Season 2, Episode 14
Director: Kim Manners
Writer: Glen Morgan, James Wong
“Die Hand Die Verletzt,” German for “the hand that wounds,” really couldn’t have had a more perfect beginning. In a small town in New Hampshire, a high school faculty meeting appears to take an extremely conservative slant as they debate the appropriateness of kids performing Jesus Christ Superstar. The head of the meeting (Dan Butler, Frasier) even stifles a yawn as the proceedings drag on, but, as it wraps up, they embark on a prayer. A Satanic prayer. The theme of a threat coming from unexpected, near idyllic circumstances, is one that runs throughout much of the series. That dichotomy practically defines The X-Files thus far, and, as a representation of that juxtaposition, “Die Hand Die Verletzt” should be considered one of the defining moments of the series.
After the Satanic school board meeting, a group of teenagers venture into a dark wood to conduct a dark magic spell, which has unexpected and frightening results. All teens flee the scene save one who is lifted from the ground by an unseen foe. The next morning, Mulder and Scully are called to the scene to investigate the teen’s death, particularly his body’s mutilation (his eyes and heart have been removed). The Satanic adults play ignorance and profess extreme Christianity while blaming the kids for unleashing evil on the town, but the real culprit is the seemingly prim schoolteacher Mrs. Paddock. One by one, she orchestrates the deaths of another student and, eventually, the faculty members themselves after deeming their Satanic faith lapsed. She disappears from town, leaving the eerie message “Goodbye. It’s been nice working with you.” scrawled across the board.
This is a particularly theme-heavy episode, aside from the overall series theme of horror in innocuous places. The character Jim Ashbury played by Dan Butler is given a rare monologue that explains his background into Satan worship, something you don’t see every day on network television. In fact, the episode takes a somewhat risky stance by proclaiming that some of those who profess to be strong Christians aren’t really following through behind closed doors. Speaking of doors, doors also factor into the episode multiple times, including in the opening sequence, the door to Mrs. Paddock’s office, and the door in Ashbury’s home hides a dark closet that we can only imagine is used for nefarious purposes.
In addition to theming, this is just a particularly nasty episode with both human and swine dissections, organs popping up all over the place, and a sequence in which a character is eating alive by a giant snake. Perhaps the most disturbing sequence, though, is the revelation by Ashbury’s daughter, Shannon, that she was made to participate in Satanic worship, was impregnated multiple times, and had her babies murdered to use for ceremonial activities. These events are never confirmed, but the scene is exceedingly unnerving considering the vehemence and conviction the actress employs to recall her trauma. Remember this episode aired in the early 90s when alleged child and daycare sex abuse scandals were all over the news. The X-Files dips into that paranoia cleverly with this episode even though it takes the proceedings to an extremely dark place when, before, it remained devilishly playful.
And like many of the best X-Files episodes, there is no clear resolution. But that’s part of the fun, isn’t it? Knowing that “Mrs. Paddock” could be anywhere, anytime? It’s a terror that the director accentuates by filming Mulder and Scully on the outside of a classroom looking in on them as if being watched by Mrs. Paddock, indirectly implicating the audience in the episode’s horrific crimes.