Bad Blood (The X-Files)
|The X-Files episode|
Ronnie Strickland: a vampire. The faux vampire teeth—which were sardonically labeled "funny fangs"—were created by makeup coordinator Toby Lindala. The glowing eyes were created with a fluorescent material.
|Episode no.||Season 5
|Directed by||Cliff Bole|
|Written by||Vince Gilligan|
|Original air date||February 22, 1998|
|Running time||44 minutes|
"Bad Blood" is the twelfth episode of the fifth season of the American science fiction television series The X-Files. Written by Vince Gilligan, directed by Cliff Bole, and featuring guest appearances from Luke Wilson and Patrick Renna it aired in the United States on February 22, 1998 on the Fox network. The episode is a "Monster-of-the-Week" story, unconnected to the series' wider mythology. The episode received a Nielsen rating of 12.0, being watched by 19.25 million viewers. In addition, "Bad Blood" received largely positive reviews, with many critics praising the episode's humor.
The show centers on FBI special agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) who work on cases linked to the paranormal, called X-Files. Mulder is a believer in the paranormal, while the skeptical Scully has been assigned to debunk his work. In this episode, Mulder and Scully must report to their supervisor, Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) after Mulder kills a young man he believes to be a vampire. After each recollecting their takes on the event, they realize that they have very different memories of the investigation.
"Bad Blood" was inspired by an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show wherein the main characters tell different versions of a fight they have had. According to critical analysis of the episode, "Bad Blood" explores the dynamics of the relationship between Mulder and Scully. In addition, the episode subverts the concept of the male gaze, allowing part of the tale to be told solely from Scully's point of view in contrast to Mulder's. The episode's makeup and special effect coordinators used various techniques to create many of the effects seen in the episode, such as the vampire teeth, the glowing eyes, and the bite marks.
One night, FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) kills a young man, who Mulder believes is a vampire but has pointed dentures instead of actual fangs. Afterwards, he and his FBI partner, Special Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) must report to their supervisor, Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi). Before they do so, they attempt to get their stories straight.
Scully tells her version of the story via a flashback to the previous day. She arrives at work and Mulder tells her about a murder in Texas, which he believes to be the work of vampires. In her version, Mulder is exuberant, insensitive, and irritating, while she is calm and mindful of her thoughts. The agents travel to the small town of Cheney, Texas where they meet Sheriff Hartwell (Luke Wilson), whom Scully finds highly charming. Mulder and Hartwell leave to investigate further while Scully autopsies the body. She discovers that the victim, whose last meal had been pizza, was incapacitated with chloral hydrate. She returns to the motel room and orders a pizza, but Mulder soon appears and sends her back to autopsy another body. She leaves him just as her food is delivered. When she finds that the second victim had also ingested chloral hydrate in a pizza, she realizes Mulder is in danger and returns to the motel room. She finds him about to be attacked by the pizza delivery boy, Ronnie Strickland (Patrick Renna). She shoots at Ronnie, who runs off into the woods. When she catches up to him, Mulder has gotten there first and hammered a stake into Ronnie's heart.
Mulder tells Scully his version. In his recollection, he is sensitive and polite to Scully, while she is dismissive and irritable, and clearly enamored with Sheriff Hartwell (who, in Mulder's version, is far less refined and has obvious buck teeth). While Scully is performing the autopsy, Mulder and Hartwell get a call to go to the local RV park, where there is "a situation". They find another dead body, apparently a victim of the same attacker. Mulder returns to the motel room; after Scully has left, he eats her pizza and realizes that he has been drugged. Ronnie enters, with glowing green eyes, and prepares to attack Mulder, but Mulder manages to postpone his demise by scattering sunflower seeds all over the floor, which Ronnie compulsively starts to pick up. Scully enters and shoots Ronnie, but the bullets have no effect, and Ronnie runs out with Scully in pursuit. Mulder recovers from being drugged and chases after Ronnie.
Back in the office, Scully says that no one will believe his story given their diverging statements and the fact that Ronnie was apparently a human. Meanwhile, a Texas coroner prepares to perform an autopsy on Ronnie's body. When he removes the stake, Ronnie wakes up and escapes. Skinner sends Mulder and Scully back to Texas to investigate. Scully stakes out the cemetery with Sheriff Hartwell, while Mulder goes to the RV park. As they wait, Sheriff Hartwell gives Scully a hot drink, apologizes to her on behalf of Ronnie, and says that he makes them all look bad. He makes it clear that he too is a vampire and Scully realizes she has been drugged. Before she loses consciousness, she sees Sheriff Hartwell's eyes turning green.
At the RV park, Mulder finds Ronnie. As he tries to arrest him, Mulder is surrounded and overwhelmed by a group of people with glowing green eyes. He wakes up the next morning in the RV park, in his car, where he is rejoined by Scully. They are both unharmed and the vampires have disappeared. Back in Washington, they give Skinner their unified report.
Writing and filming
"Bad Blood" was written by Vince Gilligan, who had already written a number of episodes for the series; this was his fifth writing credit of the season. Aware that he had an episode to be filmed soon after the Christmas period of 1997, he had been working on a script that would involve a story being presented by Robert Stack of Unsolved Mysteries, with unknown actors playing Mulder and Scully. Under pressure to complete the script, Gilligan decided his idea would not work. He said, "I just couldn't figure out how to do it". The series would later explore the idea of an X-Files crossover in the guise of non-fiction with the seventh season episode "X-Cops", also penned by Gilligan.
With the help of co-executive producer Frank Spotnitz, he came up with a new idea. Spotnitz was inspired by an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, called "The Night the Roof Fell In", in which the characters of Rob and Laura Petrie tell different versions of a fight they have had. Gilligan said of the idea, "I just thought it was a cool way to tell a story." With two versions of the same story taking up much of the episode, Gilligan knew that he would have to keep the plot simple and settled on a vampire story, that everyone would easily understand. Both Mulder and Scully's version of the episode were filmed back to back, utilizing the "exact same sets and camera angles". The RV park that was featured in the episode was formerly the site of a sawmill that had previously been used in the fourth season episode "Gethsemane" that had burned down.
Casting and effects
Luke Wilson guest starred as Sheriff Hartwell; he had previously worked on 1998 comedy film Home Fries, which had been scripted by Vince Gilligan. Former child actor Patrick Renna played Ronnie Strickland. He said of the part, "before we started I asked if Ronnie was pretending to be a moron. They told me, 'No. He's really just a moron.'"
The out of control RV was created by the show's special effects coordinator, David Gauthier; an auxiliary steering wheel was rigged up in the vehicle so that the driver would be able to steer the car from the back window, out of the camera's sight. Wilson and Renna were fitted with faux vampire teeth – which were sardonically labeled "funny fangs"—courtesy of special effects makeup coordinator Toby Lindala. Wilson later recounted that they fit comfortably in the actor's mouth, musing that "the retainers I had to wear as a kid never fit as well." In order to create the glowing green eyes, fluorescent material was glued to the actors' eyelids. However, because they were unable to see, this gave the vampires a "somewhat vacant" stare. The various corpses with fangs marks were created by makeup artist Laverne Basham. In order to create a suitable model, Gilligan bit the back of his hand to give Basham something to work with.
According to Susanne Kord and Elisabeth Krimmer, "Bad Blood" explores the dynamics of the relationship between Mulder and Scully by "develop[ing] the dysfunctional potential of [their] routine interactions." In "Scully Hits the Glass Ceiling: Postmodernism, Postfeminism, Posthumanism and The X-Files", Linda Badley suggests that The X-Files often subverts the concept of the male gaze through the whole series and "Bad Blood" includes an example of this, allowing Scully to be the one that gazes at Sheriff Hartwell.
Michelle Bush, in her book Myth-X, described the episode as allowing the viewer "a peek inside [Mulder and Scully's] heads" by showing how they see themselves and each other, as well as "their insecurities about their attractiveness to the other". The title "Bad Blood" can be applied to the tension between the two characters in the episode. She described how in each of their stories they try to describe themselves in the way the other would find attractive.
"Bad Blood" was first broadcast in the United States on February 22, 1998, on the Fox network. In its original broadcast, it was watched by 19.25 million viewers, according to the Nielsen ratings system. It received an 12.0 rating/17 share among viewers meaning that 12.0 percent of all households in the United States, and 17 percent of all people watching television at the time, viewed the episode. The episode was one of eight featured on Revelations, a DVD released prior to the release of the 2008 movie, The X-Files: I Want to Believe.
"Bad Blood" received largely positive reviews from critics. In a 2000 review of season five for the New Straits Times, Francis Dass called the episode "an absolute gem. The most hilarious X-Files episode I have ever seen." Rebecca Traister of Salon.com called it "possibly the best X-Files episode of all time". In a 2008 review of the Revelations DVD, which contained "Bad Blood", Erik Henriksen of The Portland Mercury praised the way the writers "managed to tweak their genre formulas" and said of the episode, "It's witty and quick and features a great performance from Luke Wilson". In a review of Revelations for the Reading Eagle, Gina McIntyre called the episode "a hilarious riff on how [Mulder and Scully] view each other". Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club wrote a positive review of what he described as one of his "top five favorite X-Files". He called the script "very smart" and compared the story to the plot of Rashomon. He said "Yes, 'Bad Blood' can be goofy, but it's a good kind of goofy, the kind that pokes holes in characters in ways that just make them more lovable." Robert Shearman and Lars Pearson, in their book Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium & The Lone Gunmen, rated the episode five stars out of five and wrote "Now that's how you tell a vampire story!" The two praised Gilligan's use of humor as well as the episode's examination of both Mulder and Scully's differing points of views. Shearman and Pearson noted that "the gimmick here isn't supernatural, but structural", and called the episode's framing device "subtly done", which resulted in its "brilliance". Review website IGN named it the eighth best standalone X-Files episode of the entire series. Rob Bricken from Topless Robot named "Bad Blood" the funniest X-Files episode. An article in The Montreal Gazette listed "Bad Blood" as the ninth best stand-alone episode of the series. Tom Kessenich, in his book Examination: An Unauthorized Look at Seasons 6–9 of the X-Files, named the episode one of the "Top 25 Episode of All Time" of The X-Files, ranking it at number 19. He called the episode "a satiric X-File at is finest." Den of Geek writer Juliette Harrisson named it the "finest" stand-alone episode of season 5 and wrote, "for sheer fun and narrative playfulness, the winner has to be Bad Blood".
Not all reviews were so glowing. Paula Vitaris from Cinefantastique gave the episode a more mixed review and awarded it two-and-a-half stars out of four. Although she enjoyed the comedic elements of the episode, she was somewhat critical of the underlying issues, most notably the way Mulder and Scully viewed each other in the episode. She wrote that, "their relationship seems to be a strangely passive-aggressive one". Vitaris also was critical of the fact that Mulder was not guilty over the fact that he may have killed an innocent boy.
Gillian Anderson has described "Bad Blood" as one of her favorites of the series, commenting "Oh, yes! I loved that episode. As far as I'm concerned it's one of our best ever. I think it really showed how well David and I can work together".
In other media
- The vampire characters of this episode make a guest appearance in the IDW Publishing crossover special X-Files/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Conspiracy #1, where they menace the titular characters and the Lone Gunmen in a small town in Northampton. Ronnie Strickland and his encounter with Fox Mulder in this episode are particularly referred to.
- Meisler (1999), pp. 170
- Shapiro (1999), p. 152
- Meisler (1999), pp. 171
- Kord & Krimmer (2005), p. 154
- Badley (2000), p. 63
- Bush, p. 102
- Bush, p. 104
- Meisler (1999), p. 156
- The X-Files: The Complete Fifth Season (Media notes). R.W. Goodwin, et al. Fox. 1997–98.
- Meisler (1999), p. 284
- Henriksen, Erik (July 15, 2008), DVD Review: The X-Files: Revelations, The Portland Mercury, retrieved July 29, 2010
- Dass, Francis (April 20, 2000), A Late 'X-Files' Collection, New Straits Times (New Straits Times Press), retrieved July 29, 2010
- Traister, Rebecca (July 24, 2008), Scully Have I Loved, Salon.com (Salon Media Group), retrieved July 29, 2010
- McIntyre, Gina (July 27, 2008), DVD Focuses On Mulder-Scully Relationship, Los Angeles Times (Tribune Company), retrieved July 29, 2010
- Handlen, Zack (June 11, 2011), Bad Blood"/"Luminary, The A.V. Club, retrieved January 14, 2012
- Shearman and Pearson (2009), p. 135
- Collura, Scott, et al (May 12, 2008), IGN's 10 Favorite X-Files Standalone Episodes, IGN, retrieved November 15, 2011
- Bricken, Rob (October 13, 2009), The 10 Funniest X-Files Episodes, Topless Robot (Topless Robot), retrieved December 27, 2011
- "Top drawer Files: the best stand-alone X-Files episodes". The Montreal Gazette. July 24, 2008. Retrieved February 11, 2012.
- Kessenich (2002), p. 217
- Harrisson, Juliette (September 6, 2011). "A look back over The X-Files' finest stand-alone episodes". Den of Geek. Dennis Publishing. Archived from the original on July 22, 2012.
- Vitaris, Paula (October 1998). "Fifth Season Episode Guide". Cinefantastique 30 (7/8): 29–50.
- Badley, Linda (2000), "Scully Hits the Glass Ceiling: Postmodernism, Postfeminism, Posthumanism and The X-Files", in Helford, Elyce Rae, Fantasy Girls: Gender in the New Universe of Science Fiction and Fantasy Television, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 978-0-8476-9834-9
- Bush, Michelle (2008). Myth-X. Lulu. ISBN 1-4357-4688-0.
- Kessenich, Tom (2002). Examination: An Unauthorized Look at Seasons 6–9 of the X-Files. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 1-55369-812-6.
- Kord, Susanne; Krimmer, Elisabeth (2005). Hollywood Divas, Indie Queens, and TV Heroines: Contemporary Screen Images of Women. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-7425-3708-8.
- Meisler, Andy (1999), Resist or Serve: The Official Guide to The X-Files, Vol. 4, London: HarperCollins, ISBN 978-0-00-257133-3
- Shapiro, Marc (2000). All Things: The Official Guide to the X-Files Volume 6. Harper Prism. ISBN 0-06-107611-2.
- Shearman, Robert; Pearson, Lars (2009). Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium & The Lone Gunmen. Mad Norwegian Press. ISBN 0-9759446-9-X.
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