Alright, well, after last week’s excellent “Mulder and Scully Meet The Were-Monster,” we seem to have slid backwards with “Home Again.” Yes, I was as disappointed as you were to find out this wasn’t a follow up to season 4’s “Home.”
Perhaps I would be less critical if there were more than six episodes, of which we’ve already burned through four. Every precious minute of Mulder and Scully screen time feels like it needs to be absolutely critical for this tenth season to be considered a “success,” and so far it seems like the show has been swinging and missing, on quite a few occasions.
The X-Files new preoccupation with Mulder and Scully’s child is a weird subject to center a six episode miniseries around. Not that there is an issue with them acknowledging it or even dedicating an entire episode to the matter, but so far we have three separate installations that keep saying the same thing about the problem without advancing it in any meaningful way. The analogy of “throwing people away, like garbage” is a fine conceit on its own, but felt tacked on to Scully’s arc.
While we’re talking about the Trash Man, let’s discuss how The X-Files has been handling modern issues. Last week, we were given some very shaky jokes about transgender people, and this time we’re given a pseudo-lesson on gentrification. I appreciate that the episode made me fear something as innocuous as the garbage man, but these nods to issues that frequently bubble to the top of trending news topics is getting kind of tiring, underscored by Mulder’s “Well, I wasn’t gonna shoot him,” remark as a young black suspect ran away.
The real conceit, as mentioned before, is the idea of discarding people like trash, and the consequences of being willfully ignorant in society. That’s great, but any subtlety is lost when you have to bureaucrats arguing about what to do with the homeless until Mulder comes along and tells them they’re actually being selfish. Again, there’s nothing wrong with the show addressing these issues if it was going to do it in a complex way, but just like Scully’s baby, it simply parades the problem in front of us, makes a joke or two, and then promptly drops the topic.
Using Scully’s mother as a vehicle for bringing up her child William (again) was a strange choice for the show. Margaret Scully appeared only once in one of the best episodes of the first season. “Beyond the Sea” saw Scully also dealing with loss, this time of her father, of whom she is shown visions through the powers of a serial killer. The episode is important because it reversed the roles of Mulder and Scully, playing the former as the skeptic and the latter as the one who wanted to believe. It served up a monster of the week tale, but combined it with an intense character exploration that would help lay the foundation for Scully in the years to come.
Conversely, “Home Again” has none of the emotional draw that “Beyond the Sea” excelled at. Gillian Anderson does a great job playing a distraught daughter, but she isn’t given all that much to do. Her hope that her estranged brother Charlie will someone make her mother snap out of her coma puts her back in the seat as a “believer,” but all that is quickly shoved aside for another weak reminder about their son.
Again, perhaps the episode wouldn’t feel so sour if there were more than two episodes left. The Trash Man himself was a creepy entity, especially the way he returned back into the dumpster. We were also given some great gory effects as he literally ripped people apart. His “scientific” explanation of being a projection of the hatred one homeless man felt is an interesting idea, but a tad underdeveloped. It was nice to see Mulder and Scully investigate dark hallways with their criss-crossing flashlights again, however.
Ultimately, “Home Again” made me a bit worried for the remaining two episodes. “Were-Monster” already proved that the show’s original format could still produce fresh, relevant ideas, and it’d be a shame if the remainder of this season was dedicated to meaningless schlock. “Home Again” wasn’t the worst hour of television, nor the worst episode of The X-Files, but it was certainly a sub-par entry in a season where every minute counts.
Odds & Ends:
- “You two have experience with these…spooky cases?”
- That is the most empty hospital I’ve ever seen.
- The cell phone stuff with “William” and “William Scully Jr.” was way more confusing than it was…disturbing? I guess they were trying to show how Scully is always thinking of her son, but her having a brother named William didn’t clarify the issue at all.
- Mixing a brutal murder with the upbeat sound of “Downtown” was okay, I guess. It didn’t feel warranted.
- Speaking of that scene, the direction by Glen Morgan was much snappier than previous X-Files fare.
Steve is never taking out the trash again. Follow him on Twitter.