Thursday, 11 May 2017

X-Files Rewatch | Fresh Bones

source: Fox 

Told you I’d be back. Maybe not as soon as I thought I would be – I still have four essays to write until I’m officially done with university – but I’m trying to get back into a routine of posting these rewatches every Wednesday/Thursday. Especially since the show is coming back for an eleventh season next year, so at least there is a reason for me to carry this on. 

I promise I’ll finish this rewatch this time around. Promise. 

Anyway, now that we’re back into the swing of things, it’s time to review another stand-alone episode that I completely forgot about. Whilst researching the background behind this episode, ‘Fresh Bones’ was actually the highest rated episode of The X-Files first two seasons. I don’t particularly know why, as Todd VanDerWerff pointed out in his review for The A.V. Club, “There’s good stuff in ‘Fresh Bones’, but the bulk of the episode disappoints.”

I’d have to agree with VanDerWerff on this one, especially since I couldn’t remember the episode from the multiple times I’ve seen the entire series.

Much like many X-Files episodes, the premise is intriguing and the narrative is strong (in places); it’s the messy pacing and multiple plot-points that lets ‘Fresh Bones’ down. ‘Fresh Bones’ follows Mulder and Scully as they investigate the mysterious death of Private Jack McAlpin. McAlpin crashes his car into a tree marked with a voodoo symbol following two hallucinatory incidents, leading to suspicion surrounding voodoo that lies within a Haitian refugee compound. 

This is one of the only times that the show specifically comments on the political climate of the time – in this instance the crisis unfolding in Haiti. Howard Gordon was inspired to write the episode after reading two articles regarding the suicides of servicemen in Haiti, and Haitian refugees fleeing to the United States to escape the political and economic chaos unfolding in their country. This is further solidified by X’s involvement in Mulder and Scully’s investigation of the refugee camp: 

MULDER: I was surprised to get your card. I’d assumed our last contact would be our last. Why are you here?
X: Your investigation is faltering, Agent Mulder.
MULDER: We’ve got a renegade marine who might be violating every human right provision-
X: These people have no rights. In 24 hours, all access to Folkstone will be restricted to military personnel. No press, no third party monitoring.
MULDER: What about Scully and me?
X: You’ll be called back to Washington on a priority matter.
MULDER: They’re making the camp invisible. But why?
X: In case you haven’t noticed Agent Mulder, the Statue of Liberty is on vacation. The new mandate says if you’re not a citizen, you better keep out.
MULDER: Well why hold ‘em up? Why not just repatriate them?
[Sound familiar?]
X: During our most recent involvement in Haiti, three U.S. soldiers took their own lives. Of those men, two were under Colonel Wharton’s command.
MULDER: Are you saying the military is sanctioning Wharton’s revenge? These people are innocent civilians. Some people in congress might have a real problem with that.
X: By the time they get a committee together, it’ll be as if none of this ever happened. 


Whilst Wharton is imparting revenge on the innocent Haitian refugees for the ‘suicides’ of his men, the Haitians are enacting revenge upon the wrongful deaths of their families and friends through the wonderful world of voodoo; specifically, that which turns one into a zombie-like state through the potent neurotoxin: Tetrodotoxin.

All of this makes for an impactful, horrifying, fast-paced episode … right? Kind of.

The pros find their way onto the screen through Scully’s exposure to the paranormal. This seems to become a common occurrence during the second season, with Scully encountering something beyond the realms of possibility without Mulder witnessing it. The writers could have easily made Mulder react the same way as Scully does; i.e. struggling to believe him. However, Mulder rarely comments on Scully’s experience, nor does Scully share what she has witnessed. This allows Scully to battle with her inner skepticism, having to battle with herself as to whether she can bring herself to believe in what occurred. In this instance, what occurred was one of the only scenes in the show that terrified me; a man emerging from Scully’s hand, strangling her whilst she spits up blood through the power of voodoo. WHY.

The cons reveal themselves through the multiple plot holes regarding Chester as a ghost (how did none of the Haitians notice this?), the questions produced through the motives of the characters and why Mulder and Scully are targets of the voodoo when they’re ultimately on the side of the Haitians in this situation. All these questions remain unanswered.

*Law and Order sound* 

I LOVE THE KID IN THIS EPISODE. Especially when he calls Scully a ‘pretty lady’.

David’s ‘Scully, look out!’ is so poorly delivered.

Callum (Ashby in Californication) appears again as the cemetery groundskeeper.

Dying at Scully’s sass:
‘Maybe I should kiss a few [frogs] and find out if one is Guttierez.
Love seeing Mulder and Scully interacting with kids.

Scully actually sees and experiences a lot in this episode.

Anthropologist Wade Davis’ extensive field research in Haiti in 1982 led to the publication of his book, The Serpent and the Rainbow in 1985. In this book, Davis reports his findings of the ‘secret society of Haitian Voodoo, Zombies and Magic’ through his study of ethnobotanical poisons, which were found in ‘zombie powder’. The book focuses around the case of Clarivius Narcisse; a man who had been a zombie for two years due to a complex interaction of tetrodotoxin, cultural forces and beliefs. 

SCULLY: Somehow Bouve must have switched the bodies.

MULDER: That’s quite a trick considering he’s been confined for the last month.
SCULLY: Well, then he had somebody else do it.
MULDER: But you said there was no trace evidence, that the security is practically impossible to breach.
SCULLY: Well, I was only suggesting that whoever did it was clever and thorough, I wasn’t suggesting that some kind of spirit did it.
MULDER: (Hanging the protection charm on the rear-view mirror) Well, just in case, I believe in covering my bases.
SCULLY: Mulder, voodoo only works by instilling fear in its believers. You saw how Bouve tried to intimidate me. I’ll admit the power of suggestion was considerable, but this is no more magic that a

pair of fuzzy dice.

SCULLY: He’s non-verbal, non-responsive to voice, touch or pain. The neurologist suspects he suffered a severe concussion in the crash resulting in amnesia.

MULDER: It’s a plausible diagnosis; only I’m more interested in how he came back to life.
SCULLY: Well obviously, he never left. Doctor Foyle made a gross mistake when he signed the death certificate. It’s not the first time something like that has happened.
MULDER: Did you get a copy of the blood test?
SCULLY: Yeah. Electrolytes, white and red counts are normal. Except this is strange: the lab detected trace evidence of tetrodotoxin in his blood. That’s a poison found in the liver and reproductive organs of puffer fish; a Japanese delicacy.
MULDER: Only I get the feeling that Private McAlpin didn’t frequent too many sushi bars.
SCULLY: You have a theory of how that got into his blood?
MULDER: What do you know about zombies?
SCULLY: Well, I hope you don’t intend to tell Robin McAlpin that she married one.
MULDER: In 1982, a Harvard ethnobotanist named Wade Davis did extensive field research in Haiti on the zombification phenomenon. He analysed several samples of zombie powder prepared by voodoo priests and he found tetrodotoxin to be common to all of them.
SCULLY: But Mulder, it’s a lethal poison.
MULDER: No, but in small enough doses it can cause paralysis and repress cardio respitory activity to such a low level that the victim might appear clinically dead.
SCULLY: Well zombie or not, Jack McAlpin is alive.
MULDER: Exactly. Which is what makes me wonder about the other marine who allegedly killed himself.

(Chester offers Scully an item to protect her, she declines)
MULDER: How much?
CHESTER: Five. I mean ten.
MULDER: I’ll give you five.
KID: Okay.
SCULLY: Let’s go, Mulder.
MULDER: Hey, you should always carry protection.

CHESTER: Bouve. His magic is the most strong, he even made my fries disappear!
MULDER: (Getting money out of his wallet) You know Chester, I got magic too. And I bet I can make those fries reappear.

COLONEL WHARTON: Sorry, I’m having my breakfast.

MULDER: It’s alright, we already ate. (Wharton begins to moan about the treatment of his men against the refugees) Well then, we’ll let you finish. Wouldn’t want to leave your breakfast to get cold. 

Scully gets her hand caught on thorns that were wrapped around the steering wheels of their rental. Mulder wants to see the cut (aww!) and Scully says it’s nothing, throwing the thorns out of the window. Turns out their car was parked over the same voodoo sign drawn on the tree and the conch shell. 

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