RECAP [live-blog] S02E14: Die Hand die Verletzt
Welcome to a live blog of this episode. Maybe there are spoilers. I don’t know. How about this: this episode aired 20 years ago today. Shut up with your spoilers.
Welcome to Milford Falls, New Hampshire. Jesus Christ Superstar is not appropriate for the high school of this town. It’s also important that all high school decisions are made in a creepy seance. Duh. I love to have a good discussion of educational procedure and theatrical scheduling before praying to the powers of darkness. Also, what’s that? A foreign language? Foreign languages are so frightening. X-Files is so good. Paganism! What is it?
Also, the high school is called Crowley High School which is awesome. Go read Diary of a Drug Fiend, which is both my favorite book of Aleister Crowley’s and also maybe my favorite book.
I assume that this episode is reflective of the mid-nineties obsession with ritual magick and Wicca and the occult. I certainly had such obsessions in that time. One time my friend and I were Wiccan for upwards of two weeks.
Interestingly, the forests of New Hampshire and of Oregon (see the Pilot) look a lot like the forests of Vancouver. Okay.
So, now we have teenagers opening the gates of the darkness beyond. Teenagers in the nineties were always doing crazy stuff like this. Have you seen The Craft? Well that came after this episode so I think we know where to find its inspiration. And later Practical Magic. Anyway, back to the teenagers. They manage to do something with their clumsy chanting, and a bunch of rats (or lizards, who can say) show up. Then they die? I don’t know. I looked away at something else in the room. Whatever.
Now the FBI has to come check out the forest because the teenagers are dead or just gone or whatever. So Mulder and Scully have to come and check out the artifacts of the teenagers’ totally amateur rites of occult. Theurgy also. We have a specialist in theurgy on our editorial board. I will let him tell you more about that.
The teenagers go to a high school that looks exactly like the high school in Twilight. Maybe Milford Falls is actually Forks, Washington. That would make sense. Mulder and Scully are interviewing the teenagers now, which I guess answers whether they died or not. Only one did. Turns out that they never thought their chanting would work.
Next we meet Mrs. Paddock, the biology teacher who makes all the students cut up animals. Creepy enough. Is she the devil? I’d argue that a lot of fundies would say that any biology teacher who teaches evolution is the devil incarnate, but in Milford Falls, the teachers clearly worship Satan. So maybe Mrs. Paddock is Satan. Wait and see.
What would make the devil want to be a biology teacher? Here is my thought. I think that maybe the devil showed up as Mrs. Paddock to check out a little coven of occultists in nowheresville New Hampshire to see if they’re doing any good. Like Philemon and Baucis, but the other way. Instead of testing humans for their adherence to the sacred guest-host relationship formulation, Mrs. Paddock seems to be testing students’ willingness to cut up cute little piglets. That’s what I’m getting from this.
What’s brilliant about X-Files (aside from Mulder’s glimmering, arrestingly enduring handsomeness — a moment’s pause in memory of the red speedo) is their ability to send Mulder on an average of a million tangents every episode. When it’s aliens, Mulder first thinks it’s werewolves. When it’s werewolves, he’s sure to think it’s spirits. On and on. It’s basically like the throwaway suspects they always put into Law and Order episodes to trick you into thinking you don’t already know who the perp is (hint: you do). Here, we have what we presume to be either a Satanically-possessed teacher, or Satan Himself maybe, and Mulder is pretty sure that we’ve got repressed memories of sexual assault going on. Mulder is remarkable. And not just remarkably hot.
That brings me to the high school student who just freaked out during dissecting a piglet. I think it’s pretty reasonable that she freaked out because the piglet came back alive. That would throw me, for a second, but I’m extremely motivated by grades so I would power through. Anyway, Mulder and Scully talk to the girl outside, and she explains that her parents are devil worshippers who get her pregnant, murder the babies, and bury them in the cellar. They also murdered her sister as a sacrifice. The scene is actually terrific — very good horror. One time I got Rosemary’s Baby and The Astronaut’s Wife confused for, like, seven years. I have also confused Raising Arizona and America’s Sweethearts for years at a time. I have not seen any of these movies.
Mulder and Scully confront the parents. So smooth and subtle. Basically the parents are just like, “Uh, no, we don’t impregnate our daughter and murder her babies.” Very nuanced police work, agents. When you have suspects, especially murder suspects, but confronting them might derail your investigation, just go ahead and confront them. People who murder babies always just tell you that they do if you ask them with an FBI notepad in your hand. Also the dad tells Mulder that maybe Mulder is the devil incarnate, which is a great trick play.
The town elders meet to talk about how the girl gave up the secret cellar-baby-corpses. Now we have a brief respite from the horror genre to visit satire: “We’ve lost our faith!” they chide and cluck. A Greek chorus lamenting the god’s anger at Milford Falls, they, together, remember the old days when the devil reigned supreme and no barely-pubescent girl had an unmarred uterus. “We must rekindle our faith, rather than lose it.” As a religious studies scholar, I could probably talk about this at length, but whatever. People are always trying to rekindle their faith, because guess what: it’s hard to keep faith in a world that just throws one bad thing at you after another. Quite frankly, even if your definition of good stuff is forcing pregnancies on your daughter and murdering your grandchildren, and your definition of life’s tragedy is, uhh, not doing that, the world is still throwing bad stuff at you all the time. For instance, pregnancies last sooo long. You may want to nab six infant sacrifices a year, but you only have one daughter of child-bearing age since you had to sacrifice the other one. Your high school students want to do Jesus Christ Superstar when that’s clearly offensive to your religious sensibilities. Life is full of trials and tragedies.
So, now stuff is boring for awhile. Mulder confronts Ausbury, one of the Satanic faculty members of the high school, who admits that they did use the kids in ceremonies. But the kids were hypnotized until they’re 18, then they are brought into the sect, but they aren’t raped or anything. Like Confirmation, I guess. I will ask a Catholic about that. It’s probably the same. Mulder gets a call from Scully, so he handcuffs Ausbury and goes to find Scully. Scully says “jump,” Mulder jumps. All the way through. Bet she says some other stuff, off camera, if you know what I mean. SEX.
Then an anaconda eats Ausbury. This is unlikely since they aren’t big enough. Also they are South American. Scully says it’s a python, though. No python in America is big enough to eat a folk. Maybe it got out of the zoo. But the devil works in mysterious ways.
Mrs. Paddock was the one who called Mulder, not Scully, just to get him out. She fakes an assault so that Mulder and Scully think the Satanic faculty members beat her up. But turns out they didn’t, I guess, but anyway they go to see what’s going on with them. But instead the teachers knock em over the head and drag them, caveman style, into a ceremony where the teachers need to sacrifice some people (which doesn’t help with Ausbury’s previous claim that they laid off the murdering), and Mulder and Scully look like good sacrifices.
Mrs. Paddock says “It is already too late.” Mulder and Scully get away from the ceremony, because they do that. Mrs. Paddock has written “It’s been nice working with you” and now she’s gone.
My boyfriend’s assessment of the episode: “I like this one because it’s religious. It’s the Deep Space Nine of X-Files. Write that down in your blog.” I told him he could write in the blog, but he doesn’t know how to look at blogs.
The core of the episode is the presentation of common religious (typically Christian) themes in a dialect of, rather, devil worship. The fact that we watch and find it either funny, satirical, or offensive (depending on your own personal preferences in religious flavor) suggests that at the very least we can recognize the themes as a subversion of normal religious expectation. Also: does anyone else think of the toe-lickers in Pink Flamingos who kept women in their basements when they watch this episode?