“Home Again” was definitely a polarizing episode – I’ve seen it called “terrific” and I ‘ve seen it called the worst episode of the revival. My viewing group was similarly split, although it should be noted that there’s at least one person in the group who didn’t like ‘Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster”, so they don’t get a vote.
I’m going to be honest, this was a tough watch for me. Which is not a reflection on the episode itself. I feel like I’ve maybe mentioned this too often on this site already, but my grandfather passed away late last year. We were very close, and he was more of a father to me than my actual father. And because I’m the way I am, I’m not great at dealing with big emotions. It’s not necessarily going to come out when and where I want. (Number of times since he died that I’ve started crying while at a bar: Three.) That applies across the board. After a recent break-up, I was totally fine for weeks until the results of an episode of MasterChef Junior brought me to tears.
Point is, every once in a while it hits me and since I get way too emotionally involved in TV, almost anything about a dying relative is pretty hard for me to handle. And this might be more than I should share here, but the bit where William couldn’t make it in before Margaret died was devastating. See, my grandfather (who had been sick) had a massive stroke. He spend his last day in hospice, and it was just going to be a matter of time. But nobody guessed how little time, to the extent that I didn’t go to see him the night he actually died. It was a Friday, and I planned to go on Saturday when I could spend some time and tell him what he meant to me even if he couldn’t hear me. Instead, he died that night. I didn’t get to say good-bye because I thought I had more time and that’s never going to be OK. I’m full of regrets, but if I ever had a once-in-a-lifetime trip on the TARDIS, that’s what I’d go back and change.
So this was a hard episode for reasons unrelated to The X-Files, and so I hope you understand that I’m going to be a little light on the jokes this time out. But with a little bit of distance, I can really appreciate how they handled the death of Scully’s mother. Gillian Anderson was excellent this week, and both she and writer Glen Morgan nailed these little details. I especially liked the quarter on a chain. It didn’t make sense and it would be impossible to ever explain, but it’s vitally important to Scully to just have that one answer. (It reminded me a little of Meg visiting the psychics to find out what her mother wanted to tell her before she died in The Leftovers.)
When somebody dies, there are all those weird little details. You’ll never know why something was important or how a strange trinket survived move after move when everything else was left behind. And they’re questions that can’t every be answered. Mulder built his career on trying to answer the bigger versions of those questions, and in many ways they’ve very personal for him. But as much as he obsesses, most of those questions will never be as important as that quarter. Scully’s question is even more unanswerable because there’s only one person who can tell her what it means, and she’s not there anymore. Mulder could potentially crack the big case that explains everything by digging through the right files, but that quarter is always going to haunt Scully.
In fact, I think the Monster of the Week has such a disappointingly anticlimactic wrap-up. There’s some talk as to what the Band-Aid Nose Man is, but Mulder’s the one who shoots down the artist’s theory. There’s the question of where he went at the end and what exactly happens to him when the Band-Aid falls off. None of that has an answer. And when you get to it, Mulder and Scully fail spectacularly in this episode. They don’t save anybody. The monster goes away because he kills all the people he needed to kill. The only way the good guys win is by attrition.
I feel like that would have made for a much weaker episode if it wasn’t built around the Margaret Scully story. The inevitability and hopelessness of the case is more effective when it’s in the same episode as Scully losing her mother. There are some thing they can’t solve and some fights they can’t win. They can’t beat death and apparently they can’t beat a modern-day golem who apparently steps out of graffiti to tear off arms. We’re all going to face one of those things and we’ll all be just as helpless as the unfortunate folks in this episode.
I’m sorry I don’t have much to say – between the intentionally frustrating case and the emotional havoc it wrought on me, I’m at a bit of a loss. So I’ll just close with my stray thoughts.
–I honestly didn’t think network TV could show a level of violence that I would find upsetting at 8 PM, but man. The guy getting both arms torn off was bad, but then later on… IS THAT HIS SPINE HANGING OUT??? AM I LOOKING AT A SPINE???
–The Trash Man was played by the lead singer of Rancid. I had to look that up because I don’t know things about musicians.
–The thing I laughed at the hardest this week was Mulder trying to make jokes while nobody was having it. I especially liked when he asked the HUD guy and the hospital lady if they were married and they clearly considered that joke so far beneath them that it didn’t even register.
–The flashbacks to Scully’s coma episode (“Deep Breath”? I always forget that title.) were really well-done, and I liked the way it contrasted a fantastical sci-fi situation to a perfectly ordinary, normal death. It’s a nice way of putting the weirder elements of the show in perspective.
–We’re definitely going to see William in the finale, right? He’s been coming up a lot. And I liked the way Scully always saw his name when she looked at her phone. That’s not how Caller ID works, where it fills in the first name and then the last name. Not to mention that she wouldn’t even have William’s number to put him in her contacts. That’s just what Scully sees every time the phone rings, and has for years, and that breaks my heart.
–I really did like Mulder going to the hospital to be there for Scully. The revival has implied that there’s something wrong with him, and it was good to see him overcome that to be there for his friend.
–I don’t know if it was supposed to mean anything, but I really liked the way the heroes used flashlights and the victim used his cell phone at the end. Mulder and Scully stick with a winning formula!
–Guys? Scully called Mulder “Fox”. I think that only happened once in the original series (in “Tooms”), and maybe in the second movie. To me, that said more about her mental state than anything else in the episode. Using that name made her seem so raw and vulnerable, and it’s just one tiny word. Gillian Anderson is really good at acting.
Next week looks a little lighter with some young FBI agents in the Scully and Mulder mold, plus an appearance from the Lone Gunmen. Yes, they’re dead. Not sure how they’re going to pull that off, and I’d be willing to bet a flashback is out of the question. You know how Duchovny and Anderson decided to stop aging since the series ended? The Lone Gunmen did not make that same decision. 2016 Frohike can absolutely not pass for 1998 Frohike. But I love the Lone Gunmen, so I’ll take then in whatever form I can get them.