The X-Files #35: Excelsis Dei

"Mulder, mushrooms aren't medicine. They taste good on hamburgers but they don't raise the dead."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: A convalescence home is the staging ground for an invasion from beyond the grave.

REVIEW: Finally the episode I've been needing since One Breath, and it has little to do with the plot of the week. What I mean is, FINALLY, we're seeing the role reversal between Mulder and Scully. While she was missing, he became increasingly skeptical, while it might be said her near-death experience made her more open to the paranormal. While Scully's go-to hypotheses are still science-based, she at least allows for science that hasn't been discovered yet. And lo and behold, Mulder's the one who won't get on board! He knows the X-Files backwards and forwards and can quote from any old case, but he no longer expects a breakthrough. Proof is always elusive, and the Conspiracy seems to have taught him hopelessness.

And hopelessness is definitely a theme. The action takes place in an under-funded retirement home where the underpaid orderlies are horrible to the residents who are mostly suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia, or at least were, before some miracle cure turned them into junkies (but then, wouldn't you be given the alternative?). The event that brings the home to the FBI's attention is a ghost rape, which is pretty extreme and exploitative. Let's just say it's an element that isn't aging very well, nor is Mulder's apparent lack of empathy for the nurse who is savaged by an invisible entity. She isn't even that horrible to the patients, and though stern, we can feel for her getting groped by dirty old men all day long. The whole episode is generally unsympathetic to her plight, and though it adds to the atmosphere of despair they're going for, it seems wrong-headed.

Mulder's character arc is well served, then, when he is locked in a flooding bathroom at the story's climax, because it gives proof of a supernatural event (Scully is locked out, as usual). He saves the nurse, sure, but his redemption is really more about how he might reconnect to the "Truth" he's always been seeking. And it's a pretty cool climax, too, with thousands of gallons of rushing water. I won't pretend the paranormal plot of the week is in any way memorable - Malaysian shaman mushrooms that, when abused, allows disturbed spirits to manifest violently... uhm, ok? - but it does the job it needs to do, and that's create an environment where Mulder can work through his cynicism.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The characters are good, the location is well-used, the mystery is fine, but I wish the rape element wasn't in there.



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