X-Files Flashback: ‘Lord of the Flies’

Season 9, Episode 5
Director: Kim Manners
Writer: Thomas Schnauz

“Lord of the Flies” is unfairly dinged because the episode relies so heavily on humor and cartoonish characterizations through the bulk of the episode. But, I would argue, isn’t that what we really loved about The X-Files? Didn’t David Duchovny’s smart-ass delivery lighten the often ponderous mood? See what Season Nine is like without him? Didn’t we all love the great “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space?” For me, “Lord of the Flies” is a straight up parody of an X-Files episode in both the way it introduces wickedly funny characters and the way it cleverly satirizes the Afterschool Special genre. I mean, we’re not talking Pulitzer Prize-winning stuff there, but it’s practically an oasis of pleasure amidst the doldrums of the super-serious, super-soldier ninth season.

The prologue, cleverly filmed by Kim Manners, takes the style of a then cable access show as two teens (one played by Breaking Bad Emmy-winner Aaron Paul) perform idiotic, Johnny Knoxville-esqe stunts for a show called Dumbass. If this were done today, then it would be uploaded onto You Tube. After the third event, the stuntman, “Cap’n Dare,” falls out of a shopping cart, dead and head caved in. Agents Doggett and Reyes are called in and, once they uncover a mass of flies nesting within his head, Scully is called in as well. Apparently, the flies ate so much of “Cap’n Dare’s” brain that it collapsed. Later, they called in local entomologist Dr. Rocky Bronzino, a seedy casanova with an eye for Scully.

Back in high school, Winky (Paul) torments loner Dylan Lokensgard after Dylan objects to Winky’s tormenting of “Cap’t Dare’s” girlfriend, Natalie, for whom Dylan harbors unrequited love. When Winky is questioned by Reyes and Doggett, his back begins to itch uncontrollably, and the words “Dumb Ass” are etched into his lower back by aggressive lice. Dylan is also questioned, much to the objection of his mother Anne (Glee‘s Jane Lynch), but he is soon covered by flies. An analysis of a tissue soaked with his sweat reveals an incredibly high concentration of a specific insect pheromone. Finally, Dylan and his mother both reveal the ability to produce webbing and ensnare many of the characters, including Winky and Dr. Rocky Bronzino. After the agents rescue everyone, the Lokensgards flee town, and Dylan leaves Natalie a goodbye of fireflies spelling “I love you.”

The clue to the satiric nature of “Lord of the Flies” lies both within the broad characterizations and the melodramatic teen angst plotting. Dr. Rocky Bronzino is a fantastic creation, one that, briefly, made me daydream of a spin-off that starred both him and Scully. His teeth white and his skin bronzed, Rocky carries himself like a Beauty and the Beast Gaston knock-off. His interplay with Scully is impeccably carried off, and really makes for a joyful few sequences. Additionally, Aaron Paul’s simultaneous comic and sincere performance feels like lightening in a bottle. Even without knowing the greatness that comes after, I would have proclaimed his guest role on The X-Files as one of the very best in the series entire run. The kid clearly has acting chops, even if it’s largely focused in the bratty teen arena. And then there’s Jane Lynch, breeding an early version of Glee’s Sue Sylvester. Plus, it’s just hilarious to imagine the powerful and masculine Lynch ensnaring her husband in a spider’s web. That is underscored by the overall teen melodrama which thickly wrought as a boy and a girl are kept apart because that boy is really a half-man, half-insect.

Granted, it is the darkest of humor, and it is carries off a little earnestly toward the end rather than continuing the satire. Watching the episode, I’d wished for David Duchovny’s Fox Mulder interacting with Scully as they work through the comedy. It would have been particularly wonderful to unleash Mulder on Dr. Rocky Bronzino. Alas, that was not meant to be, and, as such, we’re left with the perfectly episode as it is. In Season Nine, we’ve done a lot worse.

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