One thing I’ve enjoyed about The X-Files (FOX, Mondays, 8/7C) during this six-episode run is the way the show has touched on familiar themes by producing fresh variations on the kinds of episodes that won the show its following in the nineties.
This week’s episode, Home Again – written and directed by Glen Morgan – gives us a supernatural mystery while also giving us events that are anchored in reality.
When the head of a Philadelphia gentrification project is killed in a particularly gruesome manner, Agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) are called in because they are used to ‘spooky cases.’
In this case, a man who was ripped apart (his body in one spot, his head in a waste basket and his arms missing!). As Mulder and Scully begin to process the crime scene, she gets a phone call from her brother, Bill – their mother is in the hospital after having a heart attack.
As Scully rushes off to be with her mom, Mulder notices that a billboard that had had a figure of a hanged man on it is now missing the section with the painting on it – possibly key because the billboard had been blank for the murder.
Then a woman who sought an injunction against the gentrification project – causing homeless people in the area to be forcibly relocated to a closed hospital near her neighborhood – is killed the same way.
At the hospital, Scully finds out that her mother had changed her living will to a do not resuscitate order and is further confused when her mother comes out of her coma long enough to ask for Charlie – her estranged youngest son.
Mulder, meanwhile, seeks out the artist, known as Trash Man, who painted the hanged man – and he and Scully pay him a visit.
Home Again is a surprisingly slight episode though it deals with the theme of responsibility. The Trash Man turns out to responsible for the inadvertent creation of the supernatural killer; Margaret Scully needs to hear from Charlie because even though he’s an adult, as his mother, she still feels responsible for his well-being, and Scully feels irresponsible for having given up William for adoption (when her phone rings at the beginning of the ep, she sees the caller as ‘William’ before blinking and seeing it’s actually William Jr., her brother).
There isn’t a lot of action aside from a couple of very brief foot chases and the general mood of the ep is more that of a low-fi horror movie than anything else.
Morgan salts the ep with a number of callbacks to the show’s original run (the two flashlight beams crossing in the dark, for example) while keeping things firmly in the present (gentrification programs are certainly a very current topic).
The actual killer – known only as Bandage-Nose Man – is a contemporary riff on the golem, and, like the golem of legend, has a very specific mission. This makes for a good standalone ep because timing is of the essence – something that is also true of Margaret Scully’s need to hear from Charlie.
Home Again is a solid X-Files ep in both its approach and execution. It’s got the ever-so-slightly unhinged antagonist; a solid emotional core, and a bit of an existential crisis (for Scully, this time).
Thus far, the event series is living up to the best of the original run.
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