I have to admit to feeling some disappointment when it became clear that the new ‘X-Files’ episode ‘Home Again’ would not be a revisit of the famous Season 4 classic ‘Home’ (the one with the inbred psychos in the creepy old house). Imagine the possibilities in bringing those characters back. Nevertheless, missed opportunity or not, this one is a pretty good, old-fashioned scary ‘X-Files’ ep.
The City of Brotherly Love isn’t exactly living up to its nickname. In Philadelphia, a prick named Cutler from the Department of Housing and Urban Development is trying to purge the homeless from view on the city streets and force them into a new shelter on the other side of town. That night, a garbage truck pulls up outside his office and deposits a huge creepy guy whose face looks like it’s practically falling off his head and is barely held together by a band-aid on his nose. This hulking monster smashes into Cutler’s office and literally rips the man apart, tearing his limbs right off his body.
Enter Mulder and Scully – at least initially. No sooner do they arrive at the scene to investigate this strange new case than Scully receives a phone call from her brother Bill, informing her that her mother has had a heart attack. Scully leaves immediately to get to the hospital in Washington, D.C., leaving Mulder alone in Philly to finish up without her.
Mulder’s main clue in the case is a graffiti image of the monster painted on the wall of the building across the street. Security camera footage shows that it wasn’t there the day before the attack. Unfortunately, it disappears before he can get close to it.
A pair of street art thieves find and steal a similar image. They plan to auction it off, and actually crack a joke about profiting off the homeless. As punishment for their crime, Band-Aid Man pays them a visit and tears them to pieces as well.
More victims include a couple of public officials who were fighting over the homeless problem, each wanting to shift the burden away from their districts. In a very blackly comical scene, Band-Aid Man murders one while Petula Clark’s upbeat “Downtown” plays on the soundtrack.
Meanwhile, Scully spends a lot of time with her comatose mother. She’s perplexed as to why her mother’s last words were to not to ask for Dana, but for Dana’s estranged brother Charlie. She apparently also changed her living will to add a “Do Not Resuscitate” clause without telling Dana. These little mysteries trouble her and leave her feeling uneasy. She resists when the doctors inform her that they have to take her mother off life support.
Taking a break from his case, Mulder visits Scully in the hospital to offer emotional support. She’s frustrated that Charlie hasn’t called her back and her other brother Bill doesn’t want to fly in from Germany. Charlie finally calls after the mother is removed from life support. Scully puts him on speaker phone to talk to his mother. The woman briefly comes out of her coma, looks directly at Mulder and says, “My son is named William too” before passing away. Scully is heartbroken, not just that her mother has died, but that her last act was to remind Scully of the pain she feels over giving up her own child. Against Mulder’s advice, Scully declares that she needs to get back to work immediately. She needs her job to take her mind off her grief.
Mulder and Scully return to Philadelphia and track the street art paintings to an artist calling himself “Trash Man.” They find him in the basement of an old building without any electricity, which gives the episode excuse to stage a great old-school scene of the two agents wandering through spooky dark rooms illuminated only by their flashlights.
To say the artist is crazy is an understatement. He claims that he started making paintings and sculptures of the Band-Aid Man to depict a vigilante who would protect the homeless from exploitation. He says that he just wanted to scare people, but he believes that he willed the creature to life and now he can’t stop it.
Band-Aid Man’s final victim is a man named Landry, who was Cutler’s even-more-dickish boss at HUD. Scully and Mulder race to the hospital/shelter where he’s been mistreating homeless, but are too late to stop Band-Aid Man from ripping him up.
The episode ends with the Trash Man artist replacing the head on his Band-Aid Man sculpture with a big smiley face and abandoning his basement studio.
This episode maintains a very strong tone of dread throughout, and is quite reminiscent of a lot of classic ‘X-Files’ episodes in that way. The metaphor of society treating the homeless like trash is a little on-the-nose, however, and the true villains of the piece (anyone taking advantage of the homeless) are a bit cartoonishly depicted so that viewers will sympathize with the monster murdering them.
Most problematic is that the plot falls apart at the end and the episode basically just stops without resolving anything. Mulder and Scully let the artist go and quit searching for the Band-Aid Man, as if they’ve shrugged the whole thing off.
On the other hand, the episode also has a lot of really great character work from Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. Scully’s solo storyline generates some real emotion.
This is an imperfect episode, but my impression of it is more favorable than not in the end.