The X-Files: Hell Money

Case: Chinese men are dying and going missing.

Destination: Chinatown, San Francisco

Dt. Chao: "I find it hard to argue with 2,000 years of Chinese belief..."

In this X-Files, human monsters of the week, Chinese immigrants are being killed and maimed to support a lucrative organ transplant business. The men who are victims have actually volunteered by wagering their body parts for the chance to win a pot of money. Even more tragic is the fact that the game is rigged to procure whatever body part is presently required. This story is an interesting twist where ghosts and ancient Chinese mysteries are not the topic. Instead they are the tools that rich, established immigrants use to prey on their less fortunate and newer counterparts. The opening, with the firecrackers, the marks on the door and the masks, culminating in the security guard peering into a crematorium’s furnace to see a man burning alive, was for me, one of the most chilling of this season. I always find the human monsters the scariest and particularly when we are all implicated in the evil being portrayed.

One of the things that I have always liked about The X-Files was the writers’ willingness to comment on American society. In this episode, the health care system, the immigration system, our distrust of outsiders and their distrust of us (because of the way we fail to welcome them to our communities), all come together to put a father in a desperate situation. Although, the focus is on the Hsin family, it is obvious that every single man who has joined the game must have a similar story. While the men who run the game are despicable monsters, it’s our treatment of immigrant communities that drives the players to them.

The other interesting thing about this episode is that Mulder and Scully, who are usually the misunderstood outsiders become the insensitive mainstream FBI agents to Chao’s more complex Chinese police detective. I was disappointed that they decided to make Chao a dirty cop rather than further explore the complexities of trying to bridge the divide between the police and an immigrant community. To be fair, though, The X-Files started down the road of exploring such issues long before anyone else would even talk about them.

Other Thoughts

What is with frogs in this show? The frog coming out the dead man’s chest was nasty.

Why aren’t there safety features on crematoriums? You can just waltz in and throw anyone in there?

Who hasn’t been on this show? Lucy Liu was the Hsin daughter.

O- is a very uncommon blood type and that’s why they knew Chao was at the apartment of Johnny Lo. Those with O- blood types are universal donors (your fact for the day).

The doctor who ran the game looked very much like a Chinese version of the cancer man. His rationalizations for running the games were particularly galling.

Even though Mulder was a bit of a jerk in this episode, you have to admire a man who would just jump into a grave on a hunch.


Mulder: “Lucky? That’s an interesting word for it.”

Mulder: “How many dishes do you have to break before your boss tosses you in an oven?”

Scully: “So now we’re chasing ghosts?”
Mulder: “Who ya gonna call?”

Scully: “No, but if I’m right this is one man who left his heart in San Francisco.”

Dt. Chao: “Look, you don’t even know what the hell you’re dealing with here. This isn’t some pretty little lacquer box you can just take the lid off and find out what’s inside.”

Mr. Hsin: “Maybe I’m not so lucky.”


Billie Doux said...

I remember this one. Just too disturbing. Your excellent review brought it back for me, Doc.

ChrisB said...

This one is very scary for its all too human monsters. It's the desperation of these men that affects me every time.

I had forgotten that Lucy Liu and BD Wong were in this one. They both look so young!

Heather said...

Doc, you highlighted all of my favorite quotes! Thank you. :)