The X-Files: Terms of Endearment

Case: Mulder investigates the possibility that a demon is impregnating women and stealing the babies.

Destination: Hollins, Virginia

Mulder: "I know what you are."

It’s difficult to imagine anything more horrible than having your child ripped from your belly while you sleep. Especially if the one doing the ripping is a demon and is surrounded by flames. Why, then, does this episode not really work?

It tries hard. A very deliberate riff on the Rosemary’s Baby theme, it tries to subvert our expectations at every turn. It succeeds, but only to a point.

The problem is that the monster is not very scary. He is, in fact, downright sympathetic; or, at least, the writer wants him to be. We are meant to see Wayne as a good guy who just wants a normal life. I find it incredibly difficult, however, to sympathize with a character who sleeps with a wide range of women and then rips the resulting babies from their mothers’ wombs and burns them with the leaves. If that weren’t enough, he then manages to make the women the guilty party.

This episode (I hope inadvertently) portrays women badly. You have the good mother and the bad mother, both stock characters. In Mulder’s eyes, the bad mother is the biggest villain, bigger than the bad father who (and, I know I am repeating myself), aborts and burns his babies. It is unsettling to think that Mulder would have that view, but it is hard to ignore.

Bruce Campbell, who plays Wayne, is excellent in the role. He manages to imbue his character with enough humanity that one is tempted to like him, to want him to get his normal life. But, again, the ripping and the burning gets in the way. I can’t get past it.

The other problem with the episode is not its fault. It’s where this episode sits in season six. After the move to California, the series tried to up its game and, to be fair, succeeded more than it failed. But, the idea of Spender as the true villain is wearing thin and the excuses to get Mulder and Scully on an X-File are becoming more stretched.

This episode’s biggest problem is that Mulder and Scully are not together. She is back in Washington while he is hanging out with Wayne. I like the idea of our duo spending more time with the creatures they are chasing, but the power of this show is their dynamic. Having Scully sitting in a room, basically just doing what Mulder tells her to do, feels retrospective. And, not in a good way.

I don’t hate this episode, but I struggle with it. It could have been so much more.

Other Thoughts

-- I get the best mental image of Mulder snooping through Spender’s trash and putting together shredded documents.

-- Scully’s face when the prospective employee lies about smoking marijuana always makes me laugh out loud. Anderson does the best deadpan expression ever.


Scully: "Mulder, you're not suggesting that he is himself a devil, are you?"
Mulder: "I'm not suggesting anything. I think the facts speak for themselves."

Final Analysis: Not the worst MotW, but far from the best. Not to mention the very unsettling sexual politics that are hard to get past.

ChrisB wishes she could rewrite this episode.


Mallena said...

This one is interesting the first time through, but not worth a second viewing. Bruce Campbell does his best, but it's not enough.

Heather said...

I agree -- this one just doesn't really work though it is well-acted and sort of compelling. Love the Garbage song though! Perfectly 90s. Thank you for the well-written review.