It’s one thing to have an itsy bitsy fear of spiders, but what if that fear lead you to break out more than a can of Raid? What if it led you to kill two-legged creatures as well?
OK, so maybe spiders didn’t make an appearance in this episode (though they would have if I were in it). Instead, it’s your toaster oven that’s out to get you. That’s right, don’t trust anything your alarm clock tells you. Your machines, and your mind, have been hijacked by the government for a controlled experiment designed to test chemical weapons of war on unsuspecting citizens.
I could buy that, really I could, if only I understood how it was all going down. This episode suffers from a syndrome I like to call “But If That’s the Case, Then…”
For example, citizens subjected to the chemical LSDM are receiving messages through electronic devices. Or are they? Judging from the scene is Mrs. McRoberts’ kitchen, these messages may not be real. Mulder glances at her microwave a second after Mrs. McRoberts does and sees nothing. And it doesn’t make sense that if these messages were visible to all, no one else would have seen them. It’s also hard to believe that someone is somewhere typing all these in at precisely the right moment addressing precisely the right phobia. The question is then, if these messages are in their heads, why do they only see them in machines? Why not in the clouds or in their mother’s meatloaf?
On the side of the messages being real, Mulder directly states that the government is using some sort of subliminal messaging system to control people once they’ve been exposed to the LSDM. But if that’s the case, how do they know what these people’s fears are in order to tailor their messages? In Funsch’s case, how did they know he was afraid of blood and not, say, needles? It’s not as though he’d been to a psychiatrist to be diagnosed, he hadn’t been to the doctor in years. And if someone is spying on these people, then how? Satellites? Can they see through buildings? How on earth can they control every single computer or TV? If they have that much power, surely they could have done a better job of covering up their conspiracy.
The only conclusion I can come to is that there are subliminal messages that somehow, only people who have been exposed to LSDM can see. And somehow, the government is powerful enough to control every electronic device… everywhere. They know just where you are, just what screen you’re in view of, and just what phobia button to push. Far-fetched? Most definitely.
If the story isn’t quite logical, that’s because it’s about the absence of logic. It’s all about paranoia. “Blood” is playing off of our own latent fears as a society. Technology isn’t a useful tool, it’s a weapon used to spy on you. That quaint, small town you’re driving through is actually home to The Stepford Wives. The government that claims to be protecting you with pesticides and preservatives? It’s using you as a guinea pig.
This episode is about government conspiracy in its purest form. There are no aliens and no signs of the paranormal. I can’t think of a single Season 1 episode that falls into this category except for Ghost in the Machine (1×6) so it’s a nice break from the greater mythology and the typical Monster of the Week. In a way, it’s a forerunner to John Shiban’s awesome “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18), which is another reason why I can’t be mad at it.
Even so, for an episode written by Morgan and Wong, “Blood” is at the lower end of the success spectrum. It’s not particularly intense or insightful. In fact, the plot is confusing and even the audience can’t be sure of what’s happening. Are the messages real or imagined? Did the government plan this or is it just a series of unfortunate events?
Exploring personal phobias and societal fears are both great concepts for The X-Files, but they probably should have stuck to one or the other. This episode tries to cover too much. There are government plots, spree killings, uncontrolled paranoia and even machines that talk to you. How many darts can you throw at one board?
Because of all these variables, it’s hard to catch hold of what’s happening. Even in the end, we’re not sure whether the mechanical messages people were seeing were real or imagined. The plot took a back seat to casting vague suspicion on the government. If not the government in particular, a group of nameless, faceless men willing to inflict torture on their fellow citizens without so much as a qualm. With such an unflattering picture of the Federal government, you can tell that Chris Carter et al. grew up in the Nixon era.
It’s not all sturm and drang, however. The Lone Gunmen make a clever return and Frohike’s crush on Scully is intact. Mulder gets in some good quips and Funsch’s freakout on the bus is absolutely great. I can’t really rally behind this one but it’s not a waste of time. Watch it for the highlights rather than the whole.
Sheriff Spencer: Played softball with this guy over Labor Day. He was one of those nice guys. Couldn’t play and didn’t bitch about being stuck in right field.
Mulder: What’s wrong with right field?
Sheriff Spencer: Always the first one to shake hands at the end of the game, didn’t matter whether he won or lost.
Mulder: Gotta have an arm to play right field.
Sheriff Spencer: Bought a round of beers afterwards even though he didn’t drink.
Mulder: I played right field.
Frohike: So, Mulder, where’s your little partner?
Mulder: She wouldn’t come. She’s afraid of her love for you.
Frohike: She’s tasty.
Mulder: Hey, Frohike, can I borrow these?
Frohike: If I can have Scully’s phone number.
Mulder: He’s probably one of those people that thinks Elvis is dead.
Scully: Mulder, I was wrong. Exposure to the insecticide does induce paranoia.
Mulder: I think this area is being subjected to a controlled experiment.
Scully: Controlled by who? By the government, by a corporation, by Reticulans?