Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The X-Files - S3:E19 "Hell Money"

[ S3:E18 "Teso dos Bichos" << Season 3 >> S3:E20 "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'" ]

Mulder and Scully head to San Francisco's Chinatown to investigate a string of murders in which Chinese men are being cremated alive. The episode guest stars B.D. Wong as an SFPD detective, Lucy Liu as the sickly daughter of a man who is willing to gamble his life for the money to treat her, and James Hong as the mastermind behind a black market trade in human organs (something of a Chinese Smoking Man).

This is one of those episodes where the supernatural element - involving references to a Chinese "Festival of the Hungry Ghost" - is but a thin cover for more natural, if still quite sinister, goings on. Perhaps it's not the most sensitive portrayal of the Chinese-American lifestyle - there's an uncomfortable development in which Mulder and Scully suspect the Chinese cop of withholding information, and are subsequently chastised for their racism, only to eventually find out that he was withholding information after all. But, all that aside, between the cremations and the organ trade, there's plenty of nightmare fuel to be found in this creepy episode.

Memorable quotes:

Mulder: Ghosts or ancestral spirits have been central to Chinese spiritual life for centuries.
Scully: So you're saying that the ancestral spirits pushed Johnny Lo into the oven and turned on the gas?
Mulder: Well, it would sure teach him to respect his elders, wouldn't it?

Mulder: Looks like somebody was trying to get two burials for the price of one.

Detective Chao: What good is an interpreter when everyone speaks the language of silence?

Hard-Faced Man: In my belief, death is nothing to be feared. It's merely a stage of transition. But life without hope - now that's living hell.

(I like how in a lot of these episodes where the killer is captured in the end, we are treated to a post-climax interrogation in which the perpetrator has an opportunity to explain their rationalizations for their crimes. I don't think we're supposed to sympathize with them - certainly, Scully is usually very stern and unforgiving - but as an ace criminal profiler, I think Mulder would agree that understanding a criminal's justifications isn't the same thing as condoning their crimes. Obviously, some of them come off better than others, but I think it's interesting to explore how - and how successfully - some of these horrific acts can believably be rationalized).

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