In the fourth episode of the tenth season of The X-Files, I am finished. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The X-Files.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of gore/body horror, anit-homeless sentiment, death, grief, and classism.
The X-Files (and, by that logic, Chris Carter) has always had a weird relationship with motherhood. (Actually… fatherhood, too, but that’s a completely separate issue.) The topic had been fraught with emotional devastation for most of the series’ mothers. Margaret Scully and Teena Mulder both received a fair share of hell. Dana Scully, victim of abductions, experimentations, and then the heartbreak that was William, was dealt an unnerving amount of it. Even with the birth of her son, Dana couldn’t just have anything normal. There were the prophecies. The cult. The adoption. I think that the series itself poorly dealt with many of these plot twists, particularly the William plotline. It got real sloppy there towards the end. (I’m being reminded of this because my boyfriend is now watching season 9 of the show and… lord. Some of it is very much Not Good.)
So, as a long time fan of this show, “Home Again” feels like Glen Morgan’s chance to address a great deal of what went unaddressed at the end of The X-Files. Not only that, but I felt like the case for the week was particularly solid. LET US DISCUSS.
Look, I don’t expect most creators to get depictions of the homeless right, nor do I expect much sympathy. Indeed, what little we saw of the homeless in the first nine seasons of this show never really addressed the phenomenon, nor did it make the characters out to be anything but background noise or temporary plot features. (Remember “The Jersey Devil,” when Mulder voluntarily slept in a homeless encampment for the night?) In “Home Again,” these characters are still not named, but their struggle is at the core of what happens to all of the people who exploit them and harm them. It’s a story that is blatantly about the human cost of human gentrification by showing us how homeless people are treated by others.
And as heavy-handed as “Home Again” was at times, it showed us depth. Landry and Cutler are fairly clear-cut as antagonists, since they both view homeless people as obstacles to their development and their own wealth. There’s no mistaking their contribution to the hell that’s unleashed on everyone by Band-Aid Nose Man. But Glen Morgan’s script cleverly goes further than this. We’re shown how multiple people exploit the homeless. There are the two men who steal the artwork created in the aftermath of these murders and sell it in auctions in order to make a fortune. Then there’s Nancy Huff, who feeds the homeless on Thanksgiving but refuses to let them be transported to more permanent housing in her own neighborhood. That is where “Home Again” works best for me. She’s the kind of liberal who believes in the ideas of liberalism, but at heart, she’s much more of a conservative. At the very least, she thinks her once-a-year contribution counts as help, and Mulder brilliantly calls her out on this. Well, both Huff and Landry, who claim to speak “for” the homeless but actually care only about themselves.
I wouldn’t say that “Home Again” is the activism that we need when it comes to the rights of the homeless, but I was still pleasantly surprised that all of the people antagonizing the homeless were killed. But not only that, aside from one line, there’s really no attempt to discredit what happened here. When we finally meet Trash Man (PLAYED BY TIM ARMSTRONG, WHAT THE HELL), we learn that his intense desire to protect the homeless is actually responsible for his artwork coming to life. He’s got a power that’s somewhat similar to the tulpa we saw in “Arcadia.” (I’m gonna read Mulder’s correction of Trash Man as this show saying, “Hey, our research stinks and we deserve to be called out for misrepresenting a faith.”) His creations – we get a glimpse of others in that UTTERLY HORRIFYING scene in the basement hallways – come to life, and they act out the wishes and desires o the Trash Man.
Sort of. I think Glen Morgan’s script is a little vague on this point. Actually, after Landry is murdered in the same hospital he had moved the homeless to, this plot kind of fizzles out. Trash Man moves on, he alters Band-Aid Nose Man so that it can’t kill again, and the case will forever be unsolved. Officially, that is. Still, I dug it. I thought this felt like a classic X-File while still existing entirely in the modern world.
Like many of the best monster-of-the-week episodes of the show, “Home Again” had a greater connection to the characters and the overarching mythology. After Margaret Scully has a heart attack and Scully must deal with the impending death of her mother, the Trash Man case resonates with her in unique ways. Initially, though, the two seemed so separate that I was wondering why Morgan thought it appropriate to smash them into the same episode.
“Home Again” is about responsibility. Scully meets a man whose creation came to life and began to murder; her mother seeks out her estranged son, Charlie. (I had missed literally every episode with his mention in it during my boyfriend’s binge watch of the show, so that’s why I couldn’t remember the last time I heard about Charlie.) And in Margaret’s final moments, she invokes William, a painful reminder that Margaret barely got to know her own grandson.
Yet who is responsible for this? If this episode asks us to consider this in relation to William, what answer does it gives us? There’s a particularly disturbing line towards the end of this where Scully projects her own insecurities onto Trash Man upon realizing the connections to herself. She claims that Trash Man is just as responsible (and reprehensible) as the people he opposes. It’s a line that initially worried me because… no? He’s not? There’s a huge power imbalance at play, and even if Trash Man is heavily responsible for what happened, what he “did” doesn’t match up.
But I think that the scene acts to give Scully the chance to blame herself. I don’t know that this is necessarily fair to her, since she gave up William for adoption in order to give him the best chance at a “normal” life. However, the guilt she feels over this – which we saw in “Founder’s Mutation” – spills out of her as her mother dies. It’s upsetting to watch Scully wonder if her son ever thinks of her, but I think that it feels necessary because the show never really dealt with it. At least not to this extent, you know?
I wonder, then, if this season is leading up towards some sort of reunion between William, Scully, and Mulder. But let’s say that isn’t going to happen. Then “Home Again” exists to provide Scully an emotional framework for exploring all the unresolved issues she has with her son. And as far as she knows, it’ll always be unresolved. After fifteen years, she has no hope that she’ll ever get to live a life with him, and regardless of the circumstances that led her to giving up William, she’ll always feel responsible for that.
Could someone give Gillian Anderson an award, by the way? Just a general award for being an incredible actress and human being. THANKS.
The video for “Home Again” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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