You ever have that thing happen to you where people start shooting at you, and you’re like “Oh man, why is this happening this time?”… No? Me neither… But that must be what it’s like to be Mulder and Scully on a regular basis.
So we start “This” episode with a bang, with hit-men coming for our two heroes, under the tunes of the Ramones! But not before Langly, from the Lone Gunmen, appears on Mulder’s phone, saying that “They know that I know,” the line that sparks the mystery that will take us through the rest of the episode. To begin with such energy after the slog of last week is very welcome!
After a particularly unsuccessful gunfight on the hit-men’s part, Mulder and Scully take the proper steps. They procure evidence, they call the information on the attack in to their superiors, and immediately get surrounded buy who knows what driving military jeeps, with Russian accents. Already, we as an audience don’t know, and they as characters have no clue why any of this is happening. Weirder still, they call Skinner, who tells the agents to just surrender to them, and that there is nothing they could do for them.
I was immediately hooked on this episode. There is an intriguing breadcrumb trail that both tells us clues on where to find the next crumb, and gives insight to characters we once, and still know. This is really smart writing, that keeps you interested, while maintaining its fun.
We aren’t without nagging issues though. We are introduced to a hit-man who seems to not be able to die. Or at least every time they seemingly kill him, he comes back later. I love the look of this guy, and he has a wonderful creepiness to him, but man does he come at super inconvenient times. Every time he’d come to kill the agents, I felt as though I was being interrupted of my satisfaction of solving the mystery. That goes to show how fun the episode is, that when a guy with a gun comes in, it feels inconvenient to the mystery (which is the point, I’m aware). But at the same time, I felt like I came along with Mulder and Scully to the point where when they were inconvenienced, so was I. “This” immersed me more than some video games. So… good job episode!
The other issue that I have, which again, is a personal gripe more than an actual problem with the episode, is that I’m tired of the distrust between Skinner and Mulder & Scully. I know that they don’t trust each other after the last episode where Skinner decided that hiding the truth of Scully’s kid is better than telling them, but this just seems like a roadblock more than anything, forced to be there for drama sake. Especially in this episode, there’s a moment where Skinner has a gun ready to defend himself against Mulder if need be, before realizing himself that this is stupid, and he should just help. This kind of happens twice in this episode.
I have a theory that, while we should be thankful to Chris Carter, the show’s creator, for giving us something so wonderful, that he is also the problem with later X-Files episodes as well. I’ve mentioned that the main conspiracy plot episodes aren’t very good, but even worse is the fact that the fallout of those episodes kind of stink up the rest (I’m planning to re-watch the whole show one day, and see if that’s actually the case)! Thankfully, while there was a bit of mythology thrown into “This”, it felt natural, and important, rather than the lazy rush job, exposition dump like the last episode was.
“This” episodes best part, and the part the made me feel the most at home, was the conversation with Langly, played by Dean Haglund, via simulation Skype. We find out that it’s not actually Langly, but a simulation from his mind being uploaded to a computer before he died. The scene manages to be funny, creepy, heartbreaking, and just a perfect scene to get Langly back into the foil. Dean Haglund does such a good job, portraying Langly in realizing that, while he’s in a simulated heaven, he knows that he’s damned to a hell if he has to stay in this simulation. It’s a wonderful scene, beautifully done.
This is a pretty great episode, and while parts feel rushed, I’m so happy that we’re able to come back from that unfortunate last episode. It’s funny, but not too funny to lose us. The chemistry between Scully and Mulder is back in full force. The overall mystery is wonderfully Black Mirror like (or old school, because it feels like old X-Files), and the episode ends in a wonderfully creepy note. We’re going deeper into mythology, and while I would usually be worried, this episode has me curious about what they’re going to throw at me next. This is what X-Files should be in the current age. Also, quick shout out to “This Man’s” cameo. I hope they find him later, because I keep seeing that guy whenever I go to sleep! It’s scary.