The Realm of Extreme Possibility: The X-Files, 'Plus One'
This week’s episode of The X-Files alternates between creepy and goofy, but overall turns out to be one of the most poignant ones yet. At the beginning of “Plus One” a drunk dude at a rock show decides to stage dive and, as much as some of the viewers might be hoping he falls flat on his face, what ends up happening is far more disturbing: he sees his double staring at him from the back of the crowd.
He quickly leaves the club, driving away in his truck down a dark highway. Soon the double appears in his passenger seat, grabs control of the wheel, and in the ensuing struggle, crashes the truck into a tree. Miraculously, the dude---Arkie Seavers---survives, and turns out to be the latest in a series of bizarre instances of people seeing their own doubles... before committing suicide. Arkie is the only survivor thus far, so of course Mulder is interested in figuring out what’s happening. Scully thinks this “mass phenomenon” is worth investigating as well, even if she doesn’t believe in ghosts or evil incarnate.
Then there’s a lot of seemingly non sequitur silliness with a woman named Judy, a schizophrenic patient in a psychiatric hospital and her twin brother, Chucky, a warden at a jail in Henrico County, Virginia. The pair play psychic hangman with each other and wouldn’t you know it? Each of the victims of suicide appears as names in their games, including Arkie (who eventually meets his demise through---you guessed it---suicide).
Judy and Chucky are played by the same actor, Karin Konoval, and intriguingly, both Judy and Chucky see doubles of themselves. The episode actually shows us Judy’s rather sexually aggressive and homicidal double (“Demon Judy”), as well as the more surly version of Chucky, which means that Konoval plays four roles, and excels at all of them.
Things get even stranger when both Scully and Mulder start to see their own doubles. This dovetails nicely with one of the greatest tropes in fanfic: two people whose relationship crackles with sexual tension being forced to share a motel suite because it’s the last one available. Demon Judy taunts Scully with the idea that she’s “past her childbearing years” and “not even half a woman.” After another strange suicide, Scully sees her own double glaring malevolently at her from the shadows. When she can’t sleep the next night, she seeks solace in Mulder’s pull-out sofa bed. “Can you hold me?” she asks plaintively. That sound you hear is thousands of X-Files shippers screaming in delight.
While snuggling, Scully wonders what’s going to happen when they’re old. “What do you mean, when?” Mulder counters with a chuckle. She wonders if they’ll spend time together after they retire from the FBI. “I’ll always be around, Scully. Offering bulletproof theories of genius that you fail to assail with your inadequate rationality.” She smiles. “And I’ll always be around to prove you wrong.”
Then she finally gets to the heart of what he seems to be avoiding. “What if you meet someone… someone younger, who wants to have kids?” she asks. He suggests she could do the same but she says she’s at the end of that journey although she would have liked to have had another one. “I don’t have anyone to have one with even if I could.” She suggests the world is going to hell and he agrees. “And a President working to bring down the FBI with it.” She worries they might lose their jobs. “Then what would we do?” he wonders, and she turns to face him, smiling. “We’ll think of something.”
That’s a lot to throw at the audience. “What if you meet someone?” could be interpreted to mean that there IS something more than professional between Mulder and Scully but it’s a “friends with benefits” situation, especially when she hints that “she doesn’t have anyone.” Then there is Mulder’s comment about the President which absolutely must refer to Donald Trump, which again makes it seem like last season was set in the future and this season is set in the present.
There’s little time to chew on this, because soon Mulder wakes up from sleep to get a drink of water and in a distinctly unsettling jump scare scene, sees his double peeking out at him from the shower. Panicked, he goes to wake up Scully who is definitely NOT wearing the pajamas she had on when she first got into the bed with Mulder. To quote Mandy Slade in Velvet Goldmine, “it doesn't necessarily prove sex was involved. It does, however, make for a very strong case,” especially when Mulder tells Scully to “put a dimmer on that afterglow.”
Mulder’s reminder that “Mulder” and “Scully” both have six letters seems to snap Scully out of it and she follows Mulder to the psych hospital, noting that her double is scowling at her from the back seat of her car. Mulder goes to Chucky’s place, shoots at his own double, and then actually wrestles with himself in a scene that is so deliciously perfect, it’s hard to believe it has taken 11 seasons to get here. Meanwhile, Judy and Chucky battle it out with each other and their doubles over who will be the next one on their murder list. As it turns out, they end up killing each other, thus saving Mulder, Scully, and whoever their next victims may have been.
Back at the hotel, Scully is all business, repeating the “I’m glad to hear that” line from the beginning of the episode when they were going to have to share a motel suite and Mulder insisted he was “just trying to get some shuteye.” He tells her to call him if she needs anything, but she can’t imagine that she will. However, after the door closes, she says, “but then again, it’s not out of the realm of extreme possibility” and heads towards his side of the suite. So not only did Mulder and Scully had sex when William was conceived (forgetting temporarily about The Cigarette Smoking Man’s claim that he’s the father), and earlier in the episode, it looks like they’re going for a three-peat.
Yet, if you look back to the post-coital shot when Mulder gets up to get water, Scully is shown on the side of the bed that isn’t the one she got into. Granted, her shifting position could be explained by their sexual activity, but it could also beg the question of whether or not this really happened. Are we to assume this is some kind of alternate universe, much like the one Scully imagined in Season 10’s “Founder’s Mutation” episode?
It’s probably safe to assume that things are not what they may seem on The X-Files, but hopefully there will be some resolution by the end of the season.