Thursday, March 24, 2011

The X-Files: Schizogeny (5.9)

It isn't surprising that this episode was written by two freelance writers, since the script and some of the characterization is undeniably problematic. However, that doesn't hamper the fact that there are some surprisingly effective ideas at work here. Schizogeny is an episode about revenge, and the anger and resentment created as a result of abuse. The three principal guest characters are all wounded by that feeling of distrust, people that are supposed to love and protect them only hurting them in the long run. And we also have a villain (or, arguably, a misguided hero) who believes she is doing the right thing, but letting madness take over whatever common sense she once had.

Director Ralph Hemecker paints a vivid sense of dread here. I don't know if it's the Sleepy Hollow woods that are at the center of the episode, or the creeping sense of horror being created as Mulder and Scully wander around looking for clues, but it's an effective scary story, more in line with vintage X-Files than some of the show's more experimental recent hours... but it works regardless. I also loved the idea of Karin being able to control the trees and mud around her. While it's never actually explained how she came to do this, it's interesting to theorize that her own sense of helplessness as an abuse victim gave her the ability to manipulate nature itself, to protect her from the humanity that took advantage of her.

Schizogeny only falls apart when the horror elements become broader, most notably with the contrived gardener character and his big axe, conveniently showing up to save the day and slice off Karin's head. It's a disappointingly empty ending to a rich idea, which leaves the episode closing on something of a hollow note.

But, up to that point, the episode is reliably sinister, creating a world of paranoia, distrust and anger, which makes even Scully uncomfortable. Great acting work all round, especially Canadian genre favorite Sarah-Jane Redmond. B-

Guest stars Chad Lindberg (Bobby Rich); Sarah-Jane Redmond (Karin Matthews); Katharine Isabelle (Lisa Baiocchi)
Writers Jessica Scott, Mike Wollaeger Director Ralph Hemecker

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