For the most part, I’ve found the latest (and perhaps final, for realsies) season of the X-Files to be pretty darn good, those typically interminable Chris Carter episodes notwithstanding. I’ve even begun outlining a gigantic post about how the show was my first real fannish obsession, the show that taught me how to be a fan.
One of the things I’ve been appreciating about this season is its clear engagement with our current political, social climate. The original run of episodes, those that told us “The Truth Is Out There,” quite obviously represented the concerns and fears of creators who lived during Watergate and the Cold War. In a time when “the truth” and facts are easily dismissed as “fake news” while lies are defended as “alternative facts,” this season of the show has its characters respond accordingly–even the FBI itself is in the crosshairs of this administration.
This is why I struggled with “Familiar,” the episode from this week. I don’t know when it was written, though it sure looked cold when it was filmed, actors’ breaths visible. I wonder because I couldn’t help reading its metaphorical and literal witch hunt through the lens of #metoo. I’ve developed a pet peeve so peevish it borders on rage when “witch hunt” is evoked to describe the tide of accusations against men in power and to defend them. Of course, it’s not the first time the term’s been used in regards to men–McCarthyism comes to mind. But it’s the first time I’m familiar with where the “hunters” were women, and the “hunt” was global and revolved around misogyny.
“Familiar” also attempts to comment on contemporary concerns, but I struggled to interpret just which, specifically. Mulder associates “witch hunt” with a lack of due process or assumption of innocence, as when the sex offender is beaten by a police officer and crowd, then killed by that same officer. This has also been a criticism of #metoo despite the fact that most consequences accused men have experienced do not involve criminal charges where due process applies.
Later, the officer is let off easy by a judge, which Mulder predicts. One may think of the countless real world law enforcement officers similarly treated when accused of murdering black victims. The judge in the episode, btw, is black. So is the one officer not susceptible to the supernatural madness that has overtaken the town. I don’t know what to make of these representations.
The townsfolk are “taking the law into their own hands,” though the violence begins with a wrong that is not illegal (though cause for divorce) but a sin: marital infidelity. The wife wants to punish the other woman, then her husband. She calls upon a power she can’t control in order to do so instead of, what? Murdering them directly? Getting a divorce? What is the message here? Without a clear real world correlative, a bizarre, offensive response to #metoo is the only commentary I could take away, and the episode might even have been written before the movement.
Chris Carter didn’t write the episode, but I also couldn’t help but remember that time he and Howard Gordon were sued for sexual harassment by a woman who worked on the show.
I didn’t hate the episode. In many ways, it was the most reminiscent of a classic MOTW episode. It also gave us a Scully we haven’t seen as much of as late: the skeptic, scientist Scully, though she apparently still needs a man to defend her point of view when another man questions it.