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‘The X-Files’ Review: A Very Meta Episode Lacks Real Heft

Darin Morgan's episode of the season, as predicted, proves to be great but light.

THE X-FILES:  L-R:  Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in the "The Lost Art Of Forehead Sweat" episode of THE X-FILES airing Wednesday, Jan. 24 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.  ©2017 Fox Broadcasting Co.  Cr:  Shane Harvey/FOX

Shane Harvey/FOX

[Editor’s note: Spoilers follow for “The X-Files” Season 11, Episode 4, “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat.”]

Previously, on “The X-Files”…

FBI Agents Mulder and Scully make a living investigating weird phenomena for the FBI. Sometimes, the cases they investigate are super-serious and sad. And then sometimes, they’re just a bit wackadoo.

This Week’s Dossier

Mulder and Scully, just living their lives, are confronted by a stranger (played by erstwhile TV guest star Brian Huskey) who literally likes being led off in a straightjacket because he crazy. But he also might be onto the fact that the X-Files have been a conspiracy, this whole time, to suppress the truth about…him, at least. But is Reggie Something — okay, nee Reginald Murgatroid — actually a former soldier, CIA operative, and FBI agent who worked on the X-Files in its earliest days? Or is he a crackpot who just happens to have evidence of the X-Files tapping into the idea that the Mandela Effect (or the Mengele Effect) is a real thing manipulating our memories of not just the world, but this television show? There’s no official answer. But Scully ultimately chooses her memories of the past over the present reality — as we all might.

Wait, Explain It to Me Like I’m Five

Ummmmm… Internet memes take on more life than usual for Mulder and Scully. But true to the nature of Internet memes, it ultimately had no real impact over reality.

Some Deep and Relevant Thoughts About Hair

This section (from our last season’s reviews) has been dormant until now, but hell, it’s worth noting that Gillian Anderson’s wig has held up well, the last few weeks, and if it’s not going to be her real hair at least it’s good hair. Based on upcoming publicity photos, we know that things on this count may be about to change, so we’re choosing to embrace the status quo while we can.

Nostalgia Alert!

One of “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat’s” most intriguing attributes is its look back at past episodes — specifically using archival footage from Season 5’s “Unusual Suspects,” the pilot, Season 1’s “Tooms,” Season 3’s “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” and “Teso dos Bichos,” and Season 4’s “Home” and “Small Potatoes.”

Here are the important nerd facts related to all of those choices:

  • “Unusual Suspects” was a flashback episode to 1989, hence it being the first invoked
  • Reggie calling Tooms, played by Doug Hutchison, creepy may be an inside joke given that Hutchison has been a bit creepy in his personal life.
  • “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” was written by Darin Morgan (and he was nominated for an Emmy for it).
  • “Small Potatoes” starred Darin Morgan, as the shapeshifter. (His character’s creepy lack of consent is a whole other post.

THE X-FILES: L-R: Guest star Dan Zukovic and guest star Alex Diakun in the "The Lost Art Of Forehead Sweat" episode of THE X-FILES airing Wednesday, Jan. 24 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2017 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Shane Harvey/FOX

Makeout Watch

Beyond Scully getting pissy that Mulder blew off their date, there’s…. no, there’s nothing else. Except of course for the ongoing evidence that Mulder and Scully are longtime partners, united in their investigation of the truth… even when some Reggie Somebody tries to interfere.

“I’m not going to ask you if you just said what I think you just said, because I know it’s what you just said.” (Most Awkward Quote)

“Move along sugar boobs — this is the X-Files. No women allowed.”
— Reggie Somebody

Oh good, explicit sexism instead of implicit sexism. Perhaps amusing in context, but still sad when you consider what Agent Scully in the fictional world and Gillian Anderson in the real world have had to deal with. Technically a funny joke — but doesn’t exactly hold up. That’s right, we’re social justice warriors here.

“Dear Diary: Today my heart lept when Agent Scully suggested ‘spontaneous human combustion.'” (Best Quote)

“I want to remember how it was. I want to remember how it all was.”
— Scully

This honestly reflects the attitudes of “X-Files” fans when it comes to the revival more potently than additional words can say. The last few weeks have been good… But there’s something to be said about preserving our memories of the past.

Final Report

On the one hand, this is technically one of the best episodes of the season. On the other hand, when evaluated up close, the actual plot is so slight that the entire episode fails to really hold up after you watch it — it lacks the depth and resonance it could. While incredibly entertaining to watch, it lacks the substance necessary for deep analysis beyond its core themes, the danger of nostalgia in particular. Darin Morgan made an incredibly full episode of television, but thanks to its lack of an actual plotline, all we can say is that we liked it. Call it the Mandela Effect. When we first watched it, we thought there was a lot more here. Maybe don’t watch it again.

Grade: B+

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