The X-Files Season 11 Episode 8, “Familiar,” is a hot mess. For the revival, that’s at least, well, familiar. The episode could’ve been a super scary and fun horror trip, but instead it’s just really depressing and disturbing.
There’s a lot to unpack here, and I don’t really want to do it…but I committed to these reviews so here I am. The X-Files taught me that “no one gets there alone,” so thank you for joining me here in the shade.
What Is The Point Of All This?
What is “Familiar” all about? Hell if I know. It’s all over the place. It’s about hell hounds. It’s about witchcraft. It’s about mob mentality. It’s about how statutory rape isn’t really that bad? Er, what?
Hell hounds. Cool. A perfect subject for The X-Files. Why muddle it with all that other stuff? The imagery of Mr. Chuckleteeth and the Bibbletiggles is so frightening and well done, but that rush you get when getting scared is subdued by all the tragedy. I headed into this viewing excited to get the crap scared out of me, but I came out underwhelmed and disappointed.
I know: It’s a real shocker.
The X-Files has gotten really good at squandering potential, and “Familiar” is a prime example. Missed opportunities abound. What could’ve been a classic creepy fright fest is marred by the horrific deaths of children and Mulder adamantly defending a convicted sex offender. Instead of getting my adrenaline going, it just got me down.
Once again, The X-Files shows how clueless they are with the mood of the modern TV landscape. In a time where kids are being slaughtered in their schoolyards, it’s maybe not best to violently kill them on your fictional TV show. There are other ways to frighten your audience.
Mulder says that Melvin Peter being the “perfect suspect” makes him uncomfortable. Well, the conversation that followed made me uncomfortable.
Scully: I’m all for benefit of the doubt, Mulder, but he is a convicted felon, and we have to start somewhere.
Mulder: And you and this mob are re-convicting him, right here and now, for the sins of his past with the fervor that we see too often in this ‘Merican experience of ours.
First of all, Scully isn’t suggesting they hang him in the town square. And second, it’s like she said, they have to start somewhere and rule him out as a suspect. I was under the impression that that is what detectives do. Also. Chief Strong fought her on this point, too. Scully, the voice of reason, has way more patience than I do.
Again, having this comment on mass hysteria and rushes to judgement be in favor of a sexual predator is gross and somewhat insensitive to what’s going on in our real world today. In this case, the witch hunt ends up being a valid hunt for an actual witch — a woman. That’s a great message. Thanks, but no thanks…and also fuck you.
Scully: Time has a way of shedding light on injustices, especially in this part of the country.
Are they trying to avenge the witches that were persecuted throughout history with this story? By having a witch do dark magic — that kills a kid — to hurt her husband’s mistress? I don’t understand all these mixed messages. What are they trying to achieve with this episode? If it’s just to be scary, then they did a piss-poor job of it because the scary bits are weighed down by all this garbage.
It’s a shame, too, because “Familiar” is shot beautifully and dynamically. All the scenes in the woods look amazing, and Mr. Chuckleteeth is absolutely terrifying. Like The X-Files 11×06, “Kitten,” this episode takes some cool concepts and wastes it on bad storytelling. I firmly believe that this is not the fault of the (female) director, but that of the (male) writer.
Another casualty of this obtuse plot is Mulder and Scully’s dynamic. We have Scully dismissing Mulder when he finds the major clue of the salt ring, and we have Mulder lump Scully in with the pitchfork mob just because she wants to investigate a legitimate suspect.
Many of their exchanges felt stiff and uncomfortable, but thankfully not all of them. There were some good moments between them.
Scully: That woman went up in flames.
Mulder: Maybe it was the candles.
Scully: Maybe it was the gates of Hell.
It was nice to see Scully actually witness that, although odd that neither of them made any move to help her.
MSR doesn’t get a chance to thrive here because the subject matter is so disturbing. Playful banter doesn’t fit the mood. Mulder’s “Who let the dogs out?” joke might’ve worked if they weren’t standing outside an alleged pedophile’s house; but then again, maybe not, considering it’s 2018 and not 1999.
Mulder and Scully are considerate of each other, and that shows, but that’s because of the actors. They’re doing their best with what they have to work with, and what they have is pretty mediocre.
With all the crazy imagery and fucked up shit that happens in this episode, it’s actually not that memorable. Mr. Chuckleteeth is not what will haunt me from this episode; it’s the convoluted writing and the story they chose to tell.
- It’s not the first time The X-Files has killed a kid in the teaser. This is somewhat similar to 02×21 “The Calusari.”
- “Agent Scully is also a medical doctor, and damn good at her job.” Nice. Scully has got Mulder saying it for her now.
- “You’re my homie.”
- “As we’ve discussed before, people don’t spontaneously combust.” Poor Scully had to eat her words later. Sucks to be the skeptic on this show.
- A five year old girl named Emily is killed. Emily. Are you fucking kidding me?
- “I have a son. He’s grown, though.” This is beautiful. More of this, please.
- The monkey seems superfluous.
- Mulder puts evidence in his mouth. Ah, just like old times.
- “How did you know that, Mulder?” “I did not see that coming.” I like David Duchovny’s delivery of that.
- We are blessed with another Scully in a turtleneck look. Feels good. Feels organic. Thank you.
- Melvin Peter’s alibi was that he was performing at a child’s birthday party because convicted sex offenders can still totally work with children.
- The scene of Mr. Chuckleteeth taunting Eggers in Strong’s house is shot so well. Horror film caliber stuff.
The X-Files airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on FOX.