Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The X-Files: Humbug (2.20)

Wildly off-beat and ambitious, this is Darin Morgan's first X-Files script, and a real landmark for what the show will eventually become. For the first time, Mulder and Scully are taken out of the gloomy confines of so much of the series so far, and thrust into a literal "world of freaks". Both characters are written beautifully, even if the script pokes fun at their individual personas at various points during the episode.

So little time is dedicated to the actual murder mystery that brings Mulder and Scully to Florida that the episode ends up resembling a series of comedic skits, each one full of the delightfully bizarre. From the carny-folk funeral to the red herring of the dwarf beneath Scully's trailer, I loved the general feel to this episode. Mulder had some great deadpan gags too, especially his response to the knowledge that some men can "train [their] testicles to drop into [their] abdomen": "I'm doing that as we speak".

At the center of the episode is actually some heart, from the wonderful character actor Vincent Schiavelli. His character is uniquely tragic, from his insistence that his conjoined twin isn't a bad "person", to how he drifts through so many of the little vignettes the episode serves up. I also loved the scene where he attempted to glimpse at Scully's chest, just as she's attempting to get a glimpse at his twin.

Humbug is undoubtedly a shock to the system, not just because it's a goldmine in the middle of so many average episodes, but because it's a straight-up comedy. Scheduled right after an episode like Død Kalm, it's funny to see such extremes produced by the same show. And while Humbug isn't perfect (I guess the sideshow freaks get a little repetitive, after a while), the sheer ambition evidenced here sets it apart from so many other X-Files episodes we've seen so far. Rating A-

Guest stars Jim Rose (Dr. Blockhead); Wayne Grace (Sheriff Hamilton); Michael Anderson (Mr. Nutt); The Enigma (The Conundrum); Vincent Schiavelli (Lanny)
Writer Darin Morgan Director Kim Manners

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