Mulder shines a flashlight as he and Scully walk through a dark hallway.

Season 10, Episode 4: Home Again
Written by Glen Morgan, Directed by Glen Morgan
First Aired: February 8, 2016

Okay, fair warning: this episode hit me very hard. My Dad died last April, which means that my reading of this episode is going to be very personal. I wasn’t sure I could write about it at all, or whether it would be a good idea if I did. But I watched the episode again today, and I’m gonna give it a shot.

  • This episode is fucking fantastic, first of all. Very difficult for me to watch, but fantastic nonetheless. Of the two Morgan brothers, I prefer Glen every time (sorry D). Glen Morgan and James Wong write Scully wonderfully, and they’re also really good at Scully’s Mulder. (Does that make sense? I mean who Mulder is to Scully, why she values him and how he enriches her life/is enriched by her.)
  • The scene of the homeless people being hosed down is uncomfortably realistic, and I like that The X-Files is portraying gentrification as evil. Because it is.

  • The You Are Responsible sign took me out of the moment a little at first, because that’s not something that would ever be posted in real life. But on second viewing I do kind of like it, not only because it ties into the greater theme of social responsibility brought up later in the episode, but also because it evokes that wretched “it’s your fault you’re homeless” mindset.
  • The introduction of the monster, with the ominous silence, the tense looks and vanishing street people, and the sudden appearance from nothing, is classic X-Files.
  • I love that in the revival Morgan and Wong each got to write and direct an episode themselves. Is that new? I think that’s new. They both knocked it out of the park.
  • This episode has a few callbacks to me. The first was “Arcadia,” because of the trash monster, another was “Home,” because of the horror movie conventions and brutal murder set to upbeat oldies music, “Kaddish” because of a clay creation with consequences the creator genuinely didn’t intend, and of course “Beyond the Sea.” In tone it was obviously closest to “Beyond the Sea.”
  • I’ve talked about being startled at how gross The X-Files can be, but I’m also pleasantly surprised by how satirical it still is. Cutler dousing his hands with antibacteria gel and acting like a generally horrible person is not necessarily what I’d expect from a successful middle-aged white guy writer. Props.
  • I love the sound design in this episode.
  • I know the decision rubs some people the wrong way, but I like that they moved “Founder’s Mutation” up to second. Because it’s now as if their previous conversations about William have blown the cover off of Scully’s anguish and grief over losing him, and it’s all coming out now. That’s why she’s seeing William’s name on her phone, and thinking of him and talking about him more and more. She’s finally starting to process her feelings.
  • Gillian Anderson for everything, obviously. Forever. But also Scully. I know Anderson find her other roles…more complex, more challenging? But Scully is so important. Her face as she realizes what she’s being told, that her mother had a heart attack and hasn’t regained consciousness, is a masterpiece.
  • Mulder knows immediately that something is very wrong. Anyone might if they paid close attention, but I still think that his reaction, and his quietly urging her to go immediately, and his face as he watches her leave, all speak to their bond.
  • Not sure how I feel about the camera attached to Scully like a video game thing, but Anderson’s acting makes up for it.
  • That band-aid and the gunk Mulder peels off his shoe = gross
  • The first shot of Maggie Scully in the hospital bed is so reminiscent of Scully and Melissa.
  • Scully is often portrayed as stern and distant, but the way she strokes her mother’s face demonstrates depths of tenderness.
  • I was always curious about Charlie. I guess he must be a doucher. Nobody who is anything like a decent person would be estranged from Maggie Scully.
  • “I’ve been where you are. I know that Ahab is there, and Melissa. But 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.”
  • I think we know as soon as we get that pulled back shot of Scully leaning over Maggie’s bed, with only the pale isolated light directly above them and everything else in shadow, and the nurse throwing something away and walking out. That’s when I knew, anyway.
  • Darryl Landry and Nancy Huff are of course the true metaphorical trash in this episode, and I love how Mulder talks to them.
  • “I hear you [both] speaking for them but really speaking for yourself. What I don’t hear is who’s speaking for them.” And his response to the white-savior woman proudly talking about giving homeless people turkey once a year: “Oooh! But?”
  • Mulder actually has a history of treating homeless people with respect. I know most people think it’s a bad episode, but I legitimately liked his interaction with the homeless guy way back in “Jersey Devil.”
  • I WAS NOT ready for the “One Breath” flashback. Nope. Was not ready for that. This post makes great connections with the “One Breath” references.
  • The quarter thing is so interesting and so real. I can’t help wondering if Glen Morgan has lost a parent, because I can tell you it’s something that really happens. Questions, just stupid little questions (what was the secret ingredient to that curry dish? why did Grandpa like amethyst so much?) that you suddenly realize you can’t get answers to suddenly take on profound meaning.
  • OH MY GOD I HATE BILL SCULLY. I seriously hate every inch of him, with his pompous cruelty and his demanding Scully tell him whether it would be worth it for him to fly in to see his dying mother. Demanding that she make a clinical judgment about whether Maggie will die before he gets there. Fuck him. Also: this post on tumblr puts Bill in his place very satisfactorily.
  • This is seriously a good look at why Scully isolates herself emotionally. Can you imagine growing up with that shithead for an older brother?
  • God I miss Melissa, who would have been so valuable in this episode. And Maggie Scully is a lovely and wonderful person.
  • Why the fuck is Bill even still alive? They could have killed him AGES ago if they wanted a dramatic death for Scully to deal with. But no, Maggie and Melissa are gone, and all we’re left with is this asshole.
  • It also goes to show that other people’s insensitivity about the circumstances surrounding the death of a loved one can sometimes be astonishing. So can the support coming from unexpected places, in fairness.
  • Scully finding out that Maggie changed her living will is like all the hope of getting her mother back being snatched away in one terrible moment. It’s horrible.
  • The art thieves are the only victims I felt kinda-maybe a little bit sorry for? Granted they’re not good people, and they’re benefiting from the exploitation of the homeless. But they’re not directly involved in the forced relocation.
  • Okay, that was a spinal cord.
  • I love love love that Mulder went straight to Scully. Or rather that the episode let him go to her. I suspect that if Carter had written the episode it wouldn’t have played out that way. Also this post points out another connection to “One Breath,” that Mulder doesn’t know what he can do, but for Scully he’s there.

x-files home again mulder

  • I don’t like his line, “I would stay, but…” Because firstly it makes him sound insensitive, and second because he does stay. I guess maybe he doesn’t yet realize how bad the situation is, or how upset Scully is? It’s jarring.
  • I love that Scully’s listening but not focusing on the case, and that Mulder immediately adapts to her when he realizes this too.
  • As Scully watches the doctor and nurses removing the tubes from Maggie, I love that Mulder catches her exactly at the moment her movements lose control. For both the characters and the actors, that is the result of a more than twenty-years bond.
  • I love that they let him touch her and hold her.
  • “I don’t care about the big questions right now, Mulder. I just want one more chance to ask my Mom a few little ones.”
  • It’s a good satirical demonstration that Nancy Huff, who lives in a crazy luxurious house, also uses everything disposable, even if an alternative is readily available (we see a plastic cup even with ceramic mugs in the background, and surely she could use a metal spoon instead of a plastic one for her yogurt).
  • The monster design in this episode is good—he looks vaguely clay-like but not enough that we know he’s a sculpture before we meet Trashman, and also he looks very classically horror. I even like the funky camera angles in this scene.
  • This is Scully’s episode for sure, and the shippiness of it takes a backseat to the profundity of her loss. But it’s so important the way Mulder is there for her, supporting her, comforting her. In those moments, some of the most painful we ever experience, there is nothing more valuable than a person who can make you feel okay again, even for a brief time.
  • It’s such a human, human thing, wanting to just wish someone back to life, even though we know it’s irrational.
  • “I invented it, when you were here.” This is Mulder telling her how much he loves her, how much he always has. And flirting with her, just to distract her.
  • “You’re a dark wizard, Mulder.” “So what else is new?”
  • I love that Mulder’s there, not just for Scully but also for Maggie and for himself. He and Maggie always had such a good relationship and I know that he loved her, too.
  • I also love that, whatever what going on in Maggie’s head, even if she wasn’t fully aware of what she was saying or who she was talking to, it was a happy thought. There was joy on her face right before she died.
  • Scully is so real and raw and vulnerable in those first few moments. I liked this post very much, relating to her Catholic upbringing (which I don’t share).
  • It makes so much sense to me that Maggie would be an organ donor. And I like that Mulder betrays his own grief by saying she “is an organ donor” instead of was. And “they need her right away” instead of something more final.
  • Scully includes Mulder in her grief in a way I didn’t expect, and which hit me pretty hard. She says “her last words to us” about Maggie’s last words.
  • Scully needs to work right now. They’ve been here before, with both of Mulder’s parents death and with her father’s death. So he really does understand her needs, even if he tries to urge her to be kinder to herself.
  • I love everything about the kid they follow to find Trashman—that Scully kicks his ass, that he swipes his gun back from an unresisting Mulder, that Scully makes fun of Mulder for letting him go.
  • Also the flashlight flirty business. More of that if you’re going to destroy my soul every episode, please.
  • Those clay things are weird, and on second viewing I kind of like their ambiguity, especially since Trashman says they were an unintentional creation and they’re “fading.”

x-files home again trashman

  • I seriously love Trashman, who is gifted to us in a phenomenal performance by Tim Armstrong. Unlike the Chris Carter monologues that ultimately mean not much of anything, Trashman’s speeches are worth listening to. The first one:
  • “People on the street, the homeless, the street people: they ain’t got no voice, right? They get treated like trash. I mean actual trash. It’s like this: you throw your grande cup and your pop bottle in the right can under the sink—recyclables here, trash there. You tie it in a bag, you take it outside, you put it in the right Dumpsters. Pat yourself on the head, you’re a good person, yeah? You did the right thing, fought global warming, you love all the little animals. Well, Friday come, Wednesday maybe, garbageman takes your trash away. It’s not your problem anymore. Magic! But it is your problem, because it piles up in a landfill. And the plastics leak toxins into the water and the sky. But if you don’t see a problem, there’s no problem, right? People treat people like trash.”
  • It makes sense that Scully is the one who really hears him in this scene, because she’s been cracked open by her loss. Her usual walls aren’t up, and she hears what he’s really saying about environmentalism, about human rights, our children, our art. We make things and we’re responsible.
  • LOVE the parallel between Trashman’s creation of the Band-Aid Nose Man and Scully’s contemplation of William, and while I’m not usually a flashback person, these were done beautifully.
  • “I meditated on it—I willed it—what I wanted him to look like, what I wanted him to be, and why I wanted him. I didn’t bring him here, he came to me. But in the end, he told me what he wanted to be. All we do is hold the pencil. All we do is hold the clay. I think there must be spirits or souls floating all around us, and if you think real hard or you want them so bad they come to you. And then they become alive with a life of their own.”
  • God I love Mulder’s double take on a clearly upset/distracted Scully.
  • “An idea, even a small one, is dangerous.”
  • So the bad guys are literally torn apart. I like the phrase “violent idea,” which instead of careful violence, conjures something like ‘They should be torn apart!’
  • ANYONE WHO TAKES AWAY THE PETS OF HOMELESS PEOPLE IS TRULY, GENUINELY EVIL. Maybe that sounds like a weird thing to feel passionately about, but I do. Homeless people will, in an overwhelming majority, feed their pets before they eat themselves and give up the chance to stay in a shelter in order to stay with their pets—as we clearly see of the man in this scene. Some people can even become suicidal if their one source of love and comfort and acceptance is taken away. I can’t imagine that that’s a surprise. Not to even mention that most people are homeless through no fault of their own. Just, don’t fucking touch homeless people’s pets.
  • I do not give a fuck that this guy is going to be murdered. The dog thing killed all my empathy for him.
  • It’s completely unrealistic that Trashman would accompany Mulder and Scully to try to prevent a murder, but yanno what? I dig it.
  • The Band-Aid Nose Man now has a smiley face.  So Trashman tried to take responsibility. As viewers we instinctively know that the Band-Aid Nose man is done killing. But is that because of Trashman’s changed energy, because his killing mission was simply completed, or, if you wanna get really post-modern, only because the episode is ending?

x-files home again scully mulder

  • Oh man that last scene.
  • When you lose someone, you are psychologically and even physically unable to process the enormity of your grief all at once. Your body literally cannot process it all at once. So your brain rations it for you, to allow you to cope. Scully’s desire to work is part of that. But here in this last scene we see another coping mechanism.
  • One of the first things that happens is a wild irrational grab for meaning—that happened to me and I believe that’s what’s happening to Scully. She’s trying to make sense of something that can never and will never make sense. What the hell is death, anyway? We all know it happens to everyone, and we all try to contextualize it, whether through religion or rationalization, but when it comes to it (no disrespect to either but) how much help are they, really? What the fuck does it actually mean that someone was here yesterday, that if we called yesterday at the right time we’d have talked, but suddenly they’re gone forever? Are we at fault for not having called yesterday? Is there a greater cosmic meaning to our loss, were they trying to tell us something profound, and if we can live by their last message will that help? Why does it hurt so much if we all know it happens to everyone and everything, and will even happen to us? Why can’t we accept it? Why are we always surprised?
  • Maggie probably realized/feared she was dying, and asked for Charlie because in those life or death moments we realize that our reasons for being pissed off at each other are stupid. She didn’t want to die without telling him she loved him. She probably didn’t ask for Scully because she didn’t feel as urgent a need to reach Scully; they were close and Scully knew how much her mother loved her.
  • This whole Responsibility with a capital R thing is a VALID part of Scully’s grieving, for both her mother and for William, but she’s projecting. No one can know what Maggie’s last words meant, or, I hate to say it but, they may not have meant anything.
  • In Scully’s speech about being there when Mulder finds his answers, she reciprocates his earlier reaffirming of their commitment.
  • Oh Scully, my love. You did not treat William like trash. You could never.

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