The X-Files #132: Bad Blood

"4:54 p.m. begin autopsy on one white male, age 60, who is arguably having a worse time in Texas than I am... although not by much."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Mulder and Scully compare notes on a vampire case. Hilarity ensues.

REVIEW: Vince Gilligan pens his best X-Files comedy yet, but then I'm a sucker for stories subjectively shown as they are told. It's quite amusing to see the same case file twice , with Mulder and Scully mocking the other and making themselves the story's "hero", with a good dose of objective storytelling in the last act to help viewers decide what actually happened. Despite the compromise that must exist between the two tellings, it says something about the way the two characters have always been portrayed that we believe Scully more than we do Mulder. Or is that just me? The existence of vampires being dubious in the X-Files universe adds an extra joke to the plot, as the pizza delivery vamp is proven a hoax, then not, consistently playing with our expectations. The thing about vampires is that there have been so many versions, it's always a game of figuring out what parts of the iconic vampire myth are true in any given universe.

So Mulder finds himself in hot water when he stakes a kid, convinced he's vampire, only for the costume store fangs to pop out of his mouth. Oops! Only in The X-Files would a wrongful death at the hands of an FBI agent be the trigger for comedy. To get their stories straight-ish, a nervous Mulder asks Scully to tell her side of it, which involves a hilariously manic Mulder, a handsome Sheriff she's into in the form of Luke Wilson (we'll find out why she's acting so out of character in the last act), a comically tedious pair of autopsies, and tremolo exposition on a vibrating bed. In Mulder's version, he paints himself as an insecure know-it-all (funny, because he doesn't realize those are faults) bullied by an aggressively unbelieving Scully. Jealous of Wilson's character, he decides to make him a buck-toothed hillbilly, the only inaccuracy he admits to. In both cases, liberties are taken that can only stem from the telling itself. The story isn't just remembered a certain way, the characters are actively letting their annoyance with the situation and the other agent change their portrayals.

And it's not the only source of humor. Much of it is character-based, like Scully getting a craving from examining stomach contents, or her trying to help a fidgeting Mulder with his tie. There's slapstick with a runaway RV that eventually, just, runs out of gas. The kid vampire is ridiculous, going "aw man" when Mulder fuels his obsessive-compulsive behavior by throwing sunflower seeds. Canadian TV fans will find the casting of Corner Gas' Brent Butt as the coroner who gets slightly gnawed on. And the climax goes from chilling to light-hearted, with the vampire community fixing their problem in a most unlethal way. The editing has the perfect tone too, using interruptions, revelations and jump cuts as jokes. And yet, as a paranormal mystery, it lays in what it's supposed to so that the final revelations don't come out of left field.

REWATCHABILITY: High - A great little Rashomon of an episode, oozing comedy out of every pore. Fun and clever.


Green Luthor said...

Although I was always only a semi-fan of X-Files, I'd have to place this one... probably in my top three episodes, at least. Just the right mix of horror, comedy, and mystery to be almost infinitely rewatchable. (Gotta love the fact that Mulder and Scully come at the case from their usual disparate angles - is it a vampire, or "someone who's seen too many Bela Lugosi movies" - and *both* are basically proven correct. That's pretty unusual in general, and very much so for this show...)

Siskoid said...

That's true! Both POVs and theories turn out to be correct!

Jeremy Patrick said...

This is one of my very favourite ones too. Mulder's description of the Sheriff always strikes me as hilarious . . .

Timothy S. Brannan said...

This is one of my favorite episodes as well.


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