Previously on The X-Files, “Rm9sbG93ZXJz”
In a show that heavily favors noirish conspiratorial arcs wrapped around the foundation of a dark science fiction character drama, a palate cleanser is occasionally in order. Season eleven has a more balanced affair in regards to its content compared to last year, yet the supernatural has been an infrequent subject during the revival. Thanks to some sharp direction by Holly Dale and earnest scripting by Benjamin Van Allen, Mulder and Scully are swept up in the frenzy of a Connecticut township terrorized by an otherworldly beast.
“Familiar” began in a distressing manner when a boy named Andrew (Sebastian Billingsley-Rodriguez) saw a life-sized version of his favorite character Mr. Chuckleteeth flouncing around the treeline of the playground. Naturally, Andrew followed him deep in the woods before his mother realized he’d left her sight. Like another classic property involving an inhuman creature assuming a whimsical disguise, poor Andrew was slaughtered and left in the open to be found by the search party, one of whom being his traumatized father Rick Eggers (Jason Gray-Stanford). The loss of a child is a harrowing prospect that no parent dare not fathom and though it was initially dismissed as an animal attack, Scully’s intuition backed by her medical expertise believed otherwise. Unfortunately, her supposition coupled with Mulder’s investigation into the town’s lore created a frenzy among the residents.
As seen many a time on The X-Files, Mulder and Scully were given the cold shoulder throughout the episode, which is standard operating procedure for a small town with a dark history. Led by their seemingly respectable Chief Strong (Alex Carter), the cops did what little they must in allowing Dana to prove her theory, all the while Andrew’s father Eggers decided to take the law into his own hands thanks to the sympathetic Officer Wentworth (Roger Cross). Expectedly, things go from sad to bad very quickly, as Eggers incited a mob against an unregistered sex offender he believed his son’s murderer. and executed him on the spot in front of the agents, his colleagues and neighbors.
While Mulder had already done his homework about Eastwood‘s centuries-old occult happenings – and quickly surmised witchcraft was indeed the impetus for the town’s discord – whatever incantations or rituals conducted did little to guide the Eggers and Strong families into suspicion. Scully’s initial assessment of the remains lead her to believe Officer Eggers could have murdered his own son, but little did she and Fox know how complicated and increasingly tragic their lives would become in such short time. All were eventually suspected of summoning the devil for some kind of personal leverage, but the dark arts had next to nothing to do with Eggers’ vigilante justice and Chief Strong’s admission of infidelity. Nevertheless, an entity is stalking them and striking out indiscriminately until a soul is owed for its summoning.
By the second act, viewers discovered Mr. Chuckleteeth (played by resident X-Files creature actor Keith Arbuthnot) is a demon that shifts its form to the mental image of its prey. While Andrew loved Mr. Chuckleteeth, his playmate and witness to the abduction Emily Strong (Emma Oliver) obsessed over the Bibbletiggles, this universe’s version of perhaps the insidious creation ever excreted on children’s programming. At one point, even Mulder saw his “hellhound” when reexamining the killing field. In any case, this monster was a fairly inventive endeavour that held the episode together quite competently. However its Chuckleteeth design was particularly inspired and one could swear it was an evil (yet kid friendly?) amalgamation of Howdy Doody, Jigsaw and the Crooked Man.
If there is any lesson to be learned from this episode it’s the old adage: “Live by the sword, die by the sword”. Revenge can be a helluva motivator, one that almost certainly costs burns the targets of retribution and the inciter themselves. Point of fact, this was literally the case in “Familiar”, as the curse was finally broken when the body of the summoner was consumed in flame. In the end, only the innocent had suffered and too few remain to pick up the broken pieces of a distraught town. This is why you don’t mess with the devil, kids!