Thu
May 10 2012 11:00am

Reopening The X-Files: “Home”

Reopening The X-Files: Home

Season 4, Episode 2: “Home”
Original Airdate: October 11, 1996

“Home” is a bit of a legend, or at least, that’s how I remember it. It aired with a Viewer Discretion warning, the first of only two that The X-Files would receive, and it rarely appeared in reruns. I remembered the episode as a disgusting skin-crawler, some combination of Buried Child and the Flukeman, an episode that would make me want to avert my eyes over and over. But “Home” is in fact better than that: it’s horror, good horror, well-told and suspenseful with a broad streak of wry humor to keep you from dwelling too much on its brutal, awful murders.

Speaking of which, how does infanticide sound? Like for starters. A baby is born and a baby is buried, in a rainstorm, by three exceptionally ugly men. Mulder and Scully are brought in by local Sheriff Andy Taylor (really) who didn’t know where else to turn and also is hoping against hope that this dead baby situation isn’t a sign of things to come for his sweet little town, population: just a few hundred. Our agents ask about the busted-looking house nearby, the one with three ugly men on the porch. Sheriff Taylor explains that these are the Peacock boys and that the Peacock boys are the last of a stubborn clan, living in a house with no electricity or running water. He also explains that the parents of the Peacocks died in a car accident ten years ago, and implies that the Peacocks are big fans of inbreeding.

Reopening The X-Files: Home

So the mystery is not that hard, at all, but it doesn’t matter. Clearly the Peacocks are responsible for the baby, clearly they will have to be reckoned with, so where’s the suspense, I’ll tell you. It’s in, even when you know what’s out there, even if you know what it’s done, you may not yet know the lengths to which it will go to keep itself alive. “Home” quickly becomes a parable of survival, and there is nothing more deadly than someone or something or a someone-something who is attempting to survive.

And so. Scully examines the baby. The baby is deformed, incredibly deformed, birth defect on top of birth defect on top of. Mulder at this point tries to convince her that this is neither an X-File nor an FBI matter. These are normally Scully’s lines, but Scully is thinking about the mother of the child, a mother who she presumes is being held by the Peacocks against her will. Kidnapping is an FBI matter, acknowledges Mulder, and then: “I never saw you as a mother before.” Which, of course he didn’t. For a man obsessed with his own family, his mother and his sister and his father, Mulder is fairly ignorant of the familial instincts of others. And it’s maybe meant to be sweet, the line, but it stings in the telling. And it stings even more to the viewer who may realize that she has never really thought of Scully as a mother, either.

Reopening The X-Files: Home

The agents investigate the Peacock house and find evidence of the birth, blood and dirty scissors. They discuss issuing warrants, discuss searching for abandoned vehicles that may in fact belong to victims of kidnapping. They’re overheard, but by what, it isn’t clear. A pair of eyes in a streak of light, innocent enough but the result is horrible. The Peacock boys load themselves into their Cadillac and drive to Sheriff Taylor’s house. He has the door unlocked and his gun nowhere close. He tries to defend himself with a baseball bat, but it’s not enough. They beat him to death, and then they beat his wife to death, and it is now that we know the lengths to which they will go.

The eyes belong to a voice that is raspy and awful and demands food from the boys. One of them spits chewed bread into the voice’s mouth. The voice then informs them that she is ready, which is sinister, then they undress, which is, yeah, okay, the ew we were looking for. Mulder and Scully and a Deputy named Barney (really) approach the house with guns and vests. Barney trips a booby-trap and has his head removed via axe. Our agents then think better of Just Walking Right In and decide to create a diversion, a diversion which is, they push all of the pigs out of the pen. Have you ever wanted to see Mulder and Scully shoving pigs out of a pen? Why not? You’re wrong. It’s great, it’s so strange and weird and didn’t we just watch a guy get his head chopped off and another guy beaten to death and now all of a sudden Scully is cracking jokes about Babe, thank god. If it weren’t for gallows humor, we wouldn’t have any humor at all.

Reopening The X-Files: Home

The Peacock boys are drawn out of the house and our agents go in carefully and discover the eyes and the voice strapped to a plank under a bed. It’s Mrs. Peacock, it turns out, the mother. She lost her arms and her legs in that accident and is also crazy and screaming but other than that, she’s okay! Mulder watches the boys while Scully talks to Mom. Weirdly, Mom is not super-reasonable? She loves her home, and her boys, and she can tell Scully doesn’t have children because the way you can tell if a woman has children is whether or not she’s willing to (a) sleep with them to further the line (b) tell them to murder people. And probably Scully would love to just discount the word of the crazy under the bed, but to be told twice in as many days that you are not mother material—! Is procreation the last word in survival, and if so, are mothers the best of survivors? And what does that mean to a childless woman who has survived so much already.

Reopening The X-Files: Home

There’s a fight. The Peacock boys return to the house. There’s wrestling, shooting. A booby trap is deployed. Two of the boys die in the skirmish and the third escapes, dragging his mother behind him. They survive to breed again. To find another home and to stubbornly advance, relentless in their pursuit of family.

 


Aside from the need for corrective lenses or the tendency to be abducted by extraterrestrials involved in an international governmental conspiracy, Meghan Deans passes genetic muster. She Tumbls and is @meghandrrns.

14 comments
Chris Hawks
1. SaltManZ
The part that always stuck with me in this episode is that cheerful oldies song that plays while the Peacock boys go about their business. The details are fuzzy, but the (obviously intentional) incongruity really got me.
Carrie Vaughn
2. Carrie_Vaughn
Ah, I've been waiting for this one. Great write-up!

I remember the horrible, sinking feeling I got when that "viewer discretion" warning came up. Because if Flukeman and Tooms and all the rest didn't merit a viewer discretion, what the hell were they going to pull out this time? Oooh, boy.

SaltManZ: the song playing during the Taylers' horrific murders was Johnny Mathis's "Wonderful, Wonderful." Which cranked up the gruesomeness of the scene to about 19 or so. Hear it on YouTube.
berthok
3. berthok
In my own rewatch of this series, this was one of the episodes I chose to skip. It was so memorable, and so horribly jarring, that I couldn't bring myself to hit 'play'.
berthok
4. dav
Easily my all time favorite episode of X-Files. I was always an on again, off again viewer so the continuing storylines were a little hard to follow, but these one offs were great and this one stuck with me for a long time. That Cadillac, that music, the style of the show, the humor, the first time they pull the mother out from under the bed... it was jarring and has stuck with me for years. Scared the crap out of me as a teenager and sometimes I still have nightmares about some of those images... that's the kind of horror I love.
Alyssa Tuma
5. AlyssaT
Such a good episode, almost a mini-movie, really. To me, the most disturbing part was that beginning scene where the little boys are playing baseball and that one is tamping the dirt in the batter's box... only to dredge up a recently buried bloody baby!!! I mean seriously! I can't believe they got away with any of it, but most of all a group of kids, playing America's pastime, and finding a dead baby.

I believe the spooky recurring song is Johnny Mathis' "Wonderful." Which is a great, atmospheric choice.
Ian Tregillis
6. ITregillis
What a great episode. "Great" as in horribly disturbing and full of images that I've never been able to scrub out of my brain.

When that "Viewer Discretion Advised" warning flashed up on the screen I leapt across the room to shove a tape in the old VCR. I figured it would be something worth rewatching. Which means that still to this day I am haunted by the image of the yowling, snaggletoothed Mrs. Peacock under the bed. *shudder*
berthok
7. sofrina
what set this episode apart from the entire series was the direction. in one hour they executed a complete horror story that overflowed with true terror and revulsion and absurdity. in the most bucolic place there lives a clan of inbred people who everyone knows about and no one messes with. not even to retrieve the bodies of their parents. the town's ballpark is right next to their farm. the peacocks may be reclusive, but they have to be buying their gas and car parts somewhere. at no point do we hear any of the brothers speak. (possibly, they can't.) so when they go about their deadly business, we get shadows, silhouettes and hauntingly disconcerting music. they love johnny mathis! a clan that closed in on itself during the civil war!

what makes the sherriff's death so shriek-inducing isn't the brutality. it's the oddball way an old car pulls up, blasting a beautiful song, then three ogres with Captain Caveman clubs stump in and just lay waste to everyone. and when their done, as the music swells, the camera slowly pans out the window and watches the three trudge back out to their vintage caddy and drive away. what are we supposed to be feeling here? pity? awe? stark terror? all three at once?! will the screaming never stop?!

and then we meet mother peacock and her three nostrils. we see the family photos. we stare wildly over scully's shoulder taking all this in. their mom lives under the bed? their mom gave birth to their baby? their mom believes in inbreeding with absolute conviction?! their mom married her brother?! the- and then we just want to burn the house down and salt the earth.

and then there's that awesome closing scene of a car on a dark road, mother peacock talking soothingly to her surviving son/husband (who was suspected of being the father of the other two brothers!) until he crawls out of the trunk of the car and drives off around the bend, trailing the dulcet tones of johnny mathis. and the screaming just goes on...

on the original airing i declared that episode was better than the entire "texas chainsaw massacre." my mom looked up from her needlepoint and smirked. she said, "you really get into this stuff, don't you?"
Margot Virzana
8. LuvURphleb
@6
Haha needlepoint. I love to watch tv (xfiles included) while needlepointing.
Cait Glasson
9. CaitieCat
Just a note - rights for Mathis himself were unavailable, so the song is actually performed by an impersonator, quite beautifully.

Creepy, creepy show. I still watch it sometimes, but never just before bed.
Joe Romano
10. Drunes
Like dav (@4), I was an on again, off again viewer, too. "Home" was one of the creepiest things I've ever seen on TV, better than most horror movies I've seen in a theater. If every episode of the X-Files had been like this one, I would've been glued to the television set.
berthok
11. dobieprime
I believe after "Home" was aired it was never aired again. I think Fox banned it from airing in reruns. This episode sticks with me like "Somehow The Devil Got Behind Me" from Millenium. I miss Chris Carter shows. :)
berthok
12. sofrina
it got banned for a while, but not permanently. i've seen it several times between fox and syndicated networks, and i only watch broadcasts.
berthok
13. Sparrow
And it stings even more to the viewer who may realize that she has never really thought of Scully as a mother, either.

Projecting much? Not every woman thinks motherhood is the Crowning Glory Of A Woman's Life, you know.
berthok
14. poo
Sparrow, it was discussed earlier in the episode by Mulder himself. He states he never saw Scully as a mom, and proceeded to tease her by calling her "Mom".

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