Guest Writer: Nicholas Monitto
Mulder and Scully are at home, a Ramones concert is running (muted) on television. A distorted image and voice appears as a video call on Mulder’s phone; clearing, it is Richard Langly, one of the (long deceased) Lone Gunmen. He says “Am I dead?” and “If I am, they know that I know”. Three anonymous goons make a home invasion; having heard their approach the Agents set a defense. They kill two, but the third escapes.
Scully calls in the incident, but several military trucks arrive quickly. A group of Russians storms in and subdues them. They want Mulder’s phone and find it when Langly speaks through it again. In the distraction, Mulder & Scully escape into the woods. They are found by Skinner who explains that the people were from Purlieu Services, a US Security Contractor group based in Moscow. With a classified security directive from the Executive Branch, they have power over the FBI.
Mulder & Scully go to Arlington Cemetery, where the Lone Gunmen were buried, to search for clues. On a hunch from Langly’s tombstone, they end up at the grave of Ronald Pakula, “Deep Throat” from the show’s first season. The cross on his stone hides a memory medallion with a QR code. They are ambushed by a man with stringy gray hair, seemingly the one of the trio who escaped in the beginning. Mulder tackles and kills him.
The QR code shows a video of NYC’s “Long Lines Building”, also known as “Titanpointe”, site of an NSA surveillance facility since the 1970’s. Mulder & Scully confront Skinner in a garage, wanting access to the X-Files. He explains that after the 2002 closure, the CIA claimed jurisdiction over it and had Purlieu digitize the papers. Mulder searches, but finds nothing about Titanpointe (on which he says he had a file) or Langly.
Digging through Melvin Frohike’s folders, he finds a picture of Dr. Karah Hamby, Professor of Mathematics, and a caption about her importance. They find her and she explains how she & Langly were shown technology that could scan and copy a person’s brain, and upload it to a simulation. The copy would be activated when the real person died. She starts to explain how they could reach him in the sim, but is killed by a familiar-looking man with stringy gray hair.
On the run, Mulder manages to connect to Langly, who shares details about the sim world that sounds heavenly. And then he explains how it is a slave work camp, doing research for the incoming aliens. He begs them to go to Titanpointe and destroy the sim. Knowing there is a tunnel into the building from the nearby FBI field office, Scully bluffs her way into the office with Mulder as a dangerous person bound for NSA interrogation.
Below Titanpointe, they try going up the stairwells but are ambushed by the Russians and separated. They reunite at the server room, where Scully breaks a shield and keys off the server boxes while Mulder fights off the main Russian. They leave and return with an FBI Cyber team, but all of the hardware has been removed from the room.
Back home, Langly appears on Mulder’s phone in a panic, shouting “They know we know! Destroy the backup!” He disappears, replaced by an image of a man with stringy gray hair…
A FEW THOUGHTS:
- Opening credits end with the tag “ACCUSE YOUR ENEMIES OF THAT WHICH YOU ARE GUILTY”
- The three Lone Gunmen had birthdates that matched the death dates of US Presidents. The stones had those of the 32nd, 34th, and 35th. Taking “33” as the clue from that, Mulder & Scully went three rows ahead and three spaces in each direction, before Mulder found the right stone.
- While Mulder is searching the digitized files, Skinner is on a call. He says he asked the Director to get the Executive Branch to ease up, but “The Bureau’s not in good standing with the White House these days.” Mulder laughs and says, “The FBI final found out what it’s like to be looked upon as a little ‘spooky’!”
- I give this episode a B. Given the reports that this season would feature two Myth-Arc episodes as bookends around “Monster of the Week” stories, I was surprised this episode went so close to that Arc. Back in the 1990’s, “The X-Files” was one of two shows I regularly watched that were my first exposure to this kind of long-form arc in TV stories. It was novel back then, now I have grown a bit weary on it. The ‘heroes as outlaws, hunted by the officials’ trope has been used heavily. The reappearing goon was partly scary, partly annoying as an unexplained detail. A number of moments (the Professor’s death, the servers’ removal) were easily predicted.
Nick Monitto has been a sci-fi geek for a few decades now, having watched the original “X-Files” in its day. He is now going to be very suspicious if he ever receives a video call on his cell phone.