WARNING: This article contains spoilers!
The upward trend in quality continues in this week’s episode of The X-Files, as series creator Chris Carter delivers what feels like his best script for the show in years.
A welcome return to the Monster of the Week format, Plus One sees Mulder and Scully investigating a series of bizarre deaths where the victims were supposedly being stalked by their own doppelgängers. This leads them to a pair of strange twins, Chucky and Judy Poundstone (both played by returning X-Files guest star Karin Konoval) and a deadly psychic game being played between the two.
It’s a back to basics story that puts the emphasis on the spooky, even at the cost of any actual explanation. The plot is vague at the best of times, but the central conceit of the episode is creepy enough to satisfy, particularly the spooky imagery of the victims and their doppelgängers.
It’s the classic X-Files format – strange goings-on, weird deaths, a bit of gore, some banter between our two leads and an open ended conclusion that leaves a haunting impression through its lack of clarity. Plus One could easily have been part of Season 2 or 3, so quintessential is it in relation to what has gone before.
The direction from Kevin Hooks helps elevate proceedings, with Hooks homing in on the shadowy aesthetic that makes for good, creepy visuals. The scenes of the doppelgängers appearing before their victims and ‘Demon Judy’ in her dark hospital room are superb, spine-chilling moments, perfectly shot by the director.
Whilst on the subject of Judy, it would be remiss not to mention the utter perfection of Karin Konoval‘s performance(s). Essentially playing four characters, Konoval gives a tour-de-force performance, equal parts hilarious and chilling. If we hadn’t known prior to watching the episode that she played both Judy AND Chucky, we wouldn’t have guessed she was playing both parts, so perfect and unique is her performance.
Of course, the real meat of the episode comes in the long-awaited renewal of Mulder and Scully’s relationship. One of the major criticisms of Season 10 from fans was the sudden end of their romantic partnership, and clearly Chris Carter has been listening, serving up arguably the episode’s best scene as the two former lovers discuss the future together in bed, and ultimately end up picking things up where they left off (albeit off-screen)! The excellent chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson has never been better then here – from their deep conversation on the nature of their relationship to their cheeky final scene together, it’s a relief to see this aspect of their partnership reoccur.
Despite some minor plot holes and a few leaps in logic here and there (as is standard for even the greatest episodes of The X-Files), Plus One is an enjoyable standalone with plenty of decent chills. A creepy concept, coupled with great direction and arguably one of the best guest performances in the show’s entire run papers over the cracks, resulting in an enjoyable throwback to the show’s standard winning formula.
The X-Files returns next week at 9pm on Channel 5, as does our series blog. Be sure to check out our review.