Season 2, Episode 20: “Humbug”
Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like you to meet the love of my life, Darin Morgan. You might know him as the guy who played the Flukeman.
Oh, and he’s also God.
For those of you new to the show, Darin Morgan is the writer of some of the best X-Files episodes – ever. He has such a distinctive voice and writing style that even though he only contributed a few episodes, they are all remembered and adored. Some of them are so good that they’ve been written into the books of Quality Television history.
“Humbug” is an extraordinarily different episode than we’ve seen so far. The first thing you’ll notice right away is that the tone is humorous. That’s not to say that no episodes so far have had any funny moments, but “Humbug” is the first one that’s funny for the purpose of being funny. And while you’re busy laughing your head off, by the end of the episode you find yourself scratching your head and saying, “Wait a minute. That episode had a point!”
Every Darin Morgan episode, some more obviously than others, but every one nonetheless, has some sort of commentary very sneakily injected into the midst of funny. Every one also attempts to parody the show in some way. In “Humbug” the joke is that Mulder and Scully, who often face scary and freaky creatures, find themselves in a community where they are the weird ones because everyone else has some sort of “abnormality.” They are surrounded by some of the most memorable guest stars the show ever got, mainly because many of them actually are like that in real life.
What “Humbug” explores, beyond humor, is the question of what makes a person “weird.” Are they weird because they don’t look like everyone else, or are they weird because they don’t think like everyone else? One thing that seems to be highlighted in this episode is how normal these freaky people are; apart from their appearances and their strange abilities they still live like everyday people, playing in the pool with their kids, going to funerals, running motels, etc. What, then, makes them so different from other people apart from their physical characteristics? Isn’t someone like Mulder really the weird one? I mean, Mulder’s the one who believes his sister was abducted by aliens and has devoted his life to investigating the paranormal. That’s not normal in any society.
It quickly becomes clear that the Feejee Mermaid, or whatever it is, is not so much the focus of the episode as is this new take on the idea of X-Files weirdness. Just take a look at the final conversation between Scully and the Blockhead.
SCULLY: Well, his body possesses some anatomical discrepancies… some offshoots of the esophagus and trachea that almost seem umbilical in nature and… I’ve never seen anything like it.
(Blockhead finishes tying.)
BLOCKHEAD: And you never will again. Twenty-first century genetic engineering will not only eradicate the siamese twins and the alligator-skinned people, but you’re going to be hard-pressed to find, uh, a slight overbite or a not-so-high cheek bone. You see, I’ve seen the future and the future looks just like him.
(He points at Mulder, who is standing in front of a trailer in a classic model pose. Hands on his hips, one foot up on the step, looking off into the distance.)
Imagine going through your whole life looking like that. That’s why it’s left up to the self-made freaks like me and the Conundrum to remind people.
SCULLY: Remind people of what?
BLOCKHEAD: Nature abhors normality. It can’t go very long without creating a mutant. Do you know why?
SCULLY: No, why?
BLOCKHEAD: I don’t either, it’s a mystery. Maybe some mysteries are never meant to be solved.
That right there is why I love Darin Morgan. Watch it one time, laugh. Watch it another time, and you see something more. Eventually, you’ll watch it enough times that you start peeling back the layers of humor, insight, and just plain brilliant writing.
In other words: just go watch it.
Final score for “Humbug” is 9/10. This episode is unlike anything we’ve seen on The X-Files before, and it serves as a wonderful introduction to Darin Morgan. I guess if I had to make one tiny complaint about it, it’s that it resolves a teensy, miniscule bit unsatisfactorily. It’s still fantastic to watch.
OH there are so many…again, you should watch the episode to see them all. But I’ll name a select few.
- I put it up at the top, but the scene where Scully eats the bug is one of my favorite Scully scenes from the early seasons. The look on Mulder’s face is priceless, too. I think that might have been the moment when all the female viewers of the show stood up on their couches and declared, “I want to BE her.”
- Another great scene is Mulder’s conversation with the hotel manager. It takes a great script and a great performance to make a short man put down someone like Mulder within the first two words he speaks. That’s acting.
- I also really like some of the shots in this episode. The shot on the Conundrum eating the fish is filmed as if it were on a science show for freaky people. You know, the ones that are EXTREME and all that.