The X Files Revisited: 5.12 Bad Blood
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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. And then in 2016, it returned for six new episodes, a mix of mythology and case of the week stories that brought Mulder and Scully back the FBI. From the brilliant Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster to the frantic mythology cliff-hanger in My Struggle II, it was largely viewed as a success and there are hopes that season 10 is just the first of more. In the lead up to the revival, The Digital Fix reviewed the best and most significant episodes of the first 100 episodes in the season's run, from the pilot episode all the way through to the 100th episode Unusual Suspects. Now we're going to continue that run, picking key episodes from the second half of the show - and two movies – and this time, it's the hilarious vampire tale that is season five's Bad Blood...
Vampires, we a love them. From Bram Stoker's Dracula to modern classics like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. (And I guess the Twilight if you're a teenage girl). The X Files had already waded into vampire lore back in season two's 3, an episode that saw Mulder seduced by a vampire after Scully's abduction. It should have been sexy and scary and it ended up being one of the season's damp squids, so much so that I didn't bother to rewatch it. But given the popularity of these 'creatures of the night', the show has another go, with this brilliant comic episode.
What really makes this episode particularly great is not just the way it riffs on vampire lore but the structure of the story too; the events recounted from Mulder and Scully's both of view. Again, it's a concept we've seen in plenty of TV shows but it works so well because it plays on Mulder and Scully's perceptions of each other as well as what happened.
Take the scene back in the office where Mulder first tells Scully about the case in Texas of mutilated cattle and a man with his neck bitten. In Scully's version, Mulder is an over excited schoolboy, gleeful over the thought of tackling a real vampire case. He floods her with prepared slides on dead cattle and his wild theories. But in Mulder's version, he is calm, controlled and while excited he tries to present the subject in a scientific manner. It is Scully who is bored, frustrated and at times downright aggressive as she tries to disprove his theories from the get go.
Things step up a notch when they travel to the town and meet the local Sheriff Hartwell, played by Luke Wilson in one of his early acting roles. In both versions Scully is obviously attracted to him but in hers he is thoughtful, listens to her theories and is generally suave and handsome. Mulder's version as him a bucktoothed hillbilly hanging on Scully's every word as she grins like a smitten schoolgirl.
Even the scenes in the motel room are brilliant; an exhausted Scully is ordered by Mulder to do an autopsy on a second victim, stealing her vibrating bed and her pizza; in her version of events he is respectful and sensitive. Both are heightened emotions to the extreme but it offers a hilarious insight into their relationship.
Finally there are the bizarre, OTT moments that push this episode firmly into The X Files' unique brand of comedy (something only Supernatural has really mastered since). From the opening where Mulder tracks down and stakes the boy, only to find his vampire teeth are fake - turns out he just munches like a regular person, to the glowing green eyes as the entire town turns on Mulder at the end. And then there are the Darin-Morgan-esque moments like the townsfolk transfixed on the spinning motor home and Mulder desperately clinging on as it circles the parking lot and the vampire resting in his coffin as he listens to his walkman.
It is all wrapped up with the discovery that everyone in the town is a vampire, including Scully's handsome sheriff. A dumbfounded Mulder and Scully, who have spent most of the episode trying to tell each other their sides of the story, cannot tell Skinner what really happened.
Bad Blood ranks highest on IMDB in terms of fan votes and it is easy to see why. Personally I think Vince Gilligan didn't quite master Darin Morgan's season three brand of comedy with this story, but he came close. It certainly is one of the most fun, enjoyable episodes the show ever did and is another story that makes season five perhaps the most consistently strong season in The X Files' entire run.