“Truth. Emet means truth. See, Mr. Mulder, therein lies the paradox… because the danger of the truth is contained in the word Golem itself. Which means matter without form, body without soul.” – Kenneth Ungar
Mulder and Scully contend with ancient Jewish mysticism as the forces of love and hate rock a community.
Max: Here, we see The X-Files doing yet another of its patented MOTWs examining a marginalized culture/people: in this case, the Hasidic Jewish community that has a large presence in Brooklyn, New York. Written by longtime X-Files writer Howard Gordon and dedicated to his late grandmother, the episode plays as a reverent homage to Judaism. While Gordon is Jewish himself (although not Hasidic), I think the episode presents a balanced tone. I may be biased (being Jewish myself), but the episode certainly handles the culture of the Hasidim much better than any of the other cultures we’ve touched on before. Of course, the episode being conceived by a member of that same culture helps in this department, making these characters seem more well-rounded and not exotic caricatures.
For an episode that focuses so much on the concept of death, “Kaddish” (a Hebrew word for a praise to G-d, specifically in this case the prayer said on the occasion of a death) has a fortuitous place in the season, coming right after Scully’s initial struggles with the cancer that may lead to her own demise. Continue reading →
Radhika: “Remember that you will die.” With that being the definition of the episode’s Latin title, and with its long monologues confronting one’s mortality, “Memento Mori” could have easily turned into a maudlin melodrama. In fact, the dialogue does border on overwrought at times. But the episode manages to be an emotional heavy hitter, while also providing us with the action and intrigue that often is part of the series’ mythology, and it remains a compelling installment to this day.
Scully has a cancerous tumor, hinted at in the episode “Leonard Betts.” She and Mulder go to Pennsylvania to see Betsy Hagopian — member of the Mutual UFO Network — who had also suffered similar symptoms. Betsy has died, but the agents get acquainted with Kurt Crawford, also a MUFON member. According to Crawford, everyone but one MUFON member Scully met in season three has died of cancer. Both Mulder and Crawford blame the women’s abductions for the illness. Continue reading →
Max: Radhika came up with that above trailer-speak, and it’s actually a pretty damn good (and funny) way to sum up this episode, if only we were talking about the surface of things. Underneath, this outing is one of more psychologically complex offerings the series has done to date, a referendum of sorts on the professional and personal relationship between Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, absolutely teeming with allegory and symbolism.
As I mentioned in the review of “Leonard Betts,” the occasion of the Super Bowl caused the producers to switch the order of that episode and this one, which in my opinion serves to strengthen the impact of “Never Again.” Scully’s cancer as a result is not mentioned or referred to here, but with her stepping outside of her usual routine and engaging on her own sort of self rediscovery, it can be argued that her motivations could be read as a reaction to that profound discovery. Continue reading →
Radhika: While season four is often remembered as being part of a classic X-Files era (read: the Vancouver years), rewatching it has made me realize that the season had a shaky start with a few exceptions. However, “Leonard Betts” propels everything into high gear, playing the role of a compelling Monster of the Week episode, while also containing an important footnote that kicks off a new era in the series’ mythology.
The episode begins like your standard MOTW: EMT Leonard Betts is decapitated when his ambulance collides with a truck. When he wakes up in the morgue, his headless body knocks out an attendant, steals some clothes and leaves. Naturally, Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate, with Scully insisting on all kinds of more plausible scenarios than the possibility that Betts is back from the dead or capable of regenerating body parts. Continue reading →
“These people are invisible. You look at them and you don’t see them. They’re just workers – cheap labor to pick crops and clean houses. To most people they are aliens in the true sense of the word.” – Conrad Lozano
Mulder and Scully head out to California’s San Joaquin Valley to investigate the strange death of an illegal immigrant, and have to contend with the superstition of El Chupacabra.
Max: “El Mundo Gira,” is not as bad as last season’s god-awful misfire “Teso Dos Bichos,” but it comes pretty damn close. Ostensibly about the pursuit of the legendary creature known as El Chupacabra, the episode is perhaps the clunkiest and most ham-fisted of the MOTWs to tackle social issues of the day, namely illegal immigrants and migrant workers from Mexico.
The deceased immigrant that brought our heroes across the country, Maria Dorantes, was a woman being pursued by two brothers, both of whom loved her and wanted her to be theirs. Her face ravaged and seemingly eaten away, it is up to Mulder and Scully to determine the cause of her unusual demise. Meanwhile, the migrant population lay the blame on El Chupacabra. Mulder, never meeting a cryptozoological theory he didn’t like, sets his sights on capturing this elusive creature. Continue reading →
“Scully, do you believe that my sister Samantha was abducted by aliens? Have you ever believed that? No. So what do you think happened to her?” — Fox Mulder
“What are you saying you believe now?” — Dana Scully
“I don’t know. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what to believe. I just know that I have to find out now.” — Fox Mulder
Mulder and Scully investigate a child killer Mulder helped catch years ago, who seems to have killed more victims than everyone thought. Mulder begins to consider the possibility that the killer may have been behind his sister’s disappearance.
Radhika: Every once in a while, an episode of The X-Files will draw upon its larger mythology in its Monster-of-the-Week episodes, and “Paper Hearts” really takes that to the next level. Mind you, I still wouldn’t consider this an actual mythology episode, but it preys so heavily on the vulnerabilities Mulder has after his sister’s abduction, that it really gives us a chance to experience the impact that event had on his personal and professional life.
“Paper Hearts” is a beautiful episode. It has dark content — as 99.9 percent of X-Files episodes do — but it is shot beautifully, acted beautifully and is ultimately a compellingly told story. Continue reading →