Mulder and Scully travel to Philadelphia to investigate a series a murders centered around the relocation of a homeless group. The murders are tied to a nomad artist who conjured the form of an invincible character named Trash Man who rips his chosen victims apart as an act of justice. Meanwhile, Scully receives word that her mother, Margaret is ill and unresponsive in a hospital. Though confused by learning of her mother’s rekindled interest in Scully’s brother, Charlie, Scully contacts and convinces him to speak to Margaret. She wakes briefly and tells Mulder that she also has a son named William before succumbing to death. Distraught and anxious to be distracted, Scully and Mulder track and find the man responsible for creating Trash Man but they are unable to stop the last murder as Trash Man inevitably disappears quickly after. After Margaret is cremated, Scully realizes that her mother attempted to string together a message of responsibility for Mulder and Scully in regards to their parting of their son, William who Scully deeply regrets letting go.
This episode was in top form, a true testament to the style, tone, rhetoric, and one-liners that brought The X-Files through its many seasoned success in the 90’s. Never missing a single beat, it delivers on all fronts including more family sentiments than perhaps we were prepared for regarding the fate of William. The mysterious X-File itself is a robust concoction of gross evisceration, but topical enough to warrant such a tale to be told and dabbles in the usual case of what many episodes have been deemed as unsolved. I would personally consider this the best episode of the season by far.
At first, there doesn’t seem to be a tangible connection between Scully’s mother passing and the murders that are taking place. It takes a resonant and emotionally strained Scully to marry both situations into a conclusion that what’s missing is a form of responsibility toward what we create. While Mulder seeks to understand the nature and creation of the creature itself, Scully relies on the perception and accountability that she herself understands by the episodes finale and how it relates to the artist. This was wonderfully woven and brought back a lot of much-needed nostalgia that showcases The X-Files is not telling good stories.
Scully’s mother passing is indeed heartbreaking for the agents as Margaret had dealt with many tragedies in her family. Yet, it wasn’t just thrown in as a moment meant to push Scully down some dark pit for no good reason. It brought to light just how important finding William is and somehow getting Mulder and Scully to a point where they either need to find him or find some evidence that he’s okay. This is becoming more of the driving force of the season and less about Cancer Man’s new syndicate or the government’s true motis-operandi. I can’t imagine our final revelation of the world’s most kept secret on aliens out-shining the need to find resolution on this family that never got to be. It’s strictly opinion, but Scully needs her peace just as much as Mulder needs his.
My one gripe about this episode is the jargon and attempt to quantify and scientifically explain the perceived existence of the Trash Man’s physical being. We’re in 2016 and we’ve become much more adept at explaining things even in molecule form. The X-Files never truly needed to be a show where Mulder sits down and is told why something supernatural exists from a scientist’s point of view. Imagine the episode “Kaddish” from the 4th season in regards to the Jewish Golem that is created to revenge the death of a man. Had we discovered more scientific roots on this creature I think some of the passion and theme of the story would have been weakened especially if Mulder was the recipient of such information. He knew exactly what the artist was talking about when he created the Trash Man and we as an audience should be satisfied that Mulder understands and accepts the culture’s belief in such a manifestation whether it’s Jewish or Tibetan. It’s a minor gripe that didn’t really derail anything in tonight’s episode.
When Scully began to flashback the birth of William and realize how much she needed to know what happened to him. Her conclusion about responsibility was such a poignant moment that brought the story full circle, so much that it didn’t matter if the creature was stopped or not. If anything it accentuated the theme of responsibility even more-so because learning from our mistakes doesn’t mean we get to correct them. Scully knows that and that’s why she laments the way she does with Mulder at the lake. Very good stuff.
Scully is hands down the MVP tonight. She brought the classic mantra as well as a refreshing look at her regret for giving William up. The loss of her mother weighed so heavily that she ran right back to the case without dropping a beat just so she could deal with the situation. She had a personal mystery to solve and to her credit, she did solve that mystery albeit without the resolution with what that quarter meant. And by far her best lines came at the end when she committed to being with Mulder when he found his truth but that she had her own as well to consider. Brilliant actress with a lot of heart left to give her character.
For a moment my brain froze when Scully got her call from William Scully Jr. I honestly thought that was her son calling him but then I realized William wouldn’t have her last name. I just forgot she had a brother named William.
I loved that the Trash Man wasn’t captured or stopped. It lends to the mythos and so many stories in which the supernatural element continues to exist along with so many others, unsolved, or unending. Even the artist was free to roam and continue his work.
At this rate, I’d be a bit upset if they didn’t somehow reunite the agents with their son, somehow some way even if its to stare at him unseen across the street. They need a reunion and I suspect Cancer Man knows exactly who and where young William is.
Whenever I hear that “downtown” song I will always think of Lost and the premiere of season 3 when Juliet plays it to deal with her time on the Island. Every.Single.Time.
Scully mentions Ahab and Melissa to her mother which are Scully’s father and sister respectively. Both died previously in the series, her father having a massive coronary and her sister killed by Krycek.
I loved all the throwbacks to their journey into the basement of the building especially with the flashlights and Scully’s takedown of the guy with the gun.
9 out of 10. The X-Files can be episodic at times, telling a monster tale with no true conclusion except how the agents choose to understand and move forward. This episode brought us that kind of theme and really delivered on it from those angles of heart, loss, justice, and longing. The agents are in dire need of closure and tonight Scully’s loss brings her and Mulder closer together than what we’ve seen as of late. The monster of the week had its moments of gruesome death, but no more so than what a show like this is capable of producing and with it the eerie atmosphere that comes with searching the unknown. The X-Files is coming back strong and with two more episodes left, needs this momentum to take us into a mind-blowing finale that should hopefully keep this world alive for years to come. Thanks for reading.
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