A.I. fascinates me. It’s literally a man made consciousness and is probably as far to playing God as we have gotten so far, at least in a technical standpoint. It brings forward many questions about morality, and whether we need to treat them like people, so they can help us advance, or even if it’s a good idea to have them created in the first place. We’ve all seen “The Terminator”, we all instinctively know what “Skynet” is. But maybe it wouldn’t be that all that bad. A.I. may not overtake us, but it might build us. We may have a symbiotic relationship with robots. I’d like a robotic neighbor, that would be awesome! But we’ll never know until it happens, which is why we write what if stories in place of possibly dooming our entire human race with Skynet.
This episode is an experience. It’s not a masterful experience like a David Lynch film, but it’s still an experience. This is more of a David Lynch Black Mirror episode, if David Lynch only had a week to work off someone else’s script… which isn’t a bad thing! The choice to do a surrealism take on this episode to make a commentary on peoples dependence of technology is an fantastic thing to do. However, I had a hard time even recognizing this as an in-universe episode of X-Files.
This really feels like fan fiction, because while the characters we are watching are very obviously Mulder and Scully, I don’t recognize the world around them, but they seem to. Even the opening scene is super bizarre to watch, as it tells us the true story of an actual A.I. named Tay. Tay was an A.I. run twitter account that Microsoft created, which was meant to take conversation patterns from tweets that mentioned her, and use those patterns to create a personality for her. This backfired… horribly… and only lasted a day. She began her day looking forward to learn from humans, and ended it by saying Hitler was right. This was humanity teaching an A.I. what humanity is all about. Not a great day for humanity.
This story is told to set up the theme of the show, and already I was excited. Again, A.I. is fascinating. It’s funny that we begin with a story of something that happened a couple years ago in our world, because afterwards we enter another universe. We see Mulder and Scully at a futuristic sushi restaurant where there are no other patrons, and everything is A.I. controlled. It is a quiet, often humorous, but surprisingly eerie scene, that is made more charming by the fact that none of the characters speak a single word. They order food through a screen, look at their phones, and take pictures of their food. Every once in a while, we get a shot from security cameras, that feels violating when we see it. It’s a well executed scene, and one of my favorite bits from the new season. The end of the scene is Fox Mulder doing the cardinal sin of not leaving a tip for the robot run restaurant.
From then it becomes a battle of A.I. against Mulder and Scully. It begins simple, almost feeling like they’re on a hidden camera show or something, with the level of pranks, and pettiness on display. But the more the episode goes on, the more inconvenient things get. Unfortunately, nothing in this episode gets to the quality of the beginning, but you still have fun along the way.
Mulder and Scully go to their separate homes, and get haunted by their own personal, technological hell, which is actually pretty clever when you think about it. Mulder is haunted by nobody listening to him, especially his Bigly Bank (har har), and is being haunted by flying saucers… well, not really, they’re drones, but they behave like UFO’s. Scully is being haunted by feeling out of control inside her own home. Her smart devices won’t listen to her, and she receives a gift Roomba of malicious intent. She’s unsafe inside her own house.
Eventually they both leave, meet up and start running from technology, in a very fun warehouse scene that almost feels like “The Terminator” mixed with “Gremlins”. Something I love about this scene (can also be told about the entire episode) is the visual language on display. I love the usage of light, of shadow, and how a couple LED’s can show menace. Intensity rises as the technology does everything they can to kill Mulder and Scully… unless Mulder does something he should have done a long time ago. Tipped the robot. Mulder eventually does, and the episode ends with them, at a normal breakfast diner, realizing that it’s OK to put down the phone occasionally. This episode isn’t subtle about its message.
If someone’s going to be on a porch, on a rocking chair, lecturing me about how things were in the good old days when they didn’t have all this new fangled technology, and how it’s ruining everything… I’m happy that I’m being told in an entertaining way like this. It’s a unique and fun adventure, and while it doesn’t feel like an X-Files episode (especially a canonical one), I’m certainly happy that it is one. It feels like a dream, even down to the character choices. Like, I feel that Mulder would have understood long before he did that all he needed to do is tip the robot to be safe, but he doesn’t seem like real world Mulder. Same with Scully! Her house doesn’t feel like a house she would own, but in this episode, the house is vital to character development. I feel like I’m going to be thinking of this episode for a while, just to get my head around it. This is seriously as big of a compliment as I can give to this episode.
Oh, I just realized something! This episode was definitely a dream! The picture above had “This Man” in it. “This Man” is a character that apparently appears in everyone’s dreams, and the fact that we see him in a picture here adds to the evidence that this episode was a dream.
“But Reviewer!” I hear you say, “Didn’t This Man also appear in the second episode, ‘This’? Are you saying that that’s a dream episode as well?”
Look, they just did a Black Mirror episode, anything is possible. This show isn’t very consistent in the first place.