Season 6, Episode 13
Director: Rob Bowman
Writer: David Amann
After an excellent sequence of mythology-based episodes, The X-Files returns with a “monster of the week” episode that sees the return of former FBI Agent Arthur Dales, last seen in “Travelers.” Here, in the aptly titled “Agua Mala,” he calls Mulder, who naturally brings Scully, to his home in Florida to investigate the disappearance of a neighbor during a massive hurricane. Literally full of rain and other varieties of water, “Agua Mala” has a few very good scares early in the proceedings but falters in the back half when it introduces a set of characters that can only be described as massive Hispanic stereotypes.
The tense prologue introduces the mysterious tentacled creature that apparently kills and mother and son during the onset of a hurricane. Later, Dales (Psycho‘s Darren McGavin) calls Mulder to investigate, suspecting an X-File. When Mulder and Scully investigate the neighbor’s house, they find Deputy Greer who mistakes them for looters. With Mulder and Scully attempting to leave the area but unable to do so due to the storm, Greer visits a nearby condo building where he sees a man sitting on the toilet, covered in a slimy substance. He is attacked by the creature and is later found by Mulder and Scully with red welts around his throat. Attempting to evacuate the building, Mulder finds a looter, a militaristic fanatic, and a pregnant Hispanic couple.
Trapped in the building, this motley crew begins to grow terrified after a few encounters with the creature, particularly when the body of the injured deputy disappears. When the Hispanic woman goes into labor, Scully must deliver the baby although Mulder has been attacked by the creature in the hallway. Somehow, both agents determine that the creature relies on fresh water to live, so Mulder is saved when he leaves the building and stands in the rain. The baby delivered and, the next morning, the hurricane over, Mulder and Scully pay a final visit to Arthur Dales who tells them how impressed he is and how valuable it is to have a partner as excellent as Scully. They refuse to drink the water, however.
“Agua Mala” isn’t as bad as its title would have you think, but it isn’t much better. The water effects are plentiful and well choreographed. Every scene feels completely drenched in humidity and running water – it surrounds them, generating an decent sense of tension given the creature travels by water. There are even a few good jump scares that don’t feel particularly cheap in their construction. Still, the creature isn’t incredibly interesting or well thought out. It’s a parasite, effectively, but it lacks (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) the personality of early baddie the Fluke Man. There, the creature seemed to have a purpose, an intent, that made the audience understand its motivations. Here, the creature is drawn similarly to the face hugger from Aliens, effective but after a while not particularly scary.
And then there are the pregnant Hispanic couple who are drawn so insultingly broad as to nearly wreck the episode. They’re not married. He’s good for nothing and has no job. She’s knocked up. He doesn’t have a car. She speaks in an exaggerated, dramatic accent. He sounds like Speedy Gonzales. Their trials and tribulations are completely stereotypical, take up too much time, and are incredibly noisy – so much so that they’re hard to drown out. It was a bad choice leading us here, and they (in addition to the other inhabitants of the building) offer nothing to the overall plot or character structure.
“Agua Mala” is exceedingly average in its construction. It’s not a terrible hour of television, but the writers are capable of doing so much more after the brilliant one-two punch of “Two Fathers” and “One Son.” Speaking of “Agua Mala,” excuse me while I run to the restroom. All that water, you know…