A small town goes mad and witchcraft is to blame.
Let’s back it up for a second.
Previously on the X-Files, Agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) investigated some cases that weren’t steeped in governmental conspiracies, cases that were supernatural in origin but featured a human element.
“Familiar” opens like a classic episode of The X-Files: missing kids, mangled evidence, and strange occurrences in heavily wooded areas. In this week’s cold open, a young boy follows his favorite TV show character into the woods and ends up dead under very strange circumstances. Mulder and Scully are brought to rural Connecticut to investigate since the child belonged to a police officer. They have different theories about what happened, with Scully suggesting that what looks like an animal attack could actually be the work of someone in the community, while Mulder is more on the paranormal train with his theories that it could be hybrid dogs and even witchcraft.
While investigating the case, the police chief’s daughter dies under similar circumstances, which gives credence to Mulder’s theory that a witch’s “familiar” is luring children into the woods under the guise of their favorite TV show characters. In a very dark twist, Office Eggers (Jason Gray-Stanford), the father of the first victim, decides to take matters into his own hands and tracks down Melvin Peter (Ken Godmere), the man he believes killed his son who also happens to be an unregistered sex offender in town. A mob scene ensues, attacking Peter, and in the resulting aftermath, Eggers shoots him in the head.
Eggers doesn’t get charged with the crime despite another officer coming forward with evidence that Melvin couldn’t have possibly murdered the boy. That’s when the true story begins to emerge. Chief Strong (Alex Carter) was cheating on his wife with Eggers’ wife Diana (Sharon Taylor). Strong’s wife, Anna (Erin Chambers), used an old spell book to try and punish the two with unforeseen consequences. The spell goes off the rails, and after Eggers’ death, a wolf familiar kills both Chief Strong and Diana, and Anna bursts into flames as she tries to undo the spell, all while Mulder and Scully watch. They leave town soon after, hoping this is all over, at least for now.
So, what do I think?
With knockoff Teletubbies and Mr. Chuckleteeth, there seems to be some seriously creepy children’s programming up in Connecticut. What was especially nightmare-inducing was when the children started to sing “if you try to run and hide, we’ll send you straight to hell” right before Eggers’ death. I can still feel my skin crawling.
But the most shocking moment, to me, was showing a man get shot point-blank in the head. I had a feeling it would happen considering how distraught Eggers was over the death of his son. Yet the blunt execution of the scene was far more disturbing than Mr. Chuckleteeth because it felt so very human. There’s no way Fox could have gotten away with something like that during The X-Files original run, even though broadcast standards weren’t as strict back then as they are now. It’s a chilling scene that will haunt me for a while.
There’s also an allegory to be made here, and that’s mob mentality. This particular little town in Connecticut was known for its witch trials, as Mulder pointed out toward the beginning of the episode, where mass hysteria ensued, not unlike what happened in modern times with Melvin Peter. While it’s done a little differently now, mainly through social media, it doesn’t detract from the fact that innocent people are sometimes caught up in these whirlwinds before anything happens to the evildoers.
“Familiar” was probably the first episode this season to truly feel like one that we could have dropped into the original run of the show and not noticed a single thing had changed, aside from the use of cell phones. It had all the elements of a vintage episode of The X-Files from missing children to the weird thing happening in the woods. While it sucks that we had to wait for eight episodes to get one like this, I’m just glad we got it. This could very well be the last season of The X-Files, at least how we know it, so to even get one classic episode out of ten makes me happy.
Photos: Shane Harvey/FOX