Racism makes its second appearance on The X-Files this season. Maybe really its first since it was talked about but never actually seen in “Teliko” (4×4) despite Mulder’s insinuations to the contrary. Thankfully, this is a much more successful attempt at weaving societal issues into a paranormal tale, even if the end product is only moderately memorable.
Despite different trappings, this is really just another “revenge from beyond the grave” episode in the vein of “Born Again” (1×21) and “The List” (3×5). Only this time our avenger is a Hasidic Jew with one of my favorite names ever, Isaac (It means laughter. How can you not love that?). The other significant difference being that Issac didn’t come back on his own, he was brought back, not to feed hate, but out of love.
This episode reminds me of “Born Again” not just in content but in tone, which can be no coincidence since both episodes are written by Howard Gordon. Gordon’s work tends to have a quiet, somber feel to it, think “Dod Kalm” (2×19), so this episode has little by way of action but lots of contemplation. Maybe it’s because part of me instinctively compares this episode to The Golem, but I do wish the monster had been a little more menacing. That could have helped make up for the fact that it’s a legend unfamiliar to many, and having to familiarize an audience with a legend and then try to scare them with it is a tall order.
Adam was created from the dust of the earth, but then God breathed into him the breath of life. The problem with the Golem isn’t the mud he came out of, it’s that he missed out on that last part, the breath of life, and is doomed to walk around sans soul and wrecking havoc. That’s what happens when man takes things into his own hands, which is the moral lesson behind the tale: Man can only imitate God in shadows and not substance, and hubris is a dangerous form of pride.
But as I said, Ariel created Isaac’s Golem out of love which adds a poignancy to the proceedings. In fact, dare I say this episode isn’t even really meant to be frightening? It’s a story about lost love and that’s the emotional cue we’re being invited to identify with. Even the social commentary is a little distracting since the racists we’re exposed to are a little toothless and so don’t really serve the story in any meaningful way. It’d be nice if I could hate them rather than dismiss them but since they’re so pathetic…
Possibly this episode’s main source of salvation is how beautiful it is. Kim Manner’s usually directs the more gruesome episodes but he does a great job here not with horror but in expressing sadness through his camera choices. Those scenes at the graveyard in particular are stunning. I might go so far as to say that most of the pathos here comes from the way the episode was shot and less from the story or even the characters. The X-Files may have reached that incredible plateau where you can watch it with the sound off and still fully enjoy it.
There is a bit of an elephant hanging in the air over this episode. We just came off of “Memento Mori” (4×15) and there’s absolutely no indication that Scully’s tragic diagnosis is at all on her mind or even Mulder’s. But there’s a very good reason for that… this episode was shot three episodes before “Memento Mori”, but partially because of the Super Bowl broadcasting shuffle, was aired afterward. If they’re acting like Scully doesn’t have cancer, it’s because she doesn’t.
I think that actually works out well and I’m glad because that delicate plot line could have easily been worried to death through overkill. A mention or a reminder every other episode or so until the storyline reaches its boiling point is more than sufficient. Besides, at the end of “Memento Mori” Scully makes it clear that she wants to get back to work, and isn’t she doing just that?
Certainly though, back when I didn’t realize all that and even though I still appreciated their not working Scully’s cancer into the ground, a part of me wondered why this tale of death and separation didn’t hit home with Mulder and Scully at all. And just taking things as they aired, part of me still thinks they should have been able to relate just a tad more. Not in a lovey dovey sort of way, but in that here are two people who just had the promise of their lives together cut short. It’s not like Mulder and Scully’s work is done and they’ve found the answers they’re looking for. And now they’re running out of time.
So is Mulder Jewish? I guess we’ll have to wait till Season 7 for that answer too. Let’s put that on the back burner along with Scully’s ovaries, shall we?
Mulder: Yeah, spectral figures are not often known to leave fingerprints. Casper never did.
Scully: You haven’t heard the rumors?
Curt Brunjes: What rumors?
Mulder: That Luria is back from the dead. That he’s risen from his grave.
Curt Brunjes: What kind of Jew trick is this?
Mulder: A Jew pulled it off two thousand years ago.
Mulder: What’s this? A little bedtime reading? [The book bursts into flames]