A quick review of tonight’s The X-Files coming up just as soon as I show you my sword collection…
Leaving that abomination of a season premiere that we should never again discuss aside, “Plus One” was the weakest of the episodes Fox gave critics in advance. Not coincidentally, it’s the other Chris Carter-scripted episode. In this case, though, it’s less a case of Carter mismanaging his own creation than of him simply having been passed by his many underlings in the ability to do interesting variations on the old Monster of the Week formula(*).
(*) This was mostly the case in the original run, too, where Carter’s best episodes tended to be either mythology (“Paper Clip”) or episodes more notable for high-concept direction (“Post-Modern Prometheus,” “Triangle”) than the writing. The gap just feels a bit wider now between him and Wong/Morgan/Morgan.
“Plus One” isn’t bad, mind you, just a bit stiffer more gibberish-filled than “This” or the episodes you’ll see in the next few weeks. And there’s a blessed lightness to the whole affair, down to the casting of Karin Konoval — who appeared in two of the show’s greatest episodes ever, “Home” and “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” — in essentially four roles: siblings Judy and Chucky, and their evil doubles, who are the ones responsible for all the episode’s murder-by-doppelganger. If you’re going to tell a convoluted story, have fun with it, and “Plus One” mostly did, from Konval’s performance to the exasperated terror of poor Dean Cavalier realizing his home is filled with deadly implements that his doppelganger can use to kill him.
And, like “This,” “Plus One” understands that what the audience really wants at this point is more of Duchovny and Anderson’s chemistry. A lot of the episode’s structured like a vintage MOTW story, with the two heroes split up to investigate different aspects of the crime, but there’s still a fair amount of them hanging out back at the hotel, disagreeing about case theories and, near the end, talking about Scully’s fear of aging and her lament that she missed her window to have more children. It’s a really nice scene, undercut only by its inability to explain why the two of them don’t just get back together again. Carter and the others are writing them as if the spark has gone and they understand they can never get it back, but the actors sure aren’t playing it that way.
I often hate the sentiment of, “Even a subpar version of Show Z is something I’d rather watch than 99% of what’s out there.” These last two episodes, though, have been reminders of why that idea’s so prevalent. Neither are X-Files all-timers, but they do enough of what the show was beloved for in the ’90s to get by.
What did everybody else think?