season 4, episode 15, “kaddish”
we’ve seen this plot before. an entity comes back from beyond the grave to avenge an injustice. for some reason they are often poorly done. “shadows” from season one and “the list” from season three come to mind. both were weak attempts at employing the vindicating ghost theme. “kaddish” does a much better job of it. it uses the mythological golem as the ghostly catalyst. a golem is a creature from jewish folklore that is animated from inanimate matter and cannot speak. this particular one was raised out of mud, so essentially he’s a mute mud monster. that sounds like it would be hokey, but it’s actually done quite well. there is a romantic, tragic love story at the heart of it and there is a comment on anti-semitism.
describing it, i’m still surprised that it works. i think it mostly helps that it looks so good. “the x-files” was one of the first shows of its kind to put emphasis on the production value. nowadays, it’s common. lots of shows look like they could be playing in an art movie house. but, “the x-files” was doing this more than a decade ago. the lighting, the framing, the overall mood that stems from the visuals and the audio are all spot on. each close up is like a beautiful photograph in a gallery exhibit.
it’s always an interesting dynamic when mulder and scully are the outsiders. it feels like they are invading and disrupting people’s lives when they investigate. in this case it’s even more awkward because they are looking into the death of a person that committed a hate crime. the victims become the suspects and that’s uncomfortable. almost as uncomfortable as the anti-semitism expressed by some of the people in the neighborhood. mulder and scully are apologetic to the hassidic jews they are questioning. they are bothered with the racism one of their witnesses expresses and they make a point to comment on it.
the conclusion was well done. it didn’t seem preposterous or silly. it was actually quite poetic. ariel brought back her true love who was killed by hate with the power of her love. she gets her goodbye and then lets go. the golem can only be stopped by its conjurer and she stops him. it ends up as inconclusive as any x-file, but at least the first victim and his loved ones can have some closure and some peace. all in all, this is an average x-file case in an average “x-files” episode using the average “x-files” formula, but the aesthetic and the touching story bring it a bit above average.
i hate that there is no mention of scully’s cancer and everything that just happened in the last three episodes. i know that this was written before and moved around in the episode shuffle, but it definitely feels like a big hole here.
mark snow infusing klezmer music in his score was befitting.
the story of the ring surviving the holocaust and being handed down through generations is beautiful.
of course the magic word for the golem is “truth.”
did you know? behind the scenes facts:
the burning book special effect caused some difficulties and resulted in some great bloopers. one was duchovny’s line “they don’t make burning books like they used to.”
lots of touching when scully runs to see if mulder is ok.
m: “a jew pulled it off 2000 years ago.”