09th Feb2016

‘The X-Files 10×04: Home Again’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE”

‘Home Again’ is a parable about how we deal with our garbage. It births this metaphor via a gooey canal, giving us a garbage golem who kills to protect the homeless, or at least to punish those who oppress them, and a bluntly mirrored plot centered on Scully’s struggle to accept her mother’s death and puzzle out the reasoning behind her final words. It’s not, to put it bluntly, a great hour of television. The dialogue’s reach exceeds its grasp, constantly fumbling with quasi-clever moments like Mulder’s befuddling quip about Cutler’s remains belonging in the recycling. I refuse to believe that Mulder, an adult human man, doesn’t know how to dispose of organic matter. The camera, in between paying a shrug-inducing homage to Darren Aronofsky and jittering around a couple of eerie basements, mostly just drifts listlessly like an unmoored dinghy.

The episode’s thrust is muddied in execution. It opens with scenes of street clearing, HUD stooges and riot cops cracking down on hapless homeless populations, and moves on to make the same point a half-dozen times before spelling everything out for us in a half-assed monologue. “People treat people like trash,” says the street artist whose frustration gave birth to the Garbage Man, a hulking, silent figure who sleeps in a garbage truck’s compactor unit and kills by ripping his victims to pieces. Notably absent from the episode are the homeless themselves who, street artist aside, have little to do but bemoan their fates and utter cryptic koans. If you’re going to dig into how the upper classes treat undesirables, it might behoove you to actually, you know, portray those people as human and their stories as worthwhile.

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It takes a hell of a poker face to watch Mulder shoot down the artist’s suggestion that his creation is a tulpa, a thought form of Tibetan myth, after Mulder himself saw one kill repeatedly in ‘Arcadia’ way back in season 6. Nor is an explanation forthcoming, and while it might be well and good to show us a strange man in a basement whose thoughts become unpleasant reality, too many questions linger. First and foremost, who drives the Garbage Man’s truck? Ultimately this, along with any sort of resolution to the plot, is all in service to a much less interesting point. Scully and Mulder gave up their child, and now Scully fears she has done precisely what the artist warned against. It’s an emotionally ambiguous ending, framed by the riverside calm, that the episode doesn’t really earn.

In an hour of mystical homeless and sneering, evil city officials and Concerned Citizens, the series lurches along toward its conclusion without doing anything to make explicit the scope or stakes of its finale. With two episodes to go it seems impossible that any kind of coherent thesis could emerge from season 10. All the elements of the old show are there, but the years have added nothing to its corpus. What we’ve got here, folks, is a mess as bad as any the Garbage Man leaves in his wake.

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