September 2013 sees the 20th anniversary of the first airing of The X-Files . To celebrate this on The Hex Dimension, I’ll be providing you with retrospectives on episodes and I’ll also be covering the films at the points that they fit into the series’ chronology. So, without further ado… welcome to “The Jersey Devil”.
A mixture of both
As I’ve observed several times in these retrospectives, there’s this weird symbology being set-up between the wilderness and man-made environments. Here in this episode, after a flashback to a case of cannibalism in the woods outside Atlantic City in 1947, Mulder’s theories revolve around a concept of the the Jersey Devil – though somewhat altered from the usual tellings of this myth from the east coast of the United States. The devil is like a part of mankind’s past that’s trying to creep up on its present – a Neanderthal like creature that’s purely driven by its id, regardless of the consequences. And the devil is expanding its territory into civilised areas.
Of course Mulder’s investigation is unwanted by the local police force, we rarely expect an episode of The X-Files where local law enforcement co-operates, but bringing in the idea that the people running the city don’t want the investigation – we have our first episode of the interests of people being outdone by the needs of capitalism. There’s a hint throughout the episode, especially with the discussion that takes place in the University of Maryland between Mulder, Scully and one of Scully’s old professors – Dr Diamond – that mankind has been paying so much attention to the immaterial that nature is about to come and bite it on its ass.
Outside of the episode’s X-File, Scully is shown to be trying to figure out whether she wants to lead a normal life alongside working at the FBI. A conversation between Scully and a friend sees Scully say that the only reason she isn’t pursuing Mulder is because he’s so obsessed with his work at the Bureau. Later on that episode, after Mulder has spent a night in a drunk tank due to his obsession, Scully, when asked if she’ll cancel a date, proclaims, “Unlike you Mulder, I would like to have a life.” Mulder defensively replies that he has a life, which even we the viewer haven’t had a glimpse of yet.
It’s good that Scully isn’t instantly falling for Mulder in any way, this far into the series. But it’s also pleasant to see how Scully is career orientated – she didn’t spend years at medical school and then training with the FBI to just go and become a baby machine. Though it is disappointing that in this episode, having a life is equated with doing things like dating other people and general romantic activities rather than just generally having interests outside of work, but even Scully finds these activities tedious in the end.
This episode is probably the first one to see Mulder and Scully joined by several ally like figures – the park ranger, Dr Diamond and a pathologist – none of them are completely opposed to the ideas that Mulder puts forward, however like Scully they have a degree of scepticism that keeps them from being fanatics. While it’s cool to see Mulder working alone against the system, it has the potential to get rather boring, rather quickly.
I find it interesting how Mulder and his group of allies are generally peaceful and rationally thinking in this episode, meanwhile the law enforcement officers of the city are portrayed a shoot first, ask questions later stereotype. The two groups are extremely different in their modes of operation, with the law enforces coming out far more like the devil creature than humans at the end of the day.
What did you think of this episode? Let us know in the comments below.