A seemingly very standard episode of The X-Files is made all the better by a creepy monster and odes to the classic ‘horror’ episodes of the shows past. Oh, and we get IT references.
Starting the episode with killing a small boy is very effective way to get under the skin of your audience. Shades of The VVitch and Stephen King’s IT shine through, meaning that writer Benjamin Van Allen knows immediately that any reference to either would bring the dread and set us in that frame of mind for what was to come. Combining these elements into a classic X-Files set-up, Mulder and Scully investigate strange happenings in a small town and it uncovers something sinister under the surface, ultimately means that what could be a standard episode elevates into something better.
it is a creepy episode. The familiar that is unleashed upon Eastwood takes the forms of something appealing to lure its victims into the jaws of the Hellhound. And for children that would be any number of things they see on TV. For the boy, it is Mr Chuckle Teeth (below); whom even without the creepy theme song is a disturbing thing to look at (I will leave the link to this gif here, and apologize for any nightmares). For the gir, it’s the horrifyingly disturbing Teletubbies-like show. Puts it all into context how warped children’s TV can become once you apply it into the lens of a show like The X-Files.
As I have said, this is a very standard situation that Mulder and Scully find themselves in. There was a Season 2 episode called “Die Hand Die Verletzt,” which had the PTA delve into satanism and then deal with the evil that had been set loose. For this town, Hellhounds summoned by love-hurt witches are on the prowl, after inadvertently opened the gates of hell. Salt, magic circle, familiars, it’s all there as a witches go to. “This is the killing field”, was a quote uttered that had me shivering.
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The episode attempts to look for a way out, to be drawn to the something perfect that will solve our ailments. We are drawn to believe that a convicted paedophile had committed the crime. Ensnaring children from playgrounds and their homes. But Mulder doesn’t like perfect. Because of this development, Fox and Dana have to deal with the mob hysteria that comes with accusing an innocent man, almost like a curse. Causing the citizens of Eastwood to hate and assault that which is an easy target.
Seeing Chief Strong discover that his wife had unleashed hell upon the town, then getting mauled by the Hellhound was quite satisfying in a weird way. There are umpteenth stories of witches cursing those who have hurt them, but this one seemed a little different for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on. After she had burst into flames, Scully has a momentary “belief” thought. Had this been the work of the gates of hell or had she caught fire from the candles. The curse of the modern-day witch is something to be left to tourist literature.
Written by Benjamin Van Allen and directed by Holly Dale, “Familiar” is a good solid episode, with a creepy monster and underlying take on what we are living through at the moment. Just like some of The X-Files episodes of old. Mulder implies throughout that the town of Eastwood is representative of the world we live at this moment on time, jumping to the dangers of mass hysteria rather than taking things into care consideration; and just like the witch we will have to suffer the consequences of who gets hurt in the process.
The X-Files airs every Wednesday night on FOX.