X-Files Flashback: ‘Kaddish’

Kaddish

Season 4, Episode 14
Director: Kim Manners
Writer: Howard Gordan

The X-Files‘ “Kaddish” is an exploration into a world that, to most viewers, is as alien and foreign to most of us as anything flying in from outer space. The community of Hasidic Jews seen burying and mourning their dead here are well represented even if the episode isn’t an extremely deep-dive into the customs and practices, yet it’s enough to whet the audience’s appetite for more should they wish. At least they fair much better than the one-note villains that plague the episode.

The episode begins with the funeral of Issac Luria, a Hasidic Jew who was the subject of a hate crime as retold through imagined flashbacks by his fiancée, Ariel. Later that night, during a driving rainstorm, someone fashions a mound of mud into a semblance of a man. As the person walks away, the mud begins to breathe. Mulder and Scully are called in when one of the three boys responsible for Issac’s death is found murdered and in possession of Issac’s convenience store footage so that the other two targets could be identified.

As Mulder and Scully investigate further, they unravel an underground neo-Nazi propaganda organization working out of a print shop. Here, they find charming pamphlets like “Are Jews Responsible for AIDS?” and the like. The owner, unapologetic for his beliefs, is hiding his connection to Issac’s murderer. As the episode progresses, an unseen force slowly murders all of the neo-Nazis. At the end, it is revealed that Ariel created a Golum in the form of Issac to exact revenge and out of grief. She ultimately causes it to disappear as she lets go of Issac. And after he had completed his task, of course.

“Kaddish” is far more successful an episode when it focuses on exploration of Jewish lore and customs than it is a supernatural outing. Much like Witness before it, there is a persistent theme of “the others” (the Jewish community, Mulder and Scully) through the episode, which works nicely with the overall theming of The X-Files. I appreciated the expansion of Ariel’s role and the relationship with her father, however brief their roles were.

I suppose the only nit I would have with “Kaddish” is the shallow characterization of the villainous Nazis. The creators intended to draw them this way and provide “hissworthy” objects against which they could pit the Hasidic Jew characters. But I always bristle when characters so plainly state their biases and ill-intentions. There is a craft to creating villains with subtlety, but I suppose 45 minutes of screen time isn’t going to allow that. Still, it’s too easy of a path to go down. That doesn’t take away from the positive aspects of the episode, though. It just makes it merely good instead of what could have been a great contribution to the overall X-Files lore.

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