“Home Again,” written by another X-Files MVP, Glen Morgan (who also co-wrote possibly the best episode of the entire series with the similarly titled, yet unrelated “Home”), is an episode with a severe identity crisis. Perhaps as a byproduct of the unusually low number of episodes in this limited engagement, it’s essentially two wholly distinct episodes battling it out for dominance in an hourlong arena. Two very good episodes, it must be said, but two highly incompatible ones. Had “Home Again” chosen a side for which story it wanted to tell, it might have been a new classic. As it stands, it’s a deeply confused episode of television, its virtues diminished by its bifurcated structure.
In Philadelphia, a HUD official is enacting a relocation plan for the downtown homeless to clear the way for good ol’ gentrification to commence, a plan that includes fire hoses and excises compassion. Returning to his office that night, he is visited by a tall, ghastly man, who tears the official in two with the ease that a regular person might tear up a piece of junk mail. The mysterious man vacates the premises holding the official’s severed arms before disappearing into the compactor in the back of the garbage truck in which he arrived. Unsurprisingly, Mulder and Scully are called to the scene to investigate, where they encounter some light jurisdictional resistance from local law enforcement.
It’s here where “Home Again” skews into a tangent, as Scully receives a call from her brother that their mother has been hospitalized from a heart attack. Scully immediately takes her leave of the crime scene while Mulder sticks around, quickly noticing an ominous piece of artwork depicting a hanging man that is visible from the office’s window, yet did not appear on the security-camera footage from the night before. As Mulder attempts to locate the artist, Scully sits at her unconscious mother’s bedside, learning that her final words to the attending staff were to ask about her estranged son Charlie, a revelation that puzzles Scully. Scully also learns that her mother recently changed her living will to state that she no longer wishes to be kept alive on life support, meaning that the hospital only has a certain amount of time before they are legally required to extubate the patient. Scully is hoping for a miracle so that she can ask her mother a few final questions before they are separated forever.
The monster-of-the-week portion of “Home Again” is fairly exemplary. The killer, we find out, is a sculpture—identified by a Band-Aid on its nose—that the artist inadvertently brought to life as a “thought form” fueled by his anger toward the city’s treatment of the homeless. The creature comes to life on its own and wreaks bloody vengeance against those seeking to displace the less fortunate for personal gain, and the scenes where it stalks and attacks are extremely creepy (maggots are prominent). The problem is that the Band-Aid Nose Man has the misfortune of having his episode hijacked by the Scully material. And it’s not a matter of the Scully material not being strong. It’s very emotionally effective, but these two storylines have no business occupying the same space. There isn’t even a real thematic link between the two. It’s as though the show had the strong desire to provide the characters with this affecting dramatic material, but realized that such material does not lend itself to an episode of The X-Files (especially considering how few this run has to spare), so it was inorganically grafted onto what was intended to be a pure stand-alone horror entry.
Needless to say, the graft doesn’t take. The Band-Aid Man half and the Scully half are both quite adroit at what each is trying to do, but they’re working at cross purposes, and watching the episode lurch back and forth between the two is jarring. Scully’s mother ultimately passes away after a fleeting moment of cognizance and Scully opts to deal with her grief by channeling herself back into the case, ordering Mulder to drive her back to Philadelphia immediately to resume the case. It’s not that this action is necessarily out of character for Scully, but leaping from devastating heartache directly back into flashlight-in-the-dark monster hunting makes the episode feel unwieldy. There exists no chocolate/peanut butter harmoniousness between the two halves of “Home Again.”
The other element that hampers the episode, one that threatens this entire mini-season, is the continued focus on William, Mulder and Scully’s lost son. Scully’s mother’s last words are in reference to the child, reigniting Scully’s feelings of abandonment due to giving the boy up for adoption all those years ago, and the closest thing to a unifying thread between the disparate components of the episode is Scully imparting to Mulder that she hopes William doesn’t think they threw him away “like trash.” One takes away from “Home Again” that the Scully material really only exists to keep William at the forefront of our minds for whatever Carter plans to do to us in his final two episodes. The kid has now been significantly mentioned in three of the four episodes aired thus far, giving the clear indication that he’s soon to play a major role in the ongoing storyline. The X-Files’ stubborn insistence on holding onto a misbegotten story thread best left forgotten is infuriating. Some things most certainly do belong in the trash.
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