The X Files Revisited: 2.24 Our Town
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The X Files ran for nine seasons and two movies, charting the efforts of Agents Mulder and Scully in their search for the unexplained. Now eight years after the second movie The X Files: I Want To Believe, the show is returning for six new episodes in 2016. Here at The Digital Fix, we are going to work our way through each season, reviewing some of the big episodes – and both movies – across the years in the build up to season ten. With 202 episodes, there is simply too much to cover every episode; instead we'll pick the story highlights of each year. Before we head to the season finale, there's time for one more stop at a poultry-farming town full of cannibals that Mulder and Scully find themselves in, in Our Town
Just what goes into that bucket of fried chicken you ask yourselves? The chance are that if you get it from Chaco Chicken there will be a whole lot of people too. Our Town is another memorable episode from late in season two, that sees the agents investigating the disappearance of a Federal poultry farming investigator (they exist) and uncovering an Arkansas town with a very dark secret.
This was an episode I was really looking forward to re-watching. After all, knowing that everyone in the town of Dudley was eating people, it should have been even more enjoyable viewing the second (or in my case fourth or fifth) time. Any yet, while it does have some great moments, it also doesn't make a lot of sense. The idea is fantastic; the execution I have to admit a little lacklustre.
Perhaps it is because the reason for the two agents investigating the disappearance seems a little convoluted. The idea of fox fire spirits drawing Mulder in all because of a video of a man who saw them and escaped Dudley in the 1960s? Scully views the assignment as a way to undermine their work and the only reason the audience is invested is because they saw the man attacked in the woods by a figure in a demonic ceremonial mask in the pre-titles sequence.
Its another example of Mulder and Scully being in a place because the episode requires them to be there, rather than the story driving them to it; take for example the scene where Paula, the woman with the dead investigator George the night he was killed, suddenly hallucinates his head when working at the chicken plant and holds the plant manager at knife point just as Mulder and Scully arrives. It's all a little convoluted, though there is enough mystery still to intrigue the audience.
It is only when Scully autopsies her body that things get really interesting. Not only were Paul and George both suffering from the rare Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, but the 20-year old looking Paula was also 47 years old. And when a third victim collapses at the wheel of his truck with the same condition, Scully the good scientist puts together a really 'sick theory'; what if George's body had been disposed of in the chicken feed and his hereditary disease passed on to others?
Naturally, like any good X file, the reality is far worse. It was no accident; people have been eating George, a whole town full of people. This is where the episode really comes into its own, even if it doesn't fully embrace the dark humour of previous episodes like Die Hand die verletzt or Humbug. Sure there are great tongue in cheek ideas like Chaco Chicken's slogan - good people, good food! - but it still played a little too seriously for my liking.
The scene where the skeletons are drenched from the bloody river really exposes the full scale of the horror this episode contains; nine bodies are uncovered, including George's though in truth, 87 people have disappeared over the decades. And while the talk of conspiracy starts with the local doctor, Chaco Chicken plant manager and the company's founder and town patron Mr Chaco, the agents soon learn that cannibalism is rife throughout the town of Dudley. And while their ritual may have helped to extend human life, they've also chowed down on George, neurological disease and all.
The tension rises as Mulder goes to Mr Chaco's residence and discovers pictures of him with a cannibal tribe in Papua New Guinea in 1944 and the the grim, gruesome discovery of the sewn up heads in his cupboard proves to be a shocking moment indeed. All the while Scully finds herself the next victim of Mr Chaco himself and the cannibalistic townsfolk; seeing the whole community in the field is almost as shocking if a little confusing. Assuming that everyone has been indoctrinated, how did those conversations start out? Hey neighbour, would you like a slice of Roger's liver? Still it is a great, fun final scene, particularly when the town turns on Mr Chaco and execute him when he questions their actions and lead Scully to the chopping block. Gillian Anderson does wide-eyed terror well!
Thankfully Mulder arrives to shoot masked man about to behead his partner. Revealed as the local sheriff, it is another moment that doesn't make a lot of sense; you just have to relish the macabre nature of it all. And there is a certain ironic justice in the plant manager and ringleader in this cannibalistic town being trampled to death as everyone makes their frantic escape.
One Town ends with federal agents swarming the town of Dudley and 47 infected with Creutzfeld-Jakob disease. It is a sick twist on knowing what is in your food, though the episode does it well if you don't look too deep into the set up. So perhaps not as great on repeat viewing when you start to pick holes in the premise, but another strong entry regardless in what was always my favourite season on The X Files.
Next time, we conclude our look back at season two with the thrilling Anasazi...