TV reviews

The X-Files 11×02 – ‘This’ – Review

“Who needs Google when you got Scully?”

As a basic premise, whenever The X-Files has explored technology, each season became a timestamp on its advancement.  From season one’s ‘Ghost in the Machine’, season five’s ‘Kill Switch’ to season seven’s ‘First Person Shooter’, the growing concept of artificial intelligence and simulated worlds has always seemed fantastical. Yet fast forward to today’s modern world and technology has become personal, ingrained in our daily lives from swiping left to Netflix’s algorithmic recommendations. In ‘This’, The X-Files is brought up to date in the most relevant fashion.

If ‘My Struggle III’ was clumsy in its pacing and execution (despite being the best of the ‘My Struggle’ arcs), on a thematic level it sets up the season. ‘This’ embraces those concepts posed from the season opener and gives it a deeper and grounded nuance that is both “out there” and deeply terrifying. The level of power and control exercised by Erika Price (Barbara Hershey) and the continued abuses of technology bring elements such as Snowden into a greater context. As a mythology-lite episode, this is classic X-Files, continually balancing real world agendas and a justified paranoia that never went away.

Nostalgia certainly plays a heavy role.  Mulder reflects on it as a “simpler time” during an important graveyard scene which only goes to show how quickly time has changed but also how complex and tumultuous the world has become.  The game has changed and Mulder and Scully are living in a threatening world full of danger and peril.  Who to trust becomes a blurred line, especially towards a compromised Skinner.

So how did they get into this situation where Mulder and Scully are on the run as (impressionably married) fugitives from private government contractors and Black Ops agencies? Thanks to a very close and old friend, Richard ‘Ringo’ Langly (Dean Haglund) has found a way to contact them which asks an important question.  Is Langly really dead?

‘Dead’ is the operative word and open to interpretation that effectively becomes a tribute to Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror. If ‘San Junipero’ gave the context of a digital afterlife where it is presented as an idyllic heaven (not without its conflicted faults), ‘This’ reverses it and turns it into a digital dystopian nightmare.

However dark the subject matter was, ‘This’ is a rollicking adventure from start to finish with Jason Bourne and Atomic Scully kicking ass and owning it. It may seem a little strange to see Mulder and Scully in this context, running around like action heroes that wouldn’t look out-of-place in an episode of 24. But writer and director Glen Morgan confirms what the fandom has always known about the iconic duo – they have a badass partnership. As pre-credit openers go, ‘This’ was a kinetic blitzkrieg, turning it up to eleven and kicking the new season into gear. Its brilliant use of The Ramones, action-packed visuals and slick editing can be re-watched again and again.

It’s also brilliant to see Mulder and Scully so comfortable with each other and most importantly working together. As a definition of their partnership, they are stronger together than apart which makes the humour genuinely funny. It’s cute, witty and relaxed and Glen Morgan really gets to grips of their shared banter. Each scene is a treat, full of golden moments and trust me the banter game is strong in this one!

There’s a real emphasis that the show is really going for it and it clearly shows. ‘This’ serves as a technological upgrade on the themes from season five’s ‘Kill Switch’ but the beating heart of the episode is classic Mulder and Scully. Nothing is off the table and David and Gillian looked to be in fine form doing so. Onwards and upwards and long may it continue.

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