Shane Harvey/FOX
January 24, 2018 at 09:00 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

Mulder sees Reggie making his own excuses and calls him out: “You keep on referring to this omnipresent, mysterious ‘they’ to give intentionality to random events or external explanations for psychological ones.” (That window is a mirror, Mulder.) So Reggie names his scapegoat: an actual man named Dr. They, a neuroscientist who erases minds. Mulder dismisses the idea — until They gives him a call. Mulder’s distressed skepticism reminded me of Darin Morgan’s most recent episode, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster,” in which our doubting middle-aged believer met a were-lizard and had his faith restored. For Morgan, it was a surprisingly concrete conclusion: Beneath all the chaos, there is a tangible truth out there, and you can shake its hand.

As handshakes go, Dr. They’s is less reassuring. The good doctor (Stuart Margolin) is an engaging old man — non-threatening, aside from the eerie red rings around his eyes that hide his face like a TOP SECRET stamp — and you like him until you remember that’s part of the problem. He monologues to Mulder about truth in the era of “fake news,” a catchphrase that was also dropped in the season premiere but is put to better, more upsetting use here. When no one knows what the truth means, no one cares if it gets out, rendering Mulder and his quest for the truth obsolete. “Your time has passed,” They argues — commenting on a character who was conceived in a different political climate, “a time when people of power thought that they could keep their secrets secret and were willing to do anything to keep it that way.” What’s a show about conspiracy theories to do in a world where proving them true or false changes nothing?

Even now, Mulder, Scully, and Reggie are debating whose theory is most palatable, as if that has any bearing on reality. Mulder can’t get behind the idea of someone out there erasing memories with a “hypno-ray gun” — Reggie never mentioned the ray gun though; Mulder probably got the idea from “The Lost Martian” — so he poses a parallel-universe theory. Scully and Reggie both think that’s bunk. Parallel universes do exist in the world of The X-Files, according to season 9’s “4-D,” but Scully was third-wheeling Doggett and Reyes at the time like their own personal Reggie, so she wouldn’t know; she doesn’t remember it. How does Reggie’s alternate X-Files history account for the Doggett-Reyes years, anyway? There doesn’t seem to be room for them in his version of events. Some fans can probably relate. When it comes to the TV shows we love, we might all be Dr. They.

Reggie definitely is. He claims he started the X-Files unit, and Mulder and Scully were his partners until They made them forget. Wait, what? We’re treated to new opening credits in the middle of the episode, set to a low-budget a capella version of the theme song. The tagline is skeptical, as if written by Dr. They: “The truth is out there?” Scenes from the original series play out with Reggie included: He buys the I Want to Believe poster (Mulder did talk to a Reggie on the phone in “Unusual Suspects” — his old ASAC, we thought). He greets Scully in the pilot: “Move along, sugar boobs. This is the X-Files. No women allowed.” He perks up when Clyde Bruckman (another Darin Morgan original) mentions the invasion of Grenada; Reggie remembers the invasion as a coverup of a U.F.O. crash. He complains about the widely mocked case in season 3 flop “Teso Dos Bichos.” Reggie is a gatekeeper, an internet commenter, a self-insert. He’s also Darin Morgan’s dark doppelgänger: The final scene in this retconned X-Files is from season 4’s “Small Potatoes,” in which Morgan played a shape-shifting sad sack. He nearly kissed Scully while wearing Mulder’s face. Here, she’s saved not by the real Mulder but by Reggie, who breaks in and shoots the imposter as soon as he looks like himself again. And so Darin Morgan was shot in his own episode.

Scully counters that story with research: Reggie (birth name: Reginald Murgatroyd) had a nervous breakdown about a year ago and has been in a mental institution ever since. His earlier history includes some time in the military — he was hit on the head with a shovel during the invasion of Grenada — and stints at various federal agencies, all of which are represented here by the same sad cubicle. Waterboarding for the CIA? Cubicle. Business as usual. While working for Witness Protection, we see Reggie give a mobster a new identity; that mobster was also in Dr. They’s dark web video, smiling proudly as one of his “mysterious clients.” Maybe Reggie was everything he imagined Dr. They to be — a government figure controlling what the public knows — and he couldn’t handle it.

But Reggie’s time at the NSA introduced him (via an illegal wiretap on Scully and Mulder’s phone, because the government’s gotta government) to a pair of agents who hadn’t been corrupted. “You escaped into a fantasy where you imagined that you joined a team that still did what America was meant to do,” Mulder concludes. “Fight for truth and justice.” No one mythologizes the legacy of Mulder and Scully better than Mulder and Scully do. (Catch Mulder earlier, yelling at young agents who dared question his legacy: “I’m Fox Freakin’ Mulder, you punks!”) As a doctor emerges from an old-school ambulance and fits Reggie with a straitjacket (at Reggie’s request; he likes the classics), Mulder pays him one last courtesy and asks about the fabled “last case” the three of them worked together. “We found the truth that’s out there,” Reggie declares. Oh, is that all? (Next: It’s a cookbook)

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