One would never guess that from the beginning of the episode though. Starting off with a young Muslim man observing afternoon prayers, we get a glimpse at a day in the life of Shiraz (Artin John). Viewers feel for him as he is looked upon with suspicion and subjected to crude slurs by others, right up until the moment he and a companion disappear into an art gallery. A couple beats pass before a cloud of smoke bursts from the gallery and a fire envelops the remains of the building and anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in it. It’s a timely, well-crafted sequence, but unfortunately the rest of the episode goes down hill after it’s superb intro.
It seems the producers believed that Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), for some inscrutable reason, were not capable of carrying this episode on their own. Thus, we have the misfortune of being introduced to Special Agents Miller (Robbie Amell) and Einstein (Lauren Ambrose), a pair of FBI operatives who ostensibly resemble our heroes. Not physically, mind you: Einstein’s hard facial features and Miller’s earnestly-youthful appearance make it very easy to distinguish them from Mulder and Scully. Rather, the idea is that they correspond to the duo’s respective roles, with Miller being the believer and Einstein being the skeptic. These parallels, however, are incredibly superficial. Miller is more noteworthy for his absence of character than any traits he displays and Einstein, with her snide remarks to Mulder and her overall mean-spirited nature, will likely be remembered as one of the most unpleasant characters to appear in the series.
In any case, the reason these two couples are brought together is to make contact with the unconscious Shiraz, who miraculously survived his own suicide bombing. By reaching the comatose terrorist before he slips into the afterlife, the agents hope to find out about any future attacks. This storyline, as potentially interesting as it is, feels less like an X-File than it does a plot device to force Mulder and Scully to interact with Miller and Einstein.
In one of the show’s biggest “what were they thinking moments?”, Mulder has an incredulous Einstein administer psychotropic drugs to him in an attempt to make contact with Shiraz. The resulting hallucination sees Mulder dance in a bar as Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart” blares in the background, share drinks with the long-since-deceased Lone Gunmen, strapped down to a glowing slab where he is whacked on the chest with a blackjack by a dominatrix-uniform-wearing Einstein, and get whipped by the Cigarette Smoking Man on a longboat paddling in the middle of nowhere. Oh, and Shiraz is on the boat too, being cradled by his mother. Somebody send a memo to Fox: it’s an X-Files revival, not a Fringe revival!
Once again, we see what happens when producers try to be cute and deconstruct the very program they are tasked with making. They become too wrapped up in smirking and winking at the audience every five seconds to concentrate on actually producing coherent material like the kind that drew said audience in the first place. With just one more episode of Season 10 left, we can only hope that they’ll do exactly that for what might be The X-Files‘s final installment.
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