The X-Files S1, E5: “The Jersey Devil”

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I’ve been delving into the popular sci-fi series The X-Files for a while now, making many attempts and failures to engage with its first season. Now it’s summer, and I’ve been weaving in and out through the series various episodes, trying to piece the gigantic enterprise together. It may seem strange for me to go back and recap an over two decades old television show, in some ways that type of thing is what the blog was built for. Join me this week as I uncover the series’ first dud.

...and so is a kid who can write in binary!

…and so is the devil???

This is definitely the worst episode of The X-Files so far. We’ve had pretty good to decent episodes so that’s not saying a whole lot, but nevertheless, “The Jersey Devil” is a pretty nothing episode. The episode does get some humor in the fact that Mulder has no life, but that’s basically about it. Other than that, it’s a very low-stakes monster of the week that really ends up being a why bother.

“The Jersey Devil” refers to a neanderthal-like man/beast living in the woods outside of Atlantic City, only emerging to feed on human flesh. The cold open shows up one such instance of this back in ’47, which as an x-file later provides Mulder with an excuse of going down to Jersey to check out a similar murder that Scully’s heard rumors of floating around the bureau. There’s resistance from local law enforcement, but Mulder proceeds with the case anyway, even going so far as to sleep in an alley to catch a glimpse of the “devil.” And he does… and the “devil” is a woman!

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To be honest, I’m not really sure why this is significant. Later, a park ranger finds a body of the male devil. This gives the female incentive to leave the cave and find food, presumably to feed the children they have. It’s a whole neanderthal family! This makes sense, I suppose, and at first sort of goes against our expectations. Where it goes after that is a little bit strange, as Mulder’s love for the strange and fantastic leads him to appear entranced by the “devil.” They bond in a way, which is very strange and nothing really comes of it. We get this weird scene when Mulder is trapped by the “devil” but is certain she won’t hurt him, and she just stay immobile above him for a really long time. I suppose we are supposed to be entranced as well, but it just seemed strange to me.

There is no real social commentary on the fact that she is a woman, really, so that thread basically goes nowhere. The idea is supposed to be that evolution has passed these people by somehow. There is no real evidence that they don’t have the evolutionary advantages of modern man, so Mulder’s wanting to believe basically gets nothing here.

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Since this is an early episode, we do get some scenes of Scully having a life. We’re basically cutting between Mulder investigating the case and Scully living her life back in DC. She first leaves to go to her godson’s birthday party (I don’t think we ever see or hear of this kid again) and then meets one of the other dads there and goes on a date with him. This guy (Rob, Scott’s dad) is pretty lame, so it’s easy to see why Scully bails on him. He’s way too into his identity as a family man for Scully to really relate to him in any meaningful way. As an alternative, Scully gets sucked back into the case and leaves normalcy behind.

This review is late because I really could not get geared up to write about this episode. If you’re binge-watching The X-Files and come across this episode, it doesn’t really seem that bad. You just watch it and get on with it. These early episodes obviously aren’t working quite at the standards of some later seasons, and that makes sense because they just haven’t settled in completely yet. When I looked closer at this episode though, I just wanted to get onto the next one. There really is not much here besides Scully get more drawn into to Mulder’s crazy search for The Truth. But the truth they’re chasing down in this episode just isn’t that compelling.

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“Keep that up, Mulder, and I’ll hurt you like that beast woman.”

Long story short: 2.5/4

Click here to read my review of next week’s episode: “Shadows”

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