The X-Files and the Monsters of That Week: Bad Blood
Part of the beauty of The X-Files Monster of the Week format is that you can usually jump into the show at any point and enjoy yourself.
Mulder and Scully will, mostly, be characterized in the same manner: Mulder as the believer and Scully the sceptic; indeed, most of the episodes I’ve covered can be watched in isolation from the rest of the series without missing too much.
Bad Blood is not one of those episodes. If you’re trying to get into the show without immediately committing to eleven seasons and two movies, then I would recommend Blood or Pusher. Bad Blood is such a special episode, because it deconstructs the dynamic of Mulder and Scully, meaning it’s better to have as much knowledge of their relationship as possible. By doing this, you make a terrific episode even more rewarding.
If you check the writing credit for this episode, then you are bound to see a pattern. Bad Blood makes this Vince Gilligan’s third appearance in this series – this isn’t a coincidence, and it’s not bias (okay, maybe a little), it’s because Gilligan is by far the best writer of The X-Files original nine-season run. His monster-of-the-week episodes are far superior to everyone else’s, and with Bad Blood, he proved that he can deconstruct the show with the same wit and skill as Darin Morgan. Bad Blood is great for two reasons: the Rashomon structure of Mulder and Scully’s opposing views of the case, and Gilligan’s neat subversion of vampire lore.
Let’s start with the meat (feast pizza) of the episode: Mulder has accidentally (well, possibly) killed a pizza delivery boy who he believed to be a vampire. Mulder still believes this, while Scully merely thinks that they may have caught a human murderer who was obsessed with vampire culture. What follows is each agent’s version of what happened: Mulder as the believer and Scully as the sceptic. Scully’s version of Mulder is as fast-talking narcissist who undermines any suggestion of a reality-based explanation of proceedings, a hurricane in human form that sweeps up all in his path and is absolutely positive that they are hunting a vampire. Scully sees herself as the put-upon partner at the whim of her colleague while she is crucial to proceedings. Mulder’s version of the story casts him as a meek, thoughtful man who respects everything that Scully brings to the table. Scully, on the other hand, is viewed as a teenager in a never-ending detention.
Some reviews of the time remarked that it seemed like the duo hated each other, and questioned the show’s portrayal. The real beauty of Bad Blood is that this isn’t exactly how Mulder and Scully see each other. Bad Blood shows the stresses of each story-teller, both of whom could be facing jail time. Their stories reflect this stress: Mulder has to believe that he killed a vampire in order to explain his behaviour, and Scully has to abide by her own views and principles and protect herself in the process. Put simply, they are in a bad mood with each other. There is some, one could argue, Bad Blood between them.
The second part of what makes Bad Blood so special is what Gilligan does with vampire lore. The X-Files last attempt at a vampire story was the vapid 3, so the only way was up for the next attempt. While watching Luke Wilson’s Sheriff (who, like the rest of the town, is in fact a vampire) explain the nature of his vampire community, I was reminded of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, Buffy vs Dracula. In said episode, the vampire Spike has his own views of the most famous of all vampire’s legend: that his showy nature has killed more vampires than any Slayer. In Bad Blood, the predominance of vampires in pop culture has had the opposite effect on the real-life vampires. The pizza delivery guy was a killer obsessed with vampires, he just happened to also be a vampire. Gilligan strips away the gothic castle, the capes, and the bats, to show a roaming community who, for their own survival, have to keep a low profile. They even pay their taxes.
Bad Blood is a perfect deconstruction of the Mulder and Scully relationship, while also deconstructing the myth of the vampire. It’s a story of communication, of how we view people and communities, and how one amateur vampire and one amateur vampire hunter can mess the whole thing up.
By Kevin Boyle
(header image via TV Tropes)