Kaddish 4×12: You look like you might be one yourself.


"I am to my beloved as my beloved is to me."

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.

Verdict:

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.

B

Commentary:

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?

Best Quotes:

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]

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13 responses to “Kaddish 4×12: You look like you might be one yourself.

  1. I thought the actress who played Ariel did a very moving job. I never really thought about how this episode should have effected M&S, given the situation- thanks for bringing that to my attention though! I love me some XF food for thought!
    As side notes, I love thr burning book bloopers and that castle ring is gorgeous! I cannot wait for your reviews of the rest of the season! Especially Small Potatoes, Elegy and Gethsemane. 😉

  2. You know me Salome, you know my love of Howard Gordon’s work on this show, so it should come as no surprise to say that I love this one. Sombre yes, but I find it deeply moving and the final moments are spine chilling and deeply sad, I love it to bits.

    • You know, Howard Gordon’s work is really pretty distinctive. I never knew he wrote Unrequited, but as soon as I watched it this time around I guessed. That one was a joint effort with Chris Carter, but it has his telltale marks all over it.

      What I can’t figure out his why his work on The X-Files was generally quiet and sombre but his work on 24 was anything but!

      • I think The X Files lent itself to be quiet and sombre, whereas 24 was always a ‘big’ show, very eventful and all that. Yet, I have to say, I think he was responsible for 24’s finest ever episode and that episode was one of the few to be quiet and sombre. It was the 18th episode of season three and involved Jack Bauer and Ryan Chappelle at a train yard. I won’t say anything else for those have never seen it, but it must surely rank as one of television’s finest and saddest ever moments.

        I said in my review of Oubliette that I always loved how The X Files did these ‘good little stories’, Kaddish is one of them. It’s not spectacular, it’s not going to enter many people’s top tens, but it’s well written, the narrative has a lovely sweep to it and it really does get to you emotionally, it’s wonderful.

        • Ah, I think I remember that one although it’s been a while. I loved 24. Talk about adrenaline.

          I do feel for Ariel in this ep, but then, stories where loved ones are parted through death or otherwise always strike an emotional cord with me. Don’t tell anyone, but I even cried at the forgettable Anna and The King.

          • 24? Adrenalin? No kidding. Nail biting? My fingers were bloody stumps when watching that show (not literally of course, that would be disgusting come to think of it).

            Never underestimate the power of love and death in a narrative. It rarely fails, as for Anna and The King, don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.

  3. I thought the subject matter in this episode was especially cool, and I’m glad the show finally found a way to work in ethnic folklore/mysticism that wasn’t over-the-top a la “Hell Money”.

    The rubbing off of the the letter on Golem-Isaac’s hand was a really touching and cool part of the episode.

    One question: How did the Golem get so good at hanging people? Just to get the rope up to the high ceiling of the synagog would have been a feat in and of itself. Is that one of the creature’s powers/abilities, as per the myth?

  4. Back during the first airing of Kaddish, I didn’t pay much attention to the story bc I just wanted to know more about Scully’s condition. But after rewatching it a few times over the years I’ve really come to appreciate this episode. A good X-File, well acted and directed. Another hidden gem so to say. I’m really glad for these episodes which I’ve discovered at a later time. X-Files never ceases to surprise and amaze me. I love it!

  5. Yet another contrived finale where Mulder sees proof of the supernatural and Scully “just” misses out! Yawn

  6. Pingback: Salvage 8×10: More powerful than a speeding locomotive. | Musings of an X-Phile

  7. Strange. I’m re-watching this and I hear a slight variation on the Bach “Little” Fugue in G minor at about the 20 minute mark. Kaddish= Jewish; Bach= Lutheran. I don’t get the connection.

    Does anyone?

  8. Shoddy police work. For all they know, he hung himself 5 minutes before they arrived and was still alive. Do they try to cut him down or support him while they determine if he’s alive? No. They pull their guns and run around while he hangs therel

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