Home (The X-Files)
|The X-Files episode|
The Peacock family burying their child alive. Due to its graphic nature, "Home" became the first episode of The X-Files to receive a viewer discretion warning.
|Episode no.||Season 4
|Directed by||Kim Manners|
|Written by||Glen Morgan
|Original air date||October 11, 1996|
|Running time||45 minutes|
"Home" is the second episode of the fourth season of the American science fiction television series The X-Files, which originally aired on the Fox Broadcasting Company network on October 11, 1996. Directed by Kim Manners, it was written by Glen Morgan and James Wong. "Home" is a "Monster-of-the-Week" story, unconnected to the series' wider mythology. Watched by 18.85 million viewers, the initial broadcast of the episode earned a Nielsen rating of 11.9. Critics were generally complimentary, and praised the disturbing nature of the plot, although some reviewers felt that the violent subject matter went too far.
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 abnormal; the skeptical Scully has been assigned to debunk his work. In this episode, Mulder and Scully investigate the death of an infant with severe birth defects. Traveling to a small town isolated from the rest of the world, the pair meet a family of deformed farmers who have not left their house in a decade. Initially, Mulder suspects that the mutants kidnapped and raped a woman to father the child, but the investigation uncovers a long history of incest.
"Home" featured the return of writers Morgan and Wong who left the show during its third season. The duo intended for their first episode back to be as ambitious and shocking as possible. They took inspiration from true events, including a story from Charlie Chaplin's autobiography about an encounter in an English tenement home. The graphic content of the script attracted controversy from an early stage in the production process. Commentators have identified themes within the episode which satirize the American dream and address the concept of globalization. It has been cited as a seminal episode of The X-Files by both crew members and critics.
In the small town of Home, Pennsylvania, a woman gives birth to a deformed baby. Three similarly deformed men bury it near their dilapidated home during a rain storm. Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are sent to investigate after the corpse is found by children during a sandlot ball game. While talking to Home's local sheriff Andy Taylor (Tucker Smallwood), Mulder asks whether the Peacock brothers—the inhabitants of the house nearest to the crime scene—have been questioned about the baby. Taylor informs him that the house dates back to the American Civil War and is still without electricity, running water, or heat. He also insinuates that the family has been inbreeding since the war. The three Peacock brothers watch the agents from their front porch.
During an autopsy, the agents discover that the baby suffocated by inhaling dirt, meaning it was buried alive. Scully suggests that the baby's defects could be caused by inbreeding. Mulder insists that this would be impossible, since the Peacocks supposedly live in an all-male household. Suspecting the Peacocks have kidnapped and raped a female, Mulder and Scully investigate their now-abandoned residence and discover blood, scissors, and a shovel on a table. Arrest warrants are issued for all three Peacock brothers. In retaliation, they break into Sheriff Taylor's house in the middle of the night, bludgeoning him and his wife to death with baseball bats.
Laboratory test results suggest the baby's parents were members of the Peacock family. Forensic evidence links the Peacocks to the Taylor murders; the agents and Deputy Barney Paster (Sebastian Spence) visit the Peacock residence to arrest the brothers. When Paster breaks down the front door, he is decapitated by a booby trap. Mulder and Scully sneak around the house and decide to release the Peacock's pigs to lure them out of the house. While searching the residence, the agents find a quadruple amputee living hidden under a bed. She turns out to be Mrs. Peacock, the mother of the boys, who has been breeding with her sons for years.
The Peacock boys soon realize Mulder and Scully are inside their house and attack. The two youngest sons withstand several gunshots before dying, one of them impaled on another booby trap. Afterwards, the agents discover that Mrs. Peacock and her eldest son have escaped in their car, planning to start a new family elsewhere.
"Home" marked the return of writers Glen Morgan and James Wong, who had left production of The X-Files after the second season to work on other television projects. Before their departure, Morgan and Wong had written many episodes of the series and were instrumental in its success during its first season. The two developed Space: Above and Beyond, a science fiction television series canceled after one season. Subsequently, the two rejoined the staff of The X-Files and became writers for the fourth season. They decided to write an ambitious story to return "with a bang", attempting to produce a script so shocking that it would push the boundaries of television. Space: Above and Beyond co-star Kristen Cloke suggested that they should study books about nature and evolution in preparation for their return, to help them research topics like survivalism.
Tucker Smallwood, who portrayed Sheriff Andy Taylor, was the first of many actors from Space: Above and Beyond to appear in the fourth season. The influence of it was so strong that Morgan first pitched the episode to Chris Carter by describing three actors from said show—James Morrison, Rodney Rowland and Morgan Weisser—as three "big freak brothers". The episode contained references to popular television—the names Andy Taylor and Barney—are references to characters with the same name from The Andy Griffith Show.
Sources consulted by the writers include Brother's Keeper (1992), a documentary film depicting the story of the four Ward brothers. The Ward brothers were "barely literate" and lived only on farm land passed on through their family for generations. The brothers drew international attention following the alleged murder of William Ward by his brother Delbert. With an estimated IQ of 68, he escaped prosecution by claiming that the police had tricked him during interrogation. Wong was fascinated by how the family lived and decided to base the Peacock family on the Ward brothers and incorporate their unusual lifestyles into the script.
The episode was mainly inspired by a story in Charlie Chaplin's autobiography, about the time he stayed at a tenement home while touring in a British musical theatre. After dinner, the family took him upstairs to meet their son, pulling him out from under a bed. The son was a quadruple amputee who "flopp[ed] around" while they sang and danced. Morgan decided to use the incident for the basis of the screenplay, though Wong came up with the suggestion to change the son to the mother. The name Peacock came from former neighbors of Morgan's parents. It took a long time for the concept to finally be featured in one of his episodes. Elements first appeared in the episode "Humbug", written by his brother Darin Morgan, which featured a cast of circus sideshow performers and incorporated several themes that had an influence on "Home", including the use of a "benign soul trapped in the body of a monster".
When director Kim Manners read the script for "Home", he commented that it was "as classic a horror script I'm ever going to see." When the script was sent to Vancouver, British Columbia, the producers felt the show had "gone too far," calling it tasteless. William B. Davis, the actor who portrayed the series antagonist The Smoking Man, mused that Morgan and Wong were unfamiliar with the direction that the series had taken during its third season. According to Davis, the screenplay read like the two deliberately wanted to go back to the origins of the series. Elements of the script were mirrored in later installments, most notably the sixth season episode "Terms of Endearment" which also featured child-murdering antagonists.
Filming and post-production 
The episode utilizes the song "Wonderful! Wonderful!" by musician Johnny Mathis. Upon reading the screenplay, Mathis refused to provide permission to employ his voice due to the graphic content of the program. Producer David Nutter, who had a background as a singer, originally intended to sing the song, but at the last minute another singer who sounded more like Mathis was used. Manners explained that he wanted to use the song because "certain songs have a creepy, icky quality that none of us have really openly acknowledged".
"Home" was filmed in British Columbia, as were the rest of the episodes of the fourth season. The car that served as the Peacock family's car was found on a farm outside Vancouver, and was rented and restored for use in the episode, being painted pink. Cadillac later sent the producers a letter thanking them for including one of their cars in the show. The Peacock house used in "Home" had earlier been used as the house of the antagonist in the season two episode "Aubrey".
The filming of the episode was an unpleasant experience for Smallwood. He entered production of the episode with little knowledge of the nature of The X-Files, and he was surprised when he first received his screenplay. On his first day on set, he asked other cast members if most episodes of the series were so violent. An unspecified crew member asserted, "this is awful even for us", commenting that it was probably the most gruesome episode of the series run. During the death scene of the sheriff, Smallwood insisted that he perform his own stunts, quickly relenting when he smacked his head against the ground while performing a dive. Another uncomfortable moment for the actor involved lying face down in a pool of fake blood for over an hour and a half.
"Home" was first submitted to the censors featuring audio of the baby being buried alive. Ten Thirteen Productions was asked by Fox executives to alter the audio so that the baby would be dead during the burial. After omitting this and applying some careful editing, the censors eventually approved the episode. Manners referred to the shot of the baby's point of view while being buried as "the most awful shot of my career." Manners asserted he approached filming as seriously as he could, believing the script to be a classic. Being mostly positive about the outcome, he stated that he loved the program, citing it as his favorite of the series. David Duchovny agreed with Manners response to the episode, saying, "I really like that one. Although it didn't scare me." He explained that it "touched" him because of its theme to "live and to propagate."
"Home" presents a satirical view of traditional family values, showcasing the conflict between classic American values, and more modern culture. It contains parallels to Sam Shepard's play Buried Child, opening the narrative with the image of a child's corpse being found in the family's backyard. Writer Sarah Stegall viewed that the opening was a commentary on the ideology of the American dream, utilizing the death of a child to "speak to us of buried hopes and fears, and the dark secrets that can hold a family together."
The rural location of Pennsylvania is depicted as a peaceful, Garden of Eden-like paradise. The family has been compared to the serpent of the Garden of Eden, "wiping out everything virtuous in its path". The town encompasses the traditional values of the nuclear family—only for it to be victimized by the Peacock family—who represent the darker side of paradise. The town depicted in "Home" showcases the positive qualities of a world without globalization, but the Peacock family exhibit the negative aspects. The installment's closing scene was described as "quintessentially American", featuring the final Peacock brother driving away in a pink Cadillac with his mother "safely stowed in the trunk", ready to explore a brand new life. M. Keith Booker in Blue-Collar Pop Culture, compared the brothers to the cannibalistic Leatherface family from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1972). Booker also identified similarities between the brothers and the family from The Hills Have Eyes (1977), expressing the view that the brothers represented "pure evil".
The use of the uptempo "Wonderful! Wonderful!" during a violent murder sequence has attracted attention for its ironic presentation. Jan Delasara in X-Files Confidential called the murder of Sheriff Taylor and his wife the most "chilling moment in the series run", highlighted by the use of a bouncy, classic pop song. It further establishes the episode's subversion of nostalgia, by using a well known pop song during a death scene.
Broadcast and reception 
Initial ratings and reception 
"Home" originally aired on the Fox network on October 11, 1996. It earned a Nielsen rating of 11.9, with a 21 share, meaning that roughly 11.9 percent of all television-equipped households, and 21 percent of households watching television, were tuned in to the episode. It was watched by approximately 18.85 million viewers. "Home" also became the first of two entries to get a viewer discretion warning for graphic content, the second being the season eight episode, "Via Negativa." "Home" was the only episode of the show that was banned from being repeated by the network due to its content. In 1997 when the channel FX ran an all day marathon of the most popular X-Files installments, the episode was the number one choice. A writer from DVD Journal commented that this was because it "was initially buried by the network after its first airing".
Upon its first broadcast, "Home" received lukewarm positive reviews from critics. Entertainment Weekly gave the episode an "A", describing it as "one of TV's most disturbing hours" and as "a cinematic feast for the eyes, packed with audacious wit". Sarah Stegall awarded the episode three stars out of five, comparing it positively to the more gruesome work of directors David Lynch and Tobe Hooper. Stegall praised the atmosphere and commented that Morgan and Wong's "long-awaited return " to the series was "definitely disturbing, thought-provoking, and nasty." In a negative review, author Phil Farrand called it his least favorite of the first four seasons of the show in his book The Nitpickers Guide to the X-Files. Keith Topping, in his book X-Treme Possibilities was critical of the violent content of the episode, calling it "sick".
Later reception 
Several years after its initial broadcast, "Home" has continued to receive positive reviews. Todd VanDerWerff from The A.V. Club gave the episode an "A" rating and wrote that like many episodes of The X-Files, the episode was a statement of its time and likely could not be produced in a Post-9/11 climate. He praised the depiction of urban sensibilities and the frightening Peacock family, musing that it represented a "sad farewell to a weird America that was rapidly smoothing itself out." John Keegan from Critical Myth gave the episode a largely positive review and awarded it a rating of 8 out of 10. He described the story as an "instant classic", noting that it began the season with a strong start. Author Dean A. Kowalskin, in The Philosophy of The X-File, cited "Home", "Squeeze" and "The Host" as the most notable "monster-of-the-week" episodes.
The episode has often been cited as one of the best of the series. VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club listed it among the 10 best chapters of the series, writing that it was one of the scariest hours of television that he had seen. The Vancouver Sun listed it as one of the best stand-alone episodes of the series and wrote that because of its horrific themes of incest, the episode "doesn't pull any punches." Den of Geek writer Nina Sordi placed the entry as the fourth best of the series, viewing that its bleak humor and "thought-provoking moments" of dialogue were what made it one of the most popular episodes. Starpulse gave the installment an honorable mention as one of the ten best X-Files installments. Connie Ogle from PopMatters listed the Peacock family among the greatest monsters of the series, viewing that it was a miracle that the program "slipped past" the censors.
The program has been described as one of the most scary installments of the series. Timothy Sexton from Yahoo! Voices considered the episode the most disturbing of the series, asserting that it was the "most disturbing episode of a weekly TV series ever shown on American TV." Novelist Scott Heim in The Book of Lists: Horror listed it at number 10 on a list of the ten most frightening television broadcasts. Heim wrote that several aspects of the episode were creepy, including the gothic house and the family itself. Tom Kessenich, in his 2002 book Examination: An Unauthorized Look at Seasons 6–9 of the X-Files, listed the program as the fifth best of the series. Kessenich reported that it was the pinnacle of the horror episodes featured on The X-Files. William B. Davis mused that "Home" was both well written and directed, but was so gruesome that it led to some fans questioning whether or not they wanted to continue watching the series. He argued that modern horror films were far more violent than anything depicted in "Home", but that at the time "it was quite disturbing."
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