This is an episode about paranoia. About not trusting the people of your small town. About jumping to conclusions and not giving people their due diligence. About witch hunts (which I feel is hard to say without mentioning that, these days, people are using this term in relation to the #metoo movement, and dear lord, am I not going to open that can of worms in this review! Just super not in the mood!). But out of all of these interesting themes, why is it that I’m just stuck on the imagery!
I ended up not really caring at the end of the day about a supernatural episode of Desperate Housewives (look into your heart, you know it to be true), and just in awe of the direction, and the striking visuals of this episode. It started off strong though, and bold! We begin with a terrifying sequence, that isn’t just terrifying because of what happens when you take your eye’s off your child for a second, just to find them gone, but it’s also seeing what the child sees. He sees something familiar, or distracting, and he just follows. In this case, he sees someone from his favorite kids program, a character named Mr Chuckle Teeth. The kid is later found dead, shaken to death, and partially eaten by animals.
Before we go further, I want to talk about the anomaly that is Mr. Chuckle Teeth. First off, god damn, what an image. Whoever created that image deserves a metal, because that imbues everything that has ever terrified me as a child, but in adult form. He’s a wonderful mix of Slappy from Goosebumps, the strangers from the Hush episode of Buffy the Vampire slayer, and any Miyazaki movie. He’s apart of a kids television show called Biggle Tiggles, which is basically Teletubbies, but scary…er. It feels like a creepy pasta come to life, and that’s where I start to question this logic. I have a few nieces and nephews, so I’ve watch a lot of developmental children’s programing, and a lot of it is weird and messed up, but I’ve never seen anything like Mr. Chuckle Teeth before. Biggle Tiggles are at least a reference we all understand, albeit a little bit creepier for effect, but Mr. Chuckle Teeth is a horrifying creation, even to do it accidentally. The fact that one of the kids has a toy of this guy is scary enough. Now I’ve done a bit of research and tried looking for anything that is anywhere close to being this creepy, and while I’ve found things, they are either from other countries, or from long ago, and either way, not for developing children. Still, I can’t take away from the effectiveness of this creature.
Back to the episode. Mulder and Scully go into investigate the death of a child. The local police think it’s just an animal attack, but once Scully mentions once that it could be murder, and what the usual mindset of someone who could do this, that’s when the paranoia sets in. It’s tense to see the seed of an idea come through so well, to grow that tree of distrust. Watching everything simmer up to the boiling point it’s own sort of fun, and that boiling point is also shocking in its own right. Seeing a police officer brutally murder someone, in front of so many people, and just get a slap on the wrist for it is disturbing, and relevant.
Unfortunately, after the boiling point is where the episode loses its steam. Speaking of the murder itself, it’s kind of strange. The man that was shot was a convicted sex offender, and as distressing as that is that someone was living there that the town didn’t know about, it’s also weird that this is where they put the whole police brutality bit in the show. We hear of police shootings of innocent people all the time, especially when it comes to African Americans, but it’s a little bit strange that we get an episode where police brutality is imposed on… this dude. I don’t get it. It’s suppose to be a lesson on “we shouldn’t rush to judgment” but it feels like it wasn’t thought out as well as it should have been. He is an innocent man in this case, but he’s still not completely innocent.
Beyond that we get a whole witchcraft plot, where one person curses another person for cheating on them with another person, and but messes up and goes for their kids, and already I not interested. Other than the fact that their kids just died, none of these adults did anything for me to make me care for them. It’s just hysterics, or backstabbery, and that’s my description of most of these characters. I get more character development from the stone face children’s characters.
Thank God for Mulder and Scully, there to save us from an OK episode. I’ve talked about it before, but it bares repeating, their chemistry is the show. When Mulder says “maybe it’s hellhounds”, Scully does a somewhat physical preparation of the answer of her question, “What are hellhounds?” So wonderful. One of the best bits is when Scully is doing an autopsy on a child, and you can see her struggle as she says “It never gets easier with a child.” The show as a whole just doesn’t work as well without Mulder and Scully
The end of the episode is… mixed in quality. There is some finely crafted horror bits, again, with Mr. Chuckle Teeth stalking the adults, and a particularly nasty bit involving a wolf. But the actual resolution of the episode is just to set the witch on fire and let her burn. Literally. It’s very Reservoir Dog, in that everyone dies. Abrupt ending is abrupt, and not really satisfying.
Overall, I actually really liked this episode, even though it’s incredibly flawed. Again, the striking images are wonderful, the horror is very well done, and anytime with Mulder and Scully is a good time. Good direction can save a weak script, and this is a great example of that. We have two episodes left, this hasn’t been a perfect season, but I still want more.