Season 5, Episode 10: “Chinga”
Apart from the Mulder/Scully phone conversations, I actually don’t watch “Chinga” very often. I think it’s because I’m just a tad bored by it. I don’t particularly find dolls scary and I’m not a Stephen King fan, so in a lot of ways this episode just isn’t made for me.
Still, on this most recent rewatch, I noticed several things that really impressed me. First of all, Kim Manners deserves every award there ever was for this episode. The direction is absolutely amazing. There’s more character and flavor in the camerawork than there is in the script, and everything from the lighting to the sets is simply gorgeous. R.I.P. Kim, you limitless directorial talent.
The Mulder/Scully phone conversations are hilarious and wonderful and deserve to be watched over and over again. The banter is top notch and I absolutely love how Mulder’s so bored without Scully there. Conversely, Scully can’t seem to get away from excitement, running into an X-File even while on vacation. Poor girl.
Still, it’s David Duchovny’s fidgety Mulder that really steals the show for me. My absolute favorite scene of the entire episode is when he drinks from an expired mug of orange juice while talking to Scully on the phone. It’s priceless. And so very Mulder.
The rest of the episode, however…meh. Well, mostly.
Like I said, I don’t really find dolls scary. And the little girl, Polly, comes across as more annoying than creepy. The mother, Melissa, doesn’t really do anything other than lapse into hysterics the whole time. Despite Stephen King’s obsession with Maine, the setting isn’t creepy either.
But, there’s one scene that really did impress me. And now I have to warn you: get ready for overanalyzing 101. It’s the final showdown, where the doll is making Melissa hit herself in the face with the hammer. The whole time, we see Polly, the little girl, holding the doll and looking conflicted for the first time in the entire episode. You see, Polly is just a child, but she’s a very unlikable, bratty child that doesn’t think about anyone but herself. If you’ll allow me, I’d like to suggest that the doll is a sort of evil manifestation of Polly’s impulsive, childlike selfishness. Every time something happens that Polly doesn’t like, the doll reacts. I’m not saying the doll killing people is necessarily Polly’s fault – she’s just a kid, after all – but the doll seems to feed off whatever Polly is feeling at the moment. The entire episode, she’s been screaming at her mother for things, demanding that people give her free food, and generally being a whiny, annoying nuisance that I, quite frankly, wanted to see thrown overboard. However, as the doll begins to kill the mother, we see Polly for the first time look at her mother with actual concern and compassion. After Scully throws the doll into the microwave, Polly slowly walks towards her mother. She doesn’t rush into her mother’s arms, because she’s not that kind of child. But she does seem to realize for the first time how her actions have affected people. When she steps toward her mother, maybe she’s making the first step towards empathy and understanding. It’s actually a really touching moment.
But, who am I kidding. Nobody really cares about that when we’ve got Scully in the bath, pencils in the ceiling, and Mulder in those shorts.
Excuse me while I go rewatch the phone scenes.
Final score for “Chinga” is 8/10. While I can’t call it one of my personal favorites, you gotta love that banter. And, um, Polly’s redemption. Also, the banter.
- The book Scully’s reading is called Affirmations for Women who Do Too Much.
- For those that care about this sort of thing, Scully was listening to Hummel’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in B minor Op 89. You can listen to it too here.
- Those shorty short shorts, though.
- Is anyone else distracted by the fact that Melissa looks a lot like Samantha Mulder?