This X-Files review contains spoilers…
The X-Files Season 10 Episode 4
More often than not, the unexplainable monsters of The X-Files slink and slither back to the shadows from which they came. No useable evidence remains on the surface and the ‘he said, she said’ eyewitness accounts are filed away under Folklore of Tomorrow. That Mulder and Scully were unable to close so many cases, albeit a fair share were out of their control, is a reality of the series that is both redeeming and head scratching.
The abrupt end to “Home Again,” another mystery that vanishes into thin air, is not about agents who can’t close. Writer-director Glenn Morgan’s episode is a brutally honest look at our desire for closure – and the fun and frustration of The X-Files is that we usually never get it.
Following up his brother’s already beloved Monster-of-the-Week comedy episode, Morgan sticks to a similar formula that long-time writing partner James Wong used in “Founder’s Mutation.” Take a noble cause, find a bad guy that goes way beyond the job description, and add a pinch of William. Here it’s a murderous sanitation creature, “Trash Man,” who is the Batman of Philadelphia’s homeless population. The foul-smelling vigilante bares no relation to Spoonman, but nonetheless provides looks that are equally as sinister. Trash Man is a genuinely terrifying monster, the best we’ve seen in the revival thus far, but he’s secondary to the William arc that claims its first casualty and what Morgan told EW was the third in a trilogy of episodes that explores Scully’s relationship with motherhood.
I have to give credit to Chris Carter and Co. for going above and beyond to replicate some of the magic of the X-Files’ early years and honor those who helped make the series what we can fondly look back on today. In a lot of respects, The X-Files revival has done many things right in the nostalgia department; returning to its original shooting home in Vancouver (re: the scenic final shot of this episode), last week’s ode to Kim Manners, and bringing back important “actors of a certain age” as the Smoking Man William B. Davis described it to me. For the most part, they’ve succeeded in paying homage to the past, even when it’s less than subtle. At times, as we saw tonight, it has slowed down the storytelling and telegraphed the coming moves. However, the real divide amongst X-Files in regards to this episode will be where you stand on the ‘shipping debate. And ‘shipping doesn’t have to be Mulder and Scully getting it on, you sick bastards. It can be the ‘shipping between Mother and Daughter or Mother and Lost Son or Mother and Lost Son Number 2.
If you like your X-Files gooey and gory and void of sentimentality, “Home Again” likely split you right down the middle. The idea of an underground artist willing his work into a physical manifestation gone rogue is wonderful, but it comes fairly late in the episode. Juxtaposing the “Thanksgiving Day volunteer,” helping the city’s homeless from afar in the suburbs, while Petula Clark’s “Downtown” plays, is the classic way the X-Files uses a cheery tune to make a moment of terror just a notch creepier. Some good camera work and suspense all builds to a letdown, however, and the episode turns on-the-nose political and self-reflective for Scully within one line of dialogue: “You’re responsible. You put it out of sight so it’s not your problem, but you’re just as bad as the people you hate.”
In an episode where I don’t recall David Duchovny doing anything more than holding a flashlight, the show travels back in time on the Scully Feels Machine™. We can go all the way back to season 1’s “Beyond the Sea,” where Scully attempts to reconnect with her recently deceased father through a psychic serial killer, which begins the toxic mixing of her work and personal life. The Trash Man is no Luther Lee Boggs, but his case is an escape route. Scully has to get back to work, just moments after she watches her mother pass away. Even for Scully, or any other rational human, that seems out of place.
Trash Man, because god forbid they close two cases in a row, essentially becomes a conduit for Scully to reflect on mother and womanhood, something Morgan says he and James Wong started in “Home,” picked up with in season 4’s “Never Again,” and finish here as she mourns the loss of her mother and crushing guilty of giving up the responsibility of William all at once. In the end it’s Mulder and Scully together, searching for closure they know deep down they’ll never find – at least not in this life (have we seen this before?). It’s a real message, a painful one that will likely end on a positive note as the season closes out, but for now, I’ll pretend I didn’t hear Scully say: “I need to believe that we didn’t treat him like trash.”