[Warning: There are spoilers below for the entire The X-Files episode "Home Again"]
Editor At Large Aaron Sagers and Contributing Editor Tara Bennett talk about the fourth episode of The X-Files revival. The monster-of-the-week episode, “Home Again,” was written by longtime series writer Glen Morgan and James Wong, and directed by Morgan.
Aaron: Here we are, the fourth of six episodes, and it is both an excellent scare and a tearjerker. Following the romp that was last week’s episode, this gut punch puts Scully back in a hospital room to witness another member of her family die. Scully sits at her mother’s deathbed, asking questions she won’t get answers to, and her inner torture over her and Mulder’s son is brought to the fore. She distracts herself from the pain by going to work, and soldiers forward. Then, at the end of the episode, Gillian Anderson delivers one of the best Scully speeches I can recall as she voices her fear that their son William will feel put out like trash (and admits her belief that Mulder will find his answers). Anderson takes the lead this outing, and her performance carries with it a convincing emotional heft.
Tara: Gillian is stellar in this episode. What a treat to get an episode where we get a deep dive into Dana's unresolved issues regarding her family (whom fans know well from the entire run of the series). The whole exploration of facing a monumental death was such a mature expression of how we all react to remorse and letting go of those who form us as human beings. I had a moment when Mulder arrived at the hospital and Scully's look of relief and surrender to him said everything we feel for the pair. Of course, Fox would be by her side in one of Dana's darkest life moments. Watching their dynamic as her mother's bedside was some beautiful, subtle work from Anderson and Duchovny born of more than a decade of these actors embodying these characters heart and soul.
Aaron: Still, it’s not like Mulder sat this one out. He delivered some hilarious gallows humor one-liners (“It’s not even a proper recycling bin”), and was there to point out how the one-percenters were speaking about the homeless, but not speaking for them. Also, his case was a great standalone monster case that feels like classic X-Files, and also ties in with folklore. The Band-Aid Nose Man monster is like a bad Banksy come to life to literally shred those who torment the homeless. The rotting creature connects stories of Buddhist tulpas, the Jewish golem, the stench associated with demonic infestation, and even Slenderman to be a hulking menace (and insta-classic monster) who disposes of victim and vanishes into thin air. The scene where he stalks Nancy Huff – moments before, happily creating more waste from yogurt cups and disposable coffee pods -- through her McMansion as Petula Clark’s “Downtown” blares through the house is nightmare-inducing.
Tara: As a former Philly area resident for more than two decades, watching Mulder throw repeated shade at the city in his snarky observation of their notorious aggression and "brotherly love" was a hoot. Despite not shooting in town, they captured the vibe nicely. Trashman's artwork was a perfect fit for the US city with the most murals per capita. As for the story of the vengeful tulpa, it was classic X-Files storytelling. Writer Glen Morgan told me it was inspired by a real person who haunted him in Vancouver but elevating the idea and mashing him up with the contemporary art work and a straight up terrifying boogeyman is inspired. What a find in Tim Armstrong, too! As an actor, he was pretty electrifying and sold me as exactly the kind of oddity who would be hidden in the depths of a basement willing his anger into action.
Aaron: I know some viewers have complained that Rancid-frontman Tim Armstrong as street artist the Trashman, but I loved the mush-mouthed underground philosopher who cut right to Scully’s core. He is one of those side characters in this series that spring forth fully realized, even though they’ll appear only briefly.
Aaron: The story was very well done, but I nonetheless had a difficult time with Scully dealing with the decline and death of her mother. This speaks to the strength of the episode, but it cut close to home watching her wonder aloud why her mom hadn’t asked for her, or her bewilderment upon discovering her mom did not want to be resuscitated. She grasped for straws, half-jokingly asking Mulder if they’d ever come across a case where someone could wish a person healthy. And Scully, having been confronted with all these mysteries in her time on the X-Files, did not care about the “big questions,” and wanted instead to just ask a few more little ones of her mother. This was tough stuff to watch.
Tara: The episode was, overall, very busy. Glen Morgan did a great job merging two very disparate stories into one pretty cohesive narrative that at least fed one another very credibly. But there was a lot of emotional baggage to traverse on the Scully side and it did feel like maybe both stories would have breathed a bit better as separate stories. Morgan's directorial debut was fantastic and it left me wanting more of his horror vision if he had been given a full episode to explore Trashy with more terrific set pieces like the "Downtown" home invasion.
Best Fan Service
Aaron: First up, nice to see Alessandro Juliani (aka Lt. Felix Gaeta from Battlestar Galactica) as the first victim in the pre-credits scene! Beyond that, the episode is pretty much an extended callback to the trials and issues of the Scully family, as well as revisiting the regret Mulder and Scully share over having given their son, William, up for adoption. This has been an ongoing theme in these new episode, with good reason. These characters cannot simply continue on the case without addressing their actions, and this episode dealt with it head on.
Tara: I loved that Morgan used the same haunting song technique from his "Home" episode (there, it was Mathis' "Wonderful, Wonderful") and did a new spin here with Petula Clark's "Downtown". It was menacing, freakish and forever ruined that song for me. YAY! And it was super sneaky to name this episode "Home Again" knowing it would turn the fandom upside down expecting a Peacock sequel when it reality it was just as much fan service dealing with William and Scully's mom going home to her maker. Smart stuff, Glen! You got us.
Aaron: As much as the “Were-Monster” story was brilliant for its comedy and zaniness, “Home Again” is an excellent MOTW episode that combined deep emotional beats with a solid horror story. Only two more X-Files left!
Tara: I'm so pleased that this new run of X-Files stories hasn't turned out to just be two bookended episodes of mythology and standalones. Instead, it's been a really wonderful exploration of Mulder and Scully as adults who are dealing with heady issues of regret, mortality and purpose, topics all tied into the nine years of episodes and story arcs from the series. Nothing feels wasted or stunty in this run which makes me so grateful. It's only six hours but they've been a showcase for everything The X-files did, and still does, best.
What did you think of “Home Again”? What did our editors miss, and what did they get right?