If nothing else, last night’s episode of The X-Files was definitely an improvement over the season premiere.
The whole thing started off with a bang, as a bunch of Russians showed up and tried to gun down Mulder and Scully. It turns out that apparently, the Executive Branch has hired a Russian agency to handle America’s secret intelligence work. The Russians can even give orders to the FBI. Yes, it’s all about Trump and I’m sure the Resistance loved it while the majority of MAGA probably wasn’t watching The X-Files to begin with. Speaking for myself, as a fairly nonpartisan reviewer, I stopped being shocked by Russian villains a long time ago. At this point, whenever a mobster or a mercenary shows up in a movie or TV show, I always expect to hear a Russian accent before they even open their mouth.
Anyway, as Skinner explains, the fact that the Executive Branch now hates the FBI is going to make it even more difficult for Mulder and Scully to do their thing. I’m not really sure how much I agree with Skinner on that, though. If there’s anything that quickly became apparent about these Russian mercenaries, it was just how totally inept they were at their job. They literally blew up Mulder and Scully’s apartment and yet, Mulder and Scully still escaped without a scratch. Later, another Russian assassin popped up and, even though he had the element of surprise on his side, he still couldn’t manage to hit either one of them. Part of me hopes that the Russian ineptness was deliberate on the part of the show. That would be the ultimate joke, wouldn’t it? The Russians aren’t even good at their job and they still managed to secretly take over the country.
When Mulder and Scully weren’t running from the Russians, they were dealing Langley, an old friend who, despite having been dead for 16 years, still kept appearing on Mulder’s phone and asking if Mulder was there. It turns out that Langley, like a lot of geniuses, arranged for his consciousness to be transported into a simulated world after his death. However, it turns out that the simulation is actually a prison where people like Steve Jobs are being used for slave labor.
It also turned out, of course, that Erika Price (the great Barbara Hershey) was the one behind both the Russians and the dead slave labor. She explained that every time you use an iPhone, a piece of your mind is scanned and stolen. When you think about it, that makes perfect sense.
Last night’s episode was all about paranoia, which is one reason why I enjoyed it. Admittedly, things did get off to a somewhat shaky start with the whole shoot out between Mulder, Scully, and the Russians, which was so haphazardly edited that I was worried I was going to get carsick just from watching it. But, after that, the episode became a deliberately paced mediation of darkness, death, and a paranoia. The extended sequence where Mulder and Scully explored the shadowy National Cemetery was brilliantly handled. As I watched, I was very much aware that there was undoubtedly a secret behind every tombstone.
That said, the main reason that last night’s episode worked was because of the playful chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. The main problem with the premiere — well, one of them — is that Duchovny and Anderson didn’t have many scenes together. Instead, Anderson spent almost the entire episode is the hospital while Duchovny spent his time driving through tobacco country. Last night, though, Duchovny and Anderson were together in nearly every scene and their banter was the best thing about the show.
As I watched last night’s episode, I was able to understand why so many people love The X-Files. It’s not the conspiracies. It’s not even the monsters. Instead, it’s all about the way that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson bounces lines off of each other. Here’s hoping that the rest of the season understands this as well.