Revisiting The X-Files season 1: Tooms

Tooms is back, and he's as disturbing as ever. Here's Jenni's lookback at a classic season one episode of The X-Files...

This review contains spoilers.

1.21 Tooms

Eugene Tooms is back, and creepier than ever. They really go all out for the gore this time and some of the earlier camera work was improved, making a far better episode than the already exciting Squeeze, reviewed a few weeks ago. We see a better and more frequent transition between Tooms’ human eyes and yellow, animal eyes, showing his increased desperation for livers. And there is also an improved “victim” effect, with the colour of victims bright and sharp within a black and white background. This is also the episode that introduces Walter Skinner! Always exciting to see him, and we are reminded of a time when Skinner was on the Smoking Man’s side and very close to getting rid of Mulder.

The episode starts with Tooms’ yellow eyes and stretchy arm. He’s in a sanitarium and reaching for the lever of his cell through the food slot. Why hasn’t he escaped already? It’s a good question, but first we must answer the question of Scully and Mulder’s unconventional investigation tactics, and it’s none other than Walter Skinner who is bringing Scully to task, with the Smoking Man lurking in the background. But who is reprimanding whom? Scully holds her own against Skinner, quoting the far above average closure rate for their cases and the extraordinary circumstances of the X-Files themselves, and concludes that reverting back to conventional investigation will result in a lower closure rate. The looks exchanged between Skinner and the Smoking man indicates that’s exactly what they’re going for.

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Just try to keep Mulder in line though, and see how far you get. We find that Tooms hasn’t escaped, because he’s up for parole. Why escape when your arresting officer (read: Mulder) seems to be a bit crazy and no fewer than three psychologists deem you fit for real life? On his way out with his rehabilitation family, the look that Tooms gives to Mulder and Scully is chilling. I’m convinced the only reason they did another Tooms story was to bring back Doug Hutchison who really is scary. Although I have to say that the moment is ruined slightly by his foster family assuring Tooms that he can “squeeze” into their small guest room. Sheesh.

The episode separates into two parts here; Scully teams up with the old sheriff from the episode Squeeze who seems to have a cache of knowledge unavailable to him in the previous episode and a psychic ability to discover bodies that were buried in cement foundations decades ago. The body that is dug up has some tooth marks on the rib cage, indicating something was gnawing on the body. The forensic doctor thinks it is due to rats, but we know better. Tooms got a little overzealous and decided to chew on some of his victim’s bones for dessert. Scully is able to get a 3D image of the teeth marks that match up with Tooms’ dental records, which gives them enough evidence to link him to one hundred years of liver-removing murders.

In the meantime, Mulder follows Tooms around to thwart his attempts to take new live(r)s. Remember, Tooms only got four livers in his last episode, so all he needs is one more victim in order to disappear for another thirty years. After being thwarted twice by Mulder, Tooms decides to take things into his own hands. As Mulder sleeps peacefully with the dulcet tones of The Fly in the background, which is so him, Tooms comes into his apartment through the floor vent. This time, however, he’s not interested in a liver, but in revenge! We see him cut his face while watching Mulder sleep, which is totally nuts, and then we see him in the hospital with a shoe print on his face, a broken jaw to go with it, and a bunch of bruises and abrasions. Do you know the person who did this to you Mr. Tooms? Yes indeed, it was Agent Fox Mulder of the FBI!

Scully clears Mulder by lying, saying that she was with him when Tooms was assaulted, so it couldn’t have been Mulder, but Skinner is unconvinced and tries the good cop tactic to get Mulder to step away from the case and take a vacation. Instead, Mulder and Scully go to Tooms’ half-way house where they find the body of his therapist sans liver. His liver quota complete, our team deduces that he will go back to the hibernation spot they discovered in Squeeze, but it has recently been turned into a mall, so where will they find Tooms? Underneath an escalator, apparently.

This is where things get extra gross. The design team went all out for Tooms’ final hibernation place. There is yellow goo, meant to be human bile, covering the walls and a paper mache’ bile wall, and as Mulder crawls through it all you can’t help but grimace. Once Mulder has shimmied through dirt and slime and reaches the wall of goo, Tooms startles the viewer by ripping through the wall, screaming and clawing at Mulder. In a desperate attempt to save his own life, Mulder turns the escalator on, letting it rip Tooms to pieces off camera and leaving the audience with an increasingly bloody escalator as a testament to his demise.

The ending sequence has Scully wrapping up with Skinner and the Smoking Man and Mulder foreshadowing series change, but the most impact came from Tooms’ death scene. It would have been stepping away from the traditional story pattern, but ending with Tooms’ death would have been much more effective.

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Next week is the season finale, The Erlenmeyer Flask, and it’s pretty fantastic. See you then!

Mulder’s spookiest lineI contend that perhaps through genetic mutation, Eugene Tooms is capable of contorting and elongating his body in order to gain access to victims so that he may extract the livers which provide him with sustenance for the hibernation period of 30 years. He needs one more liver to complete this cycle… A preliminary examination done at the time of Tooms’ arrest revealed abnormalities in his striated muscles and axial bones. His attorney blocked further study… I must ask that you place the safety of the people first and foremost… This is a rare and unusual human creature who should not be released, but should be retained for further study… If you release Eugene Tooms, he will kill again. It’s in his genetic make-up. 

Mulder’s cheesiest line: (Upon intercepting a working Tooms stalking a victim): Excuse me, can you help me find my dog? He’s a Norweigian Elk Hound, his name is Heinrick, I use him to hunt moose.

Inexplicable moment: Tooms decides to go for a victim through the sewage pipes, which apparently would have him come out of the toilet? Gross. But the weirdest part is that he’s thwarted by a LOCK the family has on their TOILET SEAT. What’s that about??

Episode highlight: Doug Hutchinson. Seriously, this guy gives me the chills twenty years later, he’s so perfectly reptilian.

Read Jenni’s previous season one look-back, EBE, here.

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