The X-Files #272: Hellbound

"There are three kinds of people in the world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Reyes discovers she is somehow connected to a series of murders in which each victim is skinned alive.

REVIEW: The show has already established that reincarnation is real and that we keep meeting the same souls over and over again, trying to atone for past wrongs until you're admitted to the afterlife, which is also real according to the show, as are ghosts... it's complicated. Hellbound is The Field Where I Died for Reyes, although wrapped in the kind of murder from beyond the grave stories that have come up again and again on The X-Files. The familiarity doesn't make it a bad episode, albeit a somewhat slow one. Over the first half, it's so straightforward that you just know there's a twist coming, and once you realize that, there really aren't very many suspects left. Not so much a whodunit as a whydunit then, and the final revelations are well done, including one of the funnest "monster is still out there" moments in a long while.

Along the way, we get cool make-up effects - victims skinned alive and all that - and plenty of red herrings. You'd think the guy who skins pigs for a living and has a bad attitude AND saw the previous victim last would be the killer. Especially after the next victim's death bed confession (well, death hook) is the first sound of his name. The serial murders from the 60s confuse, but eventually illuminate, the issue, and really, we're following Reyes' lead here; she's done all this before and gets a bad case of déjà vu that goes a long way to solving the case. But can she prevent history from repeating itself?

It's actually pretty interesting that the vengeful killer WANTS it to, and that he's actively preventing his murderers from atoning for their sins in the next life/lives. They're in existential jeopardy. And what of Reyes? We never really find out who she was in a past life, and have to wonder if her soul is denied Heaven so long as she "fails" to stop the cycle. Perhaps there is hope. The murderer who is now a therapist helping others atone survives, and looks like her soul might be freed of the cycle. But for Reyes, no such hope.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - An interesting story that gets better the more you think about it. Could do with less blatant audience manipulation however.

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