The X-Files #129: Schizogeny

"Talk about putting down roots."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: A hungry orchard seems to be killing abusive parents.

REVIEW: I'm not entirely sure what was happening in Schizogeny - was Karin Matthews possessed by the spirit of her father or did she have a split personality? Were the man-eating trees a manifestation of some kind of psychic power on her part, or are they an entity she can communicate with? Do any of these possibilities explain the devil-like, horned figure that comes to visit her? The episode is perhaps too keen on hiding the truth and casting suspicion on the angry teen whose father is killed in the teaser, with "fruit of the poison tree" and "rotten roots" acting as potent, but somewhat misleading imagery. We're also mislead into thinking the orchard caretaker is a psycho killer because he isn't sensibly written. Watching people from afar and approaching them with an axe isn't the kind of thing that's going to reassure people.

But in a sense, this is an episode ABOUT being misled. Therapist Karin (played by Sarah-Jane Redmond, who we learned to feel apprehensive about in Millennium where she played Lucy Butler) is actually convincing teens to stand up to their abusive parents the way she never had as a child, even where abuse didn't actually occur. She's recreating herself as a teen, and turning other people's parents into her monstrous father so she can use the trees to punish him all over again. But then sometimes she's him... it's all a little confused. If the orchard is some kind of supernatural avenger, then it shouldn't attack Mulder at Karin/dad's behest. If it's somehow possessed by the spirits of abusive men, then it shouldn't be attacking Bobby's abusive father. If it's all Karin's doing - some psionic power - it's not clear she's aware of everything the plants are doing. The aunt's cruel death, for example.

Mulder and Scully are able investigators and good at reading people in this. It takes the sting off the fact they don't always have as much agency as you'd like them to. The villain is killed by someone else, for example, and it usually feels like it's Bobby's story, his trauma and his realizations. It just manages to avoid being annoying, though Bobby is slightly over the top, with his breathy vigilante's voice.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Apparently, there is a lot of fan hate for this episode. I don't think it's terrible; it's just okay. I even toyed with giving it a straight Medium, but decided it was rather too confused for that.

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