Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The X-Files - S9:E8 "Hellbound"

[ S9:E7 "John Doe" <<< Season 9 >>> S9:E9 "Provenance" ]

Drawing another comparison to the seventh season is the fact that the episodes this season are so inconsistent - with perfectly solid episodes rubbing up against utterly forgettable episodes. It's to this season's credit, however, that there are any decent episodes at all. This is one of the decent ones, only barely failing to reach greatness. Its title is not the only thing that recalls Hellraiser, as the freak-of-the-week could just as soon be a renegade Cenobite, who goes around skinning people alive. In fact, the episode would have reached greatness if that had been the case, but the real explanation is less fantastic (in both senses of the term), involving reincarnation and karmic sin. It's a much better approach to past lives than we got in The Field Where I Died, but I'm still pretty iffy about the concept in general.

Reyes drives the case in this episode, which centers around an anger management group for ex-cons haunted by dreams of a fate they can't escape. It's unclear at first how this case is an X-File (sadly, skinning people alive is something humans are perfectly capable of under natural circumstances), but Reyes just has a feeling. I guess I can appreciate that she's not just a Mulder clone (then again, would that have been so bad? It's not like we can avoid comparing her to Mulder anyway), but Mulder's confident, evidence-based hunches were a lot more compelling than Reyes' "I don't know what I'm doing, but I have a feeling so I'm just going to go with it" sort of approach. It can be a bit frustrating, and moves the story along a little too conveniently at times.

The fact that many of the victims are ex-cons, however, and that most people don't care how they died, demonstrates the extent of Reyes' compassion (well, if not for her past life connection, I guess). Because, you know, ex-cons aren't human, or whatever - right? Yeah, right. I don't even care if he was a scumbag that deserved to suffer like he did - it'd still be worthwhile to investigate the details of his murder, and it doesn't justify the actions of whoever did that to him. Thinking that way is dangerous - because who can say that your innocent family won't be next? Some cool locations included in this episode are a creepy meat packing plant (we haven't had one of those since...what, Red Museum? They're always good for atmosphere), and the lair of a regular Ed Gein (although, the "shocking" reveal of the killer's identity - not a Cenobite - falls kinda flat).

Memorable quotes:

Pruit: I always say there's three kinds of people in the world: them who make things happen, them who watch things happen, and them who wonder what happened.

Ed: Our kinda lives go one way. You can't change any more than you can undo the crimes you've done.

Agent Trainee: Here you go, Dr. Scully. Everything you ever wanted to know about skinning people, but were afraid to ask.

Reyes: I know what you're thinking - that I must be the good cop.
Ed: No such thing.

Reyes: Their souls are murdered over and over again from one lifetime to the next.

(On the surface, this sounds pretty ridiculous, but when I think about it, it's kinda spooky - some supernatural force haunting a person not just through a life, but through a soul's multiple iteration of lives. That's pretty dark. Until you find out the real explanation is much more convoluted and mundane).

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