He Had It Coming
"Schizogeny" Plot Summary:
16-year-old Bobby's father comes home and finds his son's chores unfinished. When he demands that the kid do them, Bobby threatens him with a shovel and then flees into the woods. Phil, the father, runs after him, but trips on a root and is sucked into the mud while Bobby tries to help. During the autopsy, Scully reveals that Phil swallowed twelve pounds of mud, and hypothesizes that Bobby must have held his head down, but Mulder doesn't believe that a kid like Bobby could have managed that.
The mother reveals that Bobby and Phil did not get along, which makes Scully suspect abuse - a hypothesis seemingly confirmed by Bobby's therapist, Karin Matthews, who says that some crimes only have victims. In school, Bobby gets newfound respect from his peers and follows Lisa, a girl he likes who also has a domineering father. Her single parent warns her to stay away from Bobby; when she screams at him, he is dragged from an upstairs window by a tree branch and killed.
Mulder finds a piece of tree bark embedded in Lisa's father's neck, and climbs a tree near the window to investigate. Then an old local orchard worker says that the trees are dying from an evil man, like they did twenty years earlier. He strikes the tree with an axe, making it bleed. Meanwhile, Lisa sees mud on Karin's shoes as Mulder did earlier, and follows to the root cellar, where she is trapped just as she sees a dead body. Mulder and Scully question Karin about her own father's mysterious death in the mud twenty years earlier. They don't hear Lisa's cries for help.
Mulder realizes that all the men who died worked in the orchards - and all were suspected child abusers. They question Bobby again and learn that in fact he was not an abuse victim, however - Karin made him stand up to his father and told him he was a victim. They also find that Karin's father's body is not in his coffin. Meanwhile Karin, speaking in a man's voice, threatens Lisa; when the girl's aunt tries to rescue her, she's murdered by a tree. Mulder and Scully return to Karin's house, where they find the dead aunt and Lisa, but Karin has gone to see Bobby. She pursues him into the woods and curses at him in a man's voice while roots pull him into the mud, but the old orchard worker kills Karin with his axe.
Part horror movie, part psychiatric thriller, this was an effective episode though I feel like Mulder and Scully weren't in it much. The most interesting character by far was Karin - it was obvious from her first appearance that she was hiding something, but I did not expect it to be that she was possessed by her father's patriarchal spirit which could even command the trees to do his bidding. There's something discomforting about the fact that in most movies about therapists, the doctors turn out to be much worse off than the patients, and are often abusers themselves. Considering that the vast majority of child abuse IS perpetrated by relatives upon children in the family, not by outside mental health professionals, it's a rather unfortunate message.
As for the kids themselves...OK, they weren't being physically abused, but one had deeply sociopathic tendencies and the other had an eating disorder, which is why they were in treatment in the first place. I saw nothing in this episode to give me hope that they had broken out of the cycle of victimization; neither Bobby nor Lisa was saved by his or her own daring or ingenuity. And I'm utterly confused about the deus ex machina. Clearly the trees were at the command of the abuser, not the victims, so what's the message supposed to be?
Still, the episode was well-written and very well directed, with the exception of a perfectly dreadful scene where Scully and two cops march into a high school classroom to question Bobby, and a number of jokes by Mulder which fell flat at inappropriate moments. I did like him asking Scully whether she was turned on by the sight of him climbing a tree and thinking she was ignoring him when in fact she was distracted by the woodsman (I keep wanting to call him The Lorax). And I loved the shots of the guy with the axe, standing around like a nutty executioner. The plot was unpredictable and the ending freaky in classic horror-movie fashion, so I enjoyed the show.
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