Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Preludes To Millennium Fail As The X-Files Episodes: "Irresistible" And "Die Hand Die Verltzt"

The Good: Good acting, Mood, Occasional effect
The Bad: Stories, Lack of character development, Predictability of plot
The Basics: While effectively creepy, these two The X-Files experiments fail as out of context for the series. Predictable plots and lack of character development kill the episodes.

"Irresistible" and "Die Hand Die Verletzt" are two of three episodes of The X-Files that act as precursors to Chris Carter's second show Millennium. The third episode is entitled "Home," which is the second episode of The X-Files season 4, and is - to date - the most vile hour of television ever filmed. No exaggeration; it's the most disgusting, senselessly gross hour of television and even though that episode isn't being reviewed here (I refuse to watch it EVER again after the first time it aired), consider it a freebie with a STRONG recommendation AGAINST watching it. That episode was entitled "Home."

"Irresistible" and "Die Hand Die Verletzt" (A German phrase that, alas, I am unable to translate for you) are both getting significantly softer recommendations for avoidance. The remainder of my review will explain why.

"Irresistible" follows the exploits of a serial killer named Donnie Faster who is wonderfully acted. The actor should have been nominated at the very least for awards for the role. He's creepy. Donnie, having been fired from a funeral home where he has previously satisfied his fetish for hair and fingernails, begins to escalate his behavior, hunting live victims, cleaning their hair and killing them. He's a pretty sick guy. Mulder and Scully become involved when a local FBI branch officer believes an exhumed body could be the work of extra-terrestrials. Mulder, being the smart man that he is, figures out quickly that such is not the case. "Irresistible" also marks Scully's first case back following her abduction. This becomes problematic as she is still traumatized by that and I'll get into that in greater detail in just a moment.

"Die Hand Die Verletzt" is an episode that cheeses off every Wiccan in the world because it focuses on a town where there is witchcraft being practiced. And while the episode contains a wonderful disclaimer by Mulder about how witches aren't evil and even Satanists wouldn't sacrifice people the way people in this town have recently been found dead, I've yet to know a Wiccan fan of The X-Files that was satisfied by that. Go figure. As it stands, Mulder and Scully are exploring the murder of a high school student in a town where the PTA is run by some very faithful people devoted to Dark Forces. As they go through students and staff, they ricochet between truth and fiction, leads and false memories, trying to determine just who ought to be arrested. The climax to the episode is one that is impressively bloody, but not terribly gory at all.

The ending is not where the true horror of the episode exists, however. That comes in the middle when one of the students who was in the woods the night her friend was killed, after being haunted by a pig mid-dissection, begins to remember events from her childhood. In sufficiently disgusting detail, the young woman recalls sexual abuse and being forced to be a part of the dark rituals of her stepfather (who, as an aside, is very well played by Dan Butler). The young actress is convincing, breaking down in tears while relating the horrible things done to her at age ten. It's a scene that's extraordinarily troubling to anyone with any real sensitivity. If you have a heart, that scene will turn your stomach and make you want to vomit.

I'm a fan of things that make the viewer feel something, so why am I panning these two episodes? The answer is simple; they're not good.

Chris Carter, in a pre-episode interview on the tape, admits that "Irresistible" offered him the chance to develop Millennium. As a fan of that extraordinarily dark series, I suppose I ought to be quite happy. The thing is, I'm not. Why? They're two different shows. In a print interview after Millennium was released, Carter said something to the effect that The X-Files was a young adult experience into the paranormal, while Millennium was intended to be an adult (or Middle Age) exploration of the nature of evil in the world. The two work best at those two things. That's not to say The X-Files shouldn't be ambitious. It ought to be. But when it does, it needs to deal with these things in the appropriate context. In simple terms, these two episodes are probably so unsatisfying because they are younger adults attempting to understand the evils that surround them. Ask a teenager about what evil is and I'll bet you the answer doesn't satisfy you. Especially if you're over 35. This is not to say the teen's answer won't be insightful, but it will - most likely - be lacking in some depth.

So, too, are these two episodes. First, the very troubling "Irresistible" has Scully returning from an abduction by unseen forces only to be abducted by a man who is an incarnation of pure evil. While Scully finally breaks down, it's still not enough. It doesn't read as real. Anyone who has ever been around anyone with a government job (much less in intelligence or investigations), is going to question why Scully is back at work. No one in their right mind is going to put a woman physically and psychologically scarred back out in the field so quickly. This was a perfectly appropriate time to explore 1. The emotional aftermath of being abducted, 2. The uncertainty of not having those memories, and - if they wanted to push it - 3. Scully's frustration at NOT being allowed back into the field. Instead, her abduction is somewhat glossed over, the resolution is ultimately unsatisfying because it doesn't realistically express the full depth of human - of her - experience(s).

"Die Hand Die Verletzt" has some of the same problems, but with less sensitivity. Scully's abduction is not even mentioned and there's no discussion between Mulder and Scully about the experiences of the young woman who was victimized as a child. The complete neglect of a dialogue between the two about that cheapens it. In witnessing some rather horrific and downright spooky acts, it's pathetic writing for a quasi-serial show to not address the larger psychological issues these things raise. In the last season (Doggett's first, the seventh season) of The X-Files the show, as a whole solved this problem by containing episodes that usually ended before the last act, allowing the characters time - and dialogue - to discuss the ramifications of the events. It's a shame that when these two episodes were released no one on the staff was so sensitive.

The utter lack of character development in these two episodes is troubling. They would have made fine episodes of Millennium, but they simply weren't X-Files. The inappropriateness of these episodes to the series is roughly equivalent to putting Andy Sipowitz in the courtroom of Ally McBeal.

[Given that VHS is a rapidly dying medium, a far better investment would be The X-Files - The Complete Second Season, reviewed here!
As well, those who already love The X-Files will find The X-Files - The Complete Series to be an even better buy and my review may be accessed by clicking here!
Thanks for reading!]

“Irresistible” – 3/10
“Die Hand Die Verletz” – 1/10
VHS - 2/10

© 2011, 2008, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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