A somewhat confused episode with a couple of big twists that make it a sequel to a key mythology episode.
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. Red Museum isn’t the strongest entry in the show’s history, but it still has a few surprises up its sleeve…
Picking which episodes of The X Files to review is tricky. You want to get all the classics like Squeeze, Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose and Home but you also want to cover all the mythology episodes too. Red Museum is far from one of those classics, so much so that I nearly discounted it. But it is also an important episode, turning into a sequel to the dramatic season one finale The Erlenmeyer Flask over the course of the 45 minutes.
The trouble with the episode is that for the most part it doesn’t know what it wants to be. It begins with a creepy figure, watching an unsuspecting woman undress in her bathroom before her son receives a mysterious call and vanishes. He wakes up semi-naked in the woods, ‘HE IS ONE’ marked on his back, an incident that has has similar victims across multiple states. And with this Mulder and Scully are drawn into the investigation.
While the marking on the victims backs is another memorable image from the early seasons, the rest of the episode fails to ignite. They are drawn to a local cult, the Church of the Red Museum and the possibility of animal spirit possession but this ultimately ends up as a red herring. The episode toys with the supernatural, a creepy stalker even possible alien abductions but it is none of these.
If anything the episode descends into a meditation on religious rights, with members of the Red Museum persecuted by locals – and defended by Mulder – as they are blamed for the series of abductions. There is even a discussion on genetic modifying of cattle as a stranger inexplicably drives Mulder and Scully to a field in the middle of nowhere and they precedes to engage them in a rather droll piece if history about how the man’s family once owned this pastures. It will all come together but halfway through I struggled to remember what I liked about this episode back on the original run.
The sudden plane crash and the death of a local doctor with a suitcase full of cash fortunately kicks things up a gear. The link, the agents soon discover between all the abduction cases is the dead doctor delivered who treated them all. Better still is the appearance of a mysterious killer in a blue car, killing the man injecting cattle with growth hormones, murdering the local sheriff’s son and the peeping tom from the start of the episode. Watching the episode, you’ll probably ask yourself where you’ve seen that killer before. When the agents pass him on the highway, Scully exclaims “I know that face.”
Chris Carter’s involvement as the episode’s writer finally becomes clear. The killer is the same man who murdered Deep Throat in the season one finale. Furthermore, the investigation into the drugs being injected into the children and cattle leads Scully right back to Purity Control. It is a twist that really saves the episode. Over a couple of decades, the dead doctor has been injecting children with alien DNA, and now the man who killed Mulder’s former informant is back to cover it up again – even if that means killing every man involved in the insidious experimentation and all the local children.
As the agents race to save the families, they turn to the ostracized Red Museum for sanctuary. It is a satisfying twist, even if the ‘cult’ was ultimately unnecessary. Mark Rolston plays a great ambiguous figure in the Red Museum’s charismatic leader Richard Odin and potential villain but is ultimately a little wasted in this role.
The final showdown in the abattoir brings Mulder face to face with the Deep Throat’s killer, with a couple of tense moments, particularly when he was locked in the freezer. I questioned the Sheriff shooting the killer rather than Mulder, but both were out for vengeance and one of them had to do it.
The ending of Red Museum ends rather mysteriously and on a slightly grim note. The children start to develop flu-like symptoms now that they are stopped receiving their ‘vitamin’ injections and the local business – like the rib joint Mulder and Scully ate at – are shut down over the cattle contamination. The episode ends as an extension of the ongoing mythology though it never really follows it up and we never find out in the kids survive. It is probably the weakest episode I have reviewed so far but it does redeem itself at the end – just. Fortunately season two still has a number of great episodes still to come…
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