This episode flips the typical on its ear. For starters, the teaser doesn’t present a crime or even a mystery. Instead, it just leaves us with an unsettling image: Leaders of the community gathered together in solemn prayer… but not to God, to the Devil. The Devil worshippers are the religious, hyper-sensitive and hypocritical ones. God punishes the evil-doer? No, the Devil punishes the evil-doer for not being evil enough. Even water goes down the drain the wrong way.
Instead of a typical nitpick of conservative Christians, which is where we think this episode is going for the first 60 seconds or so, this story is about a group of Satanists whose faith has gone stale. You don’t hear many rumors about occultist practices anymore, but these issues were a much bigger deal in the early 90’s. Young though I was, I remember hearing news stories/exaggerated rumors about children falling victim to Devil worshippers. Then there was the hot button issue of the occult in movies, TV and music. I gather that most people didn’t put much stock in the rumors and even if they had, they didn’t imagine the likes of what we see in “Die Hand Die Verletz.”
We all know there’s nobody out there conjuring up the devil… right? I mean, not really. A snake can’t eat a man that fast, you’re letting your imagination run away with you. The thunderclap wasn’t a portent, it just happened to sound at the right dramatic moment. Flesh-eating disease? A freaky coincidence. But for once, what if they’re not paranoid? What if you’re not paranoid enough? The X-Files is inviting us to let ourselves get caught up in the hysteria, if only for a moment. What safer way to do that than through a TV show?
If there’s any point of irritation it’s that this episode has a distractingly neon disclaimer tacked to its forehead. The writers want to make sure that an audience potentially made up of people interested in the occult won’t be driven away by the over-the-top treatment of this subject matter. In other words, we know we’re using an arguably offensive cliché so we’ll be sure to tell the audience how lovable real witches are these days and hopefully that will appease the masses. “Even the church of Satan has renounced murder and torture.” (Then what, praytell, is the point of being the church of Satan??) At least the occultists in the story admit what they are.
On the Mulder and Scully partnership front, there’s a lot going on but it all happens in the span of about 2 seconds. It’s that scene in the shower room when Mulder and Scully are about to be killed. Notice that when the bullets start flying Mulder covers Scully with his own body. Blink and you’ll miss it. Would it have done any good in the face of a shotgun blast? Hardly. But it’s always struck me because Mulder did it almost instinctively. There was no deep moment of contemplation, no close-up of our hero’s face as he makes a dramatic decision. It was almost like a reflex, the way a mother would grab her child if she heard a loud noise.
It’s probably not significant to most people, but I think there’s a difference between being willing to risk your life for someone and being willing to actually stand between them and the bullet. The latter takes it to a whole other level, a level that, somewhere along the line, Mulder and Scully have quietly reached. There’s no fanfare or fireworks. In true Mulder and Scully form, I doubt they ever mention the incident between themselves.
Try not to take this one too seriously. It’s exaggerated on purpose. Not that this is a distinctly humorous episode. We won’t see that until “Humbug” (2×20) later this season. But it is a self-conscious tale and I think that’s its strength.
This is an episode I enjoy watching as much for the outlandishness of the subject as anything else. Writers Morgan and Wong were leaving the show to produce Space: Above and Beyond and I suspect they wanted their last outing to be as extreme an X-File as ever there was. They can rest assured that they went out with a bang.
Fortunately, we don’t have to live without them for too long. They’ll be back.
For a woman who just came off of “Irresistible” (1×13), where seeing bodies whose hair and nails had been cut off was a trauma to her, Scully’s doing awfully well with a corpse that’s had its eyes and heart cut out.
Be on the lookout for a great moment when Ausbury (AKA: Frasier’s Bulldog) gives a monologue that I think has some great truth hidden in it.
I’m ashamed to admit that as many times as I’ve seen this episode I never appreciated that Mrs. Paddock wasn’t just controlling the snake, she became the snake and ate Ausbury whole. There may be something wrong with me, but I thoroughly enjoyed that.
Iconic moment alert: It’s raining frogs. Funny how even the worst episodes have memorable visuals.
Mulder: So… lunch?
Scully: Mulder! Toads just fell from the sky!
Mulder: I guess their parachutes didn’t open.
Scully: The FBI recently concluded a seven year study and found little or no evidence of the existence of occult conspiracies.
Pete Calcagni: And J Edgar Hoover never admitted to the existence of the Mafia.
Scully: Look, if the number of murders attributed to occult conspiracies were true, it would mean thousands of people killing tens of thousands of people a year, without evidence, without being exposed. It would be the greatest criminal conspiracy is the history of civilisation.
Jim Ausbury: Finally. You people understand what we’re up against.
Mulder: But you are responsible. You knew the possibilities contained in your beliefs no matter how watered down. Did you really expect to conjure up the devil and ask him to behave?
Mulder: “There are tracks in the dirt. They’re from a snake.
Scully: “That’s impossible. It would take a large python hours to consume and weeks to digest a human being.
Mulder: You really do watch The Learning Channel.