’s under the agreement that a man can’t cut off his own head.
“Plus One” has a lot of really good individual aspects. It’s well-directed with a few striking shot and lighting choices. There are some good scenes between Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) where they deal with their relationship, their age and what the future may hold for them. It’s also a big showcase for Karin Konoval, an actress who has done the motion capture for Maurice the orangutan in the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy and has guest-starred on The X-Files twice before.
Unfortunately, all of those aspects never really come together as a satisfying whole.
The episode has a decent cold open. Arkie (Jared Ager-Foster) is at a rock show and sees a creepy, smiling dude staring straight at him. It’s a Doppelganger. He freaks out, obviously, and starts driving away when the Doppelganger shows up in his car, grabs the wheel and crashes the car into a tree.
Mulder and Scully get involved because of the creepy double aspect, but that ends up being a weird sort of side effect of what’s actually going on. The “monsters” in this Monster-of-the-week episode are a pair of twins, Little Judy Poundstone and Little Chucky Poundstone, both played by Karin Konoval. The siblings have some sort of psychic connection, allowing them to play hangman with each other from great distances. When they play the game with someone’s name, that person is visited by their Doppelganger and killed. I guess? It’s never really explained.
Normally, I don’t mind when an X-File isn’t fully solved or explained by the end of the episode. It can add to the atmosphere when even the audience is left in the dark. This, however, feels like Chris Carter had three ideas for Doppelgangers killing people, deadly hangman and psychic twins played by the same actor and then just mashed them all together gracelessly.
Karin Konoval’s performance is the selling point of the whole thing. It’s pitched really zany, so if you don’t have any tolerance for that kind of hammy mugging, then you’ll probably want to turn the episode off. But, I mean, the whole thing is pretty goofy. There’s a lawyer who’s afraid he’s going to die under mysterious circumstances and comes home to his huge sword collection. Little Judy eats a pudding called Dookie! out of a tin can and then throws it at Scully. Which… yeah, I could have done without the last part.
Still, “Plus One” had a ‘90s vibe to it, which should end up being the whole point of a revival like this. There are and have been tons of genre shows that ape the style of The X-Files, so becoming just another one of those seems like a wasted opportunity. Your biggest selling points for the revival series are the chemistry between Duchovny and Anderson and the nostalgia aspect, so why not lean into it?
Speaking of Anderson and The Duchovs, they kind of sleepwalk through the story itself, showing as much interest in it as I did while I was watching. They continue to bounce off each other well. They have a terrific scene, lying in a motel room bed, discussing what their futures might bring. It gets a little confusing when you think too hard about their relationship — I thought they were firmly a couple, but Scully seems worried about Mulder finding someone else — but the history and emotion are there.
The episode ends with Judy and Chucky writing each other’s names on the hangman game and being killed. It’s a bit of a blah ending. We do get to see Scully try to rationalize why her Doppelganger is sitting in the back seat of her car, and we get Mulder literally wrestling with himself. So, I’ll take what I can get.
Verdict: Keep Watching. This episode didn’t blow any doors off, but it wasn’t bad. I know that’s damning with faint praise. “Plus One” definitely recaptured the feel of a run-of-the-mill episode from the ‘90s with the added bonus of the lived-in comfort of Mulder and Scully and their ability to reflect on their age. It was an interesting little subplot that, ultimately, didn’t go as far or get as interesting as it could have. It included a well-played and memorable scene by Anderson and Duchovny. “Plus One” won’t make any “Best Episodes of The X-Files” lists, but I don’t consider it a bad sign for the season as a whole.