Following last week’s absolutely stellar episode wasn’t going to be easy but when you need to pull a rabbit out of a hat you could do a lot worse than turn to classic X-Files writer Darin Morgan.
Morgan has been responsible for a number of fan favourite episodes in the past and in “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” he takes the series on a light-hearted turn that is still packed with political and societal influences that manage to make the viewer question the real world as well as that of the X-Files.
The episode starts with a clip from an Outer Limits/Twilight Zone styled programme which features an alien that is deleting people memories in order to remain hidden. A potent metaphor for state-controlled media but we digress. Shortly after this Mulder encounters a strange man, dripping with sweat who claims to know both him and Scully and that someone has erased all memories of him from everyone.
Mulder & Scully dismiss this as crazy rambling but he tells them enough about themselves to start questioning. The man, named Reggie Something as he can’t remember his own name, claims that someone is using “The Mandela Effect” to erase him and other far more terrifying facts from existence. It is explained that The Mandela Effect is the use of false truths to cover up past events, making people remember them slightly differently and therefore changing the outcome of public opinion.
What follows is a funny, riveting and extremely well put together episode, that sees Reggie challenge Mulder and Scully’s perceptions of past events whilst being hunted down by mysterious forces. Mulder starts to question his own memories as he can’t find his favourite Twilight Zone episode while Scully obsesses over an old dessert she used to love but it seems to be the wrong colour.
Funniest of all are the segments where we go back in time to previous X-Files cases and who is there? It’s Reggie, who says he started the X-Files and they were assigned to join him. He claims to have worked with them for years until he got too close to the Truth and he was “erased” from memory.
Eventually, it all points to one man, they even more mysteriously named, Dr They who is pictured behind the scenes at several historical events. Mulder is approached by him at the end of the episode and he essentially admits his part in manipulating minds to further his vision of the past, in turn affecting the outcome of the future. It’s unclear if Mulder truly believes him but you would have to believe that it won’t just be filed in his memory.Something like this will eat away at someone like Mulder.
This episode speaks volumes about the state of world politics and the culture of misinformation that we live in right now. Yet again The X-Files is making important statements with its underlying themes and once again they’ve hit the nail on the head. This is a genuinely funny episode with a real message that is explained and delivered to the viewer in a clever and non-patronising way.
We are happy to say that The X-Files team have delivered yet another instant classic.