RECAPITATION! The X-Files S11 E4
Who else remembers The Berenstein Bears? I do. I remember there was a hallowed rumor that someone at my college was a great-great-great grand something to the Berenstein’s, I know someone named Berenstein. The Bears are named Berenstein. But no. They are apparently named Berenstain, a fact that wasn’t brought to many people’s attentions until it became an internet meme in the last decade and The Mandela Effect became a householdish phrase. And it makes complete sense for The X-Files to tackle the effect because of how zeitgeisty it is. Ya see, this episode ties together the Mandela Effect and the other also very real thing: the dissemination of false information to mass populations (aka “fake news”). And gosh, I really want to say that they handle it all with the delicacy that we expect in 2018 but rather it feels a little bit like SNL-style liberal pandering (of which I am a target audience) that drags down the otherwise without a doubt best episode of this season.
Not to give too many of the twists and turns away, of which there are many, I’ll keep the plot skimp. Brian Huskey stars as Reggie Something, an agent in the CIA who has tracked down Mulder and Scully (Foxy and Skulls, as he refers to them) because he feels that there is a government syndicate run by Mr. They (as in “THEY are coming to get me) who is using The Mandela Effect (or The Mengele Effect, as Mr. Something insists) to erase him from life, and all of history. What this episode specifically exemplifies, outside of Darin Morgan being the best storyteller the series has to offer, is that The X-Files can have a life beyond Scully and Mulder, and frankly, deserves to have a life outside of the duo. What kept my attention in this episode wasn’t the witty banter between M&S but rather the bizarrely intricate plot. We rarely get to see this level of hard sci fi on network television, and its refreshing in a episode that is hinged on the remembrance of an all time classic Twilight Zone episode, that a story that would make Rod Serling proud would be on display. What is unfortunate though is the on the nose humor. Look, I don’t feel like going too far in to it, but it’s plain as day and just screams of antiquated political humor. I know demographically the jokes are going to play veeeery differently, hey I laughed and winced at how bad they actually were, but ultimately it all felt out of place. And jarring. I very much enjoy shock humor, but even I felt that Morgan did not read the room, specifically in a plain-as-punch waterboarding joke. It’s not that I found it offensive, but I did ask my television screen “I mean, really, why the fuck man? Where’d that come from?” Ultimately though, this episode is a hit and the only one I can actually recommend watching. Brian Huskey proves why he is in literally everything, giving pathos to an unpredictable character, and the episode is full of things that will make all the other X-Files-Philes’ hearts out there warm.
“I want to remember how it was, I want to remember how it all was” Scully says in the closing moments as she and Fox settle in to try the Cherry Goop-O 1-2-3 (in a Bigfoot mold, ‘natch). This was echoed earlier when Reggie was remembering their final case together:
“Lets face the facts guys, this is the end of The X-Files. But maybe the point wasn’t to find the truth, but to find each other. No matter where we go in our lives, we’ll always have the memories of our time together, and no can take those away...or alter them in such a way to make us doubt that they ever even happened.”.
Look, despite how we feel about these past two seasons of The X-Files, the two feature films, or even those last few seasons of the original run...we’ll always love it, because we will always have those memories. I’ll always have my hazy childhood memories of being scared to watch the opening credits, to when I waited up on Sunday nights to watch when they premiered, the Foxy and Skulls that we remember is etched in history. And it’s on the strength of these memories that I’m even writing about this right now. While we know that Gillian Anderson is done with The X-Files after this season, who knows what it will mean for the future of the show. But on the merits of this episode alone, The X-Files, while heavy handed, still has something fun to say.