NEXT On Fox: “File #4” Ends With A Heart Stopping Cliffhanger

Credit: Fox

After watching this episode, I am more and more disappointed in Fox as a network for canceling Next before it finishes its season. I am constantly impressed with each episode, and while I don’t know how this is going to end for Paul, Salazar, CM, and the rest of the FBI team, I do know that however it ends, it’s probably going to end badly for everyone involved. Someone’s going to die and my money’s on Paul. Someone’s going to jail and my money is on Salazar. As for CM and Gina and the other members of Salazar’s team? Some of their fates might have been sealed in this latest episode, a fact that makes me extremely nervous.

Like the previous episodes, “File #4” starts where “File #3” left off. Paul’s friend, Dr. Pearish, is dead, but Salazar and Paul have the data Pearish left for them to recover. They head back to the FBI to talk to Salazar’s supervisor, Mathis, who is skeptical this is even happening. Paul and Salazar tell him about all the strange things that have been happening since NEXT became self-aware and Mathis is quick to point out that Paul seems a little crazy. He’s not wrong, but none of this is doing anything for a long term relationship between wild card Paul and the FBI. However, Mathis allows Paul and Salazar to decrypt the file using their databases. Is it a good move? Not really.

Elsewhere, a guy works in a fulfillment center.  He’s obviously unhappy and he goes home to retreat to his basement. After his wife (ex-wife?) yells at him about something, he settles in on his computer but is interrupted by a message from an unknown sender. That unknown sender is NEXT. Still on the warpath from constantly being thwarted by Paul and Salazar, NEXT is starting to attack the team. First on the list is CM and the guy who got the message–which was a picture of CM with dyed blond hair–is the one who’s about to make things extra complicated.

More of CM’s backstory comes to light thanks to NEXT and its actions in this episode. Turns out, CM was a whistleblower on an operation called Rock Ridge, a raid that quickly went south.  People were killed, but CM got out. However, as we well know, white supremacists pride themselves on loyalty to the cause (gross) and because CM was a whistleblower, things get hairy down at HQ. A mob starts to build, targeting CM and his involvement in the raid. Mathis is terrified and the team knows this is NEXT’s doing, but they continue getting ready to decrypt the hard drive.

Meanwhile, Paul gets a call on his burner phone. No one is supposed to know the number. The guy on the other line says that Abby has tested positive for having familial fatal insomnia and the guy says she has a 50% chance of contracting other genetic diseases. Here’s where the show gets tricky. Is Paul really talking to someone? Or is the person on the other line a hallucination, the result of his disease getting worse? I’m betting this call happens in his head, but it spooks him enough that he convinces Abby (who he basically kidnapped, by the way), to leave the FBI building with him.

Things take a turn, though, when NEXT cuts the power causing a security breach. The guy who got the message from NEXT infiltrates the building with NEXT’s help only now he’s got a bomb strapped to his chest. The bomb detonates and the screen goes blank. Who survives and who doesn’t? It’s safe to say that Mathis probably doesn’t, but the rest of the team? We’ll just have to see what happens next week.

As I mentioned before, I am constantly surprised and impressed with each new episode of NEXT. The show’s pacing is phenomenal. There’s never a dull moment. In fact, this show is a masterclass on how to keep the tension ratcheted up to an 11 every single scene and how each scene feeds the next. Writers Adam Simon and Zachary Reiter have taken Manny Coto’s playbook and ran with it. Nothing feels out of place and the episode is timely despite having been written and filmed nearly a year ago. The inclusion of white supremacy might feel like a cheap way to tie the episode into things happening today, but this is simply an issue of the arts always having foresight in matters. But it works and keeps the tension going throughout.

I also appreciate how Reiter and Simon weave in more plot threads and cause the audience to ask more questions without spelling things out so blatantly. I have so many questions after this episode, and they all extend further than the standby “who lives and who dies” question. No, I have three very specific questions in regards to this episode. One, what has Paul’s brother gotten himself into? He’s seen making a shady call after being unable to track down NEXT’s whereabouts. It seems like he’s as much the villain as NEXT is. The unfortunate casualty of capitalism run amok. Two, who is Nacio Flores? He was introduced in a tense sequence with Ty and Ethan at their hideout in the middle of the woods. Three, is the man we saw escape from prison Salazar’s father? We got a bit of a hint that Salazar’s father isn’t all that great and I have a feeling NEXT is going to exploit that.

As for the acting in this episode, Slattery continues to impress me. The entire scene with him on the phone talking to the genetic specialist (or is he?) is still a tour de force that makes my heartache. Slattery is a master at the calm, cool, and collected persona. We’ve seen that with his Mad Men character. However, Paul, especially in that bathroom, is a bundle of manic, tense, frustrated energy that set my teeth on edge, but it’s such a fine performance that I can’t even be mad about it. For me, Slattery is part of the reason this whole scenario works. He is believable as this person who has everything to lose and who has already lost so much.

Michael Mosely also surprised me this week. Since the writer’s room is slowly bringing in more of the supporting characters, the audience is learning more and more about these people who are Salazar and Paul’s backbone in their fight against NEXT.

Since CM is the lynchpin of this episode, it makes sense that Mosely is finally given a chance to shine, and, boy, does he shine. I still don’t know how I feel about him as a character. That uncertainty is only made more complicated with the revelations in this episode, but there is a degree of softness starting to smooth away CM’s edges. I’m getting the feeling that there’s more to him than what we’re seeing and Mosely is portraying that beautifully. I can’t wait to learn more about CM as the weeks unfold and I can’t wait to see if he’s truly what they say he is, or if there’s something more to him. It’ll be interesting to watch.

Shelby Arnold
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