“You saw those things in the hall. I made them. I didn’t mean to, but I made them… but the bandaid nose man… I spent a lot of time… what I wanted him to look like, what I wanted him to be, and why I wanted him…” — The Artist
In West Philadephia (born and raised?), a federal employee is the unfortunate victim of a rather gruesome disembowelment, which may be linked to the local homeless population.Max: I think I know where this season is going at this point. Much has been made by X-Philes about that shot in the promotional materials where Scully apparently gets a call from William, our favorite freaky alien baby. Well, that shot came up in “Home Again,” tonight’s episode which — despite early speculation — does not return to the lovable Peacock family, but rather to a similarly disgusting creation from writer Glen Morgan. This new monster of the week dovetails with tragic events that cause Scully and Mulder to think about what they have lost to bring them to this moment.
Unfortunately, the case that the dynamic duo are brought in to investigate is one of those that ends up quite anticlimactically, much like in “GenderBender,” with the writers losing steam after painting themselves into a corner. A lot of things get thrown into this episode: gentrification, the plight of the homeless, NIMBY politics, art, creation, and Tibetan Buddhism. What it boils down to is that the homeless of Philadelphia are being used as pawns by “upstanding” citizens of the city, but are being defended by a spectral figure known as the Trashman, whose vigilance comes in the form of violent attacks on the gentrifiers. Our heroes eventually come upon a homeless artist and Banksy stand-in who claims his creation has taken on physical form to act as a protector of those discarded by society.Meanwhile, Scully gets a call from her brother Bill Jr. (asshole!) who says their mother has suffered a heart attack. Racing back to Washington, Scully sees her mother on life support, drifting in and out of consciousness. A nurse tells Scully her mother has been calling out for Charlie, the youngest Scully son, who has been estranged from Margaret. Coming to Scully’s side, Mulder witnesses the last moments of Margaret’s life, as she says her grandchild’s name. Naturally, a lot of emotions are churned and as the episode concludes, Mulder and Scully talk about the son they gave away, and what he must think of them — and of himself.
With all this, I think William is the key to the last two episodes of the season. It is pretty much a given that finding him would give our heroes a chance at reconciliation, in addition to giving Carter and company a chance to rectify some of the more egregious storytelling errors of the ninth season. It is practically inevitable given that William has been mentioned in every episode (except one) thus far.Other than that, this episode marks the death of Mrs. Margaret Scully, who outlived her husband, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Mulder. I wish Sheila Larken was given more to do, as lying in a hospital bed unconscious is a pretty thankless position to be in. A scene of her on the phone or something with Scully prior to the heart attack would be a much better sendoff for the character. That being said, there were a good number of thematic callbacks to previous episodes, from Mulder being by Scully’s bedside in “One Breath,” (the hospital in this episode even looks like that one) to the trials and tribulations of the birth and first year of baby William’s life. And we have an amazing shot of our heroes’ flashlights making the signature X. Also, the artist’s torment by his creation has echoes of season three’s superlative “Grotesque,” and of course we have The X-Files going into social justice mode all ham-fisted. It is an awfully simplistic portrayal, but I must say I was interested in the way the script takes pot shots at street artists like Banksy and the aesthetic vultures that take said artwork to sell for a profit at auction houses.
What the episode doesn’t have though is an ending to the case, which ends up unresolved after the artist leaves town, leaving Mulder and Scully with no idea how to even stop the killings from happening.Radhika: I have mixed feelings about this episode, even though I like aspects of it — and I think much of that has to do with the fact that it feels like two episodes at once, and the tonal shifts don’t work for me. It’s not that I don’t think a monster of the week and major character-defining moments don’t belong together (obviously, season one’s “Beyond the Sea,” in which Scully lost her father is a prime example of a case framing some major character growth). But there were parts, especially in that final act, where the attempt to tie both plots together felt very forced. I understood why this was done but I didn’t think the writing pulled it off. (Perhaps this is evidence for why Glen Morgan, who penned this solo, should always write X-Files episodes with James Wong?) The good regarding the Monster of the Week: It was gross. It was creepy. I was half laughing and half horrified watching a woman get ripped apart to the tune “Downtown” (certainly a bit reminiscent of “Home” with its old-timey creepy song even if there was no Peacock Family sighting here). The bad: While I don’t mind open-ended (in fact, many solid X-Files episodes have ended that way), it was a little bit of a rehash. We have seen these types of creatures before — from the golem in “Kaddish” to the literal trash monster in “Arcadia.” And yes, the hot topics of big city life felt a bit crammed in — at least especially in the scene where Mulder comes across the bickering city officials. Yeah, gentrification is a hot topic, but I wish it had been handled with a touch more subtlety there. The good regarding the Margaret Scully plotline: We see Mulder and Scully be pretty wonderful to each other — Mulder showing up to be by Scully’s side, the teasing in the midst of sadness (“You’re a dark wizard, Mulder.”). This is the episode that really highlights how much they get each other and how much they’ve been there for each other in the past. (I could have done without the clips from episodes like “One Breath” because I was already thinking of those moments — but I guess they were included for the newer viewers or the forgetful ones). The emotional beats were pretty great, though I don’t know why Scully’s voice is back to being hoarse and whispering again (did Gillian Anderson have a cold while shooting this and “Founder’s Mutation”?).
However, like Max, I wish we had gotten more out of Sheila Larken — Mrs. Scully was a character I always enjoyed watching, largely due to her portrayal and I would have loved a chance to see her truly act one last time. And while it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, Scully’s use of “Fox” during her final scene with Mulder made me flinch, reminding me of the awful “dearest Dana” of season nine.I had the sense prior to this episode that William was the end game and I firmly believe he will be the end game now. Not sure how his adoptive parents will feel about Mulder and Scully turning up, but as I said before — it doesn’t matter what you think of William’s inclusion in the later seasons— it would be completely uncharacteristic for Scully not to harbor feelings of guilt over giving up her much-wanted child. Even when it feels forced, I am glad to see these characters grapple with what happened and I hope for Scully’s sake — considering the fact that the only decent family she had left is gone (seriously, how are both her brothers such jerks?) and considering all the horrible things she has been through — she’ll be able to find some peace. And the same goes for Mulder too, even though he generally stands there with a poker face, letting Scully vent.
YES IT’S THOSE GUYS
Alessandro Juliani – Playing Joseph Cutler, Trashman’s first victim, Juliani is best known as playing Lt. Felix Gaeta in Battlestar Galactica, as well as roles on Smallville, Fringe, The 100, and Continuum. He also does voice work, including the anime Death Note and several X-Men properties.
Veena Sood – The actress playing Mrs. Scully’s doctor also is a Battlestar Galactica alum, as well as appearing in episodes of Fringe, iZombie, Dark Angel, and 21 Jump Street. She even guested on The X-Files back in season one’s “Shadows.”
Tim Armstrong – Trashman himself, Armstrong is better known as a musician in the bands Rancid, Operation Ivy, Downfall, and the supergroup The Transplants.