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The X-Files – Elegy (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.

The first two-thirds of Elegy count as the best episode of The X-Files that John Shiban has written at this point of his tenure on the writing staff. Elegy starts out as an episode that leans into Shiban’s strengths. It is a very traditional and old-fashioned horror story, the first tried-and-tested ghost story that The X-Files has told in a while. The idea of a haunted bowling alley is so wonderfully weird and so quintessentially American that it fits The X-Files perfectly. For its first thirty minutes, Elegy is funereal and sombre, haunting and enchanting.

Elegy is a story packed with potentially interesting concepts. It is overflowing with clever ideas and memorable images. Shiban is a writer who has a great deal of affection for classic horror, and that affection shines through into Elegy. There is a slow and sorrowful atmosphere to the early stretches of the episode. Transparent grey spectres are a staple of the horror genre, but they work very well in this context. The X-Files has been quite reluctant to handle traditional monsters, so there is something rather strange and affecting about seeing such a classic depiction here.

Here there be ghosts...

Here there be ghosts…

Then things go to hell. To be fair, the problems with the last fifteen of Elegy are very much suggested from the start; they are just pushed to the fore. It becomes quite clear that Elegy has no idea how to resolve a “haunted bowling alley” story, so the script hastily and clumsily transitions to an “abusive care home” plot. The first two thirds of Elegy are not that interested in the character of Harold Spuller beyond his use as a plot device; a fact that becomes quite apparent in how the final third callously disposes of him.

Elegy is an episode that brushes against greatness. Its best ideas rank with the highlights of the fourth season. Unfortunately, all of that is undercut by a truly terrible final act.

Blood on the mirror...

Blood on the mirror…

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