The X-Files: A Golem By Any Other Name (S10 E4 Recap)

ThexfilesThe fourth new X-Files  installment is “a monster of the week” that nevertheless dredges up the past, bringing Scully and Mulder “home again” to face some unfinished business.

We open with the jackbooted thugs of gobmint clearing a Philadelphia street of its homeless. In the real world, HUD does not aide local governments in rounding up homeless people and resettling them in abandoned hospitals or FEMA camps, but here it’s a plot device to explain why the FBI would have jurisdiction. (And what is up this season with all the conspiracies seemingly lifted from the Alex Jones show?)

Cutler, the HUD official, goes back to his office late at night for no discernible reason. He coughs, the lights go out, and suddenly there’s the loud thumping of footsteps. A large shadowy figure is on the other side of the frosted glass door. Cutler, takes a revolver out of his desk because sure if you’re going to portray HUD officials as agents of evil, why not give them weapons?

Evil HUD with their FEMA camps and housing vouchers and low interest mortgages and such.

Evil HUD with their FEMA camps and housing vouchers and low interest mortgages and such.

The tall figure in a black trench-coat tears both his arms off. He places them in the back of a sanitation truck, and then he hops in with the trash, and lays down like he’s taking a nap.The compactor comes down on him, and the truck drives away.

The next day Scully and Mulder arrive at the crime scene. The local cop explains he was referred to them specifically because they handle the “spooky” stuff – a great little call back to the series’ beginnings, when Mulder was referred to as “Spooky Mulder” by other FBI agents. What’s spooky? The missing arms, the head found in the trash can, and the outlines in blood of bare feet that have no footprints. The detective tells them how the homeless “hated this guy” as he points out a huge painted over billboard on the wall of a building visible from the window. It’s a sketch in the style of Banksy of a man with a noose around his neck. While looking over the scene, Scully gets a call from her brother, William (for whom she named her baby). Her mother had a heart attack and is in a DC hospital. She has to go. Mulder steps on a used band-aide. He watches some videos of the crime scene. All the cameras were knocked out of position, but Mulder notices that the street art was not there at the time Cutler was killed, so that’s a clue.

Over at the hospital, Scully’s mother, Margaret, is in a coma. The nurse says she asked for Charlie, her youngest son. Charlie is estranged from her and everyone so this surprises Scully. She talks to her mother, reminding her (and us) that she was once in a coma, so she knows her mother can hear her.

While investigating near the crime scene, Mulder meets two city officials, Landry who was working with Cutler, and Hoff. Landry was involved with Cutler in some kind of development that per Hoff is going to “jump start gentrification.”   But Hoff’s not exactly an advocate for the homeless either.She doesn’t want them relocated to the abandoned hospital because she’s on the school board the hospital is near the high school, and these are “downtown” people. Do we care if either of these two individuals dies?

Mulder points out that both of them are speaking to their own self-interest and asks who speaks for the homeless. A nearby homeless mans replies, “Band-aid nose man.” Or maybe he says, “The band-aid knows, man.” In either case, Mulder has the band-aid analyzed and it turns out there’s no organic material on it and no inorganic material on it. This makes no sense, especially given that Mulder stepped on the thing, but details, details.

The hanged man painting has been stolen by a couple of guys that sell such items to collectors for piles of cold hard cash. Both of them get killed in similar grizzly fashion by the band aid man. He doesn’t take the painting with him when he goes, but there’s a signature on it that may not have been there before. It reads, “Trash Man.” Artists are so temperamental.

Over at the abandoned hospital now being used as a shelter, Hoff stops by with an injunction, which she gives to Landry. Neither of them notice there’s another hanged man poster on the wall.

Scully finds out her mother changed her advanced directive a year ago without telling her, and there’s a do not resuscitate order so they’re going to remove her breathing tube. Mulder shows up for her. They talk about the case, which given that they are both worked-obsessed, makes perfect sense to me, but then again, I once polished off a grant and a blog post under startlingly similar circumstances.. Mulder relays what he knows, but he’s not hinting at any supernatural explanations. He theorizes it’s a vigilante killer trying to “protect” the homeless and it’s connected to the painting.

Hoff pulls up to her lovely, well-appointed suburban home, in her lovely well-appointed suburban, while listening to the song Downtown on her I-Phone – a bit too on the nose, but very effective. She’s alone, making coffee using her very expensive single serve espresso machine, when she sees a spots some maggots and goop on her otherwise immaculate hard wood floor. Then the lights go out, but before they do she sees the Trash Man at the top of her steps, and we get a good look at his gunk filled visage. We don’t see him tearing her arms off, but we do see her trying to run, and him putting a plastic bag into the trash truck and getting inside with it.

No escaping those urban problems.

No escaping those urban problems.

Back at mom’s deathbed, the tubes have been removed, so it’s just a matter of time. Scully reaches, Charlie on the phone and puts him on speaker so he can say a few words, and maybe even bring Margaret back from the brink. It works, at least for a few seconds. Margaret opens her eyes, and grabs Mulder’s wrist, and says, “My son is named William too” then she dies. Was that not the most passive aggressive death scene ever? First, she asks for the prodigal son, and not Dana. Then when she wakes up, she doesn’t even acknowledge her. And to top it off, she really twists the knife by bringing up the one thing that’s going to hurt her daughter the most. After they cart the body away, Scully begs Mulder to drive her to Philly, because she needs to get to work.

They go to the one paint store in central Philly that carries the paint from the poster. This leads them to yet another creepy building, with the power out, which leads to the conversation about back in the day, but as Sculder this is “back in the day” and they both get twinkles in their eyes as they take out their flashlights and the lights into an X as the theme music plays, and anyone who is still disappointed with the new incarnation, needs to let that go because this is awesome.

Same as it ever was or even better.

Same as it ever was or even better.

Something goes past them too quickly for them to get a good look. Is it an alien or one of those clay creatures all around them coming to life? They find a possibly deranged human, we’ll call the Artist, hovering in a corner. How do we know he’s deranged? It might have something to do with the tattoos decorated the top of his hairless skull because that’s an interesting look probably first cultivated in prison. His patter is quick and while he doesn’t speak entirely in metaphors, there’s something Mansonish about the rhythms. He talks about trash being put away, and how the homeless are treated as trash. When they mention the murders, he says it wasn’t him. He was just trying to give the homeless a voice through art, not violence.

He claims the band aide man is a what the “Tibetan Buddhists would call a tulpa” a manifestation of his thoughts. Tulpa my ass. I know a golem when I see one, but golems have been done to death on shows dealing with the supernatural. The X-Files featured one back in season 4. Sleepy Hollow had one a while back. I’m pretty sure there was one on Fringe. Even Mulder points out that a tulpa wouldn’t go around killing people. Then the artist, like any artist, starts talking about his creation as though it was his baby, which leads Scully into flashbacks of the baby she gave up. The Artist claims all he did was hold the clay. The thing took on a life of its own. He’s not responsible for its actions. Scully begs to differ, and tells him, that if it was his idea, it’s his responsibility, and he’s just as bad as the people he hates. Mulder realizes the tulpa/golem is going to go after Landry next.

In another visually dead-on creepy building scene, we see Landry in the corridor of the hospital/shelter. He coughs, which was a precursor to Cutler’s demise. Then he sees the gunk like Hoff did. The homeless hanging out in the hallway and being noisy, suddenly disappear behind closed doors. He’s alone. The lights go out. There’s a buzzing sound – flies – which we’ve heard at previous scenes. Scully and Mulder with the artist are on their way, but can they stop the creature? Are we hoping maybe they don’t?

They get there in time to hear a scream from an office. They open the door, and there’s Landry’s mutilated corpse. But there’s no creature, which means that whatever it is disappeared. There’s not even a pile of clay dust, which might have been a nice touch. Back at the artists loft, we see a clay figure with a happy face – a touch that’s may be a bit much, but then again we probably didn’t need the Scully baby flashbacks to read Scully’s mind when the artist was pounding the this creature is my child metaphors at us. Case closed.

Scully and Mulder are out by a lake. Scully has her mother’s ashes in an urn. She references the artist, and puts it together with her mother asking for Charlie. She made him. He was her responsibility. That’s why she needed to know he was okay before she died, and that’s why they have to make sure that William is okay. “I want to believe that I didn’t treat him like trash.” Mulder holds her, and we’re out.

So only two more very special episodes to go. Is there going to be a season eleven or does everything get wrapped up forever by the end of episode six? With all the build-up, there better be a mother and child reunion, and if it’s not a happy one that resolves everything, then it better be a cliff-hanger leading to further adventures..

Marion Stein

Marion writes television recaps and reviews for the Agony Booth, and books you can find over at Amazon.

TV Show: The X-Files

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