The List 3×5: I just don’t see the motives, do you?


The Green Mile it is not.

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.
Mulder: Reincarnated.
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.

Conclusion:

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.

B-

Bepuzzlements:

See above.

Random Thoughts:

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.

Best Quotes:

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.

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12 responses to “The List 3×5: I just don’t see the motives, do you?

  1. Yeah, got to agree with you on this one. Was rewatching it again there last week myself and whilst I enjoyed it, my head was actually hurting from trying to work out what the hell it was that actually happened throughout.

    On the plus side it’s probably the most visually stunning episode of the third season, the green colours gives the episode a different look than most.

    Top marks for the Fresh Bones comparison. I never even realised that before.

  2. george fowler

    i read somewhere that Neech came back as a fly.
    so there you have Salome… the villain of the episode… is a fly

  3. george fowler

    glad i could help

  4. It it makes you feel any better, I have no idea what actually happened either, and I’ve seen this a couple of times. Maybe that’s the point, haha.

  5. This one started off interesting, but i started to lose my focus 2/3 of the way through. After CBFR, which kept me glued to every single line, this one just felt flat. You make an excellent parallel with ‘Fresh Bones’ – I totally didn’t catch that but you are spot on!
    I agree with the A+ for atmosphere. I got a little ‘Silence of the Lambs’ vibe at the beginning when Scully is walking alone down the aisle in the prison. Also, love Scully’s “only five?” comment 🙂

    • This is one of those rare X-Files episodes that’s just plain boring. It’s hard to find incentive to pay attention to the confusing plot, especially coming off of television gold like CBRF. The good news is, Scully’s gotten some really cute, witty moments the last few episodes!

  6. This didn’t even come off like an X-Files episode. It wasn’t really a MOTW, more of a crime story. Even Mulder and Scully seemed bored with it. “There’s a list – people are dying – who has the list – more people die. Can anyone guess who will die next?” A lazy and unimaginative episode. Next please!

  7. Just watched this episode for the first time. Loved the atmosphere, but I agree that it wasn’t executed well and the lack of a clear villain made it tough to enjoy.
    Neech stuck to his word and killed 5 people. The first guard, Fornier (the second guard), the executioner, the attorney, and the Warden.
    Roque and Sporanza (the two inmates) were beaten by the Warden, and Parmelly by Neech’s wife – all 3 instances out of fear. Confusing episode!

  8. Rewatching the series and found a link to your blog through Tumblr. There are a few things I seriously don’t like about this episode.

    1) Scully just wants to drop the case completely, which seems a bit out of character for her. There are at LEAST three killers in this episode: Neech, his wife, and the warden. I don’t believe that every inmate on the cell block would keep quiet about how one of the prisoners was led to the showers and NEVER CAME BACK. And this happens TWICE? AND MULDER AND SCULLY NEVER PICK UP ON THIS FACT?!?! Are they even in character at the end?

    2) In “Irresistible,” Scully is quite freaked out. She doesn’t quit, though. She keeps up the “I’m fine” bravado until the very last scene. I guess one could make the argument that Scully is now learning her own limits, but I don’t think she was a) as freaked out by flesh-and-blood human criminals leering at her as the morphing embodiment of evil that was Donny Pfaster, and b) if she WAS that freaked out, it certainly didn’t seem to telegraph throughout the entire episode.

    3) This case isn’t over when the credits roll. Wouldn’t Scully and Mulder just have to come back to investigate the warden’s sudden death? THEY’RE ON THE SAME HIGHWAY. The weather is fine. There isn’t a lot of traffic. Was he drinking? If not, why did he run his car into a tree?

    4) The whole “Neech-as-Fly” theory can get you pretty far, but then why are all these larvae around, too? It’s not tidy, it’s not clever, and it’s not even really addressed in the entire series. Why would flies be associated with Neech? Did his crimes have something to do with flies? Are they just some sort of disturbing associated-with-death insect that gives people the heebeejeebees? INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW!

    I’m just venting. I found this episode to be extremely sub-par, ESPECIALLY considering the previous episode was amazing. I personally give this episode like a D-. Maybe an F. Grrrr…

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