Having previously scripted Endgame, the concluding part to an epic mythology-laden two-part story, Frank Spotnitz’s second X-Files script, Our Town, would be a stand alone contribution that part of me likes to think came to him whilst watching Bad Day At Black Rock while eating some Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Essentially a tale about a town that is pretty much keeping a huge secret, coupled with themes of cannibalism, Our Town is…well…fine I guess. In fact, if it were placed at any other point in the season I would say it was hugely enjoyable with a lot to recommend it. There is nothing here that is terrible or unwatchable, in fact it moves at a fast pace and never out lasts its welcome. Even the predominant ideas of cannibalism at a poultry factory is a disturbingly brilliant one. The problem it has is placement within the season.
Both F.Emascualta and Soft Light have detailed Mulder’s investigations as part of a tool being used by his enemies within the conspiracy to further their own ends, with it hitting close to home last week when X effectively used his relationship with Mulder to get his hands of Chester Ray Banton. One can feel a sense of bitterness in the air and it will effectively lead up to the mother of all emotional explosions (coupled with some drugged water) in the FBI hallway in Anasazi.
It feels like that’s the episode we should be getting at this stage in the season. It is after all the twenty-fourth episode of the season, and the season finale from the first year was at the equivalent point, but it seems as if Chris Carter and everyone on the show forgot they had twenty-five episodes to deliver so had to put something together really quickly.
Now, I’m not saying that’s what happened, it just merely feels that way, and for something that feels like it’s went down that way, Our Town is a pretty damn entertaining hour of television, but it just feels as if they should have tried to hold it over until somewhere next season (there is after all very little in the way of continuity references and it does feel like it could go anywhere in the show), but it’s been on a roll for the past two weeks, and feels as if it’s about to hit something important thematically and emotionally (which it will do, oh boy is it about to spectacularly) that to stop for one week and do an admittedly entertaining borderline satire on the poultry industry and cannibalism is a mild disappointment.
I say mild disappointment because Our Town is, and I’ve said it before but allow me to reiterate, not a bad episode. In fact, it’s all rather good fun and probably comes across as an entertaining piece of fluff before the intensity of the finale, which is about to kick start the first of an epic three part story.
Spotnitz is a very fine writer and one of the few on the show who wasn’t Chris Carter who could go from the mythology end of the series to stand alone tales in a wonderful way. All one has to do is look at his filmography on the series to see that; Engdame, Detour, 731, Via Negativa. He is one of the show’s most important voices and a damn fine one to boot. His work on season eight particularly is one of the most impressive runs of any writer on the series (with Via Negativa in particularly being one of the most frightening episodes in the entire show).
Rob Bowman directs with style as always, although it is worth nothing that he is on record for not particularly liking this one due to claiming he was exhausted when working on it, but to be honest I don’t think it shows. The set pieces are nicely presented as always, with great use of lighting in the forest sequence at the start as well as during the final confrontation.
If there is a major problem to be had, it has to be placing Scully in danger for the episode’s final moments. She’s been abducted by aliens and the show’s most frightening serial killer, but you really expect us to buy The Colonel as a threat? Or entertain the possibility of her getting her head cut off when we know the finale is a week away?
Despite this, the themes and ideas running throughout are all entertaining and the notion of a large community like this hiding something as despicable as cannibalism whilst keeping their town financially sound by being a major poultry producer is quite chilling.
I just wish it was somewhere else in the stream of the show.