Mulder and Scully go undercover as a married couple to seek out the monster at the heart of an idyllic community, as our ‘The X Files Revisited’ reviews another season six classic.
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 we near the end of season six with another comedy horror classic Arcadia…
Is Arcadia is Mulder and Scully’s first X File case since season five finale The End and is both a great case for the agents to get their teeth into and something a little ‘different’. The X Files has always excelled at putting horror at the heart of suburbia, but here it is taken to extremes as Mulder and Scully pose as a married couple to investigate a number of strange disappearances in an idyllic gated housing complex in sunny California.
It’s another episode that makes good use of the new LA setting; there is definitely a sense that the show couldn’t have pulled this off back in its Vancouver days. And it is also another episode suited to the lighter comic tones of season six. Arcadia has great fun with the two agents playing newlyweds. Mulder’s “Woman! Get back in here and make me a sandwich!” to Scully is hilarious and scenes like his look of horror at her wearing the face mask are delightful to watch. This is certainly an episode that sees Mulder at his most playful but his relationship with Scully is so close now she gives him as good as she gets. There’s also something rather amusing at seeing them both in middle-class knitwear and polo shirts.
Fortunately there is also a dark underbelly to the episode that makes it as insidious as it is fun. It starts the moment they move in; the happy, smiley neighbours are quick to get them unpacked before night falls. The rules and regulations might seem strict but the sheer panic in their faces as Mulder puts up a basketball net and starts playing at night suggests that eviction from Arcadia is the least of their worries.
Take poor Big Mike Raskin (played by Abraham Benrubi, best known as Jerry Markovic in ER). The most innocent, likeable character in the episode soon meets a grisly fate as he attempts to warn Rob and Laura Petrie (aka Mulder and Scully), while leading rulemaker Win Shroeder (Tom Gallop) succumbs to the evil at the heart of the community when Mulder unleashes it at the episode’s end. The monster itself is horrific and brutal; it builds up slowly over the course of the episode, the stomping of feet, the black marks on the ground and then eventually the full monster, the Tibetan golem-like tulpa, built out of the very landfill on which Arcadia was built.
The tulpa is a great addition to the pantheon of monsters (similar in style to the nasty Trashman from season 10’s Home Again) and a great metaphor for the waste and desicration upon which Arcadia was built). Of course it is obvious that head of the neighborhood association Gene Gogolak is the human villain of the piece with his strict rules and vast collection of Tibetan masks but Peter White plays him with all the cool menace of a great horror-movie villain. His death at the hands of of the monstrous creation is both satisfying and destroys the threat once and for all before Mulder finds himself the latest grizzly victim.
Arcadia is another example of the creative resurgence in the show’s sixth season. It is a great Mulder episode (his ever-increasing attempts to wind up his neighbours wife fake flamingos and wonky post boxes are hilarious) and Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny clearly relish their characters playing a married couple. I watched the episode with a smile on my face and with its mix of gruesome horror and comedy, remains one of my favourite episodes of the season.
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