X-Files Flashback: ‘Home’

Home

Season 4, Episode 2
Director: Kim Manners
Writer: Glen Morgan, James Wong

The X-Files‘ “Home” is some of the most subversive, brilliant, disturbing, terrifying and disgusting television that has ever aired. I’m not normally given to extreme fits of hyperbole, but, in this case, it most assuredly applies. The only episode of the series I’d previously seen aside from the 1998 film, “Home” is unforgettable, and it feels like an episode of a completely different television series. Thanks to its vivid imagery and real scares, it has stayed fresh in the dark corners of my mind since the last time I’d seen it on its original air date: October 11, 1996. It’s that effective.

It begins in near-dark with a screaming woman and three impossibly hulking men delivering a child in a lightening storm. After the birth of the baby, the men stomp out into the night and promptly bury it in a nearby field. The next day, kids play a pickup game of baseball in the same abandoned field (next to the family’s – the Peacock’s – creepy and run-down farmhouse). Stubbing his toe in the dirt, the batter discovers a pool of blood and a tiny hand protruding from the ground. Mulder and Scully are called to the scene in Home, Pennsylvania, to investigate. After questioning their purpose, they work with local sheriff Andy Taylor (a fully intended Mayberry pun) and review the uncovered corpse, a horribly disfigured infant who appears to display every genetic disease known to man. Certain that the inbreeding Peacock’s have kidnapped a woman – only men are known to live at the house – Mulder and Scully break into the Peacock’s home and take a few items from the kitchen birth scene as evidence.

Later that night, the Peacock men pay a visit to Sheriff Taylor’s home and beat him and his wife to death. Not just to death. They beat them into a near-unrecognizable bloody pulp. Now having evidence linking the Peacock’s to the buried infant, Mulder and Scully are joined by Deputy Barney Paster and converge on the Peacock home. Deputy Barney is quickly decapitated by a booby trap, so Mulder and Scully attempt to distract the Peacock’s by releasing their pigs. After gaining entry into the house, they discover the Peacock’s mother, missing all limbs and strapped to a board with caster wheels. When the boys were feeling “amorous,” they apparently rolled her out and did their business. The mother refuses Scully’s attempts at help, stating she would do anything for her boys. The “boys” quickly return to the scene, and a gruesome fight breaks out in which two Peacock boys are killed. The third escapes with the mother, and they are seen driving off into the distance.

“Home” has much more value to it than mere shock value. The crew seems to have elevated its game to a cinematic level with brilliant effects, cinematography, and direction. The choice to use Johnny Mathis’s “Wonderful, Wonderful” during the Andy Taylor murder sequence was especially inspired. The episode moves like lightning and is completely absorbing, no matter how disgusting the content may be. Yet, surprisingly, “Home” is also one of the most thematically resonant episodes of the series to date. It deals with motherhood and family from Scully’s desire to have children to the corrupt Peacock family structure. It deals with the dissolution of small town America through the frequent allusions to Mayberry and Sheriff Andy Taylor. Additionally, it deals with Americana as much as anything in Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, a film in which it is clearly in great debt.

As a piece of entertainment, “Home” is the most brutal and shocking episode of the series, I suspect. Ironically, it received a good-to-mixed critical reaction because it pushed the horror envelope too far for an episode of primetime television. That is understandable as I doubt anything like this would be made today with the exception of the equally shocking and perverse Hannibal. After revisiting the episode, I do not believe it has lost even an ounce of its power since originally airing. As many episodes tend to feel dated, “Home” has a timeless appear, largely thanks to the connection to Mayberry and Texas Chainsaw. As a piece of television horror, you will unlikely see a more accomplished hour.

You can’t keep a Peacock down.

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