The X Files Revisited: 7.03 Hungry
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 pilot episode and then carried on throughout the series, covering the best and most significant episodes of the show included the first movie The X Files: Fight The Future. Now we look at season seven's Hungry, a monster story with a twist...
Meet Rob Roberts, fast food employee with self esteem issues...and a hankering for human brains. Hungry is a first for The X Files, an episode told purely from the point of view of the monster, with Mulder and Scully making fleeting appearances as they investigate the murders of his victims. It is a premise that lives or dies by the performance of the episode's central character and fortunately Chad Donella proves he is up to the job.
What works, is that Donella's Roberts is such an endearing character. After the in the pre-credits sequence, which sees the brutal murder of a fast food customer at night (almost entirely - and accidentally - ripping off the introduction of Mr Trick in season three of Buffy The Vampire Slayer a few months earlier), we are introduced to a young man trying to better himself in the world through self-help tapes and and admiration of his work colleagues at the fast food restaurant where he works. It is through him that we are introduced to Mulder and Scully, tired after searching various chain restaurants in search of staff members missing a badge found at the crime scene. Sure he's a little odd from the start, but he's not the obvious candidate for a brutal murder.
No, that goes to fellow bad boy employee Derwood Spinks, in an early role for Mark Pellegrino. He's a bully who threatens Roberts, so it is a great twist when Roberts eventually turns round and kills him in his apartment. The scene where he removes his toupee, ears and fake teeth to reveal his true monstrous identity is a great shocker of a scene. He is a human monster inspired by earlier killers like Eugene Victor Tooms but a little less terrifying and a more sweeter. You almost feel for him and he struggle to fight off his hunger for human brains in order to balance an ordinary human life; it's what makes the eventual murder of his landlady Sylvia Jassy all the more heart breaking. Hungry feels like a precursor to shows like iZombie, which give monsters humanity and everyday lives.
Robert's scenes with company-mandated therapist Dr. Mindy Rinehart (Judith Hoag), continue the theme of Roberts trying to make himself more human. She teaches him to see the good in himself without realising the monster he really is - not until the tragic end at least. His relationships with Rineheart, landlady Jassy and boss Mr. Rice (a great pun of a name) help to strengthen his connection with the audience and you want him to fight those cravings. It's why Mulder, cluing in to who he really is as he always does, comes across as a bit of a creepy stalker from Robert's point of view.
But there is also some dark humour at play too, thanks to veteran writer Vince Gilligan's great script. The scene where he describes the salty goodness of brains without actually revealing what they are at the overeaters anonymous group is filled with great irony. The nods of approval from the group, imagining the same thing without realising what he is really talking about is delightful. And as someone who spent a few years working in a popular fast food restaurant in my youth, I appreciated the humour at play when Mulder immediately assumed the matter under the grill was human before Scully dismissed it as ground beef. Not to mention Robert's flashes off brains cooking on the grill. In this episode, it could have been either!
The tragedy of course is that Rob Roberts can't really live a normal life. His hunger forces him to kill his landlady after she has been so supportive of him and his therapist, realising that he actually is a murderer almost falls victim too. Yet she still stands by him, even after he takes the only option he can - death by shooting - after he charges at an unarmed Mulder and Scully to end his sad little life.
Hungry was much better than I remembered, not an all time classic but a marked step up from the dull and drawn out season opener. It does something interesting with the show's premise by having events take place from the monster's point of view and has plenty of black humour to keep the audience entertained. There are a number of experimental episodes this season as the producers believed it might be the end of The X Files and Hungry is surely one of the more successful in its seventh year.