The X-Files S11E02 “This”
Director: Glen Morgan
Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi
Writer: Glen Morgan
Review by Michael Walls-Kelly
Mulder, I need to know… am I… dead?
Now that’s more like it.
The second episode of season 11 shows a solid, if generally unremarkable, version of The X-Files. It also works as a much better premiere for the second — and probably last — season of this revival. The overall Mytharc of the season has a big role in the episode, but “This” is still a Monster-of-the-Week.
The episode starts with Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) just chilling at home when a team of assassins tries to take them out. The entire opening is entertaining and original as the tension, action, and weirdness grow. The assassins burst in. Our agents take care of two of them in a very fun sequence that shows off Scully’s badass skills. The pair are also contacted on Mulder’s phone by Richard Langly (Dean Haglund), the very dead member of The Lone Gunmen.
After yet another team tries to take them out and they badassedly escape, Mulder and Scully do what they do best by investigating a dang old X-File. The story involves them going to Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) and getting his help while still being suspicious of him from the premiere. The case involves lots of cool, X-Files-y stuff like the Titanpointe building, uploaded consciousness, and the conspiracy of rich folks who want a select few humans to colonize other planets which were set up in the premiere.
It’s great to have Mulder and Scully actually together, solving crimes and bantering. One of the reasons why the premiere fell flat is that it kept them away from each other for the majority of the hour. Here we get to see how comfortable they are with each other, whether it’s talking about delicious muffins, deducing whatever weird shit is going on, or running away while handcuffed to each other. That stuff is exactly why we tune into The X-Files.
It was interesting to see the mythology which was laid out in last week’s premiere have a fairly prominent role in this episode. I assumed the search for William/Cigarette Smoking Man hijinks/new secret society stuff would be running in the background. I figured it would be relegated to a few minutes at the end of a few episodes before we got back to a full mytharc episode.
Here we have the monster-of-the-week — a server full of the uploaded minds of the people like Steve Jobs and the aforementioned Langly — directly related to the secret society, and Erika Prince (Barbara Hershey) even shows up to monologue at Mulder in a neatly shot Network reference. This is something the original series rarely did, besides inserting characters like X or Deep Throat into certain monster-of-the-week episodes to clean up or cover up, but it actually works really well here. It almost plays like a do-over, setting up the big new secret society all over again.
“This” had a very clever way of bringing back The Lone Gunmen without retconning their deaths in season 9. Langly being willing to have his consciousness uploaded seems a little far-fetched, but I was willing to look past it. Dean Haglund does some good work here. He comes off as a little confused, a little sorrowful, and very scared. He also gets to be funny, which is what you want from a Lone Gunman.
Glen Morgan — along with his previous writing partner, James Wong — was one of The X-Files first breakout staff members in the original run. He was responsible for some of the most iconic early episodes. You can tell in “This” that he has a firm grasp on what an episode of the show needs to be. I was also impressed with his directing. He directed last season’s “Home Again,” which didn’t stand out to me, but “This” has a nice, propulsive feeling of a miniature little thriller film. He uses the geography of Mulder’s house well during the two fight scenes there. The Titanpointe building interior could have felt like a series of bland, grey hallways, but he does enough to spice it up. I’d be surprised if the entire cold open doesn’t end up being one of the best scenes in this whole season.
If you top all that off with a vague and spooky ending, you’ve got a solid entry of The X-Files. If the season is able to hold this quality, and creep a little higher, it may end up being the success I had hoped season 10 would be.
Verdict: Keep watching! This was a heartening entry in the series. Not an all-time great, but it comes off like the kind of entertaining mid-season standalone you’d see in the original series. The cold open was classic. It was an entry filled with Mulder and Scully interaction, which leaves me very little to complain about. It felt a little like a half of a Mytharc episode crammed together with a half of a Monster-of-the-Week episode, which means it didn’t fully gel as one or the other. It did manage to focus the season’s storyline and entertain me at the same time, a feat that the premiere wasn’t able to perform.