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The X-Files 11.8 Review – ‘Familiar’

March 7, 2018 | Posted by Wednesday Lee Friday
The X-Files - 'Familiar'
7.5
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The X-Files 11.8 Review – ‘Familiar’  

If you look at the totality of X-Files episodes, you’ll notice that they span several genres. There’s straight sci-fi and speculative fiction. There’s also satire, horror, and a fair bit of comedy. Of course there’s mystery, drama, police procedural elements, action, and even the intermittent romance. In a way, one might say that this show straddles every major genre. That’s why it’s especially nice for me when we get an episode that’s straight-up mystery with strong elements of horror. Spoilers for “Familiar” follow.

We begin with an adorable child named Andrew, who seems to have no idea how creepy the tune he’s singing is. At first we think the mom is divorced and avoiding her ex. But no…before we can learn more about that, the boy trots off into the woods after a real-life representation of his spooky doll. We know the kid is probably doomed, but I don’t think any of us expected him to be torn limb from limb. The cops are horrified—oh, and Andrew’s dad Rick, is a cop. That adds a layer of difficulty since cops are able to stonewall the Feds and hide information, which is pretty much what happens.

The boy was shaken to death, died of asphyxiation, and had salt on his feet. So why is Mulder talking about hellhounds and spontaneous combustion? Because that’s Mulder. Scully, of course, is more focused on the premise that the parents are the most likely killers of children this age. At Andrew’s funeral, we see the boy’s mother giving major stink-eye to her husband’s boss. Hmmmm.

The only witness to Andrew’s disappearance is Emily, Chief Strong’s daughter—who hasn’t seen anything except her equally annoying favorite TV show, the Teletubbi—I mean, Bibbletiggles. Later, a disturbing RL approximation of said Bibbletiggle is seen at Emily’s door wall. Next thing we know, she’s gone. And um, also torn apart by a wild animal. Meanwhile, Officer Rick Eggers, Andrew’s father, learns that there’s a convicted pedophile in town that nobody knew about. Like a true reactionary dolt, he heads off to beat some answers out of the man. An investigation reveals that the pedophile had a mask of Mister Chuckleworthy—which is not as funny as it sounds. Maybe the pedophile lured the kids away, but didn’t kill them?

It takes Mulder kind of a long time to put together salt on the feet with magical circles. That’s pretty basic stuff for someone with as much occult knowledge as Mulder—especially given that they discussed the Salem Witch Trials as they came into town. When the agents bring all this up to the Chief, he sounds like he’s about to confess to using witchcraft to murder children. He’s even got a bunch of witchcraft books, including a grimoire (but NOT a Malleus Maleficarum, which you’d think someone opposed to magick would have). Isn’t THAT suspicious. But no…he merely confesses to being a cheater-pants. That would be boring, except that he thinks that his cheating ‘opened the gates of hell,’ because he ‘let the devil into my soul.’ Mulder sums up our feelings nicely, “I did not see that coming.”

Is the town cursed? Is the gate to hell there? Did the pedophile hurt the kids? We don’t really get a chance to ask him. First, he’s beaten by Eggers. Then he’s whaled on by an angry mob. When Mulder and Scully arrive to break up the carnage, Eggers murders the pedophile in cold blood. So we all watch helplessly as otherwise decent people descend into violence and murder out of sheer hatred based on presumption. Due process is a thing for a reason. Now Eggers is a grieving dad and a murderer…one the town has zero interest in prosecuting. Meanwhile, Mulder sees what appears to be an actual hellhound in the woods. Is there a bogart just showing people what’s on their minds?

But wait, because there’s a good guy among the cops. He wants the truth to be known, for justice to prevail. The pedophile was (disgustingly) working as a party clown when Andrew was killed. He didn’t do it. We then watch Rick and Diane break up, twice actually. Diane storms off and immediately gets into an accident after hallucinating her son in the road. Meanwhile Chief Strong is panicked that he can’t get her on the phone. It’s about this time that I start to wonder what Strong’s wife’s role is in all this. Next thing we know, Eggers and Strong have drawn down on each other, and one of them is shot.

We return from commercial to find that Eggers is dead, and his wife is too. So long, entire Eggers family. Mulder and Scully follow the clues and end up in the woods—where Anna Strong is—amid a circle of candles and the missing grimoire. “I have come to end what I started,” is a little on-the-nose dialogue-wise, but it’s also fitting to the scene. See, Anna first put a curse on the woman schtupping her husband. Fair enough, except that the “curse” resulted in the death of little Andrew. But she didn’t stop. Instead, Anna cursed her husband, which resulted in the death of her own child. Even then, it took her a while to even try to stop with the curses.

Remember in Harry Potter 7, when Crabbe (Goyle in the movie) used a feindfyre spell he didn’t know how to control. Sure, the spell worked in that it threw unquenchable fire at his enemies. But he ended up burning himself alive when he couldn’t stop the fire or contain it. A fire, like a curse, isn’t something you can neatly control. Summoning powerful things that don’t have to obey you is dangerous business—as Anna finds out when she bursts into flames. Funny, as Scully and Mulder had already discussed spontaneous combustion and that it doesn’t really happen. Combustion, yes. Spontaneous? Maybe not.

To punctuate “Familiar” with a bit of extra discomfort, we see that the grimoire has not burned, and the carousel in the park is moving of its own accord. Spoooooky. I imagine this episode will be the subject of debate in modern Wicca circles (pun intended), mainly for its use of the word “Familiar” as the title. This is one of the most commonly misused phrases in modern witchcraft, since silly fangirls so often pretend that their pets or other status animals are ‘familiars,’ demonstrating that they don’t even understand the term. Then there’s the reduction of all witchcraft as a means to conjure malevolent spirits. That’s like saying Catholicism is an excuse to drink wine in church. But then, X-Files has always amped up the lore to make it more dramatically appealing. Anyone relying on the show for historical accuracy is bound to emerge disappointed.

“Familiar” had several annoying issues, but was also a fun story that went to places I didn’t expect. I enjoyed the creepy imagery, the hellhound, and the way most of the evil people got what was coming to them. Shame that a couple of cute kids had to die to get it done though. What’s the moral lesson here? Is it “don’t cheat?” Don’t mess with witchcraft? Try not to conjure hellhounds? Watch your damn kids even if you’re getting a call? Maybe the lesson is to always fire-protect your spell-books so future generations can enjoy them.

It’s worth mentioning that Mulder referred to his son again this week. As we know, William is not his son. With only two more episodes remaining in the season, we’ve got to be getting close to some sort of revelation about all of that. No official word on whether or not this will be the last season, but that seems likely.

See you’s next week!

7.5
The final score: review Good
The 411
In "Familiar," X-Files explores small town madness, remnants of ancient unholy practices, adultery, and the striking number of kid show mascots who are creepy AF. We heard a haunting theme song, saw police murder a man without due process, and saw an honest-to-Zod Hellhound. Cool!
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