Chris Carter is back in the director’s chair and I have to say I’ve missed him. I’ve always generally preferred his directing over his writing. In fact, his first foray into directing was “Duane Barry” (2×5) which would go well on anyone’s resume. And like in “Duane Barry”, it’s when he takes the helm as both writer and director that he really packs a punch. Sadly, “The List” is an exception to that rule.
Visually, this episode rocks. Mulder and Scully are constantly swathed in ethereal blue and green lights. The prison is sufficiently claustrophobic. And let me just say, as a Floridian, the glistening sweat on the brows of the entire cast is sadly realistic. On atmosphere “The List” gets an A+.
But the content of this episode is like the microwaved leftovers of “Fresh Bones” (2×15). General Wharton in charge of policing a refugee camp led by a spiritually sensitive, mystical black man is now turned into a Warden in charge of policing a prison led by a spiritually delusional, mystical black man. Both are propelled to their deaths by a resurrected mystical black man. Even the closing shots of their deaths resemble each other; the camera comes from above and goes “through” physical barriers to give us a glimpse of their final rest.
I’m not mad at this episode for not being particularly original. In fact, sometimes I out and out prefer it when I get a tried and true X-File. But this one doesn’t bring any kind of new or fresh twist. As the series has progressed, the guest spots have been more consistently memorable and the acting has improved. Yet nothing I see here is enough to elevate “The List” above being merely mundane. Well… mundane for The X-Files that is. It doesn’t help that it ranks up there, for me, as one of the most confusing episodes of all time.
Neech is supposed to be reincarnated, “reunion of spirit and flesh.” Instead, we get another ghost story very, very similar in content to “Born Again” (1×21). Another soul is reincarnated for the express purpose of bringing vengeance on a short list of enemies. Only “Born Again” at least gave us the protagonist reborn in the flesh. Where exactly is Neech’s reincarnated form? He only shows up briefly at the end of the episode and even then I’m not convinced. I’m beginning to think that we in the West are incapable of successfully translating the concept of reincarnation. It’s too foreign to our worldview.
Speranzo: Neech is back.
Speranzo: Well, he would have called it transmigration of the soul.
Mulder: Into what form?
Speranzo: You, me, this mattress… I don’t know, he didn’t specify. But he’s back. I can feel it. The man was electric, you know what I’m sayin’? Pure energy.
From that I suppose we’re to infer that Neech has been reincarnated as some vague spiritual energy; in other words, as a ghost. So why bother to call it “reincarnation” you ask? Good question.
I tend to not skip this one on rewatches. Not because it deserves it, but because it feels distinctly X-Filesian even if it isn’t particularly good. I’m not convinced that Neech Manley is a character worthy of his own episode. Maybe it would have been more successful if there had been a villain to latch onto, but as it is, none of the characters motivate the audience to either “Yay” or “Boo” in their honor. “The List” ends up as a footnote, a cross between “Born Again” and “Fresh Bones”, complete with a bitter, white taskmaster terrorizing his black prisoners for their spiritual secrets.
I don’t know what you all are going to think of my IQ when I confess this, but after seeing this episode what must be at least 10 times I still have no idea who killed who. Did Neech commit all the murders? Where Parmelly and Speranzo in on this together? Then why did Parmelly point the way to Roque? Did Neech’s wife know? Did Neech ask these guys to kill for him after his death so that everyone would believe the myth and then, surprise of surprises, came back from the dead anyway? I’m lost. Lost, I tell you. I don’t know which lie to believe.
Watch it once and enjoy the atmosphere. Watch it again and risk ruining it for yourself.
Neech was on death row, probably with good reason. I wonder what some people might have done to him if they could come back from the grave and exact revenge.
It’s nice to see Scully a little shaken up in the prison. Any woman would be on edge.
I believe “The List” wins the trophy for most maggots ever in an episode.
Mulder: The man was obsessed with reincarnation.
Scully: Being obsessed with it doesn’t mean you can do it.
Mulder: No. Unless he knew something we don’t.
Scully: Like what, the secret password?
Mulder: Okay, but imagine if it were true, Scully. Imagine if you could come back and take out five people who had caused you to suffer. Who would they be?
Scully: I only get five?
Mulder: …I remembered your birthday this year, didn’t I Scully? *Editor’s Note: Actually, no, he didn’t. He won’t remember it until next year.
Scully: Woman gets lonely. Sometimes she can’t wait around for her man to be reincarnated.