This is an X-Files version of 'creepy suburbia', planting Mulder and Scully into a picturesque gated community full of white picket fences and flawless driveways inhabited by a group of frantic families who secretly sit and judge and conform until their hearts give out. Oh, and there's also a huge trash monster killing folks. Arcadia actually works better as a dissection of cultural conformity than it does a horror episode, while the Mulder and Scully undercover hijinks are crazy fun.
I always love episodes where the romantic tension between our two protagonists is thrust center stage. Their banter here is hilarious, from Scully's clear disdain for the whole investigation, to Mulder's neat description of meeting 'Laurie' at a UFO convention and how she's a huge 'new age nut'. Heh. Then there's Mulder contemplating peeing in the orange juice carton. It's a really funny script, Daniel Arkin not falling into the familiar first-script traps (see David Amann's work this season for more on that).
If anything underwhelms, it's the monster itself. I love the idea of a monster created from the various bags of garbage thrown out over the years, but the ending felt rushed and pretty 'blah'. And there's nothing I'm more disappointed by than a monster created by some megalomaniac with a creepy African totem. There's also that season one problem have having Scully conveniently out of the picture when the monster finally attacks.
But regardless of some of the issues I had with this, Arcadia works as a great comedy episode with some of the best performances this season from David and Gillian. Great guest star work, too, all the actors reliably kooky and interesting. A-
Guest stars Peter White (Gene Gogolak); Abraham Benrubi (Mike Raskin); Debra Christofferson (Pat Verlander); Tom Gallop (Win Schroeder); Marnie McPhail (Cami Schroeder); Roger Morrissey (Ubermenscher)
Writer Daniel Arkin Director Michael Watkins