The X-Files #292: This

"The FBI finally found out what it's like to be looked upon as a little spooky."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: A call from long-dead Langly exposes the existence of the Conspiracy running an immortality simulation.

REVIEW: "This" feels like it comes out of nowhere, and so leaves one rather emotionally disconnected from what should have been at least an affable comedy, and at most a weepy reunion with the 16-year-dead (or are they?) Lone Gunmen. I think part of the problem is that Mulder and Scully take some crazy stuff at face value, while you're going, "what?! that's believable to you?!", in particular in regards to the virtual reality set up to send digitized humans to the  stars (if that's what the Syndicate really wants to do), or else use their minds as slaves for computing just how to make the trip. Yes, an old episode of the show, a pretty terrible one written by Ian Gibson, used a VR world as a premise. But you sort of need to namecheck that 16 years on for it not to seem out of place.

And the way the weirdness piles up, especially given that the episode starts and ends with the leads sleeping on the couch, it sets you up for a Dickian twist where we're in the VR all along, and these versions of Mulder and Scully are merely copies, perhaps destroying the virtual world from the inside. If it had happened, I would have cried foul, because Doctor Who JUST did an episode like that, but still, it would have explained some of the unexplained insanity here: Russians attacking the house as if this were a Cold War scenario, the impossible-to-set-up puzzle in the cemetery, the bit where the background drops out in the diner and Mulder and Scully are visually treated just as Langly is, the way the bad guys pop up just about anywhere, kids punching Scully on the bus (what is the point of that?), Mulder not getting caught making faces while playing prisoner (one guy's back is turned, but not the other), Skinner's delay in explaining things (but that's pretty usual), even the way some of the rooms are shot. You keep trying to spot some glitch that reveals they're in the Matrix, but it never happens.

Instead, this is all adjunct to the Mytharc (grown), part of that faction that wants to stop Cancerman's plague, and wants the elite to go to space. If that can be believed. They're also working with Russian security contractors because this is most definitely Trump's America (Skinner mentions the FBI isn't in the White House's good graces too). These guys shoot up Mulder's house, wipe key records from the now-digital X-Files (but Langly has back-ups in what seems like a porn file, which is a nice detail), and try to recruit Mulder (again). Skinner seems untrustworthy. Langly has a girlfriend who was ready to spent VR eternity with him, and who dies in a hail of bullets, never to be mentioned again. And at the end, there's this insane notion that turning off a computer corrupts all its data, and anyway, the machine is uprooted and stolen cuz no one was able to keep an eye on it between the denouement and the epilogue. Then the dead assassin shows up in VR as a final, unfunny punchline... Feels like everyone decided to give about 50% that day.

How DID Langly know where he'd be buried so a crucial clue could be left 3 tombs down on Deep Throat's grave? No easy answers. His girlfriend (or some other co-conspirator) could have put the chip on the grave indicated, but it's Deep Throat's by coincidence. That's the only thing that makes sense... unless the Lone Gunmen are still alive and had the tombstone changed after the fact. Or something.

REWATCHABILITY: Low - Mytharc-adjacent, which puts my teeth on edge, but more than that, it fails as either drama or comedy because it has no follow-through.


snell said...

Frustrating, because it plays as if the entire production team had never seen the Matrix or any of the numerous "intelligences trapped in a computer network" stories since. Genre culture has raised the bar on that type of story, yet the script/ production seem out of 1995.

More galling--even if "Langley" wants to die, what about all the other "people" in there? If you accept their sentience (and they do, because they want to end Langley's "suffering"), than aren't you committing mass-murder by shutting down the computers? Langley implied that only he knew they were virtual, and only he was unhappy. What about the hundreds (thousands?) of others?


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