Season 4, Episode 3: “Teliko”
I’ll be honest: I completely forgot this episode existed.
Even the name didn’t ring any bells for me. I was looking through upcoming episodes, mentally preparing myself for reviews, when I came across the title of this one. What the hell is “Teliko”? Now, you might be thinking to yourself: “Oh, Knife Ink, it’s just another one of those ‘eh’ reviews you give to episodes that aren’t worth anybody’s time, blah blah blah.”
…And, well, you got me. Yeah, this is definitely one of those episodes. But that doesn’t mean I can’t come up with more interesting things to say about it. Well, more interesting than the episode itself, at least. And that’s “Teliko’s” biggest fault: it’s boring.
Sure, there are a few moments which are enjoyable – Agent Pendrell’s scene, for instance – but while rewatching this episode I found myself constantly pausing it to go do stuff. I noticed little annoying inconsistencies much more than I would have if the episode had been engaging. My Nitpick radar was going off every five seconds. For example, why did they call Scully in to investigate the dead body? I mean, I know she’s on the X-Files and it’s an unusual case, but shouldn’t they have contacted a skin doctor or something? And speaking of which, the makeup job on the dead man is so horrible that I couldn’t take the first ten minutes of the episode seriously. Scully’s “I’m sorry, I thought you said Owen Sanders was black” comment doesn’t help matters, because Owen Sanders looks like a black man covered in flour. Mulder’s Michael Jackson joke might have been amusing while MJ was still alive, but now it’s very outdated.
But anyway. What is this episode about? Well, the monster-of-the-week is based on African folklore, but that serves as little more than a plot device. We don’t learn anything about African folklore that might change our perspectives on it, and we don’t learn much about the experiences of young African men when they come to the US. They’re hinted at, touched upon, but never fully explored, probably because the episode is trying to play it safe.
Given the recent news in today’s real world, an episode centered on the deaths of young black men is, I’ll admit, a little strange to watch. At times it was downright uncomfortable. I mean, it’s hard to come across a line like this –
DUFF: Sir, if you had ever been beaten by the police or had your home burned to the ground for no other reason than being born then maybe you would understand why he ran and why you would run too.
-and not think of recent headlines. Obviously The X-Files couldn’t have predicted the current events of today (not that stuff like that wasn’t happening back then), but this line contains the only commentary this episode gives on the experiences of someone like Samuel Aboah and I wish the episode had been braver, I really do. It would certainly have been more interesting.
That’s my biggest problem, I think. If you’re going to make an episode about African folklore – make an episode about African folklore. “Teliko” is basically “Squeeze” without as many scares, and with an African folktale/young black men’s experiences in the US shoehorned in to give it some thematic identity. What results is one of the most forgettable episodes of Season 4, possibly of the whole series.
Final score for “Teliko” is 5/10. I feel bad for giving this episode a score any lower than 5, because it isn’t a bad episode, just a boring and forgettable one. What really bothers me about it, though, is that it didn’t have to be that way. “Teliko” did have potential, quite a lot of it. I don’t mind folklore episodes, nor do I mind episodes with social commentary. Think about how important an episode “Teliko” could be today if it had actually done something with these things. Instead, it uses them as plot devices, and whatever meaningfulness it might have had is lost.
- Say it with me: “deceive, inveigle, and obfuscate.” The X-Files, teaching you SAT words one episode at a time.
- Ah, Marita shows up. Poor Marita. She’s so useless.
- If you want an episode that actually does a good job with similar themes, check out Bones Season 8 Episode 18 “The Survivor in the Soap.” I don’t watch Bones regularly, but I did stumble across this episode and I thought it was very well done.