The X Files Revisited: 10.04 Home Again
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The X Files ran for nine seasons between 1993 and 2002, spanned two movies and then came back from the dead in 2016 for a revival series of 6 episodes. In many ways, the show is as much a cultural phenomenon as it ever was and The Digital Fix has been looking back at key episodes across the show’s run starting with the pilot episode, reviewing numerous classic stories and the first movie The X Files: Fight The Future. Now we're in the final stretch of our revisited as we cover the last season of the original run, the second movie and look back at 'season 10' a year on. Continuing the last run of episodes is last year's Home Again...
Few shows do horror quite as well as The X Files; while Founder's Mutation delivered a couple of gruesome moments, it is this episode that really captures the the show's ability to deliver moments of gruesome terror with a chilling monster in the heart of the city. And the Band Aid nose man - while not bearing the sane catchy name as Tooms, the Flukeman or the mothmen - is still a great monster in its own right. A 'Tulpa' a Tibetan-style golem created by the episode's resident Banksy 'The Trashman', is is something utterly disgusting and violent, as only the best X File monsters truly are.
If audiences had forgotten just how nasty The X Files could be at times, then Home Again delivers a rude awakening. The original victim, bureaucrat Joseph Cutler (played by Battlestar Galactica alum Alessandro Juliani) literally has his arms torn apart and when Mulder and Scully arrive at the crime scene his body is behind the desk but his head is in the trash bin. A similarly grizzly fate awaits two men in a warehouse, one of them having his head ripped from his body, the bloody spine dangling from the monster's hands. Peggy Jo Jacobs' Nancy Huff is stalked through her home before ending up in the trash compactor, while Daryl Shuttleworth's Daryl Landry faces one of the most violent deaths I think I have seen on the show. When the two agents find him moments after hearing his screen, his dismembered body parts are stacked in a pile. This is an episode that fully embraces it's bloody violence.
The monster itself - while not Flukeman territory - is revolting. A golem creature that climbs out the back of the garbage van, it leaves a trail of maggots and green puss, while its face decays as it stalks its victims. The image of it standing in the road, ready to take its next victim is very unsettling and its ability to appear inside and outside a home makes for a terrifying villain. The whole scene where Nancy is stalked through her home while Petula Clark's Downtown plays is a pure horror movie moment and the use of music evocative of the terrifying murder scene from season four's Home, an episode written by this episode's writer and director Glen Morgan (along with Founder's Mutation's James Wong).
The last episode might have been the highlight of the revival, but for me (as I noted in my previous review of the episode back last March) this felt like pure classic The X Files in tone. Not only does it have a memorable killer, but it also touches upon a supernatural element reflected through society. If the Flukeman in season two's The Host was a comment on Chernobyl, then Home Again was about homelessness and the divide that exists in society. The people on the streets are hurdled like cattle from one place to another, even water-cannoned as the opening scene shows. The Band-Aid nose man, a physical manifestation of the Trashman's political views, slaughters those who abuse this element of society, so much that it is hard to feel sorry for Joseph Cutler when he comes faces to face with the creature.
At the other end of the episode we have the emotional journey of Scully as her mother slowly passes away after a heart attack. Gillian Anderson is magnificent here, delivering some of her best work since, well perhaps season eight. In the face of her mother's impending death, she finds the last vestiges of family slipping away. Bill (played by Pat Skipper in the original run) is present but not heard as he phones Scully from Germany, while her always unseen brother Charlie has vanished. As such, the guilt over William resurfaces again and plays a big part in the episode.
Sheila Larkin, always a great recurring presence over the nine seasons is largely wasted, lying comatose in her hospital bed, but it is still wonderful to see her one last time before the end. Of all the family members in the show, Margaret felt the most grounded and so it feels right to pay tribute to her here.
The moments in the hospital, before the final act, offer some lovely moments between Mulder and Scully too as they reflect back on the many, many times they have watched over each other while their partner lies close to death. And the final scene on the beach as Scully holds the urn of her mother's ashes is a very bittersweet moment too; Anderson knocking it out of the park as she wonders yet again if she did the right thing giving up William. For a story line that the writers struggled with and made a hash job of in season nine, it really feels as if the memory of William became the heart of the revival in many ways.
Getting Mulder and Scully back into action after Margaret's death feels a little forced; Scully finding the desperate need to work smacks of stories being condensed into one episode due to the limited-six episode season when both could have arguably been fleshed out more. While we got wonderful lines like Scully's "Mulder, back in the day, I used to do stairs and in three-inch heels." and Mulder's response "Back in the day. Scully, back in the day is now.", it also feels a little jarring after the quieter, emotive scenes. Still, that sweeping shot of Mulder and Scully bursting into the dark room holding guns and torches is rather excellent.
Home Again caps off three great episodes of The X Files; it doesn't always get a fair rating compared to the last two, but I think it is equally as good as Founder's Mutation even if it feels like both stories are fighting for dominance against each other. It certainly proves that all the best episodes of the revival were the non-Chris Carter ones...