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.
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.
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.
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.
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.