The X-Files Season 10, Episode 4
Posted by Sage
With apologies to the Peacock family and Johnny Mathis, the fourth episode of The X-Files revival is not a sequel to “Home,” the season 4 episode that shortened the lifespan of 9 of 10 Fox censors. At least not in the traditional sense. “Home Again” does happen to be set in Pennsylvania like the inbred horror show it shares half its name with, but far from the rural tranquility that murder spree interrupted. This episode brings Special Agents Mulder and Scully to West Philadelphia – thanks to Will Smith, known to all the world as an urban area with a high crime rate and a low average income. The disenfranchised are right there on every corner instead of tucked away in a crumbling farm house, out of sight and mind. The villains in this episode are the opportunists who make use of their plight, even if they’re not aware they’re doing it.
“Home Again” is a Glen Morgan story, and he directed it too. He’s another familiar name for fans, and comes to the revival with a heavy-hitting list of original series credits: “Never Again,” “Squeeze”/”Tooms,” “The Field Where I Died,” and yes, “Home” are among his greatest hits. His episodes run the gamut from tense, locked door thrillers (“Ice”) to some of the show’s most emotional hours so far (“One Breath.”) He does duty in a couple of genres in “Home Again”: A killer is targeting the scumbags behind a controversial homeless relocation program, and that has to be dealt with. Margaret Scully is also dying, and that has to be accepted.
This is one of those episodes where you can’t tell the bad guys apart without a program. Sinclair is a soulless vampire and probably an avid Trump supporter. (Prove me wrong.) When he cowers in fear to see the looming shadow outside of his dark office, he’s earned it. When the gargantuan killer rips him in half with his bare hands, it’s almost satisfying. Without knowing who the killer is or where he comes from, we know that this is not a random attack but some kind of vigilante justice. Mulder and Scully aren’t welcomed by the local police with open arms (“Wouldn’t be Philadelphia without a certain degree of confrontation.”), but it’s lucky for them that Fox Mulder sees the clues that no one else would notice. He takes note of the ominous mural of a tall, bald man on the building opposite Sinclair’s window. A review of the building’s security tapes shows that it wasn’t there before Cutler was killed. Are we in the middle of an X-Files/Don’t Eat The Pictures crossover? Because sign me the fuck up.
While Mulder is waiting for the local police to get him access to the roof of the mural building, he walks into an argument that seems ever so slightly inappropriate considering the head in the trashcan upstairs. Two suited individuals, a man and a woman, are tossing barbs at each other, both with the conviction of the righteous. “Whoa, you two married?” the agent asks. (Mulder, STOP.) This is Daryl Landry, one of Cutler’s colleagues and thus another businessman who wants the homeless hauled off and tucked away so the rest of the city can go on pretending they don’t exist. And this is Nancy Huff, school board president and, in her mind, comparatively Mother Theresa, since she puts a hairnet over her $200 haircut once a year to serve the homeless Thanksgiving dinner. (Mulder: “Oh! Buuuuutttt….” GOD LOVE HIM.) Mulder doesn’t have any friends besides Scully because the Lone Gunmen are dead (or are they?) and because he has a talent for cutting through people’s bullshit and confronting them with the exact thing they don’t want to hear. “I hear you speaking for them, but really speaking for yourself. And I hear you speaking for them, but really speaking for yourself. What I don’t hear is who speaks for them.” Truth bomb dropped, Mulder turns his attention to a cryptic fellow leaning against a dumpster opposite them. The Band-Aid Nose Man speaks for them, the fellow says. Mulder thinks of the band-aid he found on the sole on his shoe outside Cutler’s office. And the hangman mural is gone.
Meanwhile, saint, queen, angel-among-us Dana Scully is alone at her mother’s bedside in DC. A nurse tells her that Maggie became cognizant for a few moments; all she asked for was Charlie, her estranged son. (The why and the since when, we don’t find out. Charlie was never much of a presence on the show, nor was a rift presented in the first nine seasons.) Scully is baffled. Like I mentioned above, Glen Morgan also penned “One Breath” – the conclusion of the
Gillian Anderson maternity leave Dana Scully abduction arc. Maggie and Dana’s roles are reversed now. It’s Dana who holds her mother’s hand and speaks to her, with the benefit of knowing firsthand that her words can reach the plane where Maggie now resides.”I’m here. I’ve been where you are. I know Ahab is there. And Melissa. And Mom, I’m here. Bill Jr.’s here, and William. William’s here. And Charlie is here. Please Mom, don’t go home yet. I need you.” The “William is here” killed me, because it shows that Scully has never and will never give up hope of finding her son. And the sheer possibility of that should beckon Maggie back too.
As if the parallels weren’t already raw enough for Philes like me, Glen actually gives us a “One Breath” flashback. Scully remembers how Mulder chose to be with her over possibly taking down the men who put her in that condition in the first place. (And who most certainly could have led him to more of the answers he was looking for.) It’s a huge relationship moment for them, and she remembers it as the first proof that she means more to Mulder than unraveling any conspiracy. “I feel, Scully, that you believe you’re not ready to go,” he’d said. “And you’ve always had the strength of your beliefs.” Scully is confident that she knows what her mother is feeling as well. Maggie had told Dana after her abduction that she did not want to be taken off life support should she end up in a similar state. But her faith starts to crack when she finds an unfamiliar quarter on a chain among her mother’s things. What meaning does it hold? Why hasn’t Scully seen it before? She watches the patient in the next bed code, die, and be bagged by orderlies. The nurse returns to tell Scully that her mother signed a Do-Not-Resuscitate order the previous year, and the document was witnessed by two former naval officers. Everything Scully knows about her mother tells her that this can’t be right, but yet it is. What happened? What changed her mother’s heart so completely? The idea that Scully will never know – that Maggie didn’t choose to share this with her – scares her to death.
Mulder has one urgent task to take care of before he can go emotionally support his wife. The lab tech who tests the band-aid from Mulder’s shoe is perplexed by the results. There’s no inorganic or organic material on it, even though it looks like it’s been used, and heavily. Meanwhile, the mural didn’t disappear into thin air as we supposed. It was stolen by two street art thieves, who think they’re sooooo tricky. The men hijack art that’s meant for public consumption, turning it over to an establishment that upholds the elitism of the industry. “We should go to Sotheby’s on this,” one says to the other. When he returns from listing the piece, he finds a blank wall (well, almost blank – there’s the blood) and his colleague in the same condition as Sinclair. He meets his fate too. This time, the artist (or art itself) signs the piece before dragging his trophies out to his waiting garbage truck: “Trash Man.”