One of my biggest complaints about these newer The X-Files seasons has been the lack of the traditional elements: Mulder and Scully in their basement office, Scully performing autopsies in a morgue, shadowy corridors, dark woods. I was delighted to see some of these fundamental components return in this episode. From the very first scene in the woods, this felt familiar.*
The plot is a pretty straightforward procedural, although a somewhat nonsensical one. Mulder and Scully find themselves in a small Connecticut town investigating the death of a boy, the son of a police officer. While the FBI holds jurisdiction on murder cases involving the immediate family of law enforcement, it’s not exactly clear why Mulder and Scully of the paranormal division of the FBI were sent to investigate this case. In the past, we always got a plausible explanation of how a case could be a potential x-file, but not here.
The first disconnect came when Scully and Mulder immediately assumed that this was a murder case. Mulder, I can understand, but Scully making this assumption prior to an investigation is a very un-Scully way to act. The second disconnect came immediately after the first, where Scully was the one to provide a profile of the murderer. Fox Mulder studied psychology at Oxford and joined the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, and he’s always been the one to create profiles. Did the writers forget this? The story moves on, and things get quickly and conveniently creepy. There are eerie hybrid wolves in the forest. The town has a history of burning witches. There is also a neighborhood sex offender, on whom the town turns its rage. A violent mob beats him, and the murdered boy’s police officer father executes him, in a very un-X-Files-like scene. Later Mulder finds a summoning salt circle in the forest, and the focus of the case turns to witchcraft and spells and curses. It’s a cornucopia of X-Files bingo. None of it makes much sense, and each scene feels just barely related to its predecessor. The red herrings aside, the plot’s resolution ends up being as old as time: a cheating husband, a scorned wife, and a bit of hocus-pocus.
Thankfully, this episode didn’t feel like other shows (mainly Black Mirror) but was instead very reminiscent of itself. The very first scene which included a close-up of the little boy’s hands sticking out of the mud recalled one of the best and scariest X-Files episodes ever, “Home” in season four. The other child in this episode, a little girl named Emily, immediately brought back memories of episode “Emily” in season five. For Scully not to have a reaction to this girl, or her name felt like a very big oversight. And finally, the creepy puppet in this episode echoed Stephen King’s episode “Chinga” in season five. Ultimately all of those previous episodes told this story in a much superior way, but if you squinted a bit to the left, and zeroed in on a few good lines (“As we’ve discussed before, people don’t just spontaneously combust.”), you could just barely feel the nostalgia.
Ursula is not really sorry. You can chat with her here.