April 28, 2018

The X-Files 7.13, First Person Shooter: Ready Player One

Posted in TV tagged , at 1:15 pm by Jenn

Just…whatever

Summary: Three guys are gearing up for some sort of battle that looks like it’s taking place in a science fiction movie. They’re actually playing a game, being observed by a couple of techs. It’s like a virtual-reality simulation, but without the virtual-reality gear. Their opposition arrives on motorcycles, and the three guys are greatly outnumbered but still able to defeat them, thanks to their weapons. The techs are impressed.

The guys get to move to phase two of the game, which involves shooting at people who also have guns. There is…a lot of shooting. It goes on for a while. One of the three guys, Lo-Fat, takes a hit and “bleeds” yellow blood. The other two guys, Moxie and Retro, continue the battle on their own. They get separated, and Retro encounters a scantily clad woman who introduces herself as Maitreya. She tells him it’s her game, then shoots him.

Mulder and Scully go to the corporate offices of FPS in Inland Empire, California, to investigate. They have their badges and their retinas scanned, then have to sign nondisclosure agreements. Mulder explains that FPS stands for First Person Shooter; they make “digital entertainment,” or what most people would call video games. The Lone Gunmen are there, thrilled to be part of the “new American Gold Rush.” They tell the agents that there was an accident.

The Gunmen are consultants, and Langly even worked on a game, creating some of the villains. The game goes out in a few days, and the IPO is coming shortly after. But now someone’s dead, so the Gunmen would like the agents to figure out what happened before word gets out and the game gets bad publicity.

One of the techs, Ivan, tells the agents that there’s no way Maitreya could have actually killed Retro. The guns used in the simulation feed off a mainframe, and though the effects feel real, they’re not. Scully sees gunshot wounds and blood on Retro’s body, despite Ivan’s insistence that the vest he was wearing should have only “bled” paint. All the villains in the game are fake; nothing could have hurt Retro. The other tech, Phoebe, confirms that everything in the game is digital and virtual.

No one saw what happened, and the techs’ monitoring of Retro was all normal, so no one knows what really happened. Scully says Retro was murdered, so they need to call the police. Mulder asks Phoebe exactly what she saw from her control booth. She shows him recordings confirming that Retro was fine until he suddenly wasn’t. There’s no way to know what happened. Phoebe does something computery to look at the wireframe, though Retro was in an unmapped part of the building. The wireframe shows Maitreya standing over Retro’s body.

Phoebe does more computery stuff and is able to show what Maitreya looked like when Retro saw her. As Maitreya leaves the scene of her crime, she looks straight at the camera Phoebe’s watching her through. A detective named Lacoer has arrived, but he’s disappointed that there’s no suspect or motive for Retro’s murder. He also scoffs at the picture of Maitreya, who looks like…well, like a video game character, not someone he can actually go looking for in the real world. Mulder announces that no one programmed her into the game. Scully says that it doesn’t matter – Maitreya is just some “immature, hormonal fantasy.”

A man named Darryl Musashi comes in, surprising the Gunmen. They tell the agents that he’s a game designer who also does some work for the CIA. They think Ivan called him in to beat Maitreya in the game. Scully complains that the men are all acting like teenagers. Mulder seems to have fallen into that behavior as well.

Mulder, Ivan, Phoebe, and the Gunmen watch as Darryl enters the game. He waits fearlessly for the motorcycle guys and quickly wins phase one. He then skips phase two and goes straight to the place where Retro met Maitreya. She arrives in samurai gear and cuts off his hands as the audience watches on a screen, unable to do anything. Maitreya says something in Japanese before finishing Darryl off.

Scully autopsies Retro but doesn’t get any answers – whatever killed him didn’t leave any evidence behind. Mulder arrives and she tells him that the suits players wear monitor their vital signs. When they’re shot, they get jolted with electricity to keep them from rejoining the game. Scully thought Retro’s suit might have malfunctioned, but she was wrong. She wonders what kind of person likes dressing up to play what’s basically “high-tech cowboys and Indians.” Of course, Mulder is exactly that kind of person.

Scully continues that the game just makes the country even more violent than it already is. There’s no redeeming value in the game in causing mayhem and cranking up your testosterone. Mulder says that’s a sexist view and argues that the game could be an outlet for certain impulses. Scully just doesn’t get why men like to blast stuff. Mulder reminds her that their suspect is a woman, albeit a digital woman. She reminds him that digital images can’t kill people.

Mulder finally gets around to telling her that they have a second victim, so she’ll need to perform another autopsy. His head his no longer attached to his body, so I’m guessing his cause of death is pretty apparent. Mulder gets a call from the sheriff’s department telling him that a woman has been picked up to be questioned about the murders.

The woman was picked up at a strip club, so the male officers at the station are having a great night. Scully is not. The woman, Jade Blue Afterglow (she claims that’s her real name), says she knows nothing about FPS but doesn’t seem too worried that she’s a murder suspect. Mostly, she thinks the situation is ridiculous. When Mulder shows her a picture of Maitreya, she explains that she underwent a body scan at a medical-imaging place; they must have given her image to FPS to use for their game. Mulder lets her leave, then tells Scully he feels the need to blast something.

The agents return to FPS and find Phoebe napping in the tech office. Scully tells her that it looks like Ivan scanned Jade and put her in the game. The Gunmen are getting ready to go into the game and troubleshoot some things. But the game starts up by itself, and Phoebe can’t make it stop. Only the background was supposed to run, not the real gameplay, yet the Gunmen are being shot at. Mulder gets suited up and goes into the game after them.

Byers has already been shot, but isn’t seriously hurt. Mulder provides cover fire while the Gunmen head for a module. Mulder sees Maitreya and goes after her, annoying Scully. Maitreya greets him with a sword, dressed as…I don’t know, sexy Joan of Arc? She vanishes right before his eyes, then reappears behind them. The Gunmen hear gunfire and run after Mulder, but accidentally exit the game. Mulder’s now in it by himself.

Scully joins the Gunmen and demands to know where Mulder is. They can’t explain it – he should be with them. Phoebe can determine that Mulder’s still alive, since she can still monitor his vitals, but they don’t know exactly where he is…or where the game is. Wherever it is, Maitreya has now left Mulder in it alone. Mulder wanders around a little until he finds her. She does a bunch of gymnastics, then disappears again.

The Gunmen want to build a kill switch to shut down the game, but Phoebe tells them it won’t work. Ivan joins the group and thanks Scully for inadvertently saving the game. When the authorities saw that an FBI agent performed Retro’s autopsy and couldn’t determine a cause of death, they decided not to shut down the game. Scully, of course, doesn’t care, since Mulder and the game are missing. She brings up Jade, but Ivan doesn’t seem familiar with her name.

Phoebe suddenly runs out, and Scully follows her, realizing that Phoebe was the one who scanned Jade. Phoebe says Scully wouldn’t understand what it’s like “choking in a haze of rampant testosterone” every day. Scully manages not to roll her eyes. Phoebe explains that she was using Jade for her own game, not this one. Somehow, Jade fed off of male aggression (uh, okay) and jumped into this game. Scully tells her she’ll have to find a weakness and destroy Jade. Phoebe says she has no weaknesses.

Mulder’s out of ammo, but he’s still ready to fight Maitreya hand-to-hand. Well, more specifically, he’s ready to take a beating from her. As the others discuss how Maitreya put herself in the game and hijacked it, Frohike sees that Mulder’s vitals are going nuts. Ivan turns on Phoebe, but Scully tells him it’s “no fair picking on a girl.” Oh, come on.

Mulder manages to defeat Maitreya, and when he goes to get her sword, the game glitches and puts him in a Wild West ghost town. The others can now see what’s happening, but are unable to turn off the game. Maitreya finds Mulder again, and her combination of a halter top and chaps is certainly a look. She duplicates herself, and Mulder complains that she’s cheating.

Inevitably, Scully joins the game and shoots at the multiple Maitreyas. The Gunmen are thrilled. Phoebe and Ivan warn that the game gets harder from here – in fact, no one’s ever beaten this level. Scully has become the first, but her reward is more Maitreyas to shoot. Langly wonders how the agents are supposed to kill something that won’t die.

Phoebe knows of a kill coming in that can destroy the game. Ivan tries to stop her, not wanting to kill his baby, but Phoebe won’t put it ahead of human lives. Once the Maitreyas have been defeated, a tank appears, because why wouldn’t there be a tank in the Wild West? That tank explodes and another appears in its place. Scully just keeps shooting while Mulder tries to use the sword to wedge open the door Scully came through.

Ivan and Phoebe face off as the Gunmen try to get Phoebe to give them the command that will shut down the game. She finally sides with the Gunmen, and the game is no more. The agents don’t reappear, and the Gunmen worry that they’ve killed them. Phoebe finds one of their guns near the door, which the group opens to rescue the agents. Mulder is possibly having the best day of his life.

Mulder voices over something dumb about victory and whether it’s real when the game is virtual. There are no laws or rules in the virtual world, so anything could come out of the darkness. Back the tech room, the computers start up again, and Ivan is pleased to see a new player on his screens – one who looks like Scully.

Thoughts: This episode was written by William Gibson and Tom Maddox.

Phoebe is played by Constance Zimmer.

Imagine Scully on Westworld. Just imagine it.

I’m definitely not the target audience for this episode. I played laser tag once, though.

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