“Well, I can neither confirm nor deny Agent Mulder’s version of events, which occurred outside my presence.” — Dana Scully
“And I can neither confirm nor deny Agent Scully’s version of events, but um…”
— Fox Mulder
“Anyway, I was drugged.” — Dana Scully
It’s a classic case of “he said, she said” when Mulder and Scully have to explain the bloodsucking events that took place in a small Texas town.
Radhika: “Bad Blood” is probably one of my top five episodes of The X-Files, ever. I gleefully make those new to the show watch it as a key episode, and I’m happy to report I was still laughing out loud — a lot — while rewatching it for what must have been the twentieth time. It may be sacrilege to admit this, but Vince Gilligan’s work here may even outdo Darin Morgan’s previous comedic installments of the show. While the overall look and feel of “classic” X-Files episodes is there, with plenty of grey shadowy scenery and autopsy footage to boot, and this attempt to visit the topic of vampires is far more delightful than season two’s “3,” the structure and comedic timing make this episode pure gold.
The teaser gives us that kid from The Sandlot shrieking for help before a man stakes him through the chest. Lest you think you’ve started an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, though, it is quickly revealed that the killer is none other than a crazed Fox Mulder. As Scully catches up and Mulder tries to show her the kid’s vampiric fangs, the teeth fall out, and Mulder says what we’re all thinking: “Oh shi…”
Cue the credits.
Something is different about this episode of The X-Files. Mulder is tense and Scully’s worried her partner has dragged her into what may be the final straw of trouble, but the angst is expressed by Scully harping on lawsuit figures and Mulder stomping on trash cans. The barbs against each other are relentless: “Prison, Scully. Your cellmate’s nickname is going to be Large Marge. She’s going to read a lot of Gertrude Stein.” The agents are in trouble again, but it’s kind of a funny story. And it’s made even better when they insist on going over how the story will be explained to Skinner.
We get Scully’s point of view: Mulder is “characteristically exuberant” — a babbling, giddy fanatic who will go on about the paranormal and behave like a general weirdo, while she is the dutiful partner, suffering through boring autopsies and getting hungry examining the contents of one’s stomach (making me feel a lot better about that time I started craving pizza while watching autopsy footage in my tenth-grade biology class), and crushing innocently on the small-town sheriff played by none other than Luke Wilson.
And then there’s Mulder: Viewing himself as a meek, sweet sort of man who just wants to explore his many theories, while his grumpy, “characteristically less-than-exuberant” partner snaps and stomps around, while mooning over yokel Sheriff Luke Wilson and his buck teeth.
We eventually realize that the culprit at the center of this piece, Ronnie Strickland (Sandlot guy) is indeed a vampire who has watched a few too many vampire movies — hence the fake fangs and a proclivity for sleeping in coffins. But as Sheriff Luke Wilson, also a vampire because Scully can’t crush on normal men, says: “I mean, we pay taxes, we’re good neighbors… he can’t quite seem to grasp the concept of low profile.” And so the mystery eventually ends with Ronnie not actually dead, Scully getting drugged by Sheriff Vampire Luke Wilson and Mulder getting caught up in a swarm of vampires… only for our agents to just wake up a tad confused the next day without any vampire bites. Despite Ronnie going off the deep end and biting/killing a few people, these vampires are… nice?
The ending is a fun touch, but again, the end game doesn’t matter. It’s the way Mulder and Scully perceive each other. (I can see points for both the noromos, who could use this episode as proof that Mulder and Scully really do hate each other, as well as the “shippers,” who might view them as an old married couple, especially in that moment where Scully’s trying to fix Mulder’s tie and coach him on what to say, only to have him irritably shrug her off.) It’s the sight gags, such as the dribbling intestines Scully tries to weigh in bored frustration during an autopsy sequence. It’s Mulder begrudgingly admitting he may have made up the part about Sheriff Luke Wilson’s buckteeth.
There is so much fun and affection for these characters at the center of this episode that it’s impossible for a Phile or a casual viewer to not be charmed by it. I’ll just say what I’m thinking: If you don’t like this episode, you have no soul.
Max: A common point of discussion on this blog is the relationship between our two heroes, reluctant partners (one thrown in to discredit the other) that has grown and blossomed into one based on a profound trust in each other (with romantic undercurrents if you want to swing that way).
Well… this episode kind of throws all of that out the window, albeit in the most lovingly offbeat manner possible. Mulder and Scully definitely act like an old married couple, bickering on the finer points of some of the most unusual twenty-four hours of their life, as they zero in on the vampiric culprit with a string of death behind him. This being a comedy episode, it is of course the neighborhood pizza delivery boy, and of course there is a local horde just trying to live like everyday folks.
It is a real credit to the acting ability of both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson that they are just as capable with comedic performances as they are with the series usual plunges into drama, pathos, and terror. When the series began, it was an incredibly dour affair, and while the writers threw us a bone every now and then with funny one-liners, it really wasn’t until season three where our leads where given heavy lifting in the comedy department, so I’m not sure if Chris Carter and company knew how much of a hilarious gold mine they had when they cast Mulder and Scully. But really, it is just an incredible treat to watch David and Gillian bounce off of each other in this episode, especially when Scully claims hat Mulder was singing the theme song to Shaft while under the influence of the drugged pizza. The scene immediately cuts back to the basement office, and Mulder’s incredulous “I did not!” is pitch-perfect.
During awards season for films, there is usually a contingent of people who decry the lack of recognition for comedies and the actors and actresses in them, noting that in a great many cases being good at making people laugh is a harder endeavor than making people cry. I can vouch for this personally, at least where my taste in films and television is concerned. I’m much more selective about the comedies I watch, because it does take more to impress on that level. By this metric, the comedy episodes of The X-Files definitely need to be on their A-game, otherwise they just fall on their face (see what happened to the show in the seventh season for all the proof you need).
Again, like Radhika intimated above, it is the little things in the episode that add up to one of the most uproarious hours of television I’ve ever seen. The Mister Fingers vibrating massage bed in the hotel. The worst autopsy of Scully’s life. The Sheriff’s teeth (which looking back on it should’ve been a huge honking sign for me that he was a vampire when I watched the episode for the first time years ago). And all the delightful non-verbal cues, ticks, and body language between Mulder and Scully. It is also the little details that consumed the banter back in the basement office. It may be critically lazy to make a Rashomon connection, but there’s a reason why that kind of story construction is so powerful and versatile. While we aren’t talking about an investigation into a death here (well, actually we are) necessarily, putting memories and personalities on trial makes for some fine fireworks.
It’s really a wonder how AD Walter Skinner can put up with his charges, especially when they give him contradictory accounts and a woefully inadequate report. Again, it comes down to what isn’t said in this scene, and merely hinted at visually. “Bad Blood” remains an absolute staple of The X-Files, and one of the best if not the best comedic outing.
If you don’t like it, you have no soul indeed.
YES, IT’S THOSE GUYS
Patrick Renna – As already pointed out, the kid who played Hamilton “Ham” Porter in The Sandlot, appears here as vampire Ronnie Strickland. Renna has continued appearing in film and TV shows since then, including a stint on Boston Legal.
Luke Wilson – While you may know him from AT&T commercials, Wilson has appeared in numerous Wes Anderson flicks, as well as movies like Home Fries (a Vince Gilligan project), Idiocracy and Old School. Wilson was also on TV series Enlightened.