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X-Files Episode Guide: Execlsis Dei

X-FILES: Season 2, Episode 11

Rating:
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Written by Paul Brown
Directed by Stephen Surjik

The good news after the muddled mess of the last episode, this one is a lot simpler. Unfortunately, simpler doesn't mean better.
In some ways, I agreed with some of the points of Gung, the Asian orderly who as it the crux of this story: Americans tend to treat their elderly with disdain and lack of sympathy. And in a nation where Alzheimer's is one of the most prevalent diseases, I feel much more needs to be done. It is therefore demeaning they are used in such a wretched script as the one we have here, one that puts everything into the most Crayola type terms--- old people good, medical staff bad.. The staff is so loathsome and uninteresting in the care of their patients that the viewer is almost inclined to root for the orderly to be thrown out a window, or, in what is arguably the most ridiculous stunt that X-Files has tried so far, trap Mulder and a truly loathsome nurse in a room that floods.
There are also some worthy idea about government treatment for the elderly. Unfortunately, I am using the term 'worthy' in the weakest sense of the word. All of the medicine that's supposedly being used to treat the patient in the study is no match for the 'ancient Chinese secret' that gives these old people their grooves back. Unfortunately, Brown clearly has no more ideas as to make the patients and more interesting than the staff, with the exception of one becoming a magnificent artist. (How he managed to get that mural painted in the space of a few hours with nobody noticed is one of the bigger plot holes that the story just leaves hanging.)
In the midst of all these problems, there's the fact that this episode doesn't give much for Mulder and Scully to do. It's a novel approach that Scully is the one more interested in the case at first, and seems more sympathetic and engaged in the episode that Mulder does. But our heroes don't seem to do much to help this particular story along. Mulder has no great insight into the case until the stories more than two-thirds of the way over, and then he gives no explanation as to how all of the magic mushrooms are somehow causing the spirits of this nursing home to go apeshit. Scully has some insights into the medical aspects, but when the attacks come, she literally just stands and watches as one orderly is thrown out a window, runs around ineffectually when Mulder is trapped in a room that's flooding, and then stops what she's doing to tell one of the doctors that one of the elderly patients is having a seizure. There's also no explanation as to how the minute the seizure stops, all the ghosts disappear --- but since the episode doesn't seem that interested in any plot, we hardly care by now.
After the general high quality of the second season, Excelsius Dei is the first episode that plays like a holdover from Season One. This isn't a compliment. It might be forgivable if the series was still finding its sea legs, and after all, this is a MOTW by a writer who had only written for the series once before (and perhaps understandably, never again.) There's little pretentious dialogue or engaging characters or, for the most part, interesting set pieces. It just seems... confused, like Brown had some interesting ideas and they either tossed out in the process , or he just plain didn't care. What we are left with is an episode that doesn't seem particularly imaginative, and is clearly lacking in the banter to make this story palatable. We've now had three episodes like this in a row, which would be a troubling sign, if we didn't know we were finally about to hit pay dirt again soon.