by Jess Lynde
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.
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.