“Mulder, voodoo only works by instilling fear among its believers. You saw the way Bauvais tried to intimidate me. The power of suggestion is considerable, I’ll admit… But this is no more magic than a pair of fuzzy dice.” — Dana Scully
Our agents find themselves drawn into the world of voodoo after going to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding a soldier’s car crash.
Radhika: I’m going to preface this by admitting that I won’t have many insightful things to say about this episode (but maybe Max will). From what I’ve gathered by investigating on the Internet, it was generally well received back in the day, but aside from a few key scenes sticking out in my head, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to watch “Fresh Bones” without my attention wandering off halfway through.
Quick recap: Mulder and Scully investigate the car crash and presumed death of a soldier who was working at a Haitian refugee camp. The presence of mysterious symbols and strange behavior indicate that there might be more to the death than a simple suicide. And of course, the soldier reappears, alive, with remnants of a chemical (inside his blood) that appears to be part of some Haitian zombification ritual.
Eventually, it appears that the camp’s commander is abusing the detainees, partially as retaliation against an imprisoned refugee, Pierre Bauvais. And somewhere amid random hallucinations, the appearance of a mysterious little boy who apparently was dead all along, and an appearance from Mulder’s informant X who says this is all military related, the case draws to a close.
Like I said, I found my mind wandering a bit during the episode, and I think that while there are a number of successful elements, including voodoo-related hallucinations and an interesting framing concept, the pacing of the episode just feels off. The first half or so is rather slow moving after an initially thrill inducing teaser, and it isn’t until the final ten minutes or so that things seem to pick up again (with the final scene being that of the aforementioned camp commander being buried alive). Props to the show runners for trying something different with the voodoo angle, but I really have no deeper thoughts here.
Max: “Fresh Bones” is a decent episode that has the potential of being a good episode. Typically, when The X-Files delves into social commentary mode, the end result is more laughable that not (“El Mundo Gira,” we shall get to you soon enough!). But in terms of this episode, it actually makes it a better one to be perfectly honest. An episode purely focusing on voodoo and the like could get dangerously close to self-parody (see the knowing “wink-wink” of American Horror Story: Coven to see what I mean), but coupled with the political refugee angle it grounds the proceedings.
Not that this episode doesn’t have its share of problems. Radhika mentioned the issues in pacing, and that is certainly part of the problem. You know the old showbiz saying about never working with kids or animals? Well, you can add putting them into this episode. The character of ten year old Chester Bonaparte is just a case of mugging to the camera. The revelation that he died in the riot that started the whole chain of events would’ve worked better, and his character would’ve worked better, if there was some kind of sense of doom or sadness to his performance. Instead, the reveal comes off as flat because the scenes prior don’t support that conclusion.
That being said, I do enjoy the fact that Colonel Wharton was behind some of the dirty dealings in the episode. It’s a bit of a kick to see an actor as stoic as Daniel Benzali perform incantations in a cemetery. Still, the whole episode is muddled with the fact that we aren’t quite sure who has done what, Wharton or Bauvais, but by the conclusion of “Fresh Bones,” we do get a nice bit of comeuppance as Wharton is seemingly buried alive by the unaware cemetery groundskeeper.
All in all, a rather humdrum episode that can be easily skipped over without a second thought. Given the next episodes we are about to cover, it could be said the staff were saving their juices for what is to come. And what is to come is quite a treat indeed.
ROGER CROSS WATCH
A recurring section in where we note the appearance of the journeyman actor and constant television presence in several unrelated guest spots on different episodes of the show.
Private Kittel – Here, he again plays a military man, but he appears to have loosed up inbetween appearances. Not a whole lot to say about this rather thankless tertiary performance, but he’ll be back in better roles, so…
YES, IT’S THOSE GUYS
Daniel Benzali – Playing the villainous Colonel Wharton, Benzali is perhaps most well known as maverick attorney Ted Hoffman in the program Murder One. He’s also has had recurring roles on NYPD Blue, The Agency, Jericho, and LA Law. On the big screen, he got his start in the James Bond film A View To A Kill and went on to roles in David Mamet’s Heist and Wim Wender’s The End Of Violence.
Callum Keith Rennie – Famous for playing the Cylon Leoben Conoy (aka Number Two) in the reimagining of Battlestar Galactica, here he was the cemetery groundskeeper who tried to keep out what he called “body snatchers.” A consummate presence on television, he could be found on 24, Harper’s Island, The Killing, Californication, Touching Evil, and Due South. In film, he’s had roles in eXistenZ, Timecop, and Memento.