The X-Files and the Monsters of That Week: Blood
Season two of The X-Files does what every second season of a show should do: it expands the scope of the show’s universe, explores the main characters in greater detail, and throws off the training wheels of its first year.
While season two isn’t the show’s best, it showcased everything that would make The X-Files the biggest show of the nineties. When picking the best Monster of the Week from season two, I’m truly spoiled for choice: there is Darin Morgan’s first episode, Humbug, which proved not only that The X-Files could be funny, but that it could be one of the funniest shows on television. There’s Irresistible, a truly haunting episode about the evil in the ordinary, anchored by another star turn by Gillian Anderson. There are the popular choices of the disgusting The Host, and the batshit crazy Die Hand Die Verletzt, neither of which I would argue with you on. But, instead, I’m picking Blood, an underrated episode that finds the terror of the everyday.
The aliens of The X-Files are terrifying. They are seemingly all-powerful and want our planet for their own – it’s a fear that sits comfortably within the show, as an alien conspiracy is obviously fiction (or is it?). I was afraid of the aliens when I first watched the show, but I was seven at the time. Twenty-two years later, and on my umpteenth re-watch, I’m more scared of the men they are working with.
Blood is an episode that could easily be updated to scare us now. The premise is simple: the population of a small town is getting secretly poisoned by the government and shown threatening messages through whatever technology is available in order to tempt them to murder. Cue many scenes in which normal household machines like microwaves, or the ATM’s, or computers, and, of course, televisions, tell paranoid people that their lives are in danger and they must kill whoever is around them.
It’s an extremely effective concept, one that is all the more unsettling today. We live in an electronic world, we have TVs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, kindles, interactive advertising, and worst of all, pop-ups. What if while you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatever (I’m too old for whatever this Tick Tock business is) and you get a message from one of your contacts saying that the person beside you, whether it’s a loved one or a stranger, whether it’s an intimate dinner or the train journey home, told you to kill them before they killed you? You would brush it off, of course you would, but what if you get to your stop and the electronic board said the same thing? Same with all the buses (X56A to Kill Them All)? At the very least you would think you’re insane. And trust me, that’s just as unsettling.
Blood is a terrifically creepy episode of The X-Files, and it’s no wonder considering it was written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, from a story by Darin Morgan. All three of these writers pushed the boundaries of what The X-Files could be; in this case a social commentary about our blind faith in the government (I know, it was the nineties) and how we can be used as unknowing guinea pigs. The real stars of this episode, an episode that is so good that it doesn’t matter that Mulder and Scully take a bit of a backseat, is director, David Nutter, and William Sanderson as the episode’s lead, Edward Funsch. Together these two, through brilliant acting and set pieces, sell the growing breakdown of Edward as he is manipulated into perpetrating a mass shooting. Sanderson has this sweaty desperation that is hard to shake, a human victim turned monster.
It was all a test. Like most X-Files episodes based around government shit-housery, Mulder is always three steps behind. The best he can do is stop Edward only to find that the test, which he is alerted to on his mobile phone (a piece of tech that The X-Files popularised the use of) is now over. Something tells me that the media attention that Edward gained contributed to the test’s completion.
Blood is a fantastic monster of the week, one that gets lost in the upturn of quality of season two, and it’s fantastic because it’s just so plausible. I did play around with the idea of interspersing the word kill throughout the article, but I decided that would just be over-kill.
By Kevin Boyle
(header image via The Internet Movie Firearms Database)