Recap: A federal official enacts a rather brutal plan to clear homeless people from a street, and informs another camp that the same thing will happen to them the next night, before returning to his office for the night. A garbage truck passes by, which causes all the homeless people to hide in their tents. A mysterious individual gets out of the truck and enters the office. He rips the officer’s arms off and climbs into the back of the truck, which drives away. The next morning, Mulder and Scully investigate the crime scene. As soon as they arrive, Scully gets a call from her brother William. Their mother has had a heart attack. Scully leaves to be with her while Mulder wraps up the investigation. Mulder notes that the security camera in the room was bent up towards the wall, and asks to see the footage. He steps on a bandage on the way out, and picks it up for further analysis.

At the hospital, Scully sits by her comatose mother’s bedside. She flashes back to when Mulder did the same thing for her, and notices that her mother’s personal effects include a necklace with a quarter on it. Scully isn’t aware of any significance that the quarter might have. The nurse tells her that her mother’s last words before slipping into the coma were about her brother Charlie. Scully finds this odd, since Charlie and their mother had been estranged for many years. Meanwhile, Mulder looks at the security footage and notices that a piece of graffiti outside the office window was put up between the time of the murder and their arrival. As he goes out to investigate it, he notices a man and a woman arguing. The man is Daryl Landry (Daryl Shuttleworth), who is trying to move the homeless population to a nearby abandoned hospital (and make some money in the process). The woman is Nancy Huff (Peggy Jo Jacobs), whose children go to school near the hospital and doesn’t want the homeless people living so close by. When Mulder calls the two out on their hypocrisy, a nearby man tells him that he’s looking for “The Band-Aid Nose Man.”

Mulder takes the bandage to be analyzed, but the results come back indicating a material that is somehow neither organic nor inorganic. Some time later, two art thieves take down the graffiti associated with the murder and plan to sell it, but are killed by the Band-Aid Nose Man. Scully, meanwhile, is told that her mother’s previously expressed wish to be kept on life support was legally changed. Scully hadn’t been informed, and is confused about all the things her mother never told her. This makes her think about her son with Mulder, whom she will never know. Mulder arrives at the hospital for emotional support, just as Scully’s mother’s assisted breathing tube is removed. Scully calls her brother Charlie and asks him to say something to their mother. At the sound of his voice, she wakes up. She sees Mulder and says that she also has a son named William, before passing away. Scully rushes off to continue work on the case, hoping that the work will take her mind off of her grief. This coincides with Nancy Huff being murdered in her home by the Band-Aid Nose Man.

Mulder and Scully track the paint used for the graffiti to a single store in the area, and trail a patron of it to an abandoned building. In the basement of this building, they find some humanoid monsters wandering around aimlessly. They come across an artist in hiding, the Trashman (Tim Armstrong). He tells them that the Band-Aid Nose Man is his creation, a sort of golem which he inadvertently brought to life. He poured into this golem all his hatred for the people who take advantage of the homeless, people who treat them as a problem to be dealt with rather than human beings, and this caused the Band-Aid Nose Man to murder them. Realizing that Daryl Landry is the likely next target, they rush to the hospital. Landry is indeed the next target, and the Band-Aid Nose Man chases him through the hospital. Mulder, Scully, and the Trashman arrive seconds too late, and find his mutilated body. Later, the Trashman leaves the abandoned building, leaving behind a new golem with a smiley face. Mulder and Scully sit on a beach with her mother’s ashes, and Scully again expresses her anxiety over their son. Knowing now what it’s like to be unable to talk to a parent ever again, she worries that their child has felt the same thing about them. While she knows they gave him up for the right reasons, she doesn’t want him to think that they treated him like trash.

Reaction: Against all odds, the X-Files revival is actually getting better as it goes on. It would have been fair to assume going in that this new season was a cash-in on Fox’s part, a quick and easy way to score some brand recognition dollars on a decades-old property. But Chris Carter and company came to play.

“Home Again” comes to us from yet another veteran writer/director of the series. This week it’s Glen Morgan, responsible for classic episodes like, “Squeeze,” “Tooms,” “Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man,” and of course “Home,” which this episode recalls in its title if not its content. This blatant reference to the show’s most infamously disturbing hour set my teeth on edge going in, but it turned out to be a complete red herring. If “Home Again” is a sequel to any of Morgan’s previous efforts, it’s to “Beyond the Sea,” the first-season episode in which Scully’s father died. As in that episode, Scully’s grief over losing a parent is channeled into her work on a case.

The two intersected more explicitly in that episode, though, and “Home Again” separates them somewhat clumsily in its first half. (Speaking of which, this episode and last week’s both spent a lot of time keeping Mulder and Scully apart during the investigations. Please stop doing that.) Scully’s inability to let go of her child is moving, and Anderson sells the hell out of it, but it feels recycled after “Founder’s Mutation” went over the same beats and lined them up against Mulder’s feelings. It’s good that Scully is getting an arc independent of Mulder. It’s just unfortunate that “Home Again” chose to revisit the same part of that arc rather than move it forward. At the very least, I’m confident that we’ll see William before the season is over. This is undoubtedly going somewhere, it just didn’t move very much tonight.

That being said, this subplot was only clumsy in its integration. Its execution is effective, and one scene in particular stands out. In the hospital, Scully talks on the phone to her brother William about their mother’s end-of-life plans. Scully says that she doesn’t know if their mother will die before William arrives, but that she told Scully years prior that she preferred to be kept on life support. As this conversation goes on, Scully watches as another patient flatlines and is carried off on a stretcher. The scene plays out with a subdued silence. The camera keeps its distance from the other patient, and only shows him in short snippets from Scully’s point-of-view. I can’t call it subtle, exactly, but it’s graceful in an unexpected way.

Despite all this, I said at the beginning that this season is getting better as it goes on, and I meant it. I was primarily thinking of the formal elements of “Home Again.” From stem to stern, there is some honest-to-god filmmaking in this episode. The editing and cinematography aren’t purely expository and utilitarian, as is the case on most television shows. It’s apparent from the first shot in the first act; it opens on a bloody footprint, behind which Mulder and Scully’s feet walk into focus. It’s apparent in the later scene in the basement, which removes frames in the jumpscare shot of the golem to make things even more unsettling. And it’s especially apparent in the overhead shot of Mulder and Scully’s flashlight beams making an X-shape, an undeniably cheesy image for which I couldn’t help but cheer. There are also some weirder touches, such as Scully’s cell phone always displaying the name William on the caller ID before showing who’s actually calling. It’s never mentioned outright, but it’s too obvious to be a mistake, and it clearly reflects Scully’s state of mind regarding her son. I suppose it’s something of a dire statement on the state of television that a mere sense of artistry and visual intent is notable. But notable it is, especially given the fact that so little was expected of these new X-Files episodes. With only two episodes to go, it’s time to stop underestimating this season. Let’s hope they don’t fumble at the finish.

Etc.:

  • You might have picked up on the fact that I’ve stopped calling it a miniseries. That’s because Fox is billing the finale as the “season finale” in ads, indicating that this may not be a one-time thing. The show has been doing quite well in the ratings, so this isn’t surprising, but nothing official as of yet.
  • I was never attached to the character, but I’m a little disappointed that we’ve seen so little of Skinner so far. The same goes for the Cigarette Smoking Man, who got that big tease at the end of the premiere and has been totally absent since. I assume they’re saving him for the finale.
  • “You’re a dark wizard, Mulder.”

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