“I know what you’re thinking Mulder.” — Dana Scully
“Anyone for a game of Hangman?” — Fox Mulder
Our agents find themselves investigating a series of murders involving doppelgängers that may be connected to a pair of twins playing a deadly game.
Radhika: And we continue on in this new season with a Monster of the Week episode, which didn’t necessarily contain the best case I’ve seen on this show, but did manage to maintain that spooky (yet fun) X-Files atmosphere that feels a lot more like the show I’ve loved all these years. The case was kind of interesting, but the thing that makes the episode is ultimately the Mulder and Scully relationship that has always been at the core of the series.
In this episode, Mulder and Scully investigate a series of murders in which the victims see doubles of themselves before eventually ending up dead. The case finally leads them to a pair of twins (one is institutionalized) telepathically playing a game of “Hangman” that seems to be playing a role in determining who dies next. And while our favorite agents wind up seeing doubles of themselves during the investigation, they manage to survive with the twins instead dying at their own hands.
Again, the aforementioned plot isn’t my favorite case of the week, but I appreciated that our spooky twins are portrayed by none other than Karin Konoval (Mrs. Peacock from season four’s “Home”). Mulder and Scully are back to playing the believer and the skeptic, philosophizing about whether “evil” is a real concept or something else altogether. And there’s an excellent blend of dark moments and humor (from Mulder scaring Scully awake every time someone gets killed, to one victim, the lawyer of a previous victim, rushing home after seeing his double to remove anything that might cause him harm — including an arsenal of guns and swords).
But at the end of the day, it’s the Mulder-and-Scully stuff that matters and no, it doesn’t just end at their contemplation of the concept of evil. The agents wind up spooning together when Scully confesses that she can’t sleep at some point. Scully voices her very real concerns about what will happen to the two of them when they get older (Mulder: “I’ll come push your wheelchair with my wheelchair”) and what might happen if Mulder meets a romantic partner he wants to have a child with. Now much of this seems to be spurred by one of the twins, Judy, taunting Scully about being past her childbearing age, but these are legitimate questions for a woman to ask an ex that she still seems to spend an awful lot of time with and once had a child with.
Even I, as someone who never actively rooted for a Mulder-Scully romance, can appreciate these moments as some good writing for a couple of characters with plenty of history together. By the end of the episode, you definitely get a sense that some kind of reconciliation and rekindling of romance is happening, and while this might have annoyed me many years ago, I’m personally OK with it now. If the relationship can remain well written through the end of this season, and if this truly does end up being the last of us seeing Mulder and Scully onscreen, I would rather have these characters figure their stuff out in a way that respects their history than play the never-ending will they-won’t they/did they-didn’t they game.
Max: Hey, at least this episode isn’t “Fight Club”! Based on the preview from last week, it seemed The X-Files was dipping its feet back into a concept that powered one of the worst episodes of the series. Thankfully, while borrowing the conceit of doppelgängers, this episode moves things in a much more interesting direction. The murderous siblings ending up being a lot of fun to watch, with Karin Konoval essaying the complicated interplay between brother and sister, alter ego to alter ego. It reminded me a lot of classic adversaries from the middle seasons of the show, a time when things were still playful and experimental, without the burden of having to come up with fresh ideas for characters and actors on the verge of burning out.
That isn’t to say that this episode is as good as last week’s entry, but at this point I will happily take decent and serviceable. The 11th season has gone a long way at earning back the goodwill of fans after the rough and bumpy ride of the 10th. In a way, “Plus One” is in the mold of old school MOTW episodes, a healthy mix of the good, the bad, platinum hits and downright duds. Mulder and Scully got to banter, investigate bizarre happenings, and at the end of the day wrap up a case with nary a definitive answer about what exactly the hell went on — good enough to land in the filing cabinet (or scanner queue) of the basement office.
I will say I was relieved that Scully wasn’t the only one to have to experience the looming threat of a doppelgänger. We’ve spoken previously about the way the show has historically put Scully through some pretty heinous stuff, and bemoaned the way the writers used this as a crutch. In fact, the evil eye aside, it is Mulder’s double that ends up causing the most trouble, as our G-Man lets his fear grip him — ending in a tussle that very well could have caused serious bodily harm or injury. Scully on the other hand takes a breath and a step back, talking her boogeywoman down. Or maybe it was the bread pills. Who knows.
What I do know is that next week we get the pleasure of a Darin Morgan penned episode. And if past experience is to be counted on, we are going to have a whole lot of fun. See you next week!
Traditionally, the credits end on a shot with the words “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.” However, in some instances new text emerges.
For the third episode in a row (a record), we have a change in the series’ tagline. On first glance, it’s the standard “The Truth Is Out There,” but then in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, the tagline is duplicated and indeed, you are seeing double…