The X-Files #54: The List

"How's it feel to be on death row, Warden?"
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: An executed man returns from the grave to kill five men and fill them with maggots.

REVIEW: Revenge from beyond the grave AGAIN?! To be fair, if this is the kind of thing that can happen in the X-Files universe, I suppose it would have to happen all the time. In this case, it's played as a death bed (or chair) curse when "Neech" (Nietzsche?) predicts he will be reincarnated and come back to kill five people who offended him. What actually happens isn't really reincarnation though, is it? He's like something out of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, a spirit who physically manifests to brutally murder prison staff, egg-laying bluebottle flies in his wake so the corpses can be extra maggoty when found. Maybe his demonic form is that of that fly, and perhaps that's the reincarnation (much less waiting time than if you were born into a human baby). Like a number of things in this episode, it's not entirely clear. Not that ambiguity is necessarily a problem.

What IS a problem is that this is one of those X-Files where Mulder and Scully follow the clues around,witness all the icky effects, talk to all the creepy witnesses, and then leave before they can get even a slim resolution. They don't need to prove anything to the world, but they should at least do so to themselves for an episode to be satisfying. But no, the last of the five murders happens after they've left. At least it's motivated. Scully makes the call, and she was well and truly freaked out by the maximum security environment. The most reasonable suspect is gunned down by the always quite good April Grace. There have been, by that time five or more murders thanks to a hands-on warden who likes to punch inmates to death like he's the penal system's evil version of Skinner. And yet, Mulder is right - the motives don't add up. It just feels like the episode ran out of minutes and the mystery was left unsolved out of laziness/apathy.

And yet, I bear some affection for this one. There's a delicious irony to a death row inmate making his captors wait for inevitable death themselves. The prison is an acid green, almost Fincheresque, nightmare. Neech is a charismatic prison philosopher we unfortunately don't see enough of, and half the people he kills deserved it so we can root for him to succeed. And though I'm no fan of gore - in fact, the previous episode's "hand under wheel" moment was, I think, my first X-Files sequence and it turned me off so much, I didn't watch the show again for a couple years - I have to respect how edgy the violence and body horror are in The List. Squirming maggots, decapitations, putrefaction everywhere, and a damn violent car crash... It will give you the willies. And that's not a bad thing for an X-Files episode to do.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The agents lack agency again, and the premise is a little dodgy, but striking horror visuals make this one fairly memorable.



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