Written by Daniel Arkin
Directed by Michael Watkins
While undoubtedly part of the attraction of this episode – at least to the countless shippers – was the idea of seeing Mulder and Scully “playing house” for the first time in their career together, the truth of the matter is that it’s, sadly, the weakest part. There is a certain amount of charm to see our heroes, aka Rob and Laura Petrie, coming into The Falls as the married couple we’ve been hoping and praying that they would become. But the fact is, after so many episodes in Season 6 where our heroes personal lives have been flowing into their professional ones, its actually starting to get a bit repetitive. Our heroes still quite aren’t up to the challenge, but even if they were, Arkin does a piss-poor job of giving them anything inventive to do with. It’s amusing to see how uncomfortably Scully responds to her ‘husbands’ attempts at affection the first couple of times, but by the last we’ve really started to get a bit silly.
If the jokes in Arcadia are a bit, that’s actually not a bad thing, because for once a first-time writer for the X-Files has managed to tap into an interesting idea in his debut script. The idea of a suburban community being so perfectly planned that there’s a dark underbelly under the surface has been done in crime shows for years before and after this episode aired; X-Files has done variations on the theme a couple of times before itself. What makes it different, and therefore interesting, is that for once the metaphor is being played out in real terms. The monster that is terrorizing and devouring the Falls residents wallows below the sod of the community, and ironically enough in a place this pristine, it is made up of the community’s own garbage. The fact that everything must be done in a perfect order for a neighborhood was an old one long before the X-Files came to air, but its rarely been illustrated in such a smooth form as this one. We can see almost from the moment our heroes arrive the utter terror that hides behind the cheerfulness – something that all the actors manage to portray effectively without overdoing it. And at the center is the head of the Homeowners Association, Gene Gogolak played by Peter White in a way that seems neighborly and gradually gets more sinister as the episode progresses. (I’ve never seen conversation about a reflecting pool seem so terrifying)
There are still some messes in the mix. While the get idea that Gogolak has managed somehow to summon into existence a creature made of garbage and willed into thought somehow, we never get a very clear reason as to why it is somehow necessary for the falls to be perfectly inline with rules. Mulder never gets a clear answer to his question. But there is something very fitting about the monster Gogolak created coming to destroy him almost by accident. And there’s something even more chilling by the fact that the community denies responsibility not only for the murders that Gogolak cause, but their compliance in his death as well. While Scully’s voiceover (which we haven’t heard in nearly two years; Carter and company are finally managing to live without them) reveals that the code of silence that led to the deaths of eight people continues after Gogolak’s death, and that not even the community itself is punished. It’s a grim reminder that conspiracies can take place even in the villages we build to get away from these dark places.
Of course, Arcadia is also a fairly flawed episode, but most of the problems no doubt come as a result of the fact that Daniel Arkin was cutting his teeth on this episode It’s clear that he has a serious story in mind, but the comedy he tries to sprinkle in is not particularly funny. And he never quite manages to work out just how the characters in the Falls are supposed to fit in. As a result one of the better character and voiceover actors Abraham Benrubi is given an interesting part as the one member of the neighborhood with a conscience, but is killed off by the end of the first act. Then he comes back to life in the conclusion, with no explanation as to how he survived – which doesn’t matter because he promptly dies for real. What the heck?
But all in all, Arcadia is fairly good scary episode of Season 6. It comes across a little uneven at times, but ultimately, it’s more entertaining then most of the episodes we’ve seen this year. It’s a little strange that it was moved out of order (Mulder and Scully say this is their first official case since rejoining the X-Files, when there’ve been two episodes prior), but it does suggest that we may be coming away from the ‘X-Files lite’ that we’ve seen so much of this year. Admittedly, most of the episodes that are scarier have been disappointments, but it does show a sign that the series may be returning back to the right direction.
My score: 3.5 stars.