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X-Files Episode Guide: The Host

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X-Files: Season 2, Episode 2

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Written by Chris Carter
Directed by Daniel Sackheim

This is one of the darker and danker episodes the show would ever do---- not so much in tone as it is in lighting. Half the episode the characters are either underground or in places where the sun don't shine even in the daytime. That actually helps the episode, because as long as were dark and wet, we really don't have any idea what exactly Mulder is wading through the water to find. And that makes it one of the scarier episodes as well.

Carter's first script for the second season is, for a change, a monster of the week rather than some epic mythology episode. And just as Little Green Men demonstrated how good the alien-mythology could be when Carter wasn't writing it, The Host demonstrates how good MOTW could be when he was. Throughout Season 1, Carter's major problem seemed to be his trouble of giving added significance for every episodes with a lot of purple prose and convolutions---- a habit, unfortunately, he never quite shook. It's true to a certain extent in this episode, mainly when Mulder and Scully talk in deep terms about what might have made this creature that would eventually be christened the Flukeman, and the bizarre calls that Mulder seems to get from an unknown source over the phone, who we never see (in this episode) But for the most part Carter lets the story flow and have Mulder and Scully investigate rather than pontificate, and I can't tell you how much that helps the story.

Some might say--- coming from an era where TV shows do even the smallest visual effects on computers--- that having the monster dressed in one of the ugliest looking combinations of prosthetics shows how primitive X-Files is in comparison. I think that it actually helps the story. For one thing, the director is damn sure to make sure we don't actually see the monster until the episode is nearly half over, and for another, seeing this awful looking mutation helps make the final revelation in the denouement--- that this monster was not a creation of nature but from the sea of radioactivity which was Chernobyl more believable. It's also a little comforting that even at this point they're letting us know there actually is an actor doing all this. If this had been Darin Morgan's only contribution to the series, it would have been worthy of note. Thank the lord that it wasn't (or watch the next episode)

More than that, now that Carter is finally away from the basement, he's helping make his leads for believable and dimensional. Mulder seems even more despondent and angry than he was at last week (but what do you expect now that he's back on the wiretap and dragged through the Jersey sewers), and is now contemplating resigning from the FBI. For a change, it's Scully who has to find a way to keep going, agreeing to do an autopsy, coming up with a lead when the worm is found in the corpse, and putting two and two together when she gets the newspaper. There's also some welcome growth from Skinner, who with each episode seems to becoming less a cipher, and more fixed in his own position. There are definite indications that he might be 'the friend in the FBI' the caller references himself as (he's certainly more trustworthy--- but we'll get to that as well.) When he admits to Mulder that this should've been an X-File, it's a big step down a path he'll be willing to lead on.

It's not a perfect episode. The shots of Gillian Anderson are getting so bizarrely place that it's beginning to look like Scully really is hiding something (Anderson was seven months pregnant at the time) The calls make this case seem more important then it actually is, and frankly, it's hard to know why it's so important that they resolve the case. And the setup for a sequel is a little lame, considering that this is one of those cases that they never followed through on. But The Host is a creepy, squirmy, and humorous little story that plays like a well-oiled machine, and demonstrates that the second season is finding a grove a lot quicker than the first

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