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The X-Files: Born Again

Case: The death of Detective Barbala, who appears to have been thrown out a window by an eight-year-old girl.

Destination: Buffalo, New York

‘Born Again’ takes us back to basic freak-of-the-week territory when, during an investigation of a suspicious suicide, Mulder and Scully encounter Michelle Bishop, a psychologically damaged young girl who may have telekinetic powers. When Michelle seems inexplicably connected to Charlie Morris, a police officer who died before she was born, Mulder begins to suspect that Michelle is Charlie, born anew and seeking revenge on his killers.

Aside from Mulder’s efforts to secure definitive proof of the human soul’s existence and some minor arguing over Scully’s continued lack of belief in the paranormal, this episode doesn’t have a whole lot going on other than the mystery of the dead police officers and Michelle’s connection to them. This central story is actually more engaging than I remembered, even though it’s basically the same kind of material you’d find on a typical procedural show these days. I found it a little difficult to follow the specifics of why Charlie was killed by his fellow officers --- too much vague talk about a drug bust in Chinatown, Charlie thinking they were doing something wrong, and the other cops wanting to “scare some sense into him” --- but the post-humus vengeance motive was pretty clear, regardless of the whys and wherefores. Plus, Michelle was exceedingly creepy, and made for an entertaining antagonist. I can definitely see why her mother and therapist would find her a bit frightening.

In the end, I’m not really sure Mulder would have gotten what he wanted from Michelle if she had undergone another past-life regression. He notes in his field journal that Michelle had no memory of the terrible events she witnessed or the trauma of Charlie’s death. To me, that makes it seem more like she was possessed by a lingering spirit, rather than suffering from strong past life memories (and the associated enhanced psychic abilities). Once Charlie’s spirit was able to resolve his issues, he moved on and she remembered nothing. She got to be a normal kid again. It seems strange to me that she’d be so completely cleansed of the traumatic experiences if it was a past life issue and not a possession.

Other Thoughts

This week our guest cast included Maggie Wheeler as Detective Lazard. She’s fairly well known as Janice, Chandler’s annoying girlfriend on Friends. I liked seeing her here all dressed down and with a much less annoying voice. I also loved her character noting that she’d heard of Mulder and Scully because her brother was a cop in Baltimore and knew about their work on the Tooms case.

The dismembered dolls in the therapist’s office were very unsettling. I find baby dolls creepy under normal circumstances, but the collection of uniformly maimed dolls was exceedingly freaky. Even more shuddery was learning that Charlie Morris’s corpse was mutilated in the exact same way. Yikes!

I kind of liked the origami connection between Michelle and Charlie. I never thought an origami giraffe could be so eerie.

Tony marrying his dead partner’s widow, after helping to kill him and cover up his murder, is pretty darn cold. I don’t think I’d be feeling as forgiving as Anita. Please, do hurt him some more.

I enjoyed watching Scully go toe-to-toe with Mulder, taking the piss out of his paranormal phenomenon arguments. Something “unexplained” was definitely going on in this case, but she’s right that he often lets himself get blinded to more probable explanations because he’s so obsessed with all things freaky and the Truth. Every once in awhile he needs a reminder that he’s an officer of the law. “No grand jury is going to listen to that kind of testimony! We still will not have an actionable case.”

I found it difficult to believe that Michelle would be able to sneak out (again) to terrorize the Fiores in their home. You’d think after being witness to two grisly deaths and a really troubling hypnosis session, her mom would keep her under tighter lock and key.


Mulder: “Plus, jumpers tend to open the window before they jump.”

Mulder: “Why is it still so hard for you to believe, even when all the evidence suggests extraordinary phenomena?”
Scully: “Because sometimes, looking for extreme possibilities makes you blind to the probable explanation right in front of you.”

Mulder: “Michelle is eight years old, that means she was conceived at roughly the same time that Officer Morris was killed.”
Scully: “Do me a favor, Mulder, let me say it: reincarnation.”
Mulder: “Metempsychosis, transmigration, re-embodiment, call it what you will.”
Scully: “All based on the coincidence that Michelle Bishop and Officer Morris both practice the obscure art of paper folding?”

Scully: “So where does that leave us?”
Mulder: “One short step away from proving the pre-existence of the human soul.”

Mulder: “All evidence suggests that Michelle Bishop is Charlie Morris.”
Scully: “Mulder …”
Mulder: “Short of her growing a mustache, how much more apparent does it have to become for you to accept it?”

Scully: “Pathologists are paranoid by nature.”
Seriously? Is Mulder secretly a pathologist? Because he’s way more paranoid than Scully.

Final Analysis: A reasonably engaging episode, featuring a suitably creepy freak-of-the-week.

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


  1. Great review, Jess. I agree it's more likely Michelle was possessed than a reincarnated soul, and thank you for making me feel less lonely in my theory.

    Back then, X-Files endings were always so ambiguous, but I think the point was specifically to show Mulder's genius leaps of faith could sometimes get the details totally wrong, even when he's dealing with the supernatural.

    His certainty in an extreme possibility didn't just blind him to probable explanations but to improbable ones as well. Or maybe I'm reading way too much into this.

  2. I can never watch Maggie Wheeler without thinking of Janice. Kind of hard to take her seriously in another role.

    Not one of my favourites, but I do like the origami stuff. Always thought that was a really interesting way to tie things together.

  3. The opposite for me, @ChrisB. I was expecting the same when I first recognized her (and figured the actress was particularly doomed because the only other role I've seen her in was on Curb Your Enthusiasm where she played a similarly annoying character, somebody who says 'lol' in real life) but I was surprised to realize that by the time she visits Scully doing the autopsy she just seemed like an actual person... and it was like only 12 minutes into the episode. She's good.


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