X-Files Flashback: ‘Bad Blood’

Season 5, Episode 12
Director: Cliff Bole
Writer: Vince Gilligan

It’s good to have Vince Gilligan back on an X-Files script that truly engages him intellectually. His fingerprints are all over “Bad Blood,” an ultimately minor vampire-based entry in the series that, nonetheless, features enough wit and playful banter between Mulder and Scully to recommend it. It won’t shake you to the core, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with an episode that’s simply good enough.

“Bad Blood” beings in a dark forest as a man runs screaming from a seemingly caped assailant, who slowly gains on his prey. When the pursued man trips and falls to the ground, he is immediately staked through the heart by what turns out to be Mulder. When Scully arrives, the victim is dead, and the vampire teeth Mulder considered real were actually cheap plastic replicas. As Mulder says before the cut to the opening credits, “Oh, sh…” Back in Washington, both Mulder and Scully have been called to give their individual accounts of the events to Agent Skinner, and Mulder wants to hear Scully’s interpretation of the events. They roughly align as such. Mulder excitedly reported a rash of blood-letting in Texas, first on several cows and eventually on a human tourist. Scully isn’t thrilled about going to Texas, but her attitude changes when she meets the local Sheriff Hartwell (Luke Wilson). One version has Sheriff Hartwell as a suavely confident Southern gentleman; the other has him as a buck-toothed hayseed yokel.

Mulder tasks Scully with performing the autopsy, much to her chagrin given her immediate attraction to the sheriff. Mulder and the sheriff then run off to a local cemetery to look for the killer, assuming he was a vampire (or someone who believed himself to be a vampire). Scully eventually discovers that the local pizza boy has been lacing pizzas with a knock-out drug and draining the blood of his victims. She arrives in time to save Mulder, who ate a pizza intended for her, but the pizza boy escapes. Scully shoots out his car tires, so he must flee on foot, returning back to the beginning of the episode. In the present day, while awaiting Skinner’s cross-examination, the pizza boy comes to life on the autopsy table and attacks the attending doctor. Skinner instructs Mulder and Scully to return to Texas where Mulder finds the pizza boy sleeping in a coffin and Scully discovers that the sheriff is actually a vampire himself – a nice touch. They wake the next morning unharmed with all of the local vampires gone. The episode ends with Mulder and Scully giving their versions of the story to Skinner, differing mostly on whether or not Sheriff Hartwell had buck teeth.

“Bad Blood” isn’t a great episode by any means, but it’s incredibly fun. Much mileage is made out of the gentle skewering of the characters – something The X-Files has been doing a lot lately. She’s a bit of a shrew. He’s a goofball. You get the picture. The best joke in the episode is Scully’s dismay at having to perform so many seemingly ordinary autopsies, particularly when she has to give up her Magic Fingers time in the seedy hotel. The differing versions of the same story have logical variations in the telling – imagine a horror-themed The Affair, and it makes for the kind of episode that you can only appreciate with lived-in, defined characters who know each other as well as we know them. Kudos to Vince Giligan for bringing out this challenging aspect of the show.

In the end, it was fun watching Luke Wilson give a strong comic performance, bouncing off David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson effectively. Did we get any answers as to who these green-eyed vampires were? Did we find out why there seemed to be a hive of vampires in Texas of all places? Not at all. But, this time, it just doesn’t matter to me. It’s not that kind of episode. “Bad Blood” is a light, breezy, comedy affair that glides by on its considerable charm and flipped-on-its-head storyline.

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