X-Files Flashback: ‘Fresh Bones’

Season 2, Episode 15
Director: Rob Bowman
Writer: Howard Gordon

Voodoo, if you’re even slightly inclined to believe, is a creepy and unsettling thing. The fear of the unknown symbols, language, and artifacts instills a sense of dread that is as compelling as any actual magic. That fear of the unknown drives a lot of the unease in The X-Files‘s “Fresh Bones,” a slow-moving episode that, despite the persistent influx of voodoo, never really takes hold until the very end.

Mulder and Scully are contacted by the widow of Private Jack McAlpin, a Marine who in a fit of madness drove his car into a tree and died on impact – the second local soldier to seemingly commit suicide. A voodoo symbol was found on the tree and was also seen on a shell buried beneath the soldier’s house and in the first soldier’s suicide. Attempting to perform an autopsy on the Marine’s body, Scully instead finds the emaciated corpse of a dog. An imprisoned Haitian, Pierre Bauvais, seems to have knowledge of the events and gives a thinly veiled threat to Scully and Mulder if they continue involvement in the case. On the way back from the base, they nearly run over McAlpin who is absently stumbling along the road, leading Mulder to believe he was zombified. Another soldier tells Mulder and Scully that Colonel Wharton, the local commanding officer of the processing facility, is abusing Bauvais in retaliation and, eventually, has Bauvais beaten to death.

Mulder and Scully continue the investigation and eventually are made the target of voodoo tactics themselves. A local boy, Chester, earlier sold them a voodoo charm, which comes in handy when Wharton is seen performing voodoo rituals over Bauvais’s coffin. In a massive hallucination, Scully sees a man crawl out of a cut on her hand and strangle her while Mulder is made the victim of Wharton’s magic. Scully grabs the charm, and the attacking entity disappears. Bauvais’s spirit appears and neutralizes Wharton. As Mulder and Scully leave town, they discover Chester was killed in a riot six weeks earlier. The episode closes with Wharton being buried alive.

A voodoo X-Files episode is a thing we need for certain. Yet, “Fresh Bones” spends an great deal of time exploring the convergence of a North Carolinian military culture with Haitian voodoo subculture, and the mixture of the two isn’t entirely successful. Mulder and Scully spin their wheels in the plot, and X even manages to show up mysteriously at one point, offering nothing to advance the overall plot. It doesn’t really come together until the end when things accelerate dramatically, and voodoo hallucinations, magic, and an eerily lighted graveyard take center stage. THAT is the voodoo-tinged episode of The X-Files I anticipated, not the bloated three-quarters leading into it.

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