Teleplay by Glen Morgan & James Wong; Story by Darin Morgan
Directed by David Nutter
Our first dance with Glen's younger brother is a remarkably straight-forward, mostly serious piece about a town that deals with a small town in Pennsylvania, where people have begun to kill each other in bursts, including what may be the first example in any medium of a psychotic postal worker. Not a particularly unusual work, and yet there are more than a few moments in Blood where the episode sings.
For one thing, we have the rare example of a sympathetic lawman, who treats Mulder with respect and who doesn't run away when screaming when he hears some of the more outlandish theories presented. John Cygan does a very good job of playing a cop who is clearly in over his head, and who wants to see the carnage in Franklin end, even if he doesn't know why it's happening. The episode also has several very good set pieces with each killing, so well done that it doesn't hit you until the episodes over that you're basically seeing the same set piece over and over. It's certainly a problem the series will fall victim to in future episodes, but here it just lends itself to the sense of dread and suspense with each burst of messages.
Paradoxically, this episode plays least well when it goes back to old habits. Considering how paranoid Mulder was to make sure he and Scully weren't even seen together in Little Green Men, it's kind of odd that he seems to be consulting her as if there were no problems, or for that matter, why he doesn't seem to mind her flying three hundred miles out of her way to come to the scene of the crime. Even more inexplicable is why and how Byers, Langley and Frohike seem to get involved in this episode. I understand Mulder may be relying on them now that he's been pulled away from his official channels, but why would he go to and from D.C. to see them, and not Scully? They're a lot more entertaining and relevant than they were in their first appearance, and God knows the exchanges with Frohike are becoming classic, but it's still not clear whether Morgan and Wong have a handle on them yet. (They'll actually grow more as characters when their creators let them go.)
The biggest problem is the lack of an explanation. Even by this stage in this series, we know better that to hope that the larger conspiracy is ever going to be revealed behind anything. But here, electronic devices--- televisions and microwaves, which might be able to be controlled by outside sources, but also devices in calculators, watches, and our hero's cell phone--- are all being manipulated, and we have no idea as to by who or to what end-- beyond Mulder's explanations. Admittedly, this may be one of the rare occasions where the writers themselves are expressing themselves. Glen Morgan also admitted that he doesn’t have a clue about who or what was transmitting the subliminal message, saying that this is something the viewers need to decide for themselves, and this may be one of the few occasions where the audience's ideas may be far more plausible then the writers. Perhaps this attitude actually plays a lot better when it comes in terms with the main 'villain' Ed Funsch. He doesn't know why the universe has been pressing to him to buy a rifle and start shooting at people, but his adrenals are spike and the world seems determined, so who is he to stand in it's way? As the sheriff points out, Mulder knows more about what happened to him than he does.
It's a darker, slyer episode than a lot of The X-Files we've had so far, having Scully being the one to wonder when Mulder was going to bring up alien abductions in his report, only to have him dismiss the possibility with the very next line, and have it seem like Mulder's about to fall victim to a subliminal message, only to see it be far more direct approach on the TV he's watching. And it does have some subtler suggestions about this being a pedestrian town, while still being subject to government flyovers and guns being available right across from the blood drive. If it ultimately falters a bit in the final act, that doesn't change that Blood is still a piquant and often scary episode that demonstrates the series is moving at a far better clip from when it was last year.