THE X-FILES is in the final stretch of its ten-episode — and final, for real this time — season. And “Familiar,” the eighth episode out of the ten, was a classically dark trip to the forest for Agents Scully and Mulder. Unfortunately, for as much as the case of the week featured all of the necessary elements to make the death of Andrew Eggers a great X-File, the implications of some of the investigation’s twists and turns make it impossible to rank this story as anything other than misguided at best…and woefully out-of-touch at worst.
It started out so well (for everyone except little Andrew, that is). The opening scenes of THE X-FILES’ latest episode were the perfect, creepy setup. A little boy was singing to his creepy-looking “Mr. Chuckleteeth” doll, when an actual life-sized Chuckleteeth appeared in the dark and misty woods nearby. The boy, one Andrew Eggers, followed Mr. Chuckleteeth into said woods, never to be seen alive again. A search party, which included Andrew’s own father (because cops can now investigate their children’s disappearances, apparently), found the boy’s mangled body and doll covered in blood — just in time for those classic opening credits to be played.
Did we actually get “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE” instead of some new, edgy message-of-the-week there?
Enter Agents Skeptibrow and Supportive!Partner here. The locals were convinced that Andrew’s death wasn’t so mysterious: Wild animal versus lost child. Case closed. “What’s the FBI doing here?”
The FBI is here to have Agent Scully deliver the most logical profile, all while having her knowledge consistently discredited by a man and needing rescuing in the form of her male partner. When the local law enforcement accused Scully of just tossing out ridiculous, unsubstantiated theories, Mulder stepped in. First of all, spewing ridiculous theories is his job; and secondly, Fox Mulder’s wife is “a medical doctor. And good at her job.”
It’s possible that Mulder said “Agent Scully” instead of “my wife” there; but the two are logical equivalents, so we’re not terribly concerned.
With that settled, the two agents strolled out of the woods to engage in some trademark Skeptic versus Believer banter. Mulder rambled about hellhounds and such, which was Scully’s cue to ask him to explain his thinking. Following that, there was the typical Scully look of “wow, I don’t understand why this idiot still does it for me when he talks like this. But here we are. Let’s indulge him…Wait. No. I can’t take it.” The verbal foreplay of it all even included the possibility of spontaneous combustion, to which Agent Scully smugly pointed out that “humans don’t just spontaneously combust.”
Does Mulder’s old diary still exist? Because if it does, there’s an entry from going on 20 years ago in which Dana Katherine Scully suggested spontaneous human combustion, and Fox William Mulder needed to go take a cold shower. (Or maybe it was just that his “heart leapt.”)
At any rate, “Familiar” was, at this point, poised to be a fun episode of THE X-FILES. You could even have handed it the whole, “classic X-FILES!” descriptor that gets thrown around these days and mean that in the best of ways. If only it had ended here.
Witch-hunts! “Innocent” sexual predators! Cops who get away with shooting first and asking questions later! Oh, and women are basically just here to be wives, mistresses, mothers, and the root of all evil. While Scully performed her autopsy on Andrew Eggers, Mulder did everything he could to shoot down her murder theory; but both characters agreed that Officer Eggers, Andrew’s father, was a viable suspect. After discovering a tidbit about another child, who happened to have been in the park at the same time as Andrew, Mulder ditched Scully to go investigate. But Emily Strong, daughter of Chief Strong, just wanted to watch mind-numblingly awful kids’ programming and ask her mom for juice.
Before Mulder attempted to hook back up with his partner, he did manage to learn two things: Mr. Chuckleteeth was on Emily’s show. And Chief Strong owned a grimoire. According to his wife, he was “a local history nut…The, uh, witch trials and all that.”
Speaking of supposed witch-hunts, Officer Eggers found out about Scully’s profile for his son’s potential killer and used the sex offender database to find himself a scapegoat. Because, despite not respecting “the lady agent” (dude, she has a name?) and her opinion in the least, Officer Wentworth felt the need to spill every single detail…at Andrew’s funeral.
This is where THE X-FILES started to go horribly, horribly wrong. Chief Strong was busy refusing to listen to Scully when she brought him her suspicions about Eggers; but after nearly being run over, he took her on a car chase to see what the mourning father was up to. (Why was this guy even allowed at the station at this point? Again…conflicts of interest? Whatever.) The database had — conveniently and, sadly, not realistically — turned up exactly one search result, and Officer Eggers decided to confront the man all on his own.
The new suspect, Melvin Peter, wasn’t home. He was, however, in possession of enough Mr. Chuckleteeth costumes and photographs of himself with children (ew?) to look good for matching Scully’s profile perfectly.
Too perfectly, according to Mulder. (I hate it when that guy’s right.)
The visit to Melvin Peter’s house involved everything from Chief Strong ordering Scully around, to Eggers pulling a gun on his boss and a federal agent. Scully happened to be prepared for this — no thanks to Chief. Imagine being a police officer on his way into a possibly dangerous situation, checking for your service weapon, having a federal agent as back-up, and thinking it’s a good idea to order that federal agent to put her gun away before entering the premise…and thinking that’s a good idea. If you can relate, you have a problem with women in positions of power.
And the problems didn’t stop there.
Officer Eggers, great protecting-and-serving agent of the law that he is, waited for Melvin to come home so he could attack him, stand by while the local mob nearly beat him to death, and…shoot him in cold blood while he cried about his innocence. There was even a bit in there where Mr. Peter cried about how his conviction was “only statutory” and he “never hurt anybody.” By the time Eggers shot the unarmed man in the head, even after being urged — by federal agents — to stop attacking him, it seemed as if the message that THE X-FILES was trying to sell was that viewers should feel bad for him.
Imagine thinking that kind of message, complete with Mulder’s crackpot rambling about witch-hunts, was a good idea in 2017/2018, a time when the (rightful) calling out of sexual predators — which, legally Melvin was one, whether he killed Andrew Eggers or not (he didn’t) — has been likened to a witch-hunt by plenty of misguided men. This episode’s writer certainly did. Either that, or he didn’t think it was a bad enough idea of someone else’s to make sure that nonsense wasn’t included. I guess, given the actual meaning of “classic X-FILES” when it comes to things like medical rape, no one should be surprised by these things.
But here we are, surprised. Maybe it’s because we were spoiled by two women writers as recently as episode seven?
Despite now having Emily Strong’s murder to investigate on top of Andrew’s, Mulder and Scully took a break from investigating to attend Eggers’ hearing. As is constantly the case when a police officer takes the law into his own hands and starts shooting despite no credible threat, he was not kept in custody. $5000 bail. Had a trial actually occurred, we all know he would’ve been found not guilty, despite having had tons of witnesses there to say “hey, he shot that dude in the head.” Regardless of the kind of trash that Melvin Peter was, that…is not what we call justice.
Eggers’ death was technically not justice either. After screaming at his wife and nearly becoming physically violent, he grabbed up his trusty gun to run off to the Strongs’ home. See, Mrs. Eggers had an affair with Chief Strong. Because women are here to be wives, mothers, mistresses, and the root of all evil only.
Mulder and Scully showed up at Strong’s house just in time to find that “Mr. Chuckleteeth” had killed Eggers, and then they ran off into the forest. That was only after Eggers’ wife flipped her car because she saw her dead son just hanging out in the middle of the road, though.
Back in the forest, the Spookies were able to (finally) close this (mess of a) case. Earlier, Mulder had found the remains of a salt circle over a Puritan graveyard, which the local law enforcement had covered up after Andrew’s death but failed to conceal when Emily’s body was found. Chief Strong thought he was being punished for his sins with Officer Eggers’ wife, so somehow, that meant that he could essentially obstruct justice by not giving the full story to the FBI. I think?
But that’s not all! Chief Strong had nothing to do with the killings! Poor guy!
A woman, Anna Strong (aka Mrs. Chief Strong, aka Emily’s mother) was to blame for all of this! She was so jealous of her husband’s affair that she decided to get some revenge on Diana Eggers. So, without knowing anything at all about what she was messing with, Anna grabbed up her “history nut” husband’s grimoire, formed a summoning circle in the woods, and set out to curse the other woman. This backfired spectacularly, killing two innocent children, some less-than-innocent men, and — in the final confrontation — even Anna herself (via literal fire).
Darn those women and their stupid, emotional responses to things! Also: This is some middle school crap, right here.
The whole thing was so bizarre that it even left an impression on Special Agent Rational: She actually asked Mulder, at the tale end of things, if she actually saw Anna go up in flames. Mulder tried to spare her scientific worldview by suggesting that maybe the candles in Mrs. Strong’s circle had caused her to catch on fire. Given the circumstances, Scully was prepared to consider extreme possibilities: “Maybe it was the Gates of Hell.”
As far as I can tell, the cause of death was “men behave badly, and people who call them out get accused of jumping to conclusions and unfairly attacking them — all while women get blamed for everything.” Seeing as how a hellhound (and/or Sirius Black) was the out of control supernatural being that mauled three of THE X-FILES’ victims in “Familiar,” though, Hell’s influence is just as plausible as any other. After all, it’s certainly more palatable to mindlessly sit back and enjoy the supernatural ride, with absolutely zero attention to the subtext, at this point.
- “If a man did this — and it would typically be a man…” Go off, Scully.
- Scully thanks Mulder for backing her up, even though that’s his actual job. Mulder: “You’re my homie.” Please never say “homie” again, sir.
- Mr. Chuckleteeth looked like a more emo version of the dummy from that one episode of ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? Keeping with that “cheap versions of kids’ shows” theme, Emily’s buddies looked to be like the Kmart version of Teletubbies.
- “No matter how many times we do this, Mulder, a chid is always the hardest. It never gets easier.” More Open!Scully? Here for it. This is one of the best parts about modern-day episodes of THE X-FILES. “It’s an innocent life cut short. It’s hard not to take it personally.” HELP.
- The little girl who dies is named Emily? Really? Come on…And there was a kind of pervy guy named Melvin. The “other woman,” was named — drum roll! — Diana. That, too, has never been done before on THE X-FILES! Someone please send these people a book of baby names if they have any hopes of writing ever again.
- I would like to bottle Scully’s facial expression upon seeing a woman going up in flames, label it as Shook!Brow, and put it up for sale.
- This town had literally two people of color: the judge who let off Eggers for shooting an unarmed man (things that make you go “hmm”) and Officer Wentworth. Classic.
- “Time has a way of shedding light on injustices.” Since when?
- Why did Scully have to whisper when she asked Mulder if he was ok? They were in the woods, and they couldn’t exactly wake up a dead kid. I’m concerned about Scully’s vocal chords. Also, was this supposed to be THE X-FILES’ chance to actually ask Mulder how he felt about the original Emily’s death? Or…
- “You sure about that, Mulder?” “I’m not sure about anything.” Same.
- Mulder told Anna Strong that he has a son, so as we move toward the finale, Mr. Carter can fight me if he thinks he’s keeping that nonsense intact.
The next all-new episode of THE X-FILES airs Wednesday, March 14, at 8/7c on FOX.