Monday, February 8, 2016

REVIEW: 'The X-Files' - Tragedy Strikes Scully's Family While a Monster Kills City Officials in 'Home Again'

FOX's The X-Files - Episode 1.04 "Home Again"

Mulder and Scully are sent to investigate the murder of a city official, which it seems no human could have committed. Scully deals with deep feelings about the child she gave up for adoption.

This revival run of The X-Files has spent quite a bit of time talking about William, Mulder and Scully's son that they gave up for adoption in order to keep him safe and away from their dangerous work. That's understandable. Mulder and Scully are now middled aged. They approach the subject much differently now than when they first made the decision all those years ago. So much has changed for them. But they are also once again back at the FBI working on the x-files. Through the cases so far, they've gotten back in the swing of how things used to work. They are older and wiser now. They've uncovered a new conspiracy that completely changes everything they were led to belief over the course of the original series. But all of this familiarity only brings the issue of William up again. It's unavoidable. Mulder and Scully are working closely again. They both have doubts about their decision to give him up. They also worry about his well-being. It has certainly set up a story for the final two episodes of the season as they get the answers to all of these questions.

This episode makes that search for answers much more personal. This hour is at its strongest when its focusing on Scully as she deals with the latest personal tragedy in her life. Her mother has suffered a heart attack. As Scully sits in the hospital, she learns just how many decisions her mother has made without her knowing about them. Scully knows what it's like to be hooked up to a ventilator and be in limbo. She experienced it herself after her abduction. She was able to pull out of it due to the love and support of Mulder, her mother and her sister. Now, the show has probably enjoyed killing off members of Mulder and Scully's families a little too much. They are placed in peril simply to form a personal connection for the two agents in order to distract them from the task at hand. It's not surprising that the show brought back Sheila Larken as Margaret Scully just to have her suffer a heart attack and die. But the emotional themes and feelings that Dana experiences throughout this episode are quite compelling to watch.

This is a very big and emotional episode for Gillian Anderson. She is fighting for her mother to stay alive. She has so many questions about her life. All of this comes about too suddenly. She wants to understand why her mother did the things that she did leading up to her death. Over the course of this hour, she isn't able to speak with her mother again. The only time she awakes is after hearing from her estranged son, Charlie. However, it's to Mulder and she talks about her grandson, William. This is yet another tragedy for Scully to experience on the show. It takes her away from the investigation for quite a bit. She needs to be there for her mother in her time of need. Bill is out of the country and won't make it back in time. Plus, he sounds like quite a dick on the phone to Scully. Meanwhile, Charlie is a character the show has talked about from time but has no real purpose - which is a tad surprising given the show's love of family for Mulder and Scully.

The death of Margaret also provides strong thematic value to Mulder and Scully's new investigation. Scully throws herself back into the work in order to avoid dealing with all of her feelings about her mother's death. It's a raw and emotional time for her. She wants to channel that into her work. It gives her something to do. The focus on the investigation will keep her from dwelling on the feelings about her mother's passing. She even gets to knock a guy to the ground in order to learn more about the killer they're tracking. All of this is a hopeless pursuit though. Despite her attempts to avoid her emotions, her thoughts drift off to her mother and her son a couple times in the investigation. But that's okay because the case helps her understand what her mother was trying to do in her final moments alive.

With so much focus on the personal tragedy in Scully's life, the case at the center of this hour really isn't all that great. It's rushed and simplified in many of the same ways that previous monsters have this season. The Mayor of Philadelphia is making an initiative to relocate the city's homeless to a vacant hospital. He's doing so in a big and over-the-top way that vilifies him from the second he appears on the screen. In order to get them to move, he literally has people spray them with a hose. It's mistreatment that shows just how broken this system can be. The homeless people's lives are being radically changed while the people in power just stand on the sidelines acting like this isn't a big deal. It's no surprise that the people responsible for these selfish actions are targeted by this killer. And yet, not enough time is spent on the monster capable of these brutal deaths. He pops up three times and is terrifying in each one of them. But the explanation for his actions is so heavy-handed and expositional in this episode. It's not even a chilling thought to have the creature evaporate into nothing following the murder of his third and final victim.

Again, the explanation behind the monster is very flimsy. An advocate for the homeland who also happens to be an artist was possessed of sorts and his thoughts were so strong with hate that this monster emerged to fulfill this mission. It's not that great at all. But it is much stronger once Scully uses the experiences with the case in order to find some clarity regarding her mother and what she and Mulder need to do next. This monster was the artist's responsibility. He will be punished for the crimes of his creature. Meanwhile, Margaret couldn't leave this world without knowing that Charlie is safe. That's the one thing she needed. Even though Dana and Bill love her very much, she knows exactly what is going on with them. With Charlie, it's one big mystery. That's her biggest regret. That same feeling is now prominent in Scully. She needs to know what has happened to her son. That clarity will help her so much. She is committed to this cause with Mulder. But her life is so much more than the x-files. She wants Mulder to get the answers he has been searching for all his life. Knowing about William is what she needs right now. She's determined to get answers - which will likely come very soon.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Home Again" was written by Glen Morgan and directed by Glen Morgan.
  • This episode's title is certainly evocative of the famous hour from the original series, "Home." That episode is definitely in my Top 5 of the best episodes the show has ever done. But this episode has absolutely no connections to it. It does have some solid horror moments - whenever the monster attacks his victims. But other than that, they are completely different in style and tone.
  • The lead detective on the murder of the mayor wants to be an important part of this investigation. He doesn't want to be cut out just because the FBI is taking over. And yet, that's exactly what happens to him immediately after he says that - with no explanation whatsoever.
  • It's just so formal for Scully to have her brother's full legal name listed on her phone whenever he calls. But then again, they aren't exactly that close.
  • Also, the detail that the monster always had a band aid under his nose really wasn't as striking an image as the show really wanted it to be.
  • Mulder telling Scully that he can no longer do stairs while she brings up the fact that she used to do them in three inch heels felt slightly out of place.
  • Again, the show brought Sheila Larkin back just to have her be in a coma, mumble a few words and then die. That's the point of the story. It's so sudden, unexpected and filled with mystery that aren't related to the supernatural world of the show. But it's still a tad surprising given how important she was during the original run.