X-Files Flashback: ‘Kitsunegari’


Season 5, Episode 8
Director: Daniel Sackheim
Writer: Vince Gilligan, Tim Minear

The X-Files‘s Vince Gilligan teams up with writer Tim Minear to craft a sequel to Gilligan’s much more accomplished “Pusher” where Gilligan created the anti-hero Robert Patrick Modell (Robert Wisden). The story goes that Minear had another idea in mind – a story about an atheist who hears the voice of God while in prison – but that idea didn’t pan out quickly enough. Enter Gilligan to help Minear ditch that story and use the return of Modell to fill in the cracks. That backstory confirms something I’d already felt – that “Kitsunegari” feels incredibly rushed and poorly considered. While it was initially thrilling to consider the return of a great foe in Modell, the plot spirals out of control by episode’s end.

The audience isn’t sure who is working so diligently through physical therapy at the beginning of the episode as Modell’s face is not initially seen. After he is able to use his mind control abilities on a newbie attendant, Modell escapes the prison hospital, alerting the FBI (and, more importantly, Mulder and Scully) to his new-found freedom. There’s a lot of dialogue about “playing Modell’s game” between Mulder and Scully until a dead body – Modell’s prosecuting attorney – turns up, painted all in Cerulean blue thanks to what appears to be Modell’s influence. Additionally, the walls are painted with a series of Japanese characters that spell out “kitsunegari,” roughly translated to “fox hunt.” Mulder and Scully believe Modell’s wife, Linda (Diana Scarwid of Mommie, Dearest fame), is Modell’s next target as he has apparently arranged to meet Linda at a commercial property she represents.

After Mulder has a run-in with Modell, he confesses to Scully that he does not believe Modell to be on another killing spree and that he believes Linda possesses the same mind-control powers. Mulder visits Modell’s physical therapist who receives a phone call from someone instructing her to touch a naked fuse box, thus electrocuting her in front of Mulder. When Agent Skinner returns to the safe house where Linda is sequestered, he finds Modell there, apparently with a gun, and shoots him (Modell had of course used his mind control powers on Skinner – more on this later). Mulder visits Modell in the hospital, but he is instructed to leave by a nurse who, in reality, is Linda using her mind control abilities. Linda uses her powers to talk Modell’s heart into stopping, thus killing him.

Finally, Mulder discovers the nurse was Linda and finds a piece of paper with an address on it. Following the address, Mulder finds Scully with a gun pointed at him and then to her head. When Scully fires, Mulder freaks, seeing Linda in front of him with a gun but claiming to be Scully. When this “Linda” tells Mulder personal details of his life, he hesitates, allowing “Linda” / Scully shoots the real Linda behind him. The end reveals that Linda Bowman is Modell’s fraternal sister and possesses the same abilities and incurable brain cancer that he had.

“Kitsunegari” may have been designed to be a “fox hunt,” but the revenge plot feels weak and poorly defined. Modell had dozens of instances in which he could have killed Mulder and even Scully, but he failed to follow through with them. Instead, the plot moves along with a series of contrivances and convenient plot twists that ultimately shatter the episode’s credibility. The biggest of these unbelievable twists is the identification of Linda Bowman as Modell’s sister, something completely out of left field given that a) she was recently discovered to be his sister, b) she managed to marry his prosecuting attorney in two days, and c) she has the exact same tumor that resulted in the exact same powers as Modell. Sadly, after this unbelievable twist, the writers fail to do anything really interesting with Linda as a character. She exists solely as an extension of the Modell storyline, and we know nothing about her as an individual. I would have loved for the director / writers to use Scarwid as an archetypal Hitchcock blonde. In some instances, it appeared they were headed in that direction, and I glimpsed images of Marnie here and there. That may have been me implanting my wishes on the story, I’m fully aware.

One particularly annoying betrayal “Kitsunegari” commits against its “Pusher” predecessor is the mental manipulation of Agent Skinner. In the former episode, Skinner cannot be controlled by Modell, which kind of made Skinner an infinitely cooler badass. Yet, here, he is easily controlled in the blink of an eye without a clear reason why. To the average viewer, it may not have meant very much, but, to me, it’s a detail to which the writers (and, yes, I’m including the great Gilligan here) failed to pay significant attention. Ultimately, “Kitsunegari” just kind of peters out in the end, failing to live up to the significant achievements laid out in the earlier Modell plot. It’s a shame, too, because Modell was such a fascinating character that appears here to be an exhausted afterthought. Maybe Modell should have remained untouched by a sequel because, you know, the sequel is never as good as the original.

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