Shane Harvey/FOX
January 17, 2018 at 09:00 PM EST

The X-Files

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

Scully is barely asleep before Mulder pops up at the side of her bed in a disorienting jump scare — for a second, before he spoke, I wondered if he might not be himself — to tell her that Arkie was found hanged in his cell. The trustee who found him is Judy’s brother Chucky, a crude caricature of masculinity who asks Mulder if he’s “tapping” that “tasty little redhead” he works with. If Chucky’s lewdness is meant to overcompensate for the fact that he’s being played by a woman, it’s not necessary. Konoval is too talented to need cheap tricks. But the script still seems too amused by her role for its own good; Mulder will later describe Chucky as the “queerest little man,” playing on the double meaning of an adjective not everyone in the LGBTQ community has reclaimed all for the sake of an ain’t-we-clever wink at the fact that he’s played by a woman.

Most of Mulder and Scully’s encounters with the twins are stagnant in the plot department; they’re just torture by way of pop psychology, like a less entertaining version of the season 6 Christmas episode in which Ghost Ed Asner and Ghost Lily Tomlin tried to psychoanalyze the partners to push them into a murder-suicide pact. (It all comes back around.) Even when something finally happens in the case — Arkie’s lawyer, Dean, starts seeing his double — Mulder and Scully mostly take it as an opportunity to encourage Dean to search his feelings. “Just know that it can’t haunt you if you don’t let it,” Scully advises sagely.

Rather than listen, Dean goes home and dumps all of his guns and ammo in his driveway. (In the words of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Jake Peralta: Cool cool cool, our country is broken.) He’s midway through gathering up all of the ties that could possibly strangle him when he remembers that he’s the type of guy who collects samurai swords, and nothing good can ever come of a white man in a suit owning that many samurai swords. Dean is done in by his very dramatic, sword-wielding double (I laughed at his pose; I’m not sure I was supposed to), but there’s an element of his death that feels self-inflicted, if for no other reason than the fact that no one needs that many swords. To a certain extent, Dean hanged himself, as Arkie did when he got behind the wheel as a repeat DUI offender. Neither man is entirely responsible for his death, but neither man is innocent either.

This is Mulder and Scully’s big debate of the hour — is evil an idea inside us or a literal entity outside us? — and it seems the answer is “both.” Scully is having a hard time shaking off this case, maybe because the superstitions it taps into are especially Catholic: “I have to admit I still sleep with my back to the door just in case the Devil comes in the night.” She comes to Mulder in the night (the devil at his back, just as he’s already been the devil at hers twice) and asks him to hold her. She’s in a motel named after a woman whose husband got in bed with someone he thought was her but wasn’t. The signs are all there.

And yet she’s definitely Scully, and he’s definitely Mulder; their dark doubles don’t even speak. All the signs to the contrary play as a kind of challenge: Can we, like Scully, keep our fears at bay and trust who these characters are? Scully’s already seen her double once by now, but she’s convinced she’ll be fine if she just stays calm. Paranoia-as-X-File is not new territory for this show, and Scully’s ability to rise above it is characteristically what saves them both (in season 7’s “X-Cops,” a creature that masqueraded as its victims’ worst fears couldn’t touch her). “We can only hang ourselves if we panic,” she tells Mulder.

But Mulder and Scully can hang themselves in other ways. While spooning, Scully asks Mulder if they’ll still spend time together after they retire; he jokes about pushing her wheelchair with his. That’s not what she means. Mulder tries again: “I’ll always be around, Scully, offering bulletproof theories of genius that you fail to assail with your inadequate rationality.” That’s not what she means either. They’re talking around their issues again. It’s hard to make sense of the idea that either one of them could pretend at this point that they don’t know how to be together outside the office — they only just returned to the FBI after going on the run and then living together for over a decade. But what’s refreshing is that Scully recognizes their avoidance and refuses to let them keep talking in circles. (On her own, she protects herself by avoiding her fears; with Mulder she confronts them.) (Next: It rains sleeping bags)

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