The X-Files #130: Chinga

"I want to play."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Scully's vacation is disrupted by an evil doll.

REVIEW: Well, this is interesting. A script penned by Stephen King. It definitely has that feel, and makes use of his tropes, including a folksy Maine location. But it also makes a few production assumptions that should have been fixed in Chris Carter's pass at it. This is mostly minor stuff like the mountains being gripped by winter in what looks like the middle of summer, or Scully wearing a touristy Maine shirt and being put off by lobster, of all things. We've seen her eat far worse. The most offending scene, however, is the last, in which a strangely cutesy interaction between Mulder and Scully seems to suggest Scully has the a little something for local cop Jack Bonsaint, and while she does have a tendency to fall for older men, there's absolutely no spark between her and Larry Musser's overly genial police captain. I understand Mulder and Scully's interactions were what Carter worked on the most because King wrote them out of character, but I wonder how much of the horror writer's intent was lost in translation there. Carter essentially reverses the dynamic from War of the Coprophages, where a bored Mulder is trying to get invited on Scully's unofficial case, but she won't have it. The comedy works, and it's fun to see Scully suggest extreme possibilities, but it is also at odds with the creepy horror tale from the A-plot.

Like something out of the Friday the 13th TV series, Chinga is all about a hellish doll found in a lobster trap, given to a slightly autistic girl (I don't think the show knows what that means), and who now terrorizes the girl's mother and the townspeople, causing them to hurt themselves in all sorts of ways while the "Hokey Pokey" plays on a loop. The artifacts of childhood juxtaposed with horrific happenings for maximum creepiness... all very Stephen King. It's a good story, very atmospheric, in no small part helped along by a sparkling score. I hadn't noticed the music in The X-Files in a while. King creates a compact, but rich cast of characters whose lives are interwoven together. Everyone knows everyone in this small town, but for good reasons. It never feels like the usual TV coincidences caused by small budgets and small casts. The dolly's threats are well prefigured, and the violence is disturbing without having to go too far in the realm of gore.

Thrown into the middle of this is Scully, on vacation, but drawn in by her Hippocratic Oath more than anything. She tries to ignore what's going on, refuses to answer her phone, etc. It's amusing. But what the adventure really brings into focus is what we've been sensing since the start of the season. Scully is now a believer. It's Mulder who tries to suggest scientific explanations on the phone, and it's her who shows she's been reading up on the supernatural. She's stopped thinking of her job as Mulder's babysitter and fact-checker. She'll always come at the X-files from a different perspective, but she doesn't question the possibility that the doll is some kind of magical artifact and just acts on it to save lives. What the show hasn't yet mastered is the new dynamic between the two leads. Because they've become more like one another, their best stories seem to be those where they're operating solo.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - While there are still out-of-character moments in the episode, Stephen King turns in an atmospheric and creepy horror tale that's just a joy to watch.

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