“The FBI recently concluded a seven-year study and found little or no evidence of the existence of occult conspiracies.” – Dana Scully
“And J. Edgar Hoover never admitted to the existence of the Mafia.” – Pete Calcagni
Mulder and Scully set off to New England to investigate a mutilated teenage corpse that has town locals abuzz with rumors of witchcraft and demonic rituals. Little do our heroes know how right those rumors are…
Max: “Die Hand Die Verletzt” is a wonderfully creepy and atmospheric hour that bring us into one of the hot “fads” of the 1990s, a time when Wicca, the occult, and the gothic were all the rage. Airing a good year before the film The Craft brought this trend to its apogee, the episode is actually one of the few that takes something in the zeitgeist and pulls off an exploration of it well in the context of a typical MOTW.
Little do the townspeople of Milford Haven, NH know, but high ranking employees of the high school and school board engage in regular Satanic worship, closing prototypically humdrum meetings (Which musical DO we perform anyway?!?) with chants right out of Aleister Crowley. After that mutilated body is found, townsfolk point to kids doing crazy things, but the board members suspect one of them may have brought this on, either malevolently or through their weekly rituals. Weird things continue to happen, from frogs raining from the sky to water circling the drain in the opposite direction. Talking to the kids of the high school, including a seemingly traumatized one by the name of Shannon, Mulder and Scully begin to suspect that all is not well. Coinciding with all of this, a substitute science teacher by the name of Mrs. Phyllis Paddock comes to town, but underneath her veneer of benevolence lies a real heart of darkness.
After Shannon recalls instances in her past where her stepfather involved her in Satanic rituals (bloodletting and impregnation), Mulder goes to confront him, only to get a totally different version of events. Still not convinced, Mulder locks the stepfather in the basement, called away by Scully’s cries for help (actually Paddock mimicking Scully while in a trance state), while Paddock summons a giant python to devour the stepfather. Capturing the agents, the remaining members of the school board attempt to sacrifice our heroes to atone with the Devil for slacking off in the duties and fealty to him. Paddock (fully revealed now to be either the Devil herself or an agent of Satan) surmises this is too little, too late, and dispatches with the rest of the board, disappearing before Mulder and Scully could apprehend her.
Witchcraft is a fun subject to toss around in science fiction and horror, and the episode does a good job in turning the tables on the practitioners by giving us a group of adherents so lax in their devotion that they can’t even manage to follow basic rituals on a consistent week-to-week basis. The episode is notable production-wise for being the first to be helmed by Kim Manners, who would go on to direct many of The X-Files standout episodes. Despite some feelings in the production office that Manners would be a poor fit for the show, he acquitted himself marvelously, lending the episode some incredibly iconic visuals. And in today’s day and age where most everything is CGI’d to death, it’s refreshing to know that stuff like the frogs and the snake were practical effects… In fact they were the real McCoy!
Radhika: In some ways, this episode is the epitome of my adolescence, especially — as Max pointed out — since the themes were quite popular during the nineties. (Yes, I did love The Craft, etc., like many girls my age.) And it’s not just the occult that’s immortalized here; there is some serious nineties fashion to be seen, even more than usual, thanks to the abundant teenagers in the episode.
But aside from the sartorial choices I find myself fixating upon, I do love the fact that this episode is rather deliciously spooky in a really fun way. There’s a good amount of dark humor, and while the episode is not entirely comedic, it almost hints at the kookier episodes to come later in the series. Maybe it also just feels a lot lighter after the subject matter of previous episode, “Irresistible.”
There are also points where the music rather reminds me of The Omen, a cinematic horror outing that I’ve always loved. You simply can’t lose with such musical choices.
Another thing that’s kind of fun about this episode is that Mulder and Scully are both bamboozled by the mysterious Mrs. Paddock, only kind of figuring things out until it’s a bit too late. Granted, Mulder is generally more of an expert when it comes to ritualistic murders and Satan worship, but it’s fun to see that neither agent succeeds at being a know-it-all this time around… In fact, they’re probably just as in the dark about things as the viewers are.
All in all, “Die Hand Die Verletzt” is a nice old-fashioned romp through the world of the paranormal, and yet another solid showing for the second season.
YES, IT’S THOSE LADIES
Susan Blommaert – Playing the avenging Mrs. Paddock, Susan has been a presence on television since the early 1990s, most notably as a recurring judge on Law & Order and its spinoffs. She also has had guest turns on The Sopranos, LA Law, Mad About You, Boardwalk Empire, The Good Wife, and The Practice.
Laura Harris – Playing Shannon’s friend Andrea, this was one of the early roles for this prolific Canadian. She started out on the Nickelodeon show Fifteen, and went on to lead roles in Dead Like Me and in the second season of 24. She has guested on programs such as M.A.N.T.I.S., Stargate: Atlantis, Sliders, and Warehouse 13 as well as being cast in films like The Faculty (another 1990s staple) and Suicide Kings.