The X-Files 11×03 Review: “Plus One” Works Better on the Character Level

There’s a mish mash of ideas happening in “Plus One.” Doppelganger, telepathy, the concept of evil, the fear of growing older, the uncanniness of the “other” all have a part to play in this episode of The X-Files, “Plus One.” But at times they seem to be thrown together. I like all the these concepts, and Scully and Mulder have some great personal character moments here, but it all just ends up being okay. This being The X-Files, a doppelgänger episode should have been better.

People start committing what looks to be suicide after experiencing encounters with other people who look just like them. The first one we see is Arkie, an otherwise nice kid who maybe sometimes abuses drugs and alcohol, but not someone who is suicidal, according to Arkie’s lawyer, Dean. After surviving the initial encounter with his double, Arkie’s hanged in his jail cell while still cuffed. Quite a conundrum, although in typical Scully fashion, easily explained away by some convoluted method of tying the rope around one’s waist and wiggling to get it around one’s neck. “Plus One” is another episode where the show reaches in having Scully not believe the supernatural phenomenon occurring. First a case of mental illness, followed by mass hysteria. Such explanations are okay when they bolster the effect of what’s actually happening, but the show doesn’t quite explain enough about either. The only time the mass hysteria does work is when Scully, after already seeing her double a couple of times, jumps at her reflection in the car window. Otherwise, it’s a clear and cut case of evil doppelgängers to the audience.

Where things also get muddled is Judy and her telepathic hangman games with her twin brother, Chucky. Judy’s a mental patient suffering from schizophrenia who has games of hangman covering her walls. One such game involves Arkie’s name as the answer. Scully and Mulder hypothesize the victims are dying from some form of psychic intent from the twins. The correlation between the hangman games and seeing one’s double remained blurry throughout the episode.

The strongest parts of the episode are the character moments. Confronted by the “evil” side of Judy (although it’s revealed later that Judy is apparently faking in order to receive medication that keeps her double away… I think) who calls Scully old and unable to bear children any longer, Scully goes down an emotional path this episode. One that’s probably familiar with everyone — we all grow old, we’re all going to die, and at some point, the patterns of our lives will change. She mentions that her and Mulder will have to retire eventually, and then what will they do? Will they see each other or is their friendship totally contingent on working the x-files all these years? Of course we know the answer is no, but in that moment of emotional vulnerability, Scully is unsure. It’s an interesting story for Scully considering Gillian Anderson has said she’s done with The X-Files after this season. Whether intentional or not, it gives the episode a ring of inevitability that echoes real life. Nothing lasts forever, but there’s always the possibility of something more.

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