X-Files Flashback: ‘Dæmonicus’


Season 9, Episode 3
Director: Frank Spotnitz
Writer: Frank Spotnitz

The biggest accomplishment of The X-Files “Daemonicus” is to remind the audience of how brilliant Jonathan Demme’s direction was on The Silence of the Lambs. That an episode of The X-Files echoes the beats and subject matter of that Oscar-winning thriller isn’t all that surprising. They both feature the FBI. They both illustrate the evil of serial killers. They both depict an intelligent, attractive woman trying to make a name for herself in a male-dominated field. And The X-Files has often deliberately called back to Silence in its various episodes. “Daemonicus” is no different as the main villain – Professor Josef Kobold (James Remar) – is a blatant rip-off of Hannibal Lecter with Satanic allusions taking the place of cannibalism. The episode is miles above the super soldier mythology outings that kicked the ninth season off, but it’s still not a great one, unnerving the audience where it should fully terrify.

The prologue features a kindly older couple playing Scrabble at night when they are attacked and murdered by a masked pair. As Monica Reyes and John Doggett investigate, they find the bodies rearranged at the Scrabble table with “daemonicus” spelled out across the board – a fifty point bonus if you must ask. Inside the woman, a pair of snakes have been surgically sewed into her body. Reyes immediately suspects Satanic involvement, but Doggett, the doubter, scoffs at the thought. A lead takes them to a nearby mental hospital where a patient has escaped and Kobold awaits, eventually pointing them to the discovery of another body – one of the original murderers who was also a guard at the institution.

The bizarre, possibly demonic, occurrences continue with Kobold as he “dissects” Doggett in an extremely Lecter-esqe fashion, eventually profusely vomiting all over Doggett, the floor, and himself. Doggett eventually determines through Kobold that the remaining murderer is hiding out at an abandoned marina. As Scully investigates, she is attacked by an unseen assailant. Once Doggett, Reyes, and (inexplicably) Kobold arrive on scene, the remaining murderer shoots himself in the head. Given the distraction, Kobold is able to somehow mentally overpower his guard, switch clothes, and convince Agent Doggett that the fleeing guard is really Kobold. In the end, Kobold has escaped, and Doggett figures out that the word “daemonicus” contains letters of each victims’ name. Kobold was toying with them all along, and he won big time.

I mentioned Silence of the Lambs early in this piece not specifically because Remar’s Kobold so strongly resembled the styling and pattern of Hannibal Lecter. It also brings to mind how brilliant Demme’s direction really was in its simplicity. Demme rarely used camera tricks or complicated imagery to tell the story, relying only on one clever audience-fooling gag to heighten the tension at the end of the film. “Daemonicus” was written and directed by long-time X-Files co-hort Frank Spotnitz who has written many mythology episodes with Chris Carter. His direction here, though, serves as a strong counterpoint to Demme’s subtlety. Early on Spotnitz uses camera / editing tricks and overlaying imagery to juice up the story where it didn’t really need it. Toward the end of the episode, he calms down and allows the story to take over. Unfortunately, the story isn’t really all that scary. It certainly should be, but, somehow, it fails so completely to achieve the heights of similar X-Files episodes, let alone Silence of the Lambs.

The performances are straightforward enough with Remar fine in the role of Kobold. I rather liked Annabeth Gish’s slight shift in Monica Reyes as the case completely unnerves her as she’s able to feel a tangible sense of dread as she investigates. Finally, Spotnitz has attempted to give Gillian Anderson something else to do within the series by relocating her from Washington, DC, to Quantico where she now teachers at the FBI Academy. As of now, the shift has only given Anderson a handful of dictation / instructional scenes and little else. Let’s hope this pans out more in subsequent episodes. Still, given how little the writers include Anderson in the proceedings, you really wonder how much money Fox gave her to return (against her wishes) for a ninth season.

I guess the Devil made her do it…

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