The X-Files #75: Home

"Something's rotten in Mayberry."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: A small town is home to a murderous family of inbreds.

REVIEW: Home is a tonal screw-up of immense proportions, and an inauspicious return for writers Glen Morgan and James Wong (never my favorites), injecting unwarranted humor in what is ostensibly the show's most objectionable story ever. Fox asked for changes, put a viewer advisory warning on it, and still refused to ever repeat it. Consider - it starts with a deformed baby being buried alive. Even if Fox had the crying removed from the soundtrack to suggest the thing wasn't alive at the time, the POV and later dialog confirm it was. Add to that a lot of violence, some rather extreme incest, and the surviving members of the Peacock family getting away with it and escaping, and you're really pushing the content into NSFTV territory. Now make Mulder distracted to the point of callousness, obsessed with baseball, making Mayberry jokes and quoting from nature shows like he's an expert on primitive inbred behavior, and you've got a black comedy at odds with Kim Manners' macabre direction (AND a rather unlikable protagonist).

At least the episode is about something. The proper citizens of Home are folksy rustics who don't want their world to change, and fear encroachment from the evils of civilization. Not in a creepy way, but in a wistful, melancholy way. The Sheriff represents this ideal, and there's genuine sadness in Tucker Smallwood's performance, when the character finally loads a gun. If the badly equipped police station is meant to be a joke (dead baby in the fridge and so on), it doesn't come across as funny, but rather speaks to a small town innocence about to be lost. But Sheriff Taylor's evil is homegrown, and the danger's always been around and simply ignored because things like that don't happen in small, happy communities. The villains have the same basic motivation, this time in a definitely creepy way. They too fear change and the encroachment of civilization, except their way of life isn't so wholesome. They're isolated ludite hoarder inbred throwbacks from the pre-Civil War era, both insane and deformed. Genetic change is destroying them, but they keep trying to hold on to their specific culture. But though the matriarch, a multiple amputee hiding under the bed, has a guiding philosophy, her sons/husbands are personality-less monsters, blunt instruments used to murder. We left subtlety after the queasiness-inducing scene where a kid keeps tapping home plate, sitting right on top of the baby's shallow grave.

The theme of change also inhabits the leads to some degree. Mulder flashes back to his childhood and reveals he's really a country boy at heart, in effect linking his true identity to the days when his sister was still around. That certainly fits his pathology. The episode also seems quite interested in Scully as a mother, an important change for a career woman like her - she shows empathy for the then-unknown parents of the dead infant, discusses her genetic background with Mulder, and later talks about babysitting her niece. It has all the hallmarks of foreshadowing and might connect to the pregnant belly scenes from her abduction. Sexual tension ramps up for 'shippers who want Mulder to be the daddy. But yeah, distract us with humor and romance all you want, it's hard to get over the dead baby.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - In terms of theme, this attempt at hicksploitation works and has occasional moments of Hitchcockian brilliance. The subject matter and the tone-deaf script are major hurdles the production never quite leaps over, however, and the lack of a supernatural element means it's harder to forgive it its failings.



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