"This kind of a monster isn't made overnight."
REVIEW: I have absolutely no problem with an episode that DOESN'T feature the paranormal. In fact, I welcome it. A real "X-Files" department would undoubtedly work strange cases like this one, where a "death fetishist" (shying away from making Pfaster a necrophiliac, though he certainly evokes that horrid paraphilia in the audience's mind) is collecting hair and nails from the corpses of young women. It's weird, it's demented, but it's not paranormal. But it's still "horror", and works perfectly for the show. The episode's villain, Donny Pfaster, is notably creepy, and we follow him as a kind of twisted procedural protagonist (how does he gain access to girls? etc. - though what is that business about a family having their own "delivery man"?), whose motivations we only "understand" through Mulder and Scully's profiling skills. The bodies he leaves are ugly, even though our imagination does most of the work. And if that's all there was to it, it's be a very good, disturbing episode.
But Chris Carter makes it about something more important - how Scully is dealing with her abduction trauma. It's par for the course on a TV series for characters to get back on the horse quickly after injuries, both physical and emotional, and Scully did just that. But we see here it HAS left her with a form of PTSD. The cold, dispassionate M.E. who conducts the strangest autopsies on record is suddenly having panic attacks at the sight of mutilated corpses. That's because it relates to her abduction experience where she was herself "mutilated" (genetically, at least). It becomes a kind of phobic reaction Carter uses to give us small pieces of a puzzle - who abducted her and to to what end is still unknown - but mostly humanizes the character. This is the first episode of The X-Files that made me a little teary, all thanks to Gillian Anderson's understated performance in the FBI therapist's office. That scene is soft, but powerful. No overplayed breakdown, but a quiet and very real acceptance of one's limits. That lingering close-up of her, the willingness to just let it play out in real time, is my everything.
Carter does like to stalk Scully too much, but for the character arc to work, she really must confront her fears. She is abducted by a madman again, but this time, isn't made so helpless. She fights back. She's resourceful. And she might even have escaped if Mulder hadn't burst in, following the clues to Pfaster's house. And that's when she breaks down for real. And the trust she put in Mulder, the trust she testified to at her therapist's, is validated. Not just because he has her back and saves her life, but because she allows herself to be vulnerable in front of him. And that's something she never allowed herself to be before.
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: Will we see the faces Scully sees again? Obviously, they're men who were part of her abduction experience. Guards? Scientists? Even aliens? The one with the pointy ears could be extra-terrestrial, though he doesn't look like a Grey. He also looks demonic, and Pfaster has similarly pointed ears in his childhood pictures... simply a trauma-induced hallucination inspired by Pfaster himself? That could work... if not for the fact she first flashes to the figure long before she meets Pfaster. Looking forward to finding out his/its identity.
REWATCHABILITY: High - A highly emotional story, which makes it doubly atypical. Must-watch disturbia.