The X-Files S11E03 Recap: 'Plus One'

At this point, I don't think it's controversial to say that I no longer care about The X-Files' mythology. Over the course of two revival seasons, the best episodes have categorically been those that are so far removed from that mythology that it's noticeable. In fact, they almost feel like scripts the show couldn't get to in the days that it was consistently around. Last season's "Were-Monster" episode is still firmly etched in our memory as the only bright spot to an otherwise disturbingly bad season, and last week's "This" helped set the show on a path of redemption by attempting to redefine what a post-mythology episode of The X-Files could be.

This week, "Plus One" is a little more traditionally formatted. Other than maybe the visible years that David Duchovny or Gillian Anderson have put on, it feels like an episode that could have easily fit into the earlier seasons of the show. It's ostensibly unconcerned with the mythology, it's isolated from any other aspect of the show by putting Mulder and Scully on the road, it's even devoid of technology in any meaningful way. Even some of its characters, notably the villains, feel like they're out of a bygone era of acting and storytelling. .5

And I think most of it serves the episode well. "Plus One" is nowhere near the quality of "Were-Monster" or any other X-Files classic monster-of-the-week installment, in fact it's even kind of a nothingburger of an episode that doesn't really seem to have anything important to say (other than a sort of forced moment about aging and family between Mulder and Scully that felt somewhat tacked on). It's just kind of comfort food X-Files. Mulder and Scully travel to some weird town, have an adventure, see something weird that no one will ever talk about again because everyone involved and culpable winds up dead, and they move on to face whatever danger is around the next corner. No one is pulling the strings, this probably has nothing to do with any of the conspiracies the show is trying to juggle, but it all feels just fine.

If this is what The X-Files wants to be in its eleventh season, I'm not sure we need to have it around anymore, but it also doesn't upset me. I had fun with "Plus One", and it wasn't overtly, which unfortunately might be the best we could wish for from the show these days. And the biggest surprise of all is that it's a Chris Carter-penned episode. It's almost miraculous that it isn't explicitly bad.

To recap, Mulder and Scully dispatch themselves to a town where a man claims he didn't crash his own car, it was a person who looked exactly like him who appeared in the seat next to him and ran him off the road. Scully is, as usual, the skeptic, while Mulder is more open to the possibility of a more supernatural explanation. They try to get to the bottom of it while more bodies begin to pile up under increasingly suspicious circumstances. And in the third act twist, we find out what's happening and the threat goes after Mulder and Scully themselves. In this case, it's twin siblings who telepathically play a game of hangman. Whoever they name in the game winds up dead at the hand of the apparition of a doppelganger. Eventually, they disagree on which one between Scully and Mulder should be next to go, so they turn on each other, write each other's names down and wind up dead. But, of course, not before a couple of scenes of evil Scully staring menacingly at herself and Mulder having a fight scene with himself even though it's clearly a stunt double.

The end result is a pretty traditional episode of The X-Files. But after one that goes full steam with a Mythology no one wants anymore, and another than uniquely tries to blend mythology and MOTW, it's kind of welcome to see what a mid-nineties episode of this show looks like in 2018. It's not a perfect episode, but it's quirky, it's fun with a decent premise and a couple of great lines, and much better than what we dread to see from the show these days. "Plus One" gets 7.5 games of hangman out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • Kind of amazing how this show can still successfully tease us with a Mulder/Scully relationship 25 years later. The episode kind of ambiguously after Mulder propositions to Scully that he should put a baby in her.
  • Scully: "It seems everyone's under the agreement that a man can't cut off his own head."
  • Mulder: "Oh, I'll always be around, Scully, offering bulletproof series of geniuses that you fail to assail with your inadequate rationality.