Warning: SPOILERS ahead for The X-Files season 11, episode 2
The long-awaited eleventh season of The X-Files is off to a strong start, with its provocative first episode, "My Struggle III," offering a shocking revelation that drove fans into a fevered frenzy. Episode 2, "This," is a surreal dive into cyberpunk themes, Russian conspiracies, and the long-awaited return of a certain fan-favorite character.
The episode opens with Mulder and Scully sleeping on the couch, ostensibly watching television, when Mulder's phone is suddenly hacked, with an image of Richard "Ringo" Langley taking over his screen and asking for help. Yes, that Ringo Langley, of The Lone Gunmen! Is he alive? After all, the character was killed off, along with fellow Gunmen John Fitzgerald Byers and Melvin Frohike, in the season 9 episode, "Jump The Shark," which closed the book on the characters via a dramatic heroic sacrifice. Their ghosts even returned in the grand finale to offer advice to Mulder... And it's definitely not a dream, like their cameo in season 10.
"It's Like I Designed Heaven... And I'm Begging You, Destroy It"
As "This" goes on and the conspiracy is unraveled, the truth of Langley's return is revealed. He didn't survive. His brain was uploaded onto a server owned by the mysterious plutocrat Erika Price (Barbara Hershey). According to the digital copy of Langley, her malevolent company is using people's own cell phones to covertly steal their identities and create online, digital copies. However, Langley himself was a volunteer. According to his (previously unknown) friend, Karah Hamby, she and Langley volunteered. According to her, they had their brains scanned 15 years ago, presumably right before his death. Upon his passing in the real world, his simulated mind sprang to life in a computer-generated simulation.
Unfortunately, it was not the paradise to continue their work to benefit mankind that they were promised. While the digital afterlife looks like a paradise (Langley describes eating hot dogs every day, seeing The Ramones rock out every night, and cheering as the New England Patriots lose every single game they play), it's actually a work camp for geniuses. Creative geniuses like Marvin Minsky, Steve Jobs, and Michael Crichton are all there, but none of them know who they are. Only Erika Price and the wealthy elite (the reformed Syndicate) will be able to prosper from their research, and their endgame is to leave the planet and hide on other worlds, leaving Earth at the mercy of The Smoking Man and alien colonists.
The one thing they hadn't planned for was Langley. He managed to see through the facade of the simulation and got his message out to Mulder and Scully, who found the servers at 33 Thomas St in New York City; in real life, the location is rumored to be the site of a secret NSA surveillance hub, code-named Titanpointe. After beating up some bad guys and being tempted by Price herself, Mulder and Scully destroy the servers and kill the enslaved minds of Langley and all the rest.
"Destroy The Backup!"
Mulder and Scully bring in an FBI team to arrest Price and secure the illegal research at Titanpointe, but – naturally – she's not there and everything is gone, as if it had never been there. The two agents return to Mulder's remote house and collapse on the couch, where they had started the episode. After just a second, however, Mulder's phone is hijacked by Langley yet again, who exasperatedly exclaims, "Mulder! They know that we know! Destroy the backup!" His image then disappears from the phone and is replaced by that of one of the Russian private military contractors, who cuts the transmission.
Like all the greatest X-Files cases, Mulder and Scully are right back where they started with more questions than answers. Langley is still enslaved along with countless other minds. Will Ringo ever be granted his final rest? Does that creepy, platinum-haired Russian have some kind of superpowers? He was shot twice and had his head smashed against a tombstone, but still keeps on going! Hopefully, The X-Files will return to this story line before the end of the season and offer some closure for fans of The Lone Gunmen.