The X-Files: Home Again

Case: Mulder and Scully investigate a strange series of murders while saying goodbye to someone they love.

Destination: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

“Scully, back in the day is now.”

As we look back on this six episode season, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the episode we remember as carrying the biggest emotional punch. But...

Garbage was the overriding theme of this episode. The monster is made up of garbage; the homeless are moved to where they can’t be seen; Mrs. Scully’s body is quickly whisked away to have her organs harvested before the rest of her body is burned (the urn at the end was a poignant symbol of all that is left of the woman); there is comment after comment about trash and objects being discarded.

The problem for me is that, like so much of today’s garbage, much of this episode felt recycled, especially the second time through. I cried when Mrs. Scully died, but we’ve mourned with Scully as she’s lost another parent. Many of the hospital scenes felt like “One Breath” to me. I think they were meant to. Glen Morgan made sure there was a flashback to drive home the point.

The whole thing with Charlie felt odd to me. Bill, Jr. and Melissa had relatively long storylines in the original series. Charlie never did. He turned up once (I had to Google his character to remember it), so we never got to know him the way we did Scully’s other siblings. I realize that Morgan was going for the idea that a parent needs to know that her child will be all right (cue Scully and William), but using a character we don’t know to make that point rather watered it all down.

An amazing choice, however, was to have Mrs. Scully say her last words to Mulder, not Scully. It drives home the point that Mulder and Scully are partners in all aspects of their life.

All of this intense emotion is juxtaposed with a rather standard MOTW. Yes, he was scary and the attacks were gruesome, but I’m not sure how this story was meant to tie into Mrs. Scully’s death or even William’s adoption.

The speech that Scully gives as she and Mulder talk to the street artist tries to bring it all together, but it was a stretch. As I watched it, I found myself shaking my head at the absurdity of it all. I think I know where Morgan was trying to go; he didn’t quite get there.

Having said all this, the final scene was gorgeous. Beautifully shot and acted, it tied together (a bit obviously, but still), the idea that William’s parents are both wracked with guilt about the choices they made in the past. Both have lost parents, sisters, and a child to whatever it is they have been chasing all these years. The final shot of these two, alone in that vast landscape, was a poignant reminder that all they have now is each other.

As usual, both Duchovny and Anderson were wonderful. Anderson has a way of simply shifting her eyes when Scully is deeply hurt that is astonishing to watch and always makes me tear up. Duchovny played Mulder’s reactions to Scully’s pain perfectly. The way he reaches for her when she tells him the news originally was breathtakingly good.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Scully’s guilt over giving William up and whatever has happened to him in the ensuing years is going to drive the final arc of this series of episodes. As we approach the end of this season, however, I am beginning to get my usual X-Files cynic vibes. We’ve had two big plot arcs introduced in the first four episodes: the overarching government conspiracy and William. I’m not completely sure that both will get the attention they deserve in the two hours we have left.

I’m all right with that, as long as Mulder and Scully continue to interact the way they have been. I could watch these two forever.

Other Thoughts

-- Originally, this was to be the second episode and “Founder’s Mutation” was to be the fourth. I think it was a good switch. I’m not sure how well last week’s comical episode would have played against the death of Mrs. Scully. It would have also felt off to have Mulder and Scully estranged one week and hugging each other the next.

-- The opening shot is of a piece of paper proclaiming that You are Responsible! It makes a much stronger impact when watching the episode again.

-- I am interested that Scully continues to use the pronoun “we” when referring to giving up William for adoption. Mulder had absolutely nothing to do with it; it was entirely her decision.

-- How young was Duchovny in that flashback scene at the hospital? I loved the brief flashes of William’s birth and the scene where Scully introduces him to his father. I must admit it is one of my all time favorite scenes.

-- They couldn’t help themselves. The flashlight beams made a very clear X.


Detective Dross: “They said that you two have experience with these... um... spooky cases.”

Scully: “I don’t care about the big answers, Mulder. I just want a chance to ask my mother a few of the little ones.”
I defy you to hear that and not well up, especially if you have lost a parent.

Scully: “Back in the day, did we ever come across the ability to just wish someone back to life?”
Mulder: “I invented it. When you were in the hospital, like this.”
Scully: “You’re a dark wizard, Mulder.”

Scully: “I want to believe -- I need to believe -- that we didn’t treat him like trash.”

Final Analysis: Weaker than it could have been, this was still an episode that moved me and made me want to see what is coming next.

ChrisB is an X-Phile who may be more forgiving than she should be.


Mallena said...

No fair bringing back Mrs. Scully only to have her die. I was disappointed after spotting her name in the credits to only getting a small glimpse of her. I have a hard time believing that she would have a son with whom she is estranged. She was such a warm and lovely character. Not feeling all the baby William stuff. It brings back bad memories of super soldiers, black oil, clones that dissolve into green goo and all that nonsense. Maybe William was really taken into the "starlight". The emotional scenes between Mulder and Scully were well done, though.

Josie Kafka said...

The problem for me is that, like so much of today’s garbage, much of this episode felt recycled, especially the second time through.

I agree. I liked it well enough, but I liked the previous episode so much more (Daggoo!) that this one could never completely measure up for me.

Heather said...

I really appreciate your balanced review. You are able to keep both a critical eye as well as an emotional one and it's really quite extraordinary. The quote you used at the top of the review gave me unruly amounts of joy in the episode, as did the image of the flashlights you screenshot. Bless.
My other thoughts:
--Must've have been a draw for the writers to get to direct their own episodes.
--"Bucks County" hahahaha. There will never be a homeless relocation project that includes Bucks County.
--The shot looking up at le badges at the crime scene. Loved it.
--Shades of 'A Christmas Carol' and 'Emily' with Scully's phone.
--DD and GA were 14 years-old in those flashbacks.
--Mark Snow is doing his first foray into a more modern musical sound here.

To an extent, I don't think this episode worked, yet the themes on the page were very very clear. Some scenes worked better than others. The hospital scene with M&S sitting across from each other was immaculate. Glen Morgan lamented that with only 6 episodes, he didn't have time to explore both Scully losing her mom _and_ a trash man monster. That unfortunately was exactly why this didn't work, imo.
However, I give it a pass because of the philosophical idea behind the mantra 'on tat sat'. *The world is as you are.* Scully's pervasive despair over William will cause her to see everything as a sign/message/meaning about William. I can buy that.
The reasons this episode works simply outweighed the reasons it didn't, for me.

Finally, I had this thought today -- as a business model, TXF revival only had to be so good as to greenlight more episodes. Not saying the creative team had a deficit in their integrity, but they're rusty and without a successful model to work off of, they may have looked at this revival as a jumping off point.

Billie Doux said...

I agree with pretty much everyone on this one. I thought it was a somewhat clumsy combination of a not-that-great MotW episode with a personal story of loss, and that combination didn't work for me. It had some lovely elements, though.