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The X-Files: Brand X

Case: A Grand Jury witness about to testify against big tobacco dies in an unexpected, unexplained way.

Destination: Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Mulder: "Smoke 'em if you got 'em."

This episode takes on the tobacco industry, meanders over to the dangers of genetic manipulation, and ends up with the individual evils of good intentions and disenfranchisement.

That is a lot of twists and turns for one episode and the result was interesting but a bit clunky. There were some things I appreciated about this episode. We got to see more of Skinner than usual, the message that tobacco kills was very evident (in more ways than one) and Tobin Bell brought a nice mixture of creepiness and pathos to his down and out 'everyman' character, Darrel Weaver. Although we did get to see more of Skinner, I wish he had been able to do more than enter a variety of rooms with gun drawn, ready to shoot. There was a lovely little bit at the beginning when Skinner asks for help from Mulder and Scully and they make it obvious that he has their complete support. They are still all very connected.

Taking on big tobacco was very apropos when this episode came out and the message was very clear that Morley tobacco could pretty much do what they wanted to do. When the receptionist asked them if they had an appointment, even after they showed their badges it was obvious that at least the receptionist thought that Morley did not need to bow to the justice system. The twist here was that the scientists in the company were actually trying to create less harmful cigarettes through genetic manipulation with results even more dire than a lifetime of smoking. I don't think this twist actually worked. Cigarettes already kill people, you don't need to add lung-eating bugs. And why wouldn't they just take Darrel Weaver and put him up in luxurious quarters away from the general public? He was quite literally walking death.

The most interesting piece of this episode was the character of Darrel Weaver, and Tobin Bell did an excellent job of showing how an ordinary guy with not much to lose might react to his new existence. Darrel wasn't a very nice man, but he also fought back against big tobacco in his own way and he was quite taken with his role as a 'scientific marvel'. It wasn't his fault that the experiments done on him made him poison to others. Of course he crosses the line when he deliberately kills Brimley, but on the other hand, Brimley was there to kill him.

What I didn't like about this episode was the whole premise of the bugs in the lungs. First, what an incredibly gross idea but second, they didn't really try to make all the pieces fit together. Could full size larvae actually grow in your lungs, let alone pupate, particularly without you feeling it? You would die of pneumonia before anything got anywhere. And if nicotine killed the bugs (which might be somewhat resistant if they are tobacco beetles) then what happens? Mulder just got better without any removal, etc. This may be nit picky and I know you are supposed to suspend disbelief, but this felt like lazy writing.

On top of that, when Mulder got sick I just thought, I guess it's his turn to almost die. Not a lot of suspense here.

Other Thoughts

I think Darrel Weaver would have voted for Trump. Interesting watching this episode just now.

I would like to have my own posse of lawyers that could follow me around and advise me not to talk to people I don't want to.

For those who are not from the United States, "E pluribus unum" which means 'out of many, one' is the traditional motto of the U.S.

Why did Skinner wait so long to shoot Weaver? A bullet to the leg would have made his point.


Mulder: "Can’t blow the whistle with a mouth like that."

Skinner: "Killer bugs? This is what I’m supposed to tell the director?"

Darrel Weaver: "America man, E pluribus uh..."

Mulder: "Guests check in but they don’t check out."

Darrel Weaver: “You tell me. You’re the one with the PhD. I’m just a big, old guinea pig."

Final analysis: Not the best episode but not the worst. Still, bugs in the lungs are gross.


  1. drnanamon:
    So so happy you are reviewing again. I love the casting here of Tobin Bell. He's in one of my fav episodes of La Femme Nikita, playing a similar type of charismatic/creepy character. I agree that this one is too full of ideas to express them all comprehensively, but that some are poignant, especially now.

  2. I'm also glad that you're back, drnanamom. :)

    The photo of Tobin Bell at the top reminded me of the episode to which you refer, Heather. I'm assuming it's this one:


  3. Billie:
    Yes! That's the ep! Michael and Nikita play Peter and Sage. Very memorable. Tobin Bell was perfectly cast.

  4. Why you gotta get political? I voted for Trump twice. Does that mean I'm like Darrell Weaver? Wow... just wow.

  5. When I first saw Weaver when rewatching this episode, I immediately felt a sense of dread. Took me probably ten minutes to realize I was associating him with the Saw franchise!

  6. Also, I am so glad this site exists! I went looking for recaps when I started my rewatch of the X-Files, and most of the ones I found were dead links (RIP, tvtropes). I enjoy the reviews and the commentary! :)


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