Previously on The X-Files, “Kitten”
“Rm9sbG93ZXJz”, written by Shannon Hamblin and Kristen Cloke (a X-Files alum and lead in its associated shows Millennium and Space: Above and Beyond) is a dementedly playful critique on our ostensibly dangerous reliance on technology along with our equally deteriorating humaneness with others, and the intelligent tools we create for our leisure.
What a fun, strange experiment of an episode. From the tv spots it was difficult to tell how this week’s installment had any connection to global conspiracy 3.0 (it doesn’t) or if it was a callback to season five’s “Kill Switch” (nope on that too). Rather, “Rm9sbG93ZXJz” was a standalone episode that was part Buster Keaton, part ‘Metalhead’ and part Maximum Overdrive as Fox and Dana dipped, dived, ducked and dodged their robot overlords… all because Mulder wouldn’t tip. It sounds absurd when you read it but this may be the most X-File thing to have ever X-Filed on The X-Files.
If anything, this was the episode watched by every Boston Dynamics employee.
Since the episode was nearly devoid of any dialogue (roughly 20 lines total were said by both actors), its focus on our dependence on and obliviousness towards technology was as insightful as it was disarming. Like it or not, everything about our lives has been collected, disseminated, analyzed and monetized for our “benefit”. We are living in a sea of algorithms and with every push, every click and swipe, the machines know us far better than we know ourselves.
In turn, everything that has been amassed about consumers and social media users has provided a very grimy image of humanity, as remarked in the cold open that referenced Tay, Microsoft’s A.I. chatbot that went from good to horrible awfully fast in 2016. In spite of our advances as a species, no amount of innovation or genius will make up for our lack of empathy and emotional intelligence. We saw what occurred in real life… how can we claim artificial intelligence will be a reliable complement in our continued development when humankind remains so dangerously flawed?
When it comes to “Rm9sbG93ZXJz”, things get a little too ridiculous. The swarms of drones, the “killer” vacuum, the robot dogs and vengeful driverless taxi. Let’s not forget about the 3D printer spawned by Satan himself! By the start of the third act, one has to wonder if this episode would reveal itself as fever dream Mulder is having in front of his old desktop. But no, it’s really happening and for no explainable reason, there is absolutely no other human to witness all these shenanigans. I have a well exercised suspension of disbelief but that extended cat-and-mouse sequence stretches it a bit.
Thankfully, Mulder finally learns his lesson that automatons are people too (kinda), or more like the automaton we take for granted should be appreciated. More so, our interactions in general shouldn’t be tethered to the pocket-sized super computers we constantly thumb in our hands. As reiterated many times this season in various ways, life should be cherished and enjoyed.
That, and always leave at least a 10% tip, you cheapskate.
The Truth Revealed
- There were a few easter eggs this week you may have missed if you aren’t proficient in Base64. The title of episode seven, “Rm9sbG93ZXJz” and the string of code at the end of the opening sequence – VGhlIFRydXRoIGlzIE91dCBUaGVyZQ – decode into “Followers” and “The Truth is out there”.
- The name of the restaurant where Mulder and Scully dined and dashed, Forowa, is Japanese for ‘follower’.
- While Fox was scrolling on his phone and had to prove he was human via reCAPTCHA, the face of the men he was pushing were luminaries in the field of robotics, most notably Isaac Asimov.
- Bigly Credit. Need we write more?
- Although all the robots had the red eyes of rage, the vacuum-with-an-attitude designated ZUMEZ9000 was an obvious nod to 2001’s HAL 9000.
- If you’re still wondering if Fox or the bots were in the wrong, allow me to elucidate you with this gem of a fact: the blobfish the Forowa robots served Mulder was inedible all right… because the species creates an acid that coats its skin to protect itself from predators. Apparently, they’ve hated Mulder for a while and it wouldn’t be surprising if it all started from this moment in season three’s “War of the Coprophages”.
The X-Files S11E7 Review Score
The X-Files – S11E7 – Rm9sbG93ZXJz | David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi | Writer: Kristen Cloke & Shannon Hamblin | Director: Glen Morgan