Season 7, Episode 16
Director: Cliff Bole
Writer: David Amann
Back in “Arcadia,” The X-Files tried on suburban parody with highly successful results. There, the episode’s evil centered around a man and his rather unique perspective with a planned community’s homeowners association. Now, in “Chimera,” the series returns to the same thematic territory where an idyllic suburban neighborhood is a hot bed of adulterous and murderous activity. While “Chimera” lacks a significant Scully presence for logistics reasons, it’s still an eerie and affecting episode thanks to effective usage of supernatural elements like ravens and broken mirrors.
At an Easter gathering in Bethany, Vermont, three women – the higher class Martha and Ellen and the lower class Jenny – comment on the perfect arrangement. Interrupting the peaceful tranquility, a little girl wanders into a shady forest and is attacked by a raven. Later that night, Martha, the girl’s mother, sees a raven in her home before she is attacked by a disfigured woman. While Scully is on a stakeout, Mulder is called to Bethany to investigate the case solo. After Martha is reported missing, her husband reports that she was having an affair because she was taking birth control pills when he had a vasectomy. While passing out missing posters for Martha, Ellen has a rude confrontation with Jenny before seeing the mysteriously disfigured woman in a car window that quickly shatters.
Martha’s body is found in her rose garden, and Ellen sees the disfigured woman in her daughter’s nursery. Believing her visions to be stress-related, her sheriff husband belittles the even, although Mulder begins to suspect he is deeply involved in the case. Ellen’s husband is revealed to be having an affair with Jenny and had also had an affair with Martha, discovered to be pregnant. Jenny, however, is murdered in a hotel room by the disfigured woman. Suspecting Ellen is involved, Mulder confronts her and discovers that she and the disfigured monster are one in the same. She attacks Mulder but relinquishes when she sees her reflection in the water. Ellen is then committed to a psychiatric hospital.
“Chimera” isn’t as good as “Arcadia” because it’s missing the vital component of the Mulder / Scully relationship. They have a few exchanges over the phone, but Anderson, prepping to direct her own episode, was largely unavailable for the episode. She is saddled with a stakeout storyline where a suspected prostitute murderer is revealed to be a man in drag attempting to convert hookers to Christianity. The general hook of “Chimera” is effectively the age-old adage “Hell hath no fury like a woman scored.” The persistent ravens within the episode are effective and atmospheric enough, but they don’t really tie into the central story that well. Instead, we’re left with a woman who, in order to protect her damaged family unit, lashes out at the women threatening it rather than the straying man who causes all of her heartache. It’s an interesting turn to have her alter ego cause all mirrors to shatter upon catching her reflection, writing large the theory that Ellen doesn’t like that side of her and doesn’t want to be reminded of what she’s capable.
In the end, “Chimera” isn’t a complicated or deep episode. Once you identify the central villain, it’s fairly easy to unravel the tiny details scattered through it. Mulder’s interactions with the suburban families are amusing enough, but smart viewers get the feeling that the episode could have cut much deeper than it did. Still, it’s an engaging and entertaining episode that gets by on atmosphere more than it does genuine scares.