The X-Files #26: The Host

"This isn't where you tell me some terrible story about sushi, is it?"
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Things go down the toilet when Mulder and Scully investigate a gross flukeman.

REVIEW: An episode with a definite edge to it, The Host features a repugnant monster that partly works on the "Jaws" principle (you don't know what's in the water), effective body horror such as when the parasite dissolves something inside the man brushing his teeth, and even a victim shouting "Goddammit" which I thought was too sweary for television. But mostly, the edge comes from the toilet humor. That's not a put down; I mean it. Sewage isn't something we see a lot of in screen fiction. It's always cloaked in that euphemism - sewage - and presented as dark, soapy water. And that's true of The Host as well, but the connection between the bathroom and the catacombs where the murders occur is much clearer here, at once disgusting and amusing. Just think of the bit where the flukeman hides inside a port-a-potty's septic tank! I wouldn't blame anyone for thinking the show had gone too far just then, and that's EDGE.

The well-realized monster comes at the right moment, just as Mulder feels his own life has gone down the toilet. He can't even recognize an X-File when he sees one and dismisses the assignment that leads him to the human-flatworm hybrid as another punishment for Skinner. Once again we have Scully - whose limited role in this episode, necessary to hide Gillian Anderson's pregnancy, is just about its only real flaw - believing first, and Mulder following up. Just like the flukeman is infecting people with his parasites, Mulder has been crippled with a mind-worm - Deep Throat's "Trust no one". Should he trust the voice on the other end of the phone that tells him he has a friend at the FBI pulling strings that will get him involved in X-Files? Or does the voice merely mean Skinner, whose hands are tied and believes the X-Files should be reinstated? Mulder's battle between faith and paranoia seems far from over.

Directorially, the episode is also a winner. Maybe you get to see the monster more than you usually do, but it's well done enough that it doesn't spoil the illusion. The waste treatment plant and the sewers are believable (and its manager has some very fun dialog). The marshal's murder is harrowing, with a chilling pull-away that uses a red "live bait" sign as mood lighting. The action is violent. The gore, disturbing.

The voice on the other end of the phone will eventually be called "X", but is he the new Deep Throat, or something else? I also want to mention the sanitation worker's contention that he once found an alligator in the sewers. If there's a fictional universe where urban legends are real, it must be The X-Files'.

- The blackest of horror comedies, it has one of the show's most memorable monsters and doesn't shy away from its scatological subject matter.


snell said...

Fun Fact: The "Flukeman" was played by future series writer Darin Morgan...

Anonymous said...

YES!!! Larry Liverfluke!!! Not his real name, but the only one I can bring myself to call him.

As far as I'm concerned, "X-Files" never got any better than this, and we can all go home.

Siskoid said...

Anon: That is a vaguely depressing comment.

JDJarvis said...

Definitely one of the best monster episodes.

American Hawkman said...

My favorite monster of the week. I'll note, by the way, that there have been LOTS of confirmed cases of alligators in the sewers in NYC.

Siskoid said...

I wouldn't put anything past New York.

Andrew said...

This is where I got around to giving the show another shot, and it turned out to be enough to keep me watching.

I think it might have been a rerun, though.

Siskoid said...

Catching it again was just a fluke.


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