Scary Monsters (The X-Files)
|The X-Files episode|
|Episode no.||Season 9
|Directed by||Dwight H. Little|
|Written by||Thomas Schnauz|
|Original air date||April 14, 2002|
|Running time||43 minutes|
"Scary Monsters" is the fourteenth episode of the ninth season of the American science fiction television series The X-Files. It originally aired on the Fox network on April 14, 2002. It was written by Thomas Schnauz and directed by Dwight H. Little. The episode is a "monster-of-the-week" episode, a stand-alone plot which is unconnected to the mythology, or overarching fictional history, of The X-Files. The episode earned a Nielsen household rating of 5.1 and was viewed by 8.2 million viewers in its initial broadcast. It received mixed to positive reviews from television critics.
The show centers on FBI special agents who work on cases linked to the paranormal, called X-Files; this season focuses on the investigations of John Doggett (Robert Patrick), Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish), and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson). In this episode, Special Agent Leyla Harrison (Jolie Jenkins) takes Reyes and Doggett on a drive into the mountains after a woman stabs herself repeatedly and her widowed husband refuses to let anyone see their son. The three soon discover that the boy's imagination can bring killer bug-like creatures to life.
The idea for "Scary Monsters" stemmed from an idea that became the episode's teaser. Fellow writer Vince Gilligan suggested making Tommy the episode's villain. Originally, the story featured Doggett and Reyes investigating the case with a new agent. Executive producer Frank Spotnitz suggested to Schnauz that the new FBI agent should be Leyla Harrison, played by Jolie Jenkins, who had first appeared in the Spotnitz-penned eighth season episode "Alone". The writing staff used Leyla's character to comment on the state of the show and, most notably, the members of the audience who preferred Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) over Doggett.
In his room in Fairhope, Pennsylvania, Tommy Conlon (Gavin Fink) believes he sees a monster reflected in his mirror. He calls for his dad, Jeffrey Conlon (Scott Paulin), who looks under the bed and sees a crawling bug-like creature. He lies to his son, telling him that he sees nothing, and tells Tommy to go back to sleep. Tommy sees the creature again and calls for his dad; Jeffrey holds the door shut as Tommy bangs on the door.
Meanwhile, Agent Leyla Harrison (Jolie Jenkins) tells Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) about a woman who stabbed herself repeatedly. Harrison insists that the case is an X-File and that the woman was killed by monsters that her son Tommy saw. She also believes that the monster killed the family cat, Spanky. Although Scully dismisses Harrison's claims, John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) decide to investigate. The three arrive in Fairhope, Pennsylvania where Tommy and Jeffrey are living. The agents talk to Tommy and conclude that something is going on. They soon discover that their car will not start. Back at her apartment, Scully is visited by Gabe Rotter (Brian Poth), a potential suitor of Harrison's. He presents Scully with the corpse of Spanky. Scully does an ad hoc necropsy and concludes that the cat bit its stomach open to try to get something out. She also discovers a cavity, where it appears something had lived inside the cat.
Doggett, Reyes, and Harrison camp out at the Conlon's house and soon stumble upon the monsters that Tommy sees: large, silverfish-like creatures that multiply when shot by Doggett, The local sheriff (Steve Ryan) arrives, alerted by Scully, but a scuffle ensues. The sheriff draws a gun, and Doggett punches him, only to have his hand go completely through the man's stomach. Upon investigation, Reyes is unable to find any organs in the man's body. Tommy soon shows Reyes the pictures he has been drawing. They include the sheriff with a gun, insect creatures, and Reyes with an insect creature bursting through her stomach. Reyes asks Tommy why he would imagine such things, and Tommy replies it is because he is very scared.
Suddenly, the sheriff's body disappears, and Reyes doubles over in pain. Doggett and Harrison pull up her shirt to reveal moving bulges in her stomach, as if something is trying to get out. Harrison then begins to bleed from her eyes. Doggett approaches Tommy, orders him to stop, and follows him down the hall when he fails to stop. Doggett follows Tommy into a room, but falls down into a blackened abyss, where he is attacked by the insects. However, due to Doggett's skepticism, he is able to fight off the illusion. Because he does not believe they are real, they cease to be real. Doggett explains to Jeffrey that all of the creatures are imaginary and are produced by Tommy's imagination. This includes the bugs, the "sheriff" who had no organs, and Reyes' and Harrison's ailments. Jeffrey's wife and their cat Spanky killed themselves trying to remove the insect creatures, believing they were real.
Doggett manages to trick and subdue Tommy by pretending to set the house on fire. He pours a canister of water all over the floor and furniture, acting as if it is gasoline. However, because Tommy believes it to be real, he sees Doggett pouring gasoline and lighting a match, and sees flames burn in the living room. Tommy passes out in fear. Tommy is eventually transported to a psychiatric ward, where his imagination is stifled by watching several televisions all at the same time.
"Scary Monsters" was written by Thomas Schnauz, who had previously penned the ninth season episode "Lord of the Flies". The entry was directed by Dwight H. Little, his first and only directing credit for the series. Schnauz later admitted that his inspiration for the episode was "basically panic". He explained that the writing staff needed to get the script done as quickly as possibly, but Schnauz only had the teaser conceived. When he went to pitch it, he even had a "whole other story that wasn't working." Fellow writer Vince Gilligan suggested that Shnauz make the child the root of the all of the episode's problems. However, the writing staff did not want the story to develop into a "kid-in-the-cornfield" territory, according to Gilligan—a reference to a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone wherein a monster-child can control the world through his mental powers. Eventually, when the writers began to piece the script together, they realized that they needed a villain, and the only character that could play the part would be Tommy.
Schnauz's original story featured Doggett and Reyes investigating the case with a new agent. Executive producer Frank Spotnitz suggested to Schnauz that the new FBI agent should be Leyla Harrison, played by Jolie Jenkins. Harrison had first appeared in the Spotnitz-penned eighth season episode "Alone". Jenkins' character was created and named in memory of an Internet fan of The X-Files and prolific writer of fan fiction of the same name, who had died of cancer on February 10, 2001. Jenkins' characterization, according to Spotnitz, brought out the "Clint [Eastwood]" in Robert Patrick's character John Doggett and her performance was called "near perfection" by Spotnitz during the audio commentary for "Alone". Near the end of "Scary Monsters", Leyla and Gabe Rotter were supposed to walk off-screen, holding hands, which prompted series director Kim Manners to sardonically ask "when did this turn into the fucking Brady Bunch?" The sequence was subsequently cut.
The writing staff used Leyla's character to comment on the state of the show and, most notably, the members of the audience who preferred Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) over Doggett. Due to Harrison's extensive knowledge of the X-Files, the episode contains several references to previous episodes. Harrison suggests early on that Doggett and Reyes may be dealing with a person capable of channeling electricity, a reference to the third season entry "D.P.O." Doggett later suggests that the three of them may be experiencing some sort of hallucination, and cites the events in the sixth season episode "Field Trip" as an example. Furthermore, when Tommy shows Reyes his drawing, he tells her "I made this", a potential reference to the tagline at the end of every Ten Thirteen Production.
During the filming of the episode, The X-Files was canceled by the Fox network, meaning that the show would not return for a tenth season. Robert Patrick explained that series creator Chris Carter watched him film a scene—an act which he had reportedly not done since Patrick had been hired in 2000—and then informed him of the show's cancellation. Patrick noted that Fox's new show 24 was being heavily promoted instead of The X-Files, an act which he felt was like being "abandoned by Fox".
Broadcast and reception
"Scary Monsters" originally aired in the United States on the Fox network on April 14, 2002, and was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two on February 16, 2003. The episode's initial broadcast was viewed by approximately 5.4 million households[nb 1] and 8.2 million viewers, making it the fifty-seventh most watched episode of television that aired during the week ending January 27. "Scary Monsters" earned a Nielsen household rating of 5.1, meaning that it was seen by 5.1% of the nation's estimated households.
The episode received mixed to positive reviews from television critics. Jessica Morgan from Television Without Pity awarded the episode a "C–" grade. John Keegan from Critical Myth gave the episode a largely positive review and awarded it an 8 out of 10. He wrote, "Overall, this was a very enjoyable and balanced episode. It gave us the scares, the humor, and the layered commentary that we had come to expect from the series. With only five episodes to go, it’s the perfect time for 1013 to be giving the series a good bit of resolution, even if it’s more metaphorical than actual." 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 four stars out of five. The two enjoyed Schnauz's script, calling it "better than most" of season nine's episodes, and noted that he wrote it with "pace and wit". They noted, however, that the entry's self-references "feel like carping […] at the audience who are still left to complain." Despite this, Shearman and Pearson also positively critiqued several of the episode's juxtapositions, such as the scene featuring Scully performing an autopsy on a cat while wearing a kitchen apron that says "something smells goooood", calling them "the funniest of the season". M.A. Crang, in his book Denying the Truth: Revisiting The X-Files after 9/11, called the episode a "solid little entry", saying that it was a "nice spin on the isolation stories that the series has always done so effectively".
- At the time of airing, the estimated number of households was 105.5 million. Thus, 5.1 percent of 105.5 million is 5.4 million households.
- Scary Monsters - Cast Credits (DVD). The X-Files: The Complete Ninth Season: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. 2002.
- "Scary Monsters". BBC Cult. BBC. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
- Huwritz and Knowles, pp. 236–240
- Fraga, pp. 216–217
- Frank Spotnitz (2008). Audio Commentary for "Alone" (DVD). The X-Files: The Complete Eight Season: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
- Dwight H. Little (director); Thomas Schnauz (writer) (14 April 2002). "Scary Monsters". The X-Files. Season 9. Episode 14. Fox.
- Shearman and Pearson, pp. 272–273
- Hurwitz and Knowles, pp. 204–206
- The X-Files: The Complete Ninth Season (booklet). Kim Manners, et al. Fox.
- The Associated Press (16 April 2002). "Prime-Time Nielsen Ratings". Associated Press Archive. Retrieved 21 July 2012. (subscription required)
- Canton, Maj. "The X-Files – Series – Episode List – Season 9". TV Tango. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
- Morgan, Jessica. "Scary Monsters". Television Without Pity. NBCUniversal. Archived from the original on 3 February 2013. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
- Keegan, John. "Scary Monsters". Critical Myth. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
- Crang, M.A. (2015). Denying the Truth: Revisiting The X-Files after 9/11. Createspace. pp. 150–151. ISBN 9781517009038.
- Fraga, Erica (2010). LAX-Files: Behind the Scenes with the Los Angeles Cast and Crew. CreateSpace. ISBN 9781451503418.
- Hurwitz, Matt; Knowles, Chris (2008). The Complete X-Files. Insight Editions. ISBN 1933784806.
- Shearman, Robert; Pearson, Lars (2009). Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium & The Lone Gunmen. Mad Norwegian Press. ISBN 097594469X.
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