The X-Files: The Jersey Devil

Case: A homeless man found in the woods, partially dismembered and cannibalized.

Destination: Atlantic City, New Jersey and outskirts

‘The Jersey Devil’ is our second “freak of the week” episode, and is penned by series creator Chris Carter. Unfortunately, this outing pales in comparison to the outstanding ‘Squeeze,’ and the monster of the week---a wild beast woman---is only memorable because she’s so utterly ridiculous. The “urban legend as reality” well wasn’t necessarily the worst place to go for stories (after all, it works pretty darn well on Supernatural), but the notion of a man-eating Big Foot living in the woods outside Atlantic City is completely laughable and the presentation wasn’t creepy in the slightest. Maybe it was more chilling the first time I saw the episode, before I knew the monster was just some dirty woman with matted hair, clean-shaven legs, and manicured fingernails. But in retrospect, the episode holds absolutely no tension. In fact, instead of being scary, the confrontation between Mulder and the “beast woman” is just awkward.

The episode is made more painful by Carter’s attempts at social commentary. I found myself completely zoning out during the University of Maryland professor’s spiel about humans being tribal, aggressively territorial, and disastrous for all other animal species. Mulder and Scully’s subsequent conversation about our technological advances just giving us new ways to destroy each other and the world around us was equally yawn-inducing. “Maybe we’re just beasts with big brains.” Please. I’m here for character-driven tales of extreme phenomena, not some history lesson on the evils of human migration and civilization.

About the only saving grace of the episode were the Mulder and Scully dynamics. I enjoyed the easy banter between the two of them throughout the episode. It was a lot of fun to see Scully gently teasing Mulder, and him just taking it in stride with a smile and later giving it back to her.

It was also interesting to see Scully attempting to have a normal life. This is one of the very few times we get to see her with interests outside of work. Her date was a bit painful to watch, but I was still sad that she turned down a second date so that she could hang out with Mulder and the ethnobiologist at the Smithsonian. Even if she didn’t want to go out with Scott’s dad again, she could have treated herself to an evening in with a nice, relaxing bubble bath or something. Don’t get me wrong---I love Mulder and Scully as partners and they have a great friendship, but this was her shot at some semblance of normalcy and it was kind of tough to see her choose Mulder’s obsession over a social life.

Other Thoughts

This episode provides a brief introduction to Mulder’s interest in porn.

I got a kick out of Bill Dow (Dr. Bill Lee from Stargate: SG-1) as the dad who got attacked by the 1947 ‘Devil.’ (Strangely, he also played the dad in the woods at the end.)

This case featured the usual resistance from local authorities, but with a twist this time: Mulder actually found someone from a local government agency who believed him and was willing to help (the park ranger). Add in Scully’s former professor and Mulder had a whole crew helping him at the end!

I was really surprised by Mulder’s solo trek through the woods (was he trying to get eaten?). His decision to camp out in the homeless alley was less surprising, but also another fine example of his willingness to go to any extreme to get his answers.

The scenes of Mulder and Scully jumping out the window and rolling across the roof in their pursuit of the beast woman struck me as very funny. “Action cop” mode is a bit of an odd fit with those two.

Quotes

Scully (seeing Mulder reading a porn magazine): “Working hard, Mulder?”
Mulder: “This woman claims to have been taken aboard a spaceship, and held in an anti-gravity chamber without food or water for three days.”
Scully: “Anti-gravity is right.”

Mulder: “Where in New Jersey?”
Scully: “Just outside Atlantic City.”
Mulder: “Not an uncommon place to lose a body part.”

Scully: “Well it’s not hard to see why they mistook you for a vagrant.”
Mulder: “Are you gonna rag on me, or are you going to take me to get something to eat?”
Scully: “Am I buying, or did you manage to panhandle some spare change while you were at it?”

Scully: “Unlike you, Mulder, I would like to have a life.”

Professor: “It’s a kind of universal wild man myth. A symbolic fear of our dual natures as humans, as creators of life and destroyers of life.” Suddenly I'm seeing Harry and the Hendersons in a whole new light.

Scully: “Mulder, will you do me a favor? Will you just go out and have a beer? Will you take the day off?”

Mulder: “Don’t you have a life, Scully?”
Scully: “Keep that up, Mulder, and I’ll hurt you like that beast woman.”
Mulder: “Eight million years of out Africa.”
Scully: “And look who’s holding the door.”

Final Analysis: ‘The Jersey Devil’ has a few interesting character beats, but overall, it is a pretty weak episode. The first real clunker of the premiere season.

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

4 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I grew up in the Atlantic City area and spent a lot of time in the woods outside A.C. I remember when I first saw this episode, it really struck me as pretty funny as well as pretty poor.

ChrisB said...

Not the greatest, I'll agree.

The one thing I liked about this episode was Mulder's finding the flimsiest of excuses to interrupt Scully's date. From the beginning, he did not like to share.

zharth said...

This episode features one of my all time favorite quotes from Mulder: "highly unlikely, but not outside the realm of extreme possibility?"

Unknown said...

That line in the review of Mulder having a whole crew by the end made me laugh! Very true.

I never minded this episode, mainly because it brilliantly showcased Mulder's dedication to any given case.