Badlaa 8×12: Well, that’s just wrong.


XFiles-Badlaa-BeggarMan12.jpg

Criminey.

“Badlaa” is writer John Shiban’s first solo outing since “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18) which is one of my all-time favorite episodes of The X-Files, so allow me to admit freely that I’m biased towards him. Sadly, though, that bias only takes me so far. It doesn’t take me all the way to “Badlaa”.

Parts of this episode are so disgusting as to be downright repugnant. It pushes the boundaries of bad taste in such a way as to make the controversial “Home” (4×3) look almost wholesome. If X-Files were graded purely on how well they grossed out the audience, this would be a top rated episode. But this isn’t the fun kind of gross that we got in “Roadrunners” (8×5), where it makes you squirm but you want to keep peeking at it. No, this is the kind of gross that makes you wonder why the creators of it felt the need to go there, the kind of gross that makes you frown, not squeal.

It doesn’t help my good opinion that “Badlaa” is also the episode where Scully’s Adventures as Fox Mulder storyline reaches its zenith of frustration, and where The X-Files itself acknowledges that this plot isn’t working.

Scully: Chuck. Thank you for, uh, coming down here again.

Chuck Burks: Not at all. Uh… I’m just a little curious. I mean, it’s always Mulder who’d been doing all the calling and…

Scully: This, uh… this case, I, I, I… I’m just… I’m trying to see it the way that Mulder would and… please have a seat.

I’ve tried, but I can’t get used to Scully the Believer. She’s making leaps in logic that only Mulder could make and they didn’t make sense when he made them. Yet it was still more believable when Mulder did it because he had an almost spiritual connection to these cases, because he had eyes to see and ears to hear, because his faith in and of itself gave him access to hidden truths.

Scully is not a believer. She’s certainly more open than she was, as she should be. But until Mulder left, her first reaction was never to assume the paranormal worst. She needed objective evidence, she needed to put her hands in the scars of the nails, so to speak. And even then, she could still be obstinate in the face of convincing evidence. This new act of hers doesn’t wear well on her and it’s getting old.

I am now much more sure that Scully and Doggett would’ve fared better as a partnership if they had been given a whole new dynamic all their own. I know I said it in my review for “Invocation” (8×6) and I hate to harp, but the Believer-Skeptic dynamic was not the winning formula. The Mulder-Scully dynamic was. Trying to approximate their chemistry with a dynamic that merely mimics theirs is a failing strategy.

But perhaps that was purposeful? Perhaps 1013 is trying to explore Scully’s character and the emotional impact of the loss of Mulder by showing us how her character is trying to compensate? If so, it’s happening at the expense of any progress happening in Scully and Doggett’s partnership. They’re stuck at “pleasant but distant.” They’re working together but they don’t feel like a team. At their most harmonious they’re congenial co-workers. At their worst they don’t understand each other at all.

My only satisfaction is that Scully gets sick of herself this episode. I only hope that we’re done with this and future episodes won’t continue to be made awkward by the discomfort of watching Scully channel Mulder.

Verdict:

The subject matter here is… Well, it’s. I remember finding “Badlaa” almost frightening back in the day, now I just find it distasteful and unnecessary. I could maybe see it working if this disturbing concept of one man crawling inside of another were used to further a fancy plot. But there is no plot. There are only icky images.

Because, really, why is the nameless Indian mystic killing people? We got some vague reference to a horribly fatal accident in India that an American company was responsible for, but none of the mystic’s murder victims have any connection with that company. Or if they do, we’re never told about it. It seems Mr. Squeaky Wheels is killing Americans at random and he’s sadistically fixated on little boys.

And it’s hard to believe that this guy got himself hired anywhere without speaking so much as a single word. That kind of creepy anyone could see through. And it’s also hard to believe that Scully would cut the corpse of one of the victims open in a room by herself when she already believes someone is hiding inside it. Why wouldn’t you call in witnesses… and protection? Of course he jumped out and left a gruesome trail of blood behind him.

Like I said, the plot is merely a vehicle for a series of gross images, not vice versa.

B-

Spare Change:

Why is there no blood when the wee man goes in, but only when he comes out?

Conversely, the blood vessels in the victims’ eyes all burst when he goes in, but then they magically heal post-mortem.

Not only is the most we’ve ever seen of Chuck Burks, this is the last we’ll ever see of him. Mulder doesn’t even get to say goodbye.

The poor, long suffering bellman. No, there will be no tip for you, sir.

Best Quotes:

Mr. Potocki: Buy yourself some WD-40.

————

Doggett: Dead men don’t tip.

————

Mrs. Hold: The better the economy gets the harder it is to fill these kinds of jobs. And the problem is that people look at it as just a paycheck. They don’t realize that as maintenance engineer you are playing an important part in these kids’ lives.

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8 responses to “Badlaa 8×12: Well, that’s just wrong.

  1. SCULLY: Because it’s what the boy saw. And in an instant I realized that it’s what Mulder would have seen or understood. Because that’s just how he came at things… without judgment and without prejudice and with an open mind that I am just not capable of.

    I don’t remember much about this episode, but I do remember this scene very well, mostly because it just broke my heart the first time I watched it. It was nice to have a MOTW that finally addressed Mulder instead of keeping the big elephant in the room right where it was. I also thought it was a much more believable moment for Scully, and showed that she was more trying to be Mulder rather than become the believer to Doggett’s skeptic.

    But I think you’re right – I was never into the whole Scully-as-believer thing, and from the looks of it, I’d say John Shiban wasn’t either. I honestly don’t know what they were thinking with that, because after all what are they going to do if Mulder comes back? Will Scully go back to being her usual skeptical self, or will she still “believe” like he does? Either way, it’s an awkward transition.

    • Looking back, I think the changes they took Scully’s character through in Seasons 8 & 9 were part of the reason they couldn’t bring the old team back together again and approximate the way they had been. If Mulder had come back his partner wouldn’t have been ready. I mean, IWTB, anyone?

      I’m very hopeful about the revival, though! It sounds like in true 1013 form they’re going to ignore certain plots and start from scratch. I hope Scully’s fun again.

  2. ” I also thought it was a much more believable moment for Scully, and showed that she was more trying to be Mulder rather than become the believer to Doggett’s skeptic.”

    To me, it seems an interesting place for the character to go for one, maybe two episodes. I think they pushed the concept too far, and we should have arrived at this moment – scully recognizing that she was trying to fill the hole Mulder left in her life by channeling his ideas and trying to think like he would – much, much sooner. Then we could have picked up on the new dynamic with Doggett as Salome suggested.
    I think it’s a nice idea, that since she feels lost without him, her response to the emptiness she feels is to try to honor what he brought to the work. But the key is her becoming self aware and recognizing that. It’s just not going to work to reinvent her character under those parameters, which is how it appears when the behavior continues. That rings hollow and is too drastic of a shift, which is why we don’t believe it. Overall I think I can appreciate what they were trying to explore, even if it wasn’t executed well.

    • That’s a really interesting point. “Badlaa” was the twelfth episode shot and the tenth episode aired, so we’re definitely halfway through the season and Scully’s only just realizing that she’s overcompensating. Until she comes to that realization, she can’t have her own dynamic with Doggett because she’s busy manufacturing Mulder’s dynamic with Doggett.

      Interesting… maybe they just dragged it out too long.

      It could have, if presented differently, made us feel sympathetic toward Scully rather than frustrated with her.

  3. I think Mulder would have called this case a real pain in the ass.

    This whole issue with Scully trying to honor and keep Mulder alive would have worked better if they only had her do it for one or two episodes before she had a breakdown like she had here. It would have been much more effective and believable instead of annoying. Although…she IS correctly solving all of these cases pretty quickly so in that way it’s working well for her.

    I like the little touches of leaving Samantha’s photo on the desk and Scully using an alien mug. Maybe that was the mug she was using to drink her Mulder kool-aid.

    I think we should all be glad that this was Chuck’s last visit to the x-files office. If not, then he probably would have been killed off like other people…

    • Yes! Mulderisms, how I miss thee.

      I think part of the reason they kept up Scully as Mulder for so long is that they didn’t have a better, more efficient way to introduce these paranormal theories. Mulder’s speeches had become a plot device. Without Mulder, I’m not sure they had a way to introduce the right answers to the questions the cases raised. That doesn’t make it any less annoying, though.

      Maybe that was the mug she was using to drink her Mulder kool-aid.

      LOL!!! That would explain it better.

  4. I did like the humor in this episode, especially when Scully goes in to cut open the guy’s stomach and says “I’m special agent Dana Scully and I’m about to perform an unauthorized incision” and her facial expressions as she almost anticipates the little man.

    I also felt that it was sort of unrealistic that a couple of middle school boys would attempt to dupe this Indian mystic with a simple drop of some chemicals (?) from a shelf.

    Another fun fact is that the Indian mystic (Deep Roy) in this episode was in Tim Burton’s rendition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

  5. I couldn’t agree more with the whole ‘Scully is pretending to be Mulder to fill the void in her life’ ideas here – I am too much of a Scully fan to say it has been annoying me, but from a continuity sense it is far too great a leap for her to go from 7 seasons of skepticism and countering each of Mulder’s out-there theories to Mulder 2.0. Although again, maybe this is the writers way of illustrating how much she really wants him to be back.

    And urge, this was gruesome. Could tell from the beginning of the post-mortem scene what was going to happen but I nevertheless was still gasping as Scully followed the trail of blood!

    Also on a side note, did anyone else notice Doggett saying “E-boli”? Maybe there was an old hybrid of Ebola and E.Coli going around…

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