Home 4×3: There’s something rotten in Mayberry.


A hero falls.

There may be something deeply flawed in me but I’ve never found this episode disturbing. Not because I’m any proponent of infanticide, I’m not even pro-choice, but it all takes place in a context that’s distinctly “horror” and I just can’t take any of its inflammatory subject matter more seriously than any other piece of popcorn entertainment.

If anything, the only thing that remotely bothers me is that these victims of generations of inbreeding are reduced to caveman like monsters, mere bogeymen. Are victims of genetic mutations little more than savage beasts? Have we forgotten The Elephant Man so quickly? But I can easily put the blinders on for this issue because it’s worth it.

This episode is gorgeous. I don’t know what suddenly happened to the show’s budget and I certainly know nothing about camera work, etc. but the picture quality has suddenly improved triple fold. The whole effect is downright glossy. Director Kim Manners, may he rest in peace, was generally the go-to man for horror episodes, and he was no stranger to landmark episodes having previously directed “Humbug” (2×20), an episode as freaky as it is funny. But he outdoes himself on this one. The way he films the famous murder of the Taylors with near wordless poeticism is memorable even if you’re not a fan. And visiting the bowels of the Peacock house is like dropping down to Dante’s 6th circle of hell… and the theme of that circle is The Civil War.

In a way, I feel sorry for these throwbacks and I believe we’re meant to. The Peacocks are just trying to hang on to the last vestiges of life as it has been. Like they did in “Humbug”, Mulder and Scully represent the encroachment as life as it eventually will be for all; perfect looking uber humans floating on a sea of unnecessary technology. As sick, twisted, and perverse as their family is, there’s something sad and poignant about the downfall of the Peacocks because it’s the simultaneous downfall of all that the town of Home represents.

How many enclaves are left where one can keep oneself unspotted from the world? Where young boys can ride their bikes to pick up games in the field instead of being driven from lesson to lesson in their mothers’ black SUVs? Where people know that murder, kidnapping, and rape exist but don’t trouble themselves by worrying about them because they only take place in theory?

This idea collapses after a certain point because the Peacocks, in trying to preserve what they have, end up destroying it (or nearly so) and the town of Home along with it through a series of acts that are monstrous for humans, if not unacceptable in nature. The trouble is, they see themselves as survivors, and morality and survival are often strange bedfellows.

There’s a fine line, I suppose, between incest and inbreeding. One is a forced, violent, or at the very least manipulative act. The other is institutionalized a la the Pharaoh’s of Egypt. For the Peacocks, what they practice is more the latter. This is a way of life to them. At some point they realized no one else was going to willingly marry into the family, so they had to make do with what they already had. Really, this whole thing is a crude form of practicality.

Verdict:

This was X-Files legends Morgan & Wong’s first episode back on The X-Files since leaving in Season 2 to produce their own Space: Above and Beyond. I’m sad to say that as much as I love their work, when they came back in Season 4 they almost seemed to be writing for a different show. Each of the four episodes they wrote on their return were “out of bounds” in one way or another. “Home” I think steps over the line the most successfully.

I love it when Mulder and Scully takeover a small town. There’s nothing shocking about evil in the city, but when it lurks in the cellars of corn-fed middle America there’s always something more sinister about it.

I love Tucker Smallwood as the likeable and wise Sheriff Andy Taylor. I love that Mulder and Scully are making more wise-cracks than usual. And, most of all, I love Johnny Mathis.

True, Johnny Mathis wouldn’t lend his voice to this episode because of its content so it’s actually a Johnny Mathis wannabe that we’re hearing, but it has the same effect.

This was the first X-Files episode to come with a viewer discretion warning for graphic content (the second, “Via Negativa” (8×7), would be more deserving if you ask me). Consequently, the Fox network refused to show it in reruns for the longest, giving the episode an extra layer of mystery to add to its charms.

I can understand why objectively, it’s just hard to understand in reverse since now we live in a world filled with Law & Order: SVU reruns and incest in all its forms is a topic that’s been beaten to death, infanticide too. And the brutal beating? It hardly seems graphic anymore.

It’s not a celebration of such things, it’s an exploration of them. That’s where I draw the line.

A+

Randomness:

So the seed of “Mommy Scully” has been planted. Bearing the future of Season 4 in mind, could that just be a coincidence? I highly doubt it. By now Chris Carter was in the midst of feverishly planning for the upcoming movie. In order to do that, they had to have the trajectory of the mythology for the next couple of years already planned out. Morgan & Wong referenced in interviews that they wrote their episodes at the beginning of the season with a mind to where the writing staff was aiming to have Mulder and Scully at the end of the season. I appreciate the subtle continuity.

No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you with this episode number and neither am I. Once The X-Files took off, the production schedule was never the same again. This is the third episode of Season 4 but the second one aired.

Ah, the introduction of David Duchovny’s “Elvis” cut…

Best Quotes:

Scully: Meanwhile I’ve quit the Bureau and become a spokesperson for the Ab-Roller.

———————–

Scully: Mulder, if you had to do without a cell phone for two minutes you’d lapse into catatonic schizophrenia.
Mulder: Scully, you don’t know me as well as you think you do. You know, my work demands that I live in a big city, but if I had to settle down, build a home, it’d be in a place like this.
Scully: It’d be like living in Mayberry.
Sheriff Taylor: Agents Mulder and Scully… Hi, I’m Sheriff Andy Taylor.
Mulder: For real?

————————

Mulder: Is there a history of genetic abnormalities in your family?
Scully: No.
Mulder: Well, just find yourself a man with a spotless genetic make up and a really high tolerance for being second-guessed and start pumping out the little uber-Scullys.
Scully: What about your family?
Mulder: Aside from the need for corrective lenses or the tendency to be abducted by extraterrestrials involved in an international governmental conspiracy, the Mulder family passes genetic muster.

————————-

Scully: You still planning on making a home here?
Mulder: No. Not if I can’t get the Knicks game.
Scully: Well, just as long as a brutal infanticide doesn’t weigh into your decision.

————————-

Mulder: Scully, would you think me less of me as a man if I told you I was a kind of excited right now? There some secret farmer trick to get these things moving?
Scully: I don’t know. Baa-ram-ewe. Baa-ram-ewe.
Mulder: Yeah, that’ll work.
Scully: I babysat my nephew this weekend. He watches Babe fifteen times a day.
Mulder: And people call me Spooky.

————————

Scully: Way I think it goes here is that Edmund is the brother and the father of the other two.
Mulder: Which means that when Edmund was a kid he could ground the other two for playing with his things?

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30 responses to “Home 4×3: There’s something rotten in Mayberry.

  1. I think we could probably pinpoint this as the point of departure from “old” X-Files. Like you said, the production was so polished, and the writing to surprisingly sure of itself, it’s becoming clear what the X-Files is evolving into as a program.

    One of the most memorable X-Files ever, and for good reason.

  2. In the UK we were always a full season behind you guys in the US, so we had heard A LOT about this one by the time it reached UK shores and truthfully we weren’t that shocked by the content. Hell, there was even talk of the BBC not showing it for a while it was supposed to be that controversial.

    Good write up always Salome and nice spotting the early seeds of “Mummy Scully” being sewn into the narrative. I

    PS-I love that scene on the bench by the way. Say what you want about Morgan and Wong, but their writing of these two wonderful characters were as brilliant as always.

  3. I liked this episode. It was a gross concept but I think that the humor and even the lighting was evenly balanced between light and dark. So it wasn’t too heavy. I always get worked up during the fight scene where Scully yells, “I’ve got the mother!” …and it’s way creepy how Edmund gets out of the trunk at the end.

  4. I want to print out the top screen capture and frame it. 2 of my favorite things: Elvis and Duchovny’s Golden Retriever face (seriously, he consistently is giving me puppy through the series).

    Gosh the dialogue was strong in this episode. I forgot how much. And isn’t it amazing how what is ‘taboo’ on TV has changed so radically in the past dozen years?

    OK you can’t get to season 7 quick enough for me. I need other folks’ opinion of the season I’m currently watching because the eye-rolling is at an all time high. I need to know if it’s just me and my bf or if it was the general consensus that the shark had been jumped.

    As always, I enjoyed your review.

    • The banter is priceless in this episode. It’s at just the right level. A little further to the left and it would have been too dark, a little further to the right and it would have been tasteless.

      There’s a deleted scene that I’m rather glad was deleted. It involved a little flirting over the dead baby’s body…

      P.S. It’s not just you.

  5. I think what horrifies me about this episode is that it’s something that could be. I don’t necessarily find the ep horrifying (grotesque, sure, but not scary), but incest creeps the bejeezus out of me. The poor baby, being buried alive, and the glimpses of it’s deformities later on…*shudder* The lengths the family would go to to protect its way of life; a way of life that, guaranteed, no one was given an option to live. It was a way of life that they were told to comply with, and that’s a bit horrifying on its own, you know? Imagine being a kid and being forced to have sex with mommy. And perhaps that sort of conditioning explains the behavior of the Peacock boys and why they come across as caveman-like, as you said. They’re purposely kept uneducated, and centuries-old instincts are encouraged, so they would essentially be savage beasts. Genetic mutations don’t necessarily make someone savage, but not having someone tell you to behave otherwise will certainly get you there.

    The thought that people would go to such lengths to go keep it “in the family” is pretty disturbing. I will disagree with you on this point, though; I don’t think it leans toward the old-school, royal family, pure blood line sort of thing. They may eventually go into the act willingly, but I think that there has to be a certain degree of force, violence and/or manipulation on the part of the parents/older siblings/whatever they happen to be that point to get their younger generation to agree to such an act, especially if some are performing it a young age. I think that’s an instinct many of us have; and that’s not to say that the younger ones weren’t actually raped at some point before they became convinced that keeping their blood line pure was a good idea.

    It’s a very gray area, no?

    Overall, though, I love this ep. Season 4 was, overall, awesome, and this one was pretty amazing. And my inner fangirl was definitely squealing over the conversation on the bench.

    • That’s a really good point about children having a natural aversion to such a thing. And that their savagery isn’t “natural” at all but a result of a kind of ritual of ignorance.

      I’m still not sure that children exposed to incest as a normal way of life would have to be forced or manipulated into the situation. Judging from the history of cults and polygamist compounds, some kids acquiesce and some don’t. But then, really, the whole environment would be one giant sphere of pressure. Even if they don’t put up a fight it’s because they know no differently.

  6. I know you said that the death of the Sheriff in his home is no longer as shocking in comparison to today’s telly, but to me I still always find it difficult to watch. I think the fact that you hear the act more you actually see it which disturbs me more…Chris Carter certainly had the right idea concerning the fear of what you don’t see over what you do. Also the look of pure terror on his wife’s face under the bed is heart-breaking.

    I don’t believe it’s scary enough or corrupting enough to be banned from television and luckily it never was in the UK (the BBC and the BBFC have always been pretty sensible and not too over-sensitive in regards to censorship). However, I do find the subject matter to be quite grotesque and thought-provoking…though if I think about it for too long I begin to freak myself out, ha.

    The juxtaposition of pure blue skies and sun-drenched outside shots and the dark, interior scenes of the Peacock family home (along with the rain soaked night-time scenes) really highlight the opposing forces of morality, survival and the invading ideas of accepted social behaviour that Mulder and Scully (and the rest of the village/hamlet) that the Peacocks felt threatened by.

    • You’re right in that it’s definitely more effective than if they had shown the whole thing. Which is why today’s television studios should probably take a step backwards as far as what they show. Maybe then more series would have more than a temporary impact. Shocking people through being graphic only goes so far after a while.

      Besides, masters of tension like Hitchcock relied on provoking the audience’s imagination rather than spoon-feeding them everything.

      • Yes I always believed Chris Carter must have been a huge Hitchcock fan (as am I), and was thrilled to read somewhere that the decision to film Triangle in continuous shots was inspired by the brilliant film, Rope. (sorry, slightly off topic!)

  7. Ahhh excellent, I have a boxset with most of his most accomplished films, but there’s some startling omissions. Luckily, they’re nearly always on TV haha.

  8. I love Season 4/Season 5/FTF’s Mulder- and Scully-hair!

    Is that weird? I think it’s probably a little weird.

    • I’d answer that, but considering the extent of my obsession, I don’t think I’d be a very good judge. O_o

    • Ha, I have just been thinking as a re-watch these episodes (after re-watching the first three seasons), finally they are getting Scully’s hair right! I now remember why for many years I lusted after auburn hair.

    • Season 5 Scully hair is the BEST.

      I’ve been looking for an appropriate wig for a halloween costumer for years. no one gets it right.

  9. Coming in a little late to the discussion here so bear with me..! I agree with the other UK Philes who already commented. I was a little surprised to hear it had caused so much fuss in the US and how soo many viewers had found it shocking. Maybe I’m getting immune to this kind of thing in my old age, but the only bit I felt any horror about was the bit you didn’t get to see, when the Sheriiff is brutally killed by the Peacocks. My own imagination supplied some pretty gruesome images all of its own. The incest theme, I found a bit icky, rather than horrifying, in fact I felt pity for the whole lot of them living in such a pigsty (almost literally) and being totally relaint on each other because they knew there was no sympathy or help coming from the outside.

    • My old age must be affecting me as well because I’m not bothered my the themes of this episode the way I should be on paper. Brutal infanticide? It never really occurred to me that this is what’s going on here until I took to the internet and read up on this episode. Hearing about mothers killing their babies on the news is far more frightening and gruesome than the stylized horror of Home. The incest is so exaggerated as to be comedic and the only thing that’s really chilling is, like you said, the murder of the Sheriff and his wife. And that’s mostly offscreen!

  10. If you dissect the aspects of this episode it is horrifying and just plain…….gross but thats the beauty of the writing in the xfiles they just have a way of hiding it – I don’t know how to describe it…… the implications of the acts are far worse then what they show or how they describe it. This episode definately rates in my top 10. It is brutally graphic and yet im confused because I too feel a little sorry for the peacockes and I don’t know why??? I watched a “behind the xfiles” on this one and they said it was actually banned in some states, they had real trouble with the “Sensors” editing and removing sounds and scenes and yet its rated as one of the best episodes by the fans. Mulder and Scully are funny in this episode and of course I love the bench scene. I love watching them talk about their children with the knowledge they would have one together one day. But have you noticed the way he looks at her when he says “I never saw you as a mother before Scully” Its like he finally realised she is a woman and not just a tough FBI agent in the boys gang. She was his equal, his partner, best friend but he realised in that moment she was also a woman who would fall in love and make babies oneday.

    • But have you noticed the way he looks at her when he says “I never saw you as a mother before Scully” Its like he finally realised she is a woman and not just a tough FBI agent in the boys gang. She was his equal, his partner, best friend but he realised in that moment she was also a woman who would fall in love and make babies oneday.

      ^^^^^This.

  11. One of my all-time favorite episodes for sure. I love the look of the Peacocks and their farm, the Andy Griffith Show references, the masterful creep out factor coming from both what you see and what’s left up to your imagination, and most of all, the fact that it’s because of this one that never again will I be able listen to Johnny Mathis’ “Wonderful Wonderful” or look at a 1958 Cadillac Coupe de Ville Convertible the same way. It truly is a flawless piece of horror.

    • This is actually one of my all-time favorites too. And I just love the way they use the music here. I’ve always liked Johnny Mathis, because I’m Old Skool like that. But, like you, I can’t hear that song anymore without thinking of this episode.

  12. Sorry this is so far after the post, but I couldn’t resist.
    One of the things I love about this show is its ability to touch on issues that are terrifyingly real and use the paranormal as a vehicle.
    This is a prime example; it is amazing. The theme is chilling- human barbarism. I love, love, love how it barely scratches the surface of the utter hell that was the American Civil War and use themes as horrific as they were -not that they were all that terrifying onscreen, in a world of shows like we have today- and does it so perfectly. I think the descriptor I’m looking for is utterly, viscerally terrifying. It’s not just the Civil War, though- it’s human barbarism at its most bare and true. The Starving Time and even farther back, all the atrocities…for a television show to be able to capture that so perfectly is amazing. Absolutely stunning.

    • Sorry this is so far after *your* post, but I couldn’t resist.

      Visceral terror, I think, is what they were going for. There’s really no X-File here. There’s nothing supernatural or paranormal, neither is their an undiscovered science or a conspiracy. There’s just a family living out inconceivable levels of inbreeding.

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  17. Hi , am really enjoying your reviews; only recently started watching this series as never got into it when it was on tv. Am doing a rewatch with the company of your reviews! One thing I don’t quite get is how Scully reaches her conclusion that 2 of the boys are the son of the eldest. Is that purely on seeing the photos on the wall? Sure Pop Peacock looks kind of old, but they mention that “the boys” came and got the parents after accident, implying that they were all born by then, or am I missing something?

  18. It’s an extremely well-polished and quite horrifying episode, and one of the main reasons that season 4 is my favorite season overall.

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