‘The X-Files’ Tries Something Delightfully New With ‘Rm9sbG93ZXJz’

Senior Television Writer
02.28.18 10 Comments

Fox

A review of tonight’s The X-Files coming up just as soon as my password is Queequeg…

The awful premiere aside, this season has on the whole been a vast improvement over the previous one, albeit largely by doing effective variations on the kinds of stories the show told a million times in the ’90s. Even Darin Morgan’s incredible episode was in large part a commentary on what the show used to be, and whether it makes any sense to keep doing it in 2018.

“Rm9sbG93ZXJz,”(*) on the other hand, is my favorite episode of either revival season — even more than “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” and “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” — in large part because it felt like something wholly new to the franchise, not just in subject matter, but presentation style.

(*) My friend Google suggests it’s a Base64 encode for “followers,” which ties into both the prologue about the Twitter-bot programmed to talk like a mean girl, and the mechanical followers that Mulder and Scully attract throughout the hour.

Like the Langly episode, this one has a lot of Black Mirror echoes to it, this time looking at what we’re losing as humans through our dependence on technology, and what our technology might be gaining when we’re not paying close enough attention. For the bulk of the hour, our heroes are the only human beings we see, as they first eat together (or try, in the case of blobfish-ordering Mulder) at a fully-automated sushi restaurant, followed by Scully taking a self-driving Uber-type car home, Mulder getting mislead by his GPS, Scully’s house being mapped by a robotic vacuum, Mulder menaced by drones, etc. When they’re together, Fox and Dana are more focused on screens than each other, and the various computer programs have come to learn much too much about them, like Scully’s online shopping account automatically ordering a replacement for her Rock It Like A Redhead styling cream the instant she throws out the old bottle. The threat is both omnipresent, because of how much they’ve come to depend on technology, and strangely innocent, because all the AIs really want is for Mulder to give a tip (even a meager 10% one) to the “staff” at the sushi place.

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