TV and Film

The X-Files: ‘Home Again’… One Year On

x-files-home-again
Copyright: Ed Araquel/Fox

So after one Morgan brother brought us their own style of X-Files, we now have the other, Glen Morgan, the creator of monsters such as Eugene Tooms and the Peacock family. Despite the title, this episode is not a sequel to the controversial story featuring the latter. But it’s every bit a creepy.

And yet this is also a peculiar episode of Season 10. Originally slated as episode 2, following on from My Struggle, the decision to change the order isn’t surprising. After the first episodes big cliff-hanger ending, not to sound merciless, but does the murder of a federal employee seem half as important in the grand scheme of the apocalypse?

Of course not, so the conspiracy based Founder’s Mutation is a more appropriate second episode. And while this helps the overall story flow better, this does not apply to the characterisation. Mulder seems very reluctant to believe the case in Home Again to be supernatural as he is clearly going through a personal crisis following the events of My Struggle. But having met the Were-Monster last week who helped him rediscover his beliefs, this return to skepticism ultimately jars and makes Mulder’s overall character arc uneven. It was always a concern when Carter changed the order, and this demonstrate why it has epically backfired.

It’s ludicrous of him to think that they could simply change the episode order as if no one would notice. The series needs a new showrunner. How about taking a chance on a 22 year old screenwriter Fox? Huh?!

Putting that to one side, regardless of its place, the main problem with this episode is that it feels like two different stories that have been glued together and forced to build links. Thankfully, it’s two good episodes.

So let’s look at the two strands of this episode. The case itself, or the ‘monster of the week,’ is the Band-Aid Nose Man. He commands the screen with just a shot of him standing in the distance or a close up on his feet as he walk with menace. He’s big, has a morose facial expression, not unlike Frankenstein’s Monster, has deathly eyes, green slime pouring out of his mouth and flies buzzing around him as if he were shit.

The scenes with the Band-Aid Nose Man are so well played thanks to Morgan’s script and great visual choices. The tension is built in the opening teaser, seeing him only through shadow and pays off when with his inhuman strength, he rips the arms of his victim right out of his socket. The other death scenes are equally well-paced, the art stealers murders are startling even though you know what’s coming. And Nancy’s death in her home has made me unable to ever listen to Petula Clarke’s Downtown without a chill going down my spine. And the Nose-Man smile makes me shudder. Other visual decisions such as filming sections from over the monsters shoulder, as though we as the audience are stamping and tilting with him gets across all the senses and elevates the unease within us.

Equally contributing to the atmosphere is Mark Snow who delivers his best work in this season, with a chilling score that takes the horror to excruciating levels, especially when Mulder and Scully search for the Trashman and stumble across his one of his ‘creations’ in the corridor.

Although it does flounder somewhat when we learn its backstory along with his creator, the Trashman. While the idea of the Band-Aid Nose Man being a tulpa for the Trashman is fine, the homeless theme feels somewhat preachy. While Tim Armstrong does a great job as the Trashman, showing genuine guilt for what his creation has done, his monologue about his motives to protect the homeless and being treated like trash feels an on the nose attempt at social commentary. In fact the scenes with between Mulder and the local authorities seemed very satirical, and Nancy herself felt like a socialite caricature. I certainly wasn’t bothered when she died.

A lot of X-Files episodes do flounder when the explanation is presented. But the set pieces and moments make this a scary watch. You can tell Home Again is by the same writer as Squeeze and Home. This is old school X-Files but hasn’t lost its ability to scare.

Now, for the second strand to this episode. The return of Margaret Scully was a welcome addition, even if she was mostly bed ridden. Her death seemed an appropriate choice, and a good way of bringing the emotions out of Scully by linking to feelings over William. I’d love to see scenes where Scully tries to explain her complicated life to her sweet mother. Flashbacks in Season 11 maybe?

The hospital scenes are very heartfelt and Gillian Anderson should have submitted this episode for a Best Actress Emmy Award consideration. The way she delivers lines with a tear just appearing from out of nowhere, breaks the audiences heart. I don’t care about the big questions Mulder, I just want to ask my Mom some little ones. It’s challenging material that Anderson faces head on. The scene between Mulder and Scully talking by Margaret’s bedside is also a nice come down from all the rushing this season and you can see spark’s still there.

For all the brilliant character moments and performances, the William stand of this episode feels as though little has changed. It work fine in its own right, but nothing has developed since Founder’s Mutation. All that’s reaffirmed is Mulder and Scully still feel guilt over their son.

 We know little more about William here than we did before and there feels no sense of direction with this storyline. The final scene on the rock with Margaret’s ashes should have been a major turning point; either Mulder and Scully deciding to look for William, or show William in his either afraid or in danger. This development would have given the strands inclusion more impact and a justified reason for its inclusion.

So while improvements are needed the two strands are fine in their own right, the attempts to tie them together feels very forced and unfruitful.

Morgan tries to mirror the Trashman’s feelings towards his creation to Scully and William. The way he talks about how the Nose Man came to him, but he decided what he wanted to be, and all the Trashman could do was hold the clay and the pencil, elicits a strong emotional reaction in Scully where she envisions, and we see, flashbacks to when William was born. While it’s believable and Scully imposing the responsibility onto the Trashman being an admittance of her own guilt is well performed, because of what he stands for, I feel this blend is slightly forced.

Had the Trashman been an environmentalist and talked about Mother Nature, the themes and ideas might have tied together a little more nicely. But the ending of Scully worrying that they treated William like trash, feels very misjudged and contrived. In some ways, if the episode had been a sequel to Home, you could imagine how Mrs Peacock could have done a monologue about motherhood and abandonment. That would have worked a treat.

Although the two elements don’t really work well, without the William strand, the monster of the week case in Home Again would be too bland to work on its own and the extra substance avoids the episode becoming a filler.

While I do feel the episode does feel a shoehorned coming together of two ideas, the overall episode is well directed and with some fantastic performances, that if Morgan had just tried to blend it together more naturally an actually develop the William strands, the episodes would be perfect.

Score 3.5/5

 

 

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