Matt Rodgers reviews the third episode of The X-Files season 11…
In an episode bookended by a playful David Duchovny at his smirking best, Plus One is season eleven’s first freak-of-the-week hour-long, and a return to scripting duties for series creator, Chris Carter.
This feels like one of those mid-season filler episodes from peak X-Files years, and this fact is acknowledged when Mulder punctuates his case notes exposition by telling Scully that they’re “getting back their bread and butter” this week.
The file in question is part It Follows, part Split, as a game of telepathic hangman between two schizophrenic patients begins to generate a body count.
We’re thrown into a noisy mosh-pit, where a young man is crowd surfing, before he catches a glimpse of what appears to be his doppelganger in the doorway. Freaked out by this meeting, he hops in his car, only to find that this spectral twin is his passenger, forcing him into a collision with a tree and a liaison with Mulder and Scully. Their investigations lead them to a strange brother and sister, whose games of hangman have a murderously insidious effect on the subject being guessed, and before too long they’re in a race against time before they can complete the “S for Scully” round.
As a functional standalone episode of The X-Files, Plus One is probably the most accessible of this season, but its real delight can be found in the dynamics at play between Mulder and Scully.
Not only is this run successfully aligning the show within the world in which we consume it, case-in-point is a wonderful comment about how an unnamed President is trying to bring down the FBI, it’s also going great lengths to reposition the story towards an endgame. Not one of government conspiracies, or an alien invasion countdown, but for the characters of Mulder and Scully, in a way that the conclusion to the series initial run didn’t quite achieve.
As a result we have some exchanges that carry real emotional heft between Duchovny and Anderson, with the latter questioning her mortality and role as a woman, and as a pair pondering their future. We already know that this will be Anderson’s final outing as Dana, so the pathos of these scenes is amplified. The two actors have been on stellar form so far this year. The light behind their eyes is back.
The strength of these scenes mean that the investigation thread hangs loose in terms of your interest in the outcome, but there’s some drama to be found in Scully’s interaction with her doppelganger, which adds weight to her scenes of self-doubt, but the rest is predictably hokey.
After a shaky start, Plus One is another uptick for a season that is threatening to be the best The X-Files has been in years.