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The X-Files – Kaddish (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

Kaddish is the last solo script that Howard Gordon wrote for The X-Files.

The writer would remain part of the writing staff until the end of the fourth season, contributing to scripts like Unrequited or Zero Sum. However, Kaddish would be the last script credited to Howard Gordon alone. So Gordon does not quite get the clean farewell that Darin Morgan got with Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space” or that Glen Morgan and Howard Wong received with Never Again. Instead, Howard Gordon remains a pretty significant presence on the show even after writing his final solo script.

The word made flesh...

The word made flesh…

Nevertheless, Kaddish is packed with a lot of the images and themes associated with Gordon’s work. As with Fresh Bones or Teliko, it is a horror story set within a distinct ethnic community. As with Firewalker or Død Kälm or Grotesque, there is an element of body horror at play. As with Lazarus or Born Again, this is essentially a supernatural revenge story. Kaddish offers a distilled collection of the tropes and signifiers that Gordon helped to define for The X-Files, making it an appropriate final script for the writer.

It helps that Kaddish is a surprisingly sweet and thoughtful little horror story.

The outside looking in...

The outside looking in…

There is a sense that Kaddish was a very personal story for Gordon. Fresh Bones had focused on Haitian refugees and Teliko had explored the world of African immigrants. Kaddish was set within the Jewish community in New York. Gordon is himself Jewish, and considers it part of his identity:

My mother’s side of the family has a number of people who perished in Auschwitz—first cousins and aunts and uncles. The survivors actually wound up resettling in Los Angeles, so as a kid I had this strange relationship with L.A. where I would go out there and see all these old people playing pinochle with tattoos. And I’ve always identified as part of this tribe, which I always wrestled with. I’m not terribly religious, but I do find comfort in the traditions. We don’t strictly observe Shabbat, but we certainly light the candles—and we appreciate the idea of it. As you get older, you appreciate the wisdom of those things. When my kids didn’t want to go to Hebrew school, I always likened it to a garden, a very thick old garden that has been around for 4,000 years. You can’t always see your way through it, you don’t always know which way is out, but you do not want that garden to die while you are in it. I like being in the garden. I like being a part of it. And it’s something I want them to wrestle their way through.

It seems significant that Gordon should focus on the Jewish community in his last solo script for The X-Files. After all, according to his interview with Cinefantastique, writers (particularly Jewish writers) had been pitching similar ideas from the first season.

A walk among the tombstones...

A walk among the tombstones…

However, despite the fact that Gordon is himself Jewish, Kaddish still treats the New York Orthodox Jewish community as something strange and alien – in the same way that the show approaches similar communities in scripts like Fresh Bones, The CalusariHell Money or Teliko. There is a sense that Kaddish might be just a little more sensitive or considered in how it portrays Jewish culture, but there is that same sense that Mulder and Scully are essentially outsiders wandering into a strange new world.

Kaddish reinforces this sense in a number of ways. Kim Manners does a wonderful job directing the episode; the teaser sets the mood quite well. A lingering long-distance shot of a Jewish funeral, filmed quietly without subtitles or translations, helps to create a sense of distance between the audience and the community featured here. There are lots of other sequences that underscore that sense of distance – Mulder and Scully visiting the synagogue, Scully eavesdropping on the conversation between Ariel and her father while in custody.

Pulled the trigger, now he's dead...

Pulled the trigger, now he’s dead…

Basing an episode of The X-Files around anti-Semitism in 1997 may have seemed a strange choice, but the script’s Brooklyn setting suggests a justification. In August 1991, a three-day race riot occurred in Crown Heights, Brooklyn between the Jewish and African American communities. As Edward Shapiro noted in Crown Heights, there were a number of different perspectives on the event and its causes:

One of the most important aspects of the riot’s aftermath was the various efforts to make sense of what had occurred. Almost immediately a host of differing interpretations emerged seeking to explain its nature and origins. This effort at explanation, which continued throughout the 1990s, reflected the diverse political, religious, and social circumstances, the differing ideological assumptions, and the divergent understandings of the past by the journalists, sociologists, political activists, and historians who wrote about the riot.

The Crown Height Riot had a fairly significant impact on New York. It has been suggested that the publicity around the riots helped Rudolph Giulianni (who called the riots a “pogrom”) defeat incumbent David Dinkins in the 1993 mayoral election. Indeed, wounds still fester in the community, two decades later.

Dirty hands...

Dirty hands…

In fact, the riots tend to linger in memory – particularly of the Jewish community. Reporter Ari Goldman has suggested that The New York Times consciously doctored its coverage of the riots so as to avoid accusations of bias in favour or against one community or the other. Jon Podhoretz, editor of Commentary magazine, suggested that the New York Police Department did not act decisively to control the riots and to protect the local population. These wounds cut deep.

When African American activist Al Sharpton was invited to speak at the Hampton Synagogue on the twentieth anniversary of the riots, it cause quite a controversy. Local residents suggest that few gains have been made between the two communities in the years since the riot. “We are equal, but separate,” one member of the Jewish community suggested twenty years after the events. If the wound is still felt more than two decades after the riot, it must have still been stinging when Gordon wrote Kaddish in 1997.

Grave danger...

Grave danger…

In fact, Kaddish aired in the middle of February, 1997. It was broadcast less than a week after Lemnick Nelson and Charles Price were convicted for the murder of Yankel Rosenbaum during the riots. Mulder even mentions Rosenbaum by name in the first scene after the credits. Gordon even considered focusing Kaddish on African American anti-Semitism, but eventually decided against it. As he told Cinefantastique:

“The network had a problem with it,” Gordon explained. “They wanted me to balance the point of view. I said, ‘What do you mean, balance the point of view? As if black anti-Semitism has any legitimacy to it?’ It was ironic. I understood that there is something very uncomfortable about black anti-Semitism told in this type of this story, and NYPD BLUE might have handled it better. In the end, I realized that discussion of black anti-Semitism is extremely sensitive, and that this story required a villain who was purely anti-Semitic, purely ignorant. The story couldn’t handle the complexity of the issue of black anti-Semitism — not in 45 minutes and not in the parameter of this particular story.”

Gordon is probably correct. In the final version of Kaddish, the anti-Semitic villains are barely two-dimensional; they feel like a collection of stock clichés. After all, Brunje’s second line establishes him as an anti-Semite, but also one who would boast about his anti-Semitism to the FBI as they inquire about the murder of a Jewish shopkeeper. There is no real depth here, no examination of deep-rooted or thinly-concealed hatred or prejudice.

Somehow I doubt this medical article was properly peer-reviewed.

Somehow I doubt this medical article was properly peer-reviewed.

Then again, Kaddish is not about Brunje or his neo-Nazis. It isn’t about relations between the Jewish community and the wider community. Instead, Kaddish is focused on the local Jewish community almost exclusively, examining what it must be like to live across the street from people who freely print flyers that proclaim, “My right to free speech is greater than your right to exist.” Kaddish is a story about what it is like to live in a country where the state protects the right of neo-Nazis to march freely through communities of Holocaust survivors.

Indeed, Kaddish seems fascinated with the idea and consequences of free speech. The First Amendment famously includes “freedom for the thought that we hate”, and thus allows people like Brunje to spew their hatred out into the world – assuming that reasonable people are smart enough to figure out that they deluded nonsense. Kaddish adopts a more cynical approach, arguing that words can be very effective weapons in these contexts. After all, Kaddish is – to quote Kenneth Ungar – about “the power of letters” in a literal and metaphorical sense.

Burning books, eh?

Burning books, eh?

This is most obvious in the presentation of the golem itself. As explained to Mulder, the golem is granted power by a single word written on the back of its hand. Using this power, the golem is an unstoppable killing machine. Removing a single letter from that single word renders the creature powerless. Without the right word, the golem is nothing more than misshapen clay. As such, the golem is juxtaposed with Brunje, the small-minded bigot who uses his own words for violence. “Again, Mister Mulder,” Ungar remarks, “the power of letters, not just to create, but to kill.”

Brunje stresses the fact that he has never raised a hand against the Jewish community. “What the hell were you thinking?” he asks Derek. “I never told you to kill anyone. I never said to do that.” However, as Derek argues, the violence was an inevitable result of Brunje’s rhetoric. “No? What did you expect me to do? Hide back here like you? Licking envelopes in the dark, calling them names?” Crumpling up a flyer, Derek observes, “These are just words. You think they killed my friends with just words?” Ironically, they did; just like Brunje killed Isaac with words.

Flags of our Fuhrers...

Flags of our Fuhrers…

This is a very interesting position for an American television show to take. The First Amendment is often considered a sacred document – an ideal that is unquestionable. However, Kaddish examines that freedom from the perspective of the Jewish community, one understandably sensitive to such rhetoric. As Ethan Goffman argued in Imagining Each Other, the Jewish reaction to the Crown Heights Riot is inevitably coloured by history:

Perhaps more important to this Jewish reaction than racism is the ingrained fear of anti-Semitism, of words leading to mob action. The rioting is transferred in the Jewish mind to such an episode, confirmed by taunts from the Black mob: “Kill the Jews” and “Hitler didn’t finish the job.” Jews cannot perceive such pronouncements outside of a brutal historical awareness, for it is this history which spurs the taunts, words calculated for maximum effect. Black hatred of Jews, the rioting that erupted in Crown Heights, and the death of Yankel Rosenbaum – in this version of events, all are merely continuations of a great historical pattern of Jew hatred, tacitly backed by authority, that transcends time and place. Rosenbaum’s parents were Holocaust survivors; in a context quite different from Nazi Germany, their son suffers the same fate. To his brother, Yankel Rosenbaum was killed “for no other reason than that he was a Jew!” To Reuven Ostrov, the Crown Heights rioting follows the legacy of the pogroms, the persecution that followed the Jews, against all logic, from Russia to Germany to America: “It’s like you’re trapped, everywhere you go there’s Jew haters.” An ominous hatred, inescapable and inexplicable, pursues Jews everywhere. Anti-Semitism spurs a paranoia oddly parallel to the xenophobia that created it.

After all, history suggests that these flyers and images eventually escalate into violence. It is impossible to ignore or overlook past experience in matters like this. From the (entirely understandable) perspective of certain members of the Jewish community, the fact that the state permits this sort of rhetoric makes it passively complicit.

A nice ring to it...

A nice ring to it…

Kaddish makes this connection explicit in dialogue, theme and imagery. As Alfred Thomas notes in Prague Palimpsest:

What makes the function of memory in the television episode unusual is its personal and collective dimension. Ariel, we recall, is the daughter of a Czech Holocaust survivor; hence her mourning for a fiancé murdered by American neo-Nazis is related to her mourning for her European relatives murdered by the Germans in World War II. The connection between the dead lover from Brooklyn and the dead family members from Prague is signaled by the Hebraic inscription on the golem’s hand, which resembles the serial numbers tattooed onto the arms of concentration camp inmates at Auschwitz and elsewhere. In effacing the aleph at the end of the episode, Ariel is not simply returning her golem-lover to duct; she is attempting to erase the traumatic memory of the Shoah itself.

Although the Holocaust is only mentioned in a single scene of Kaddish, it is enough to make the connection. There is a cycle of violence at play here.

The truth remains buried...

The truth remains buried…

In fact, Kaddish is fascinated with the idea of cycles of violence. As if to underscore the connections between Grunje and the golem – two characters using words to murder – their death scenes are cleverly juxtaposed. Isaac is murdered before the episode even begins; Grunje is the last target of the creature’s revenge. Both Isaac and Grunje are murdered in their stores, which sit across the street from one another. The surveillance tape from Isaac’s store helps kick-start Mulder and Scully’s investigation; the tape from Brunje’s store helps to close it.

Kaddish is a story about the futility of vengeance – the hollowness of an eye for an eye as a moral philosophy. When Jacob confesses to the murders to protect Ariel, he asks, “Is it any worse than what they did to Isaac?” Mulder simply replies, “Is it any better?” Ariel herself is horrified to discover the age of her fiancées murderers. “He’s just a boy,” she gasps. “He’s an animal,” he father corrects her. He then adds, with no sense of irony, “A monster, like the other animals that killed Isaac.”

More than just feet of clay...

More than just feet of clay…

In fact, Kaddish suggests that both Brunje and Jacob anchor themselves in a sense of paranoia. As Paul Cantor reflects in Gilligan Unbound, this paranoia is a recurring theme in episodes about subcultures and communities:

Every immigrant episode shows that the state is unable to live up to its most basic responsibility of protecting the lives of its citizens or would-be citizens, and thus the immigrants are left to protect themselves as best they can. Given the fundamental culture clashes a globalising society produces, there no longer even seems to be agreement as to who is a member of a given nation and who is not. Under these circumstances, the very concept of paranoia begins to lose its meaning. The definition of the paranoiac depends on being able to define a ‘normal person’; the paranoiac’s mental illness emerges only against a background of what a ‘reasonable’ person would believe. In that sense, a concept of paranoia must be rooted in a community of belief; thus, in a world of clashing cultural communities, one man’s paranoia becomes another man’s religious faith.

It is a theme that hits quite close to Mulder as a character – Mulder’s faith practically is paranoia. In fact, Kaddish implies that the only common ground between people like Jacob and Brunje is their shared sense of paranoia.

"Go, go, golem!"

“Go, go, golem!”

“You call me paranoid because that’s exactly what they want you to do,” Brunje warns Mulder and Scully, a piece of dialogue that could easily have come from Mulder himself. Jacob does not want to cooperate with the authorities, feeling justifiable mistrust. “Where were you when Isaac needed your protection? When we called the police, they said we were paranoid, that there was nothing to worry about. They always say that when someone threatens the Jews.” When Mulder asks if there was a specific threat, Jacob replies, “The threat is always there.”

It seems that empathy is the only thing that might prevent this cycle from escalating further. Ariel is genuinely horrified by the violence that she has unleashed. It is interesting that Isaac’s only line in the entire episode is an attempt to understand the motivations of his killers. “Why are you doing this?” It seems that these questions are of more worth and more value than any amount of revenge. Ariel eventually comes to terms with that, and agrees to put the golem to rest – to retire the vengeful spirit that only serves to spill more blood.

Body of evidence...

Body of evidence…

This theme about the futility of vengeance fits quite comfortably within the “golem” narrative of Kaddish. One of the most common stories about the golem is a cautionary tale warning against violence and revenge. Consider the version of the story recorded by Jakob Grimm in 1808, a tragedy about a man destroyed by his own desire for vengeance:

But once, out of carelessness, someone allowed his Golem to become so tall that he could no longer reach his forehead. Then, out of fear, the master ordered the servant to take off his boots, thinking that he would bend down and that then the master could reach his forehead. This is what happened, and the first letter was successfully erased, but the whole load of clay fell on the Jew and crushed him.

This rather ironic twist on the story of the golem has become on iteration of the tale. Indeed, these stories are occasionally told about Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel in Prague, the rabbi most associated with the creation of the mythological golem. Kaddish arrives on the cusp of the golem’s fifteen minutes of fame.

Does not compute...

Does not compute…

The creature would enjoy something of a pop culture renaissance following the publication of The Puttermesser Papers in 1998. The golem is a fascinating mythological creature, inanimate matter that is given form and function. It is no wonder that the concept of golem has caught on even outside of Judaism:

Once the legend started to work loose from its religious moorings, the golem was free to serve a wide variety of symbolic functions. To the German Romantic writer Ludwig von Arnim he was a doppelganger; in the 20th century he has been seen as a Frankenstein’s monster, a robot, a Caliban, the personification of the id, an ur-version of artificial intelligence machines and computers.

It has been suggested that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was influenced by the stories of the golem and those concerning the homunculus. Similarly, writer Karel Capek acknowledged the golem as an influence on R.U.R., the play that introduced the concept of a robot.

The monster demands a marriage!

The monster demands a marriage!

In a way, Kaddish is a very traditional monster narrative. It is a very basic, very straightforward story. However, Howard Gordon manages to infuse his episode with a sense of weight and tragedy that elevates the material. At its core, Kaddish is something of an anti-ghost story. “A ghost is spirit without form,” Mulder tells Sully. “I believe what we’re looking for and what we’re seeing here, is… is form without spirit.” Ungar defines the golem as “matter without form, body without soul.”

Fundamentally, Kaddish is a tale about a woman who tries to resurrect her beloved fiancée, only to end up with a shuffling barely-conscious killing machine. As much as Ariel might want to believe that see can revive Isaac, he is gone. He cannot come back. The final scene of Kaddish is absolutely heartbreaking, as Ariel and the golem mime the traditional marriage ceremony. To the golem, this is just a series of robotic actions; to Ariel, it is a grotesque parody of what should have been the happiest day of her life.

Hanging on in there...

Hanging on in there…

That closing scene is beautiful, one that grants the rest of Kaddish a lot more weight than it might otherwise have had. Once again, Mulder and Scully are firmly in the background – they are on the outside, staring into a culture that they cannot understand. Instead, this tale of violence and hatred and suffering is contextualised as the story of a woman mourning her fiancée. The production is beautiful, from Kim Manner’s meticulous direction to Mark Snow’s affecting score.

By sheer coincidence, Kaddish also has some resonance with the cancer plot running through the rest of the season. This is almost certainly coincidental. After all, Kaddish was written and produced before Leonard Betts or Memento Mori. In fact, it was even produced before Never Again. As such, the writing staff would not have yet agreed to give Scully cancer as Gordon was writing Kaddish. However, there is a sense that Mulder and Scully might empathise with the plight of Isaac and Ariel.

The good book...

The good book…

Memento Mori had Mulder and Skinner desperately trying to save Scully from a medical death sentence. Skinner ultimately made a deal with the metaphorical devil in order to buy Scully more time. Ariel does something different here. She invokes ancient mysticism to bring Isaac back to her, despite knowing that there will be a heavy price to pay. It seems likely that Mulder would go to similar lengths for Scully. After all, the only person who would try to stop Mulder from doing something that stupid would be Scully herself.

It is a tenuous connection at best, and one entirely coincidental. Nevertheless, Kaddish seems to connect with the themes of Memento Mori more directly than most of the episodes actually produced later in the season. It is an effective illustration of just how much trouble the show had dealing with the implications of Scully’s cancer arc. That said, Kaddish is a Howard Gordon episode. As one might expect from Howard Gordon’s last solo script for the series, Kaddish is more focused on Mulder than on Scully.

Tomb raiders...

Tomb raiders…

For most of Kaddish, Scully exists to be wrong – to suggest that somebody stole Isaac’s fingers in order to plant fake evidence, or to explain why a holy book buried underground might suddenly catch fire. It seems like Scully is being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. This is very much one of the stereotypical portrayals of Scully as the partner who disagrees with Mulder for the sake of disagreeing. Kaddish is unambiguously supernatural, but it makes a point of having Scully repeatedly (and almost arbitrarily) offer even crazier explanations for individual elements.

In contrast, Kaddish is acutely aware of Mulder’s empathy for victims. The opening scene reveals that Mulder is well aware of the problems facing the Jewish community in Brooklyn. As soon as Scully mentions it, he explains, “It’s an area also known for its history of racial tensions and hate crimes. Rosenbaum, Tawana Brawley…” When Scully tells him that the tape documenting Isaac’s murder was recovered at Tony Oliver’s apartment, Mulder asks, “Has he been arrested?” As with Howard Gordon scripts like Conduit or Fallen Angel, Mulder is sympathetic.

No (tomb) stone unturned...

No (tomb) stone unturned…

Inevitably, Kaddish touches on the question of whether Mulder is Jewish. Mulder’s religious beliefs and ethnicity were frequently debated by fans on-line. Recently, Eric Thurm argued that Mulder was “a Jewish action hero.” However, in an interview with Cinefantastique, Howard Gordon rejected the idea that Mulder was Jewish:

“No,” Gordon stated. “In fact, I think we’ve pretty well established that he’s not, vis-a-vis his father’s funeral [at which a minister officiated]. Also, Alex Gansa and I put Mulder in a church at the end of ‘Conduit.’ But then there’s the comment that Brunjes makes to Mulder: ‘You look like you might be one of them.’ I know that sparked a lot of conversation. But I don’t think Mulder is Jewish or even half- Jewish.”

As Gordon mention, Brunjes makes a clear reference to that speculation. In the sixth season, Patrick Crump would make a similar insinuation (in a similarly anti-Semitic manner) during the events of Drive. This speculation is likely driven by the fact that David Duchovny has a Jewish father.

Scully's not even trying...

Scully’s not even trying…

However, Kaddish stresses Mulder’s status as an outsider. He knows as little about Jewish traditions or orthodoxy as Scully. He has to consult with an expert – Kenneth Ungar – on matters of Jewish faith. When Ungar points him to the relevant passages, Mulder states, “I don’t speak Hebrew, I don’t know what that means.” As such, it feels like Kaddish is going out of its way to clarify that Mulder is not Jewish. His emotional response to the situation is that of any reasonable person sensitive to the abuse and suffering inflicted upon innocent people.

That said, Kaddish touches on some interesting ideas about Mulder’s world view. The fourth season of The X-Files has been a lot more cautious in how it interacts with concepts like paranoia and mistrust – likely as a response to the Oklahoma City Bombing and other high-profile instances of the militia movement. The X-Files embraces Mulder’s paranoid perspective, but the fourth season has tempered that enthusiasm by presenting a number of dark mirrors to Mulder’s paranoia and mistrust.

Mourning glory...

Angle of the mourning…

The Field Where I Died centres on a religious cult locked in a stand-off with the FBI and the ATF. In Terma and Tunguska, Krycek cynically exploits the paranoia and mistrust of an American militia in order to further his own objectives. Mulder and Scully will confront another survivalist group in Unrequited, the next episode to air. Here, the paranoid ramblings of Brunje feel like extensions of Mulder’s “trust no one” philosophy. “We’re working to spread the truth,” Brunjes insists. “I am exposing their lies.”

The fourth season of The X-Files seems a little wary and disillusioned with paranoia and cynicism. The show worked hard to foster a mistrust of authority, but the growing militia movement and various hate groups were feeding off the same rhetoric. After all, conspiracy theory is a tool that can be exploited in service of any political ideal, and Timothy McVeigh had demonstrated just how harmful that philosophy could be in the wrong hands. Although it never coalesces into a consistent theme, this wariness manifests itself across the fourth season.

Ashes to ashes, clay to clay...

Ashes to ashes, clay to clay…

After all, Kenneth Ungar warns Mulder that the golem is a creature with word “emet” written on its hand. “Truth,” Ungar explains. “Emet means truth. See, Mr. Mulder, therein lies the paradox… because the danger of the truth is contained in the word golem itself.” In essence, Mulder finds himself confronting a monster that is brought to life by “the truth.” Appropriately enough, the golem is defeated by erasing a letter from the word. It seems that “truth” and “death” are concepts separated by a single letter.

It is a recurring theme of The X-Files, as Mulder’s pursuit of the truth seems to cost more and more lives of the people close to him. Again, Memento Mori seems to echo faintly into Kaddish. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, Scully would seem to be yet another casualty of Mulder’s crusade, another example of how death and truth are inevitably and inexorably linked. Kaddish is written as a standard “monster-of-the-week” episode, but it captures a lot of the big ideas associated with The X-Files at this point in its run.

A nice ring to it...

Bride of Golem!

In a way, Kaddish bids farewell to Howard Gordon, even though he would remain on the show through to the end of the fourth season. Gordon is one of the oldest creative voices left working on the show; with the departure of Morgan and Wong after Never Again, Chris Carter and Howard Gordon are the only original members of the writing staff left working on the show. By the time that Redux I airs, the writing staff will have gone through a complete revolution. Carter would be the only original writer still working on the show.

Howard Gordon’s contributions to The X-Files are occasionally overshadowed by the work of other prominent writers like Glen Morgan, James Wong, Darin Morgan, Vince Gilligan, Chris Carter or Frank Spotnitz. However, Gordon contributed an incredible amount to The X-Files. He was the writer with perhaps the strongest grip on Mulder as a character, even if he seemed to struggle with Scully. Gordon seemed to understand that Mulder’s confrontational attitude had to be offset with empathy and compassion for the character to work.

Talk about creating a monster...

Talk about creating a monster…

More than that, Gordon helped to really nail down the monster-of-the-week shows. Morgan and Wong might have set the template with Squeeze, but Gordon worked very hard to figure out how the show could consistently and reliably produce weekly monster movies for television. With Born Again and Lazarus, he firmly established “supernatural revenge thriller” as a go-to genre for the show. Fresh Bones and D.P.O. both set the benchmark for “monster-of-the-week” shows in their respective seasons.

Gordon also had a knack for structure – perhaps honing the strengths that he would bring to bear on 24. Gordon’s episodes are rarely muddled; they generally have a clear sense of purpose and direction, even if the execution is not ideal. Episodes like F. Emasculata and Grotesque move like well-honed machines. It is quite easy to see how Gordon would become one of the most successful thriller writers working in television. As with Morgan, Wong and Gilligan, there is a clear sense that working on The X-Files helped him develop his skills.

Closing on the file on Howard Gordon...

Closing on the file on Howard Gordon…

Kaddish is a very strong episode somewhat overshadowed by everything else happening around it. Much like Howard Gordon is one of the most quietly efficient writers on staff, Kaddish is one of the most quietly impressive episodes of the fourth season.

You might be interested in our other reviews of the fourth season of The X-Files:

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2 Responses

  1. I wonder what a collaboration between Gordon, Morgan and Wong would look like. Would Gordon’s Mulder and Morgan & Wong’s Scully be able to work together? Would they even like each other? Would Gordon’s Scully and Morgan & Wong’s Mulder ever get anything done?

    • Putting Morgan and Wong’s Mulder with Howard Gordon’s Scully almost sounds like the perfect comedy episode. Mulder is completely oblivious to Scully, who is in turn completely oblivious to anything paranormal going on. They’d spend the entire episode talking past one another and past the plot.

      (Of course, it feels like Gordon’s Mulder and Morgan and Wong’s Scully would seem even more tragic than the dynamic Morgan and Wong suggest. At least Morgan and Wong acknowledge Mulder’s inattentiveness as a flaw, whereas Gordon’s Mulder seems to be able to bend the universe to match his crazy perception of it. I can see the relationship being even more toxic than it seems in Never Again.)

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