Written by David Amann
Directed by Rob Bowman
This is one of the odder episodes in the sixth season, which makes a certain amount of sense seeing as it comes from yet another first time writer for the series. Amann will be one of the more solid contributors in X-Files move to Hollywood, but right now, he seems to be trying a mix between the old guard and the new.
Tonally, Terms of Endearment fits in with what has been an ongoing theme in Season 6: that of the paranormal trying to live an average life. Wayne is a demon apparently interested in nothing more than living a normal life, migrating out to the suburbs and having a normal baby. You can see the genuine torment on his face in the teaser when he realizes from the sonogram that his child has the same deformities that he does, and the almost resigned frustration he shows near the end when he realizes he’s going to have to go through his devil act. It fits in with what we saw in the last episode where Ghosts consider tormenting their guests part of their routine, and the Dreamland two parter where even Men In Black have lives that there are so mundane they’ll jump at the chance to swap bodies. It’s very amusing and fits in with themes that were visited in Season 3 and 4 about little men using supernatural powers to somehow become even more normal. But with each succeeding episode, it seems to be becoming a little less subtle and more ridiculous, and these writers don’t have the same gift for comedy that Gilligan and Morgan did.
The bigger problems with the episode is that the lead role kind of overwhelms it. This is to take nothing away from Bruce Campbell’s superb performance as Wayne. Considering that his typical mode of performance seems to be over-the-top, its rather surprising – and pleasing- that his performance is so restrained. The idea that the demon, at the end of the day, just wants to live a normal life is one that could’ve been easily spoiled if the usual hamminess of Campbell’s oeuvre had intruded into the role. There’s a subtlety to it, that makes the genuine emotion when we reach the end of the episode and realize just how Wayne seems to have been used by an evil worse than he. It lends a certain poignancy when he decides to sacrifice his life for the woman that he nearly killed.
All of this makes the episode work. The problem is, very little of the rest of it does. Considering that the entire point of our heroes being kept away from the X-Files to the point where Mulder fishes the report on it out of Spender’s trash, one wishes that they had decided to give our hero something more to do. As it is, almost all of his detective work takes place either off screen or when he’s on the phone with Scully. And if Mulder is given little to do, Scully is given even less. It’s now becoming something of an irritant that our heroes are, even though they’re no longer connected to the department, still solving an X-File every week. This time, it may be more connected with Amann’s first time out; God knows, we had problems like this all the time with first time writers.
The biggest problem, though, is the denouement when we learn that Betsy, the woman that was Wayne’s other wife, turned out to be a devil herself, and has been living in the suburbs killing and burying ‘normal’ babies, all the while waiting for another devil like Wayne to impregnate here. Even for the level of implausibility that we generally associate with the series, that just seems a little too hard to believe – that Wayne, who seems to have taken a job testing blood so that he can seek out women he can have a normal baby with, happens to find in the same county a female demon who is even worse than he is. Lisa Jane Persky gives a good performance as the lady demon, but its just not convincing enough.
On top of that, the technical aspects of this episode seem to be over the top. The hallucination for the teaser is good, but the idea of the devil is established there, we don’t need to have The Omen playing when police storm Wayne’s house. And while “I’m Only Happy When It Rains” is ideal theme music for Wayne, having it play as Betsy drives off into the sunset is the definition of overkill.
All in all, Terms of Endearment is basically little better than a run-of-the-mill episode. As a first time episode, its a lot better than many of the ones we have gotten and will get, but it’s basically just pretty ordinary. It’s the kind of television Wayne would have appreciated, but the X-philes like us, not so much.