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X-Files Episode Guide: Red Museum

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X-Files:Season 2, Episode 10

Rating:
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Written by Chris Carter
Directed by Win Phelps

I want to give this episode more credit than it deserves because of an outside factor. At one point, Carter had a discussion with the producers of David E. Kelley's Picket Fences, his quirky and energetic hit set, like this episode, in a small town in Wisconsin. Since both series aired Friday nights (X-Files at 9, Picket Fences at 10) there was a certain logic to it. It might have caused programming conflicts, but Kelley would deal with similar issues with other series, and he probably could've gotten away it. And given the similar tones of the series, there might have been a way for the two episodes to tell one complete story. But CBS executives refused to budge, and the crossover never happened.
That, however, would require me giving this episode a lot more praise than I should. And Red Museum doesn't deserve it, because frankly its a mess. The teaser is confusing enough, with an element of a peeping tom that seems to have nothing to do with what happens next. Then we're off to Delta Glen, and we are dealing with what seems to be a cult of vegetarians who believe in some kind of new age mysticism. Then another kid disappears and we see a literal fight between vegetarians and cattle people. Then we have an old man taking Mulder and Scully on a detour that seems to deal with the possibility that all of the troubles in the town date back to some movement towards bovine growth hormones. Just as we try to take that in, a literal deux ex machina comes in the form of a plane, and it's revealed that the town doctor has something sinister going on with what's happening.
Have you followed all this so far? Too bad, because now the episodes about to turn into a conspiracy episode. A man drives up to a cattle ranch, and shoots a worker dead just for saying hello to him. (He looks familiar, but because this series has the habit of bringing back the same actors for different roles, and because they don't bother to identify any of these characters, we're not sure what we're seeing.) Then we discover the peeping tom (who is leaning as close to pedophilia as network TV was willing to go at the time) is actually a good guy, who's been trying to warn people. Then the substance that the doctor was injecting people with is revealed to be 'purity control' and the man in town the same one who executed Deep Throat. And at this point, I just threw up my hands.
This episode probably stands as what many would consider the public perception of The X-Files. It appears simple at the start, then it gets more and more convoluted, there are a bunch of blind alleys, and by the time the episodes over, you have no idea what happen or why. It's bad enough that this kind of thing would eventually isolate the series fan base; to try and do it in the middle of an episode makes you wonder what the hell's going on. It also doesn't restore your faith that Carter is the one behind this episode, which makes you begin to wonder if he's heading away from the simplicity of The Host and Duane Barry and back towards the endless convolutions he demonstrated last season.
There are some interesting bits. The fact that the man who appears to be the villain of the piece is actually the one trying to help the authorities is a neat bit. And the fact that Crewcut man doesn't die at the hands of the conspiracy, but rather the grieving father of one of the victims is a novel approach to getting rid of the man who so casually dispatched Deep Throat last season. But the good bits are muddle in such a primordial mess that they're hard to pick out.
What we get is the feeling that Carter, having kept our heroes away from The X-Files for a third of the season, is now trying to get them to do way too much too fast. There might have been two or three decent episodes in this goulash, but the one we get is enough to give even a hardcore fan like me something of a headache
My score: 1.5 Stars

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