“Mulder, there is a connection between these deaths – one that provides a clear motive and intent: These were abused children…” – Dana Scully
“Who couldn’t defend themselves.” – Fox Mulder
“What? So nature did it for them?” – Dana Scully
This rewatch post is brought to you by the National Forest Foundation*. They care.
Fear and death take root in a Michigan town when our heroes investigate the unusual demise of an orchard farmer.
Max: So, we have a whole bunch of killer trees. Yes, this happened on an episode of The X-Files. Even during my last big rewatch in college I still thought that “Schizogeny” had a kind of interesting conceit, but now pushing thirty I was having a lot of trouble investing myself in the proceedings, which doesn’t bode well on any level.
A slight, antisocial boy by the name of Bobby Rich is accused of murdering his stepfather by burying him deep within the mud of the family orchard, with Mulder and Scully assigned to assist the local police force in investigating the strange manner of death (in a vertical position, buried within minutes). Scully autopsies the body and discovers several pounds of soil inside. Absolutely flummoxed by the facts of the case, the agents question both Bobby and his mother, and sense that there was bad blood between stepfather and stepson. Things get complicated when Lisa Baiocchi, a classmate of Bobby’s, reports that her father has died by being pulled through her bedroom window to the ground below.
Karin Matthews, the therapist of both Bobby and Lisa, is questioned by Mulder and Scully, who intimates to the duo that the kids have been the victims of mental and physical abuse by their fathers. Mulder isn’t buying it, and despite quite elaborate (and amusing at this point in the series) explanations proffered by Scully, he believes the culprit has something to do with the dying tree population in town. Consulting with a shadowy tree farmer, Mulder learns of a similar blight that happened around the time of the death of Karin’s father.
All of this is a convoluted prelude to the fact that the trees are very much alive, and they are very very angry. What do trees have to do with the abuse Karin suffered at the hands of her father? And why does Karin project her abusive past on the children in town? Why do the trees care, and is their blight a result of all this repressed hurt? I really wish I could give you a cogent answer to all of this. “Schizogeny” makes FernGully: The Last Rainforest look like a masterclass of arboreal fiction.
This isn’t the first time, and it certainly isn’t the last that The X-Files will deal with the plight of kids and teenagers, and naturally the results depend heavily on the quality of the episode. Chad Lindberg and Katharine Isabelle essay some decent performances, and at times you can sense their pathos, confusion, and despondency. Unfortunately, the story shaped around them could’ve used a few more drafts, and the fact that it was penned by freshman members of the writing team shows.
Radhika, maybe you can make some sense of the episode’s metaphysics? I’m grasping at straws.
Radhika: I have no explanation for “Schizogeny.” I think I was sufficiently entertained by it when I first watched it as an ignorant adolescent with no real taste. The angsty teenagers and the creepy woods had enough of that Are You Afraid of the Dark? quality that I enjoyed. And I will give it this: Even now, I do believe this episode is atmospheric and I do like the Mulder and Scully banter (i.e.: Mulder’s “Hey Scully, is this demonstration of boyish agility turning you on at all?” while climbing a tree). So there are elements that are not horrible, I suppose?
But really, there is nothing about this plot that makes any sense to me. I get that Karin was abused and went kind of crazy and ended up projecting onto a bunch of kids, but I spent a lot of time during my rewatch, scratching my head and trying to figure out the exact logic of how all the trees played into it. Were the trees mad at Karin’s father for being a jerk? Did they think Karin was her dad because of the Psycho-esque personality crisis that we witness at the end, so they just thought they were doing his bidding? Maybe Max and I just missed something here, but I don’t think an episode of this variety should really make you ask that many deep questions.
I will say that while we seem to have hit a patch of slightly weaker episodes here in season five, I do think that the bad episodes aren’t half as bad as some of the worst episodes of season four. The shorter episode order for season five (thanks to the filming demands for the movie) seems to have been beneficial to the overall quality of episodes — less filler, less room for missteps. But “Schizogeny” is kind of a heaping pile of nonsense at the end of the day, so this may very well fall into the category of one of the worst episodes ever of the show despite the season’s generally decent offerings.
YES, IT’S THOSE GUYS
Chad Lindberg – Playing the troubled Bobby Rich, Chad has guested on shows such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, ER, Sons Of Anarchy, two CSI series, Weeds, and a recurring role on Supernatural. He was also in the first entry of The Fast And The Furious franchise.
Katharine Isabelle – A darling of shows shot in or set around Canada, the actress who played Lisa Baiocchi is most famous for her performances in the Ginger Snaps trilogy of werewolf flicks. Other film work includes Disturbing Behavior, Insomnia, American Mary, and Freddy vs. Jason. On television she’s been in everything from Goosebumps, Stargate SG-1, Supernatural, Da Vinci’s Inquest, The Good Wife, Being Human, and Hannibal. Her father, Graeme Murray was an art director/production designer on The X-Files.
Sarah-Jane Redmond – The woman who portrayed Karin the abusive and abused therapist made her mark as the sinister Lucy Butler on Chris Carter’s other big show Millennium. She also had a lead role on Da Vinci’s Inquest and it’s spinoff Da Vinci’s City Hall, as well as guest turns on Andromeda, Smallville, Harper’s Island, and Kyle XY. She, like Katharine, was in Disturbing Behavior, and played an unrelated role in The X-Files: I Want To Believe.
*Not really. Forests are cool though, and we could use some sponsorship!