Robert Falconer/Fox
January 10, 2018 at 11:43 PM EST

The X-Files

TV Show
Drama, Mystery, Sci-fi
Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny
Chris Carter
Current Status
In Season
We gave it an A-

With an assist from Scully’s encyclopedic brain (“Who needs Google when you got Scully?”), the partners follow clues on the Gunmen’s graves to the final resting point of another, even-longer-dead ally: Deep Throat, Mulder’s first informant. (This must be a season for revealing the real names behind the monikers; turns out Deep Throat was a Ronald.) “He’s dead because the world was so dangerous and complex then,” Mulder marvels. “Who’d have thought we’d look back with nostalgia and say that was a simpler time?” So far, The X-Files’ 11th season seems concerned with how our memories can never match up to the past — wrestling, basically, with nostalgia, the driving force behind the show’s return. Mulder knows how easy it is to rewrite history; nothing is ever as we remember it.

This seems like a good time to note, then, that there’s something off with the photo of the Lone Gunmen in Mulder and Scully’s home: A fourth face looms in the background, and judging by eyebrows alone, it’s almost definitely “This Man,” a viral hoax that claimed people around the world were seeing the same creepy face in their dreams. What does this mean? Is it just a playful nod to the kind of hoax the Gunmen loved, or is it a sign to distrust our memories? (At one point, we flash to the photo after Scully assures Mulder that yes, the Gunmen are dead, and their bodies were incinerated.) It may also be a tie-in to the fourth episode of this season, written and directed by Glen Morgan’s brother Darin Morgan, which looks at the Mandela Effect. A face from that episode, actor Brian Huskey, can be spotted in the files our agents are about to search. How will we remember him in two weeks?

Fittingly, a “memory medallion” on Deep Throat’s grave gives Mulder and Scully their next lead — which they access, like the throwbacks they are, in an internet cafe. Video on the medallion directs them to look into New York’s Long Lines Building, which Snowden documents indicate was code-named Titanpointe and used as an NSA mass surveillance station. Mulder, a government conspiracy trendsetter, has had a file on the building since the ‘90s, but they’ll need Skinner’s help to access those files.

Or maybe they’ll just need a computer. As it turns out, after the X-Files were shut down in 2002, they were digitized to allow easier access by other U.S. intelligence agencies, including the Russians who just tried to kill Mulder and Scully. (And who was lobbied for jurisdiction? Then-director Mueller, who now heads an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.) Mulder bristles at the idea that his file-babies are no longer his and Scully’s alone (a secondary motif this season, maybe, tragically: Mulder losing possession of what he thought was his), but as Skinner points out in a perfect mic drop, what’s in the files “belongs to everyone. That’s the point of them.” Hasn’t it always been Mulder’s goal for the truth to be known?

How does fringe work function in the mainstream? How do the X-Files (and The X-Files) fit into 2018, when the Pentagon is openly admitting to investigating U.F.O.s? Skinner tries to get the hunt for Mulder and Scully called off, but the FBI isn’t in the best standing with the White House right now. “How do you like that?” Mulder jokes without joking. “The FBI finally found out what it’s like to be looked upon as a little spooky.” The whole Bureau is one big basement office. Which, of course, means Mulder and Scully aren’t safe in the Bureau at all. When the exception becomes policy, there’s no room for what made it exceptional.

With Skinner’s help, Mulder and Scully scan the database only to find that Langly has been erased. His fellow Gunmen, Byers and Frohike, are still in the system, including Frohike’s unfortunate “Spank Bank” folder adorned with a picture of Scully (must we?). In that file is another file, named “53rd_3rd”: another Ramones song, this one about a Green Beret who becomes a male prostitute after returning from Vietnam. The title references a corner in New York City that was once a center of gay nightlife. The San Francisco Civic Center, where the Ramones played earlier on Mulder and Scully’s TV, has historically played host to anti-war rallies and demonstrations for LGBT rights. As Mulder and Scully go underground and on the run, this episode is literally mapping hotspots where the marginalized have gathered in the past: new basement offices. (Next: Heaven is a place on Earth)

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