One of the strengths The X-Files has had has always been in bringing the occasionally innocuous things in our lives into a horror style setting. Writer and producer Glen Morgan has had his hand in a few of these particular episodes with The X-Files, such as ‘Blood’ the episode where a man kept receiving subliminal messages via electronic devices to kill people. Or ‘Tooms’ about the mutant serial killer pest control man who ate people’s livers. Or the fan favourite ‘Home’ where a group of inbred brothers defended their house by killing people who got too close. Once again the show dabbles in its horror ways by bringing us face to face with a new creature to fear who enjoys a bit of a murder spree. But if creeping us out wasn’t enough, Morgan also goes right ahead and rips out our emotions too.
*** Spoilers Ahead***
When an officer working for the Department of Housing is brutally murdered by having his arms and head ripped off his body, Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) arrive to investigate. As they begin to look into the case though, Scully is called away on a family emergency due to her mother falling gravely ill. Left to fly solo, Mulder manages to connect a dispute between the Department of Housing and a neighbouring high school council board member and a scheme to relocate all the homeless people, with a street art ring and street artist by the name of Trashman (Tim Armstrong) and a mysterious figure known as the Band Aid Nose Man (John DeSantis). Scully on the other hand battles her own self imposed demons as she stays by her mother’s bedside, riddled with guilt over giving up their son William for adoption and whether it was the right decision.
Glen Morgan racked up a number of fantastic episodes whilst working on The X-Files but he’ll always be known as the man who brought ‘Home’ and the Peacock family to our screens. A group of in-bred brothers living on a remote farm in Pennsylvania who hide a dark secret. An episode considered so offensive that after its singular airing it has now been banned from ever being aired on television again. Morgan of course tricked the fans by naming this episode “Home Again” on purpose, but it has nothing to do with the Peacocks sadly. Oddly enough with most episodes they don’t tend to split themselves down the middle with narratives. But in this particular case, Morgan has opted to show us two very different sides to our dynamic duo and the only way to do that is by splitting both the pair and the story up. Due to this it does feel somewhat disjointed in that we are being shown two different stories.
But in saying that, each of them are both gripping for their own reasons. The brutal and violent Band Aid Nose Man going on his killing spree as a means of defending the rights of the homeless is both gruesome and yet carries a lot of ethical weight. Whilst Scully treading down the dark path of grief and already wallowing in self-imposed guilt is heart-wrenching but also philosophically challenging. Morgan manages to throw a lot of musing into this episode so it does get quite weighty in the latter half but he somehow balances this out, ironically, using the much darker horror elements.
A good horror or suspense film utilises some of the mundane or ordinary things in our lives, and turns them into the stuff of nightmares. Morgan uses some of these tropes, like a rattling soft drink can or a flyer getting whipped off a wall by a wind gust to build that suspense. When a strange barefoot figure wearing a trench coat appears from behind a lone garbage truck we know instinctively that the shit is going to go down without needing any more cues. And it’s an episode like this that makes you paranoid about taking the rubbish out ever again. Not to mention Morgan’s penchant for using weird classic songs that have oddly creepy melodies, in this case Petula Clark’s “Downtown”.
The X-Files though has never been one to shy away from the gross factor, and this episode certainly delivers. From being ripped apart by hand, to gooey maggot-filled footsteps, or the dripping slime coming off Band Aid Nose Man’s face, it’s all very icky and not for the squeamish. But this ties in with the theme that not only do we live in a consumerist wasteful society but that we begin to start treating other people like garbage. The way the homeless people are physically forced to vacate the streets and be relocated to a neighbouring empty hospital makes out that it’s a simple case of picking up one thing and shoving it somewhere else, without thinking of the consequences. All the while those making the decisions are only doing it for their own self-gain. It’s a different kind of icky feeling you get when it gets right down into your moral fibre.
But over the course of the episode we are not only challenged by the gruesome but also by the heartache. Margaret Scully (Sheila Larken) has long been a grounding touchstone for both her daughter Dana but also for Fox Mulder during some of their challenging personal times. In this episode we see Dana struggling to keep it together whilst at her mother’s bedside as she lays dying. Interspersed with not only Scully’s hallucinations (she keeps seeing William’s name on her caller ID, when it’s actually her brother William Scully Jr calling). are also flashbacks to when she herself was in critical condition. It’s in these flashbacks we are reminded how it was Mulder who was at her bedside willing her to survive, and when he shows up at the ICU to support Scully the look on her face shows just how much she relies and needs him. In fact this is probably even more emotionally gut punching for any shippers out there seeing all the nuanced physical interactions they have. From “Conversation On The Bench” to “Conversation On The Log” to the little moments where they touch, or the full blown moments of Scully weeping into Mulder’s chest. It’s impossible to deny that this pairing have a deeply forged bond.
As with last week’s episode there were a few easter eggs that got dropped and TVline.com covered a bunch of them. There’s probably not quite as many as last week but Glen (brother of Darin) has managed to throw enough in there that fans will appreciate their all too brief moments of levity in an otherwise dark and emotionally tumultuous episode. We also get to see Mulder getting his sassy pants on, as he not only goads the government officials but even complains to Scully that he “doesn’t do stairs”, it’s obvious that his dry wit hasn’t left him after all these years. But here on The X-Files questions remain unanswered, what happened to the Band Aid Nose Man, is Mulder really a dark wizard and will Glen Morgan stop killing off Scully family members? I don’t think we’ll ever know the answers, and we can only speculate until hopefully more episodes come our way.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Watch “Home Again” on Tenplay via the Channel 10 website.
The next episode will screen on Channel 10 this Sunday at 8:30pm.