Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The X-Files: Hell Money (3.19)

I remember disliking this episode a lot when I first watched it years ago, so I was surprised that it turned out to be pretty good second time around. I've gained an appreciation of the every-once-in-a-while episodes where Mulder and Scully investigate a case firmly rooted in reality, and Hell Money was one of the those very cases. There were a couple of red herrings and representations of cultural urban legends, but nothing all-out supernatural this week.

Chinese culture made for an interesting approach to a pretty standard organ-harvesting storyline. We have a wall being built between the local Chinese and the "outsiders", Mulder and Scully left on the sidelines due to their own misunderstanding of a completely separate culture. It was also interesting that their involvement resulted in absolutely nothing positive. Unlike other episodes where this has happened, however, writer Jeffrey Vlaming seems like he's trying to make an actual point, instead of merely forgetting about them. It's unnerving to see Chao get burned life and to discover that nobody is willing to come forward about the lottery, but it's undoubtedly "real" and believable.

There's also a lot of great imagery here, from the masked men stalking their victims in the darkness to the frog leaping out of a dead man's chest, to that gross moment where Mulder peeled back the burned victim's eyelid. Hell Money doesn't necessarily real like a typical X-File, but it's interesting enough on its own to overcome the fact that it could easily be an episode from any mid-'90s procedural. Rating C+

Guest stars B.D. Wong (Detective Glen Chao); Lucy Alexis Liu (Kim Hsin); James Hong (The Hard-Faced Man); Michael Yama (Hsin Shuyang)
Writer Jeffrey Vlaming Director Tucker Gates

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