Absolute Virtual Reality: The X-Files S11x2 “This” Review

January 19, 2018 at 8:39 PM | Posted in TV | Leave a comment
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SPOILER WARNING: This review contains major spoilers of The X-Files season 11. Read at your own risk!

What would you do if you receive a video transmission of an old friend who’s been dead for years? This is what Mulder and Scully found themselves in one evening while dozing off on a couch. Yup, it’s another X-File to solve.

The second episode of The X-Files season 11 titled, “This” delves into technology and virtual reality and how humans can live forever through artificial means. The story is also still connected to the show’s season 11 premiere episode as it references the warring factions within the Syndicate – the second group of which is now being headed by new villains Mr. Y and Erika Price. Price also appears in this episode.

Photo credit: dailymail.co.uk

In “This,” Mulder and Scully were contacted by their old friend Richard Langly through a video transmission on Mulder’s phone. Avid X-Philes know that Langly was one of the three members of The Lone Gunmen, a trio of conspiracy theorists and hackers who would often help Mulder and Scully in their investigation of X-File cases. The thing is, Langly and the rest of The Lone Gunmen died 16 years ago. So how come Langly was still able to contact Mulder and Scully and sent them a cryptic message?

But before Mulder and Scully could find out, they were attacked by Russian mercenaries sent by Price. Walter Skinner managed to help them escape. There was new tension between Mulder and Scully and Skinner as the duo suspected that their boss might be working with the Russian mercenaries and the Cigarette Smoking Man.

Photo credit: aceshowbiz.com

Wanting to investigate Langly’s cryptic message and see if he was still indeed alive, Mulder and Scully went to Arlington Cemetery where The Lone Gunmen were buried years ago. There they found a clue which forced them to seek Skinner again for help. They found out from him that the X-Files were now digitized by the Russians hired by the FBI – the same group that attacked them in Mulder’s home.

Now there’s a loophole in this part. In season 10 of The X-Files, Mulder and Scully were reinstated to the X-Files division by the FBI. So if the X-Files were previously digitized by the Russians when Mulder and Scully were away from the FBI, shouldn’t they have known that right away when they went back to work for the FBI again? This didn’t add up to the timeline.

Anyway, Mulder and Scully’s investigation led them to Professor Karen Hamby who turned out to be Langly’s significant other. Hamby informed them about a secret computer simulation program being done by the Syndicate. The program involves uploading people’s consciousness onto a computer. When a person dies, his preserved consciousness will be activated on the computer and thus, that person continues to live in digital form. That’s apparently what happened to Langly. He and Hamby joined the program so that they could live forever. His video transmission to Mulder was just a product of simulation.

Most people who watched “This” thought that it’s a Black Mirror-inspired episode. While that may be true, the episode’s premise is not new.  I’ve seen a similar story in an obscure Johnny Depp movie called Transcendence, where Depp’s character uploaded his brain onto a computer before he died.

Later in the episode, Mulder and Scully received a second message from Langly while taking a break at Chili’s. Now this scene has gotten a lot of buzz from Mulder and Scully relationshippers (a.k.a  MSR fans). Apparently, Chili’s was part of a significant scene in a smut fanfiction written by an MSR fan years ago. I don’t usually read smut fanfic even though I’m a shipper myself so I didn’t get the Chili’s reference until other shippers pointed it out and Gillian Anderson herself hinted at it in a tweet. Shippers suspected that Gillian must have read the fanfic.

Photo credit: nerdist.com

Anyway, Langly divulged more information about the computer simulation program to Mulder and Scully when they were at Chili’s. He directed them to go to Titanpointe, the codename of a windowless skyscraper in Manhattan where the Syndicate’s secret program is being kept including the servers. He wanted them to stop the simulation program as people like him were only being used by the Syndicate as digital slaves to serve the elite.

Titanpointe is actually a real building in Manhattan called Long Lines Building. It is known to be the surveillance hub of the National Security Agency (NSA). I have seen a short documentary film about Titanpointe back in 2016 called Project X so I instantly recognized the building when I watched the episode.

What I want to know is why did it take Langly 16 years to contact Mulder and Scully? Since Langly was in a virtual world all this time, shouldn’t he suspected early on that his world was just a simulation? He knew that the sun was fake and had no warmth and that no one in that world dies of sickness and disease, so why did it take him so long to figure that out?

GIF image credit: gabehcoud.tumblr.com

What also irked me in this episode is that Mulder mumbled a lot. I could barely hear what he was saying that I had to turn up the volume every time I watch the episode. But despite of that, I enjoyed the ease and intimacy that Mulder and Scully had in this episode. They’re clearly in that place where they might be back together soon (or are they?) judging from the fact that Scully spends most of her personal time at Mulder’s home and she referred to the house as “our home.”

Their romantic relationship was woven into the episode seamlessly without it getting in the way of the story. Kudos to Glen Morgan who wrote this episode. Now that is how you write romance into the show without losing focus on the main plot.

Overall, “This” was a lot better than “My Struggle III.” It had action, mystery, light comedy and a healthy dose of classic paranoia that The X-Files is known for.

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