The X-FilesDavid DuchovnyGillian Anderson
The X-Files Season 11 ep.8: Familiar
Medium: TV
Year: 2018
Director: Holly Dale
Writer: Benjamin Van Allen
Keywords: The X-Files, SF
Actor: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Alex Carter, Jason Gray-Stanford, Erin Chambers, Sharon Taylor, Roger Cross, Sebastian Billingsley-Rodriguez, Michael Q. Adams, Emma Oliver, Sean Campbell, Ken Godmere, Kwesi Ameyaw, Keith Arbuthnot, John Perrotta
Format: 43 minutes
Website category: SF
Review date: 28 June 2020
I enjoyed this, although it's pulling in opposing directions. Mulder and Scully visit a small Connecticut town where a woman died in the 17th century witch hunts. The resulting story is thus about:
(a) irrational hot-headed hysteria, mobs and popular presumptions of guilt without evidence, and
(b) evil Satanic witchcraft that kills people.
Those are both reasonable directions to take a story about witch hunts, but they undermine each other. If witches really were that dangerous, you'd want to find them. (That doesn't mean you'd have to burn them, but you'd want to know who they were and whether or not they seemed like a threat.)
The episode works, though. It's good TV. It also has plenty to say, thanks to a sharp modern parallel. Child killers and paedophiles. Child predators are indeed the cause of modern witch hunts. Here, we see what happens when righteous fury meets pious small-town rednecks with little or no interest in the facts. (Horrific, unforgivable crimes needn't be incompatible with rational thought.) Mulder takes a bold position here, despite his earlier crazy talk about witches. He's defending a paedophile, which is unlikely to make friends when children have been killed.
The locals also make shocking bail decisions. An unstable, obviously guilty nut job is released, despite being at emotional boiling point and having a hair trigger temper. He committed murder. He's allowed to keep all his firearms, including the one that's evidence in a homicide investigation.
(There's also a throwaway line at the end about the state of modern politics, but for once I don't think it's talking about Trump. It's a better fit for American political dysfunction in general, with Republicans vs. Democrats.)
That's the rational content. Alongside it, though, is the proof that witches really did involve Satanic spells and violent death. Hmmm. There's also a sinister children's TV show based on UK TV. It stars the Teletubbies, but with Grey Alien faces. No one sees anything odd in this. They leave their children watching it. It even has a character called Mr Chuckleteeth, inspired by the screaming nightmare that was Jigsaw's Mr Noseybonk.
I liked this one a good deal. It's two ill-fitting episodes in one, but they're both strong and there are worse crimes than too many ideas. The creepy stuff works. The rational, analytical mob hysteria content works too, but in a different way. Note, for instance, how these rednecks see themselves. "This is a small town and its people are good, decent people."
"It was statutory, I never hurt anybody!"