Spoiler Alert! Do not read this full recap of The X-Files episode 1108, "Familiar," until you have watched the show. Unless you just want us to tell you all about it.
I hate to say this, especially since this season has really been great -- a return to form for The X-Files -- but tonight's episode was disappointing. When it was over, I felt strangely unfulfilled.
I was troubled by how cold Mulder and Scully seemed towards each other. Other than Mulder telling Scully he backed her up because she's his "homie" (which I just know hardcore 'shippers will be up in arms about), there was no banter. It was odd, coming off of last week's episode, where they were nothing but cute. I know that the continuity in The X-Files leaves much to be desired, and this episode was originally supposed to air as the ninth in the season, not the eighth, so I wasn't expecting them to be all lovey-dovey. But regardless of the MSR factor, the pair seemed cold, distant, awkward with each other. I felt like there was going to be a call back to William, that he was on their minds, and that was why everything was strained. Maybe that was supposed to be the unspoken undercurrent.
In the episode, Mulder and Scully head to a small town in Connecticut to investigate the death of the young son of a police officer. Apparently, the FBI has jurisdiction in cases involving the death of law enforcement's immediate family. The coroner said that cause of death was animal attack, but after looking at the report, Scully feels certain the boy was murdered. The local cops don't want to believe something like that could happen in their sleepy little town... or they are covering for someone.
Unsurprisingly, Mulder suspects witches. The town has a history of witch trials, and just because the witch trials were bogus, doesn't mean there weren't real witches. It was either witches, or hellhounds. Because, you know, Mulder.
The two go to the morgue to examine Andrew's body. Though neither says it, the specter of William hangs heavy over them. After a cursory examination, Scully confirms that it is likely the boy was shaken to death. Her primary suspect is the father, Rick Eggers. Mulder notices salt on the little boy's feet, and is confused as to why the eyewitnesses -- a little girl named Emily, and her mother Anna -- weren't interviewed. They are the police chief's family -- and yet Scully doesn't think it is weird that no one spoke to them. Another troubling detail.
Mulder visits Emily and Anna. He learns very little. Emily says she didn't see anyone, just Andrew wandering into the woods. The family has a lot of books on witchcraft, which Anna chalks up to her husband's fascination with the town's history. As Mulder starts to leave, a TV commercial causes Emily to shout. "Mr. Chuckleteeth! He was in the forest." Mr. Chuckleteeth is some kind of terrifying full-sized ventriloquist dummy with a deranged smile on his face.
Scully visits police chief Strong, who maintains Eggers didn't kill his son. Scully is not swayed, and wants to speak to the grieving father herself. Problem is, Eggers just left. He checked the national sex offender database and found one person, Melvin Peter, who lives in town -- and he fits Scully's profile. Scully and Strong hop in a police car and give chase to Eggers, who is speeding erratically through town.
Eggers ends up at Peter's house and is incensed when he finds it empty. Mulder calls to check in. He is back at the crime scene in the woods, and doesn't mention to Scully that he sees a hellhound staring at him. He meets Scully at Peter's house, where a crowd has gathered as they wait for a search warrant. Mulder isn't convinced that Peter is responsible, but he joins the cops in the search of the house. Peter is certainly creepy: there are pictures of him as a clown posing with children; he has a room filled with balloons and teddy bears; and he keeps an angry monkey in a cage in the closet. Also in that closet: a Mr. Chuckleteeth costume.
Scully puts out an APB for Peter, but Mulder doesn't like him for the murder. It felt uncomfortable watching Mulder defend a pedophile. It's The X-Files, so you know he is right, but Peter performed at children's parties and had a creepy pedo-playroom in his house. Even though he later yells that he was convicted of a statutory offense (a throw-away line which doesn't necessarily make him innocent), it was weird that Mulder wouldn't at least support bringing him in for questioning.
Emily is watching TV while her mother makes lunch. When Anna calls for Emily, she is gone -- she followed a demonic Teletubby outside. Mulder and Scully find her body a few hours later in the woods. Mulder notices salt on the ground and starts kicking aside leaves to reveal a circle made of salt. While Scully begs him to stop messing with a crime scene, Mulder goes on about how salt is used to draw a magic circle, one that protects the caster from summoned demons. (Clearly, Scully has never watched an episode of Supernatural.) He discovers that the land is a Puritan graveyard, and thinks that spirits and demons have been unleashed. He confronts Strong, who unleashes his guilty soul -- but only about an affair he was having with Andrew's mother, Diane.
The agents return to Peter's house. Peter has come home, and is being pummeled by Eggers. When another officer, Wentworth, pulls Eggers off, the crowd starts beating up Peter. Mulder fires his gun in the air to scare people away and Scully tells Eggers to call for an ambulance. He reaches for his radio... but at the last minute pulls out his gun and shoots Peter dead.
Arraignment sees Eggers get $5,000 bail -- small town justice. As Scully and Mulder leave the courthouse, they see Wentworth waiting for them. He did some digging and discovered Peter was 40 miles away when Andrew was taken; he could not have murdered the boy. Eggers goes home and confronts his cheating wife. He is leaving her; she says "No, I'm leaving you." She leaves, followed shortly by Eggers -- who takes his gun.
Diane is not Eggers' focus. He goes to Strong's house, calling for him. Strong is not there, but someone is... Mr. Chuckleteeth. He chases Mr. Chuckleteeth through the house, arrives at the front door -- and comes face to face with Strong. The two men aim their guns at one another.
Scully and Mulder show up. They find Eggers dead in the doorway. Scully notices salt around the outside of the house. Mulder finds a grimoire is missing from the bookshelf. Scully again tries to convince Mulder that this was a crime of passion, not a crime of spirits. Don't waste your breath, Scully -- you guys are going back to the scene of the crime.
Strong, meanwhile, is trying to call Diane when he sees her car in a wreck on the side of the road. He sees a figure in the woods and chases after it, thinking it is Diane. He is so intent on following the vision of Diane that he doesn't notice real-Diane lying dead against a tree. He moves towards a glimmer in the woods. Standing in a circle of candles is Anna, chanting over the enormous grimoire. She insists she is ending what she started, but her husband thinks she has unleashed something she can't control. She only meant to curse Diane and her husband; clearly she doesn't have control. The hellhound attacks Strong, tearing him to pieces.
Strong's screams draw Scully and Mulder, but they arrive too late to save Strong. Mulder tells Anna almost the exact same thing Strong told her. As much as I hate to say this, it looks like the men were right: she can't control it. Anna is consumed by fire; the grimoire drops, completely untouched by the flames.
After watching this episode twice, I still feel unfulfilled -- and not just because of the lack of MSR. In general, it felt like there was too much jammed into this episode. You had the terrifying children's characters. Witchcraft. Hellhounds. Mob justice. A pedophile. It was too much. Nothing was explored properly.
- When Mulder was asked if he had kids, it was awkward watching him stammer for an answer. I think the only reason he mentioned it was because it was a case dealing with kids.
- There was a lot of whispering in this episode. That didn't help the lack of chemistry between Mulder and Scully this week.
- Scully in a turtleneck felt weird. I think she has only worn a turtleneck in one or two other episodes.
- It wasn't nearly as much as an IT knockoff as the trailers made it seem.
- Mr. Chuckleteeth and the demonic Teletubby knockoffs were the scariest things I have ever seen. Seriously. How can parents allow their kids to watch creatures like that? Is it because I am an adult who knows better? Was this just done for the benefit of the audience?