Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The X-Files - S4:E15 "Kaddish"

[ S4:E14 "Memento Mori" <<< Season 4 >>> S4:E16 "Unrequited" ]

Like El Mundo Gira was "that episode with the chupacabra", this is "that episode with the golem". But it has at least as much to do with the racial tensions among a Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York, than any folktale about mudmen. This makes more sense when you realize that writer Howard Gordon's last episode this season was the African-flavored Teliko. Following a racially-motivated murder, the Jewish victim's killers begin turning up dead, and the deceased victim's fingerprints turn up on the scene. Scully's first instinct is to blame it on a hoax, but knowing this series' penchant for stories about "revenge from beyond the grave" (and maybe because we saw a pile of dirt breathing in the opener), the audience can be forgiven for scoffing at that theory.

As usual, the monster is spun in just such a fashion that it spends most of its time in human form, no doubt lightening the work load for the special effects department. I have to admit, it would have been cool to see a mud monster walking around throughout the episode. This now being the latter half of the fourth season, I think I can state with some confidence that there are few true "monsters" on The X-Files. I'm sure that helps keep these stories grounded within the realm of "extreme possibility" - as opposed to pure science-fiction - but let's be honest, it's not as though I didn't enjoy the pure fantasy elements of a show like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, for example. Oh well, I guess The X-Files has always been more about its characters, and its human themes, in spite of the paranormal angle.

The themes presented in this episode are intriguing, but somewhat muddled. Like, it seemed to want to say something about the power of words, but in the end it relied too much on hokey mysticism. And maybe this is just me, but the Nazi flag was perhaps a little too on-the-nose. The setup is perfect for making a sociopolitical statement - which this series loves to do on occasion - but it rarely feels truly organic. Like, though Mulder seems unusually protective of the Jewish community in this episode, it doesn't exactly help that in the scene where the one character is describing her father's escape from the Holocaust, David Duchovny is standing in the background looking bored. I dunno. There's a decent twist at the end, but overall it's a mediocre episode.

Memorable quotes:

Scully: I think that this is a crime of hatred, like the crime that spawned it - a hatred that goes back 4000 years, but masquerading as something else here: a callow attempt at murderous retribution disguised as spectral justice.
Mulder: A resurrection hoax.
Scully: And not a very good one.

Mulder: Anybody delivering justice to a people who've known that kind of persecution and hatred - why wouldn't they protect him?
Scully: Justice or revenge?
Mulder: I'm not saying those kids don't warrant full prosecution under the law, but the hate-mongering goes both ways.
Scully: Yes, but the right to free expression doesn't extend to murder.

(Nice strawman there, Scully. You can do better than that).

Librarian: The power of letters - not just to create, but to kill.

(Okay, then. Apparently this is a theme).

Scully: You think it's some kind of a ghost?
Mulder: A ghost is spirit without form, but I believe what we're looking for, and what we're seeing here, is form without spirit. Something called a golem.

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