‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’
‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.
‘You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’
Ah, suburbia. Where happy little families live happy, normal little lives.
Unless they’re on The X-Files in which case unhappiness is bound to find them. And if they won’t admit it’s found them, someone might just go mad. Or grow feathers. It’s a toss-up, really.
Take Ellen Adderly, whose pent-up anger has turned her quite mad. She’s so upset that her Norman Rockwell life is falling apart that her dissociative rage has manifested as a split personality disorder. When she’s not Susie Homemaker, she transforms into a… a what? A crow monster? Is that even a thing?
Let me preface my complaint by saying I quite like this episode. In fact, I like it so much I’ve surprised myself. I remembered enjoying it originally, but the details were fuzzy so I got to relive it, not quite from scratch, but with eyes ready to observe. I consider that a plus since, up until recently, there were no new X-Files forthcoming and, inevitably, there will always be a finite number of them. Anything akin to a newish watch is appreciated by me.
But this otherwise classically trained Monster of the Week episode has a few weaknesses, the main one being that the monster isn’t scary in the least. The second is that despite attempts to distract the audience, the answer to the mystery is fairly obvious within the first ten minutes of the show. Sure, the teaser makes it look like we’re in for an X-Files/Mean Girls crossover, but no one believes that the working class Jenny Uphouse is the killer. That would be too easy. The next suspect in line is Ellen Adderly, since she’s the only adult the monster appears to who doesn’t wind up dead.
The third weakness is that the monster feels familiar. We’ve seen something similar in “Arcadia” (6×13), another episode that exposes the seamy underbelly of suburbia. Though there, the homeowners collectively created a monster through their out of control desire for perfection. I’m also reminded of “The Walk” (3×7), even though there Leonard Trimble uses astral projection to psychically take vengeance on his enemies when he’s physically unable to.
So, the monster doesn’t excite me. Then again, neither did The Flukeman.
What does excite me is that, like with “Theef” (7×14), I get a vintage X-Files vibe from this episode. I’m happy to report that the weather is dreary and atmospheric. Not that they could have planned that, but it looks like rainy season in Southern California was working to the production’s advantage. The story, maybe by virtue of feeling familiar, comes across as something that would have fit well in Season 3 or 4. Also like the old days, it manages to be quite humorous without ever feeling “light.” (You know I love “light,” but they can’t all be like that.)
The interactions between Mulder and Scully over the phone are priceless. Over fifteen years after first seeing it I was still laughing aloud. I’m surprised I don’t see this episode quoted more often, especially considering how ship-heavy the fandom is. We haven’t had a game of Telephone this good since “Chinga” (5×10)!
Seeing Scully stuck in squalor while Mulder lives it up in Leave It To Beaver land, eating gourmet meals and having his shirts pressed, is a hoot. And we all enjoyed Mulder admitting that he has an atypical “significant other,” right? Because he doesn’t have a significant other, he has a Scully. But since round about Season 2 or 3, the depth of their relationship has basically precluded any other significant others for either of them. “Not in the widely understood definition of the term” is right. Then again, if that’s the case, then it would seem to contradict the upcoming “all things” (7×17), but we’ll get to that.
Just because there are roses in the garden doesn’t mean crazy isn’t in bloom. They’re all crazy in this town. They’re mad to think that they can live phony lives and get away with it.
That Sheriff especially must’ve been crazy to try to juggle three women at once. I’m surprised he made it to the end of the episode alive. Or maybe he’s supposed to live with the knowledge that his behavior triggered all this death and mayhem. Ellen had to break every mirror in sight to avoid seeing who she really was. What did he have to do?
All in all, a good solid offering and the best writer David Amann has given us so far.
In which Mulder gets beaten up by a girl.
If you wanted a divorce, Sheriff, why did you impregnate Ellen so she could “lock you up good?” She didn’t get pregnant on her own, you know.
What’s with The X-Files and mirrored ceilings?
It turns out that Gina Mastrogiocomo, who plays Jenny, died in 2001 and this was her final performance. That made me sad! She was in Goodfellas and that’s one of my favorite movies.
Scully: Well, I hope we catch her so she can tell us… before I have to spend another night here. You know, Mulder, I don’t know about you but I find this all very depressing, this round-the-clock exposure to the seamy underbelly.
Mulder: That’s the job, Scully: vigilance in the face of privation, the sheer will that it takes to sit in this crappy room spying on the dregs of society until our suspect surfaces. There’s something ennobling in that.
[Mulder’s phone rings]
Mulder: [On phone] Mulder. Now? All right. [To Scully] I got to go. [Leaves]
Scully: [In disbelief] Mulder…?
Mulder: [On phone] Well, she’ll come, you know? It’s just a matter of time. She’ll show up. I’m sure of that.
Scully: [On phone] Yeah, well not before I die of malnutrition. [Disgustedly picks up and drops a gross-looking slice of pizza]
Mulder: [On phone] Hey, Scully, tough it out. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
[Ellen Adderly goes to dress up Mulder’s plate of gourmet food with the fixings]
Mulder: [To Ellen] No, no, no, no. No capers, thank you.
Scully: [On phone] I’m sorry, what?
Mulder: [On phone] I said, “What a… what a crazy caper.” I’ll talk to you later and, uh, keep warm. Bye.
Mulder: [On phone] Mulder.
Scully: [On phone] Mulder, when you find me dead, my desiccated corpse propped up staring lifelessly through the telescope at drunken frat boys peeing and vomiting into the gutter, just know that my last thoughts were of you… and how I’d like to kill you.
Mulder: [On phone] I’m sorry, who is this?
Ellen: Do you have a … a significant other?
Mulder: Um, not in the widely understood definition of that term.
Mulder: So you were having an affair with both Jenny and Martha Crittendon?
Sheriff Adderly: [Nods]
Mulder: I got to hand it to you, Sheriff. You put the service back into “protect and serve.”