The X-Files: The List

Case: Prior to his execution, a death row inmate claims he’ll reincarnate and kill five men to avenge his mistreatment while in prison.

Destination: Florida

Mulder and Scully head to a Florida prison to investigate the mysterious, unexplained death of a guard in the wake of a deceased prisoner’s promise to return from the dead to wreak vengeance on those who wronged him. After learning there is a list of the intended targets, they attempt to identify who’s on the list, while trying to prevent additional murders.

Season 3 has some truly outstanding episodes. It is probably my favorite season of The X-Files overall. But even the good seasons have their share of clunkers, and ‘The List’ is our first dud for this season. It’s not a horrendous episode. There’s nothing memorably bad about it, like ‘Space’ or ‘3.’ In fact, there’s nothing remarkable about it at all. Unlike our last two stand-alone episodes, ‘The List’ is in no way compelling. It features no memorable performances. The central mystery isn’t overly engaging. (Did anyone really care if a reincarnated Neech was committing the murders? Did anyone care who the murderer was at all? Or who was on the list?) And, unfortunately, the episode relies far too heavily on several off-putting tropes. Creepy male prisoners leering at a female investigator. A sweltering Southern prison, full of shady white corrections officers mistreating predominantly black prisoners. (Maybe the wronged dead man taking out the white perpetrators was supposed to balance things out?) An evil warden beating inmates to death in the prison showers. It’s tired and unappealing, and the flies and maggots were gross.

To make matters worse, we didn’t even get any good Mulder and Scully material this week. Unless you want to count the small exchange about reincarnation and who would be on Scully’s vengeance list. The lovely little smile she gave Mulder after he jokingly made sure he had remembered her birthday was delightful, but that brief moment of camaraderie between the partners was hardly worth the price of admission.

Other Thoughts

Coming on the heels of the wonderful ‘Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose’ certainly doesn’t help ‘The List.’ Especially since the previous episode featured a callback to the show’s last death row-focused episode (‘Beyond the Sea’), which was head and shoulders above this one.

I did like getting the traditional Season 1 opening: we start with something freaky or unsettling; after the opening credits roll, we return to Mulder’s office to get the breakdown on the case; and then our beloved agents are off and investigating!

Don’t drive the getaway car if your liquor store robbery goes bad in Florida. You could end up on death row.


Guard: “I just keep my ass covered and my eyes peeled. Same as always.”

Mulder: “Imagine if it were true, Scully. Imagine if you could come back and take out five people who had caused you to suffer. Who would they be?”
Scully: “I only get five?”
Mulder: “I remembered your birthday this year, didn’t I, Scully?”

Scully (re: Mrs. Manley): “Woman gets lonely. Sometimes she can’t wait around for a man to be reincarnated.”

Final Analysis: There’s a good reason I never bothered to rewatch this one before. Next!

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.


ChrisB said...

I had forgotten that this episode was both written and directed by Chris Carter. His episodes tend to be better than this one is. I agree with your assessment completely, Jess. It is not horrible, but neither is it very good. The script relies too heavily on stereotypes and the direction, while creepy and gross, is run of the mill.

Onwards and upwards.

Juliette said...

I re-watch this one because there's nothing particularly bad or offensive about it, but there's not much to say either! It's the definition of 'meh'.

WADEZILLA13 said...

Couldn't disagree more; I'm usually not a big fan of the ghost/reincarnation stories, but this one hooked me. There was a great sense of mounting tension, and by the end I felt as frustrated as Mulder when he pulled off the side of the road that I couldn't figure out just what the hell was going on. And like Mulder, the whole time I was trying to figure out who Neech was, when it never occurred to wonder WHAT he was- he was a fly all along!! Brilliant....

Jess Lynde said...

Thanks for the dissenting opinion, Wadezilla! I love getting multiple perspectives on these old episodes. To be perfectly honest, I was so disengaged by the whole story that the idea of Neech having reincarnated as the fly didn't even occur to me until you suggested it. It doesn't make me like the episode any better, unfortunately, but thanks for giving me some new food for thought!

WADEZILLA13 said...

No problem! I've talked with a lot of people who missed the fly thing, despite the clues being right there with each victim on the list, writhing right under Mulder and Scully's (and our) noses (note that the corpses not on Neech's list were maggot-free). I'm not sure if that speaks well or poorly of Chris Carter's writing/direction, but I lean to the latter. As I said, I was in the dark myself until that last scene in the warden's car, and that "AHA!!" Moment was what really sold me on the episode.

I'll probably be weighing in frequently, as Season 3 is my favorite and contains most of my favorite X-Files. :)

WADEZILLA13 said...

Sorry, meant to say I lean to the former, as in Chris Carter did a great job with this one. :)

drnanamom said...

I was reading a magazine while watching this episode. I think 'meh' pretty much covers it for me - sorry Wadezilla -but it did like your comments.

zharth said...

It's nice to hear a dissenting opinion. Sometimes the reviews on this blog for this show can feel a little like a hive mind. I liked this episode, and thought it was a lot more compelling than D.P.O., for example. And while Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose is a hard act to follow, I do tend to respond more to the serious episodes than the humorous ones. As a horror fan and an artist, I really appreciated the unsettling mood of this episode, and the creepy atmosphere of the prison, which was perfectly amplified by shooting in those sickly shades of green. Kudos to whoever's idea that was.