The X-Files #85: El Mundo Gira

"I think the aliens in this story are not the villains. They're the victims."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: A migrant worker infects everything with mold, but is he the chupacrabra?

REVIEW: At this point, I've only ever given a Low rating to two episodes. One of these was John Shiban's abominable Teso Dos Bichos, about Ecuadorian superstitions and a jaguar god replaced by a cuddly group of house cats. His next story also has Latin America in mind, and it makes a number of missteps, though it isn't quite as terrible as Bichos. Perpetually rainy Southern California (cough, cough) is the site of a strange fortean event, where characters from a telenovela (the title translates loosely as "As the World Turns") run afoul of the legendary chupacabra (so more like "Passions" then). Except not really. The fabled "goat-sucker" is here redesigned as something that could pass itself off as a Grey alien, just to get Mulder's dander up, and a migrant worker community points the finger at one man who survived the event, while his and his brother's love Maria got herself killed by super-mold. Now everywhere the survivor runs to, he's leaving super-gross corpses and food stuffs.

The body of the episode is actually pretty good. It doesn't shy from present Hispanophones as actual Spanish speakers. It's got a cool Immigration agent played by Rubén Blades who makes a pretty good partner for Mulder. The desperate brothers lay it on thick, but aren't unpleasant. Both Mulder and Scully get some good lines and jokes. The make-up job is effective, and while gross, not untenably so (as The X-Files sometimes get). There are a couple of good action bits as well. Yes, plot holes, most notably the fact no one else in the shanty town is affected by fungal growth even though the enzyme that catalyzes the mold literally rains down on them, but overall, it's got the requisite number of red herrings (Mulder is very keen on linking this with outer space), and the melodrama isn't risible.

And then it kind of pisses away all the good will it's accumulated in the finale. While, yes, the old woman is seen telling the story in the teaser, what we then see is NOT all from her POV. It simply can't be. So having her recount the ending suddenly, along with two other POVs (a woman called Gabrielle, and the agents' report to Skinner) is jarring and needless. The old woman makes us believe it was all alien abduction stuff, and that the chupacabra are just what Mexicans call Greys. This isn't true, as is revealed in Skinner's office, where the same scene is staged with hazmat guys instead of aliens. Just makes the woman seem very foolish. Gabrielle's account, while VERY melodramatic, has the brothers forgive each other and run away to Mexico together, both turning into chupacabra. Because by this point, the first one is getting that weird head shape the creatures are supposed to have, and that's in addition to Scully's more reasonable diagnosis that the share a tolerance to the space enzyme that rots everything. (Is the chupacabra legend somehow tied to mutant individuals like this, not at all connected to outer space - unless alien experiments throughout history caused the mutation, of course - or should we just accept these chupacabra have as little to do with real-world folklore as the Jersey Devil did?) The biggest ask this episode makes of its audience is nevertheless that the brothers AREN'T caught at the end, and the FBI just throws up its hands. Ah well. HUGE FREAKING EPIDEMIC OF QUICK-ROT, but what can you do, right?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - The attempt at a sickening Spanish soap opera almost works, but the ending is so convoluted and badly thought-out, willing suspension of disbelief goes out the window and is replaced by irritation.


American Hawkman said...

Credit where credit is due... at the time this was filmed, the majority of chupacabra reports did indeed sound like grey aliens. The modern interpretation of the beast is VERY different than those 90s encounters... an entirely different beast.

Toby'c said...

The Simpsons Archive page for The Springfield Files brings up this episode (which aired the same night) and compares Mulder's "I hardly think the FBI is concerned with matters like that," to his apparent lack of concern about the numerous illegal immigrants in this one.

Siskoid said...

Point taken AmHawk. The graffiti of chupacabra they show is really very Grey though.

Toby: Fun connection. With Mulder, it's only a federal matter if it suits his X-purposes.


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