X-Files Recap: 'Back in the Day Is Now'

The X-Files‘ Dana Scully may not be immortal, but wouldn’t it have been nice if her mother were?

As many X-‘Philes guessed — and TVLine feared — Margaret Scully dies in the revival’s fourth hour, her death a painful tearing-away of Dana’s one constant: No matter what insanity Mulder was up to from week to week during the original run, Mama Scully always had a gripping hug and some nonsense-free advice for her only remaining daughter. She was the voice of reason when a delusional Dana pulled her gun in “Wetwired.” She was a bedside regular throughout her daughter’s cancer arc. And she tried mightily (and bodily) to protect her grandson, William, from those who wished him harm in “Provenance.”

Well, Maggie, if you had to die, at least you did it in a hell of an episode.

As much as I adored the high-energy fun of last week’s “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster,” “Home Again” more closely achieves what I really wanted from the revival: It cracks open these beloved characters, a little the rougher for wear since last we saw them, to show us new shades of Scully and Mulder. Better yet, it depicts us how their partnership — romantic, yes, but at the same time so much more than that — has evolved since the enigmatic doc took her first timid steps into the basement office all those years ago.

And the flashbacks/references to “One Breath”? BabyMulder? SupportiveMulder? A satisfyingly gross Monster of the Week? I die (but not, y’know, in the Scully-weeping-over-my-corpse way).

Let’s take a look at what happens in “Home Again.”

TRASHED | The week’s creature feature belongs to a putrid, smelly, lumbering figure who shows up in a garbage truck and literally rips annoying people apart with his bare hands, then disappears. Mulder and Scully are at the first crime scene — a Philadelphia Housing and Urban Development employee torn asunder in his own office — when she gets a call on her cell that she, at first, thinks is from William. But it’s really her brother Bill (remember him? I kinda wish he’d been there in person to sneer at Mulder for old times’ sake), and he’s got some terrible news: Their mom has had a heart attack. Bill is in Germany and their brother, Charlie, is estranged from the family, so Scully barely needs to hear Mulder’s “Go, go” before she’s on her way to the ICU in Washington, D.C. (Side note: Rewind and watch him watch her as she leaves. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.)

After she goes, Mulder realizes that a giant, Banksy-style mural appeared on a wall outside the dead man’s workplace sometime after the killing. What he doesn’t know (but we do) is that the mural is of the creature that committed the murders.

YOUR WORK IS GARBAGE | Let’s wrap up the case quickly so we can get to all the angst, cool? There are more gory murders — mostly of nasty people involved in a HUD plan to move homeless people off the street so a luxury high-rise can be built — and Mulder and Scully eventually track the street artist down. He calls himself Trashman, and he’s pretty sure his indignation about how people treat the homeless like garbage caused one of his sculptures to come to life and go on a killing spree. When the being has finished off the mean homeless-haters, the murders stop.

And… that’s kinda it for that storyline, though what Scully takes from the experience will have ramifications for a while. (More on that in a moment.)

X-Files Revival RecapTHE BEGINNING… | At the hospital, a nurse tells Scully that Margaret woke for a moment and asked for Charlie, but then lapsed back into unconsciousness. Scully’s confused: Her brother hasn’t spoken to anyone in the family for years. But she shakes it off and sits by Maggie’s bed, trying valiantly to pull her mom’s little rowboat back to the shore. “I’ve been where you are,” she says softly, listing the names of Maggie’s children and grandchildren as a reason to live. When she gets to “William,” Scully cries a little. “Don’t go home yet,” she begs. “I need you.”

Mulder shocks me by choosing not to travel to Peru or somewhere equally far flung in search of some storied sculpture-whisperer guru person or whatever but by doing the right thing by showing up at the hospital, shutting up and giving Scully someone to lean on. She’s having a really tough time: Maggie’s doctor informs Scully that her mom recently changed her living will and she wants no life-prolonging measures… including the breathing tube that’s likely currently keeping her going. When the medical staff extubates Maggie, Scully crumbles, Mulder physically holds her up, and I just love them both so much.

… OF THE END | But Maggie keeps breathing, so the pair pull chairs up to her bedside and wait for something amazing or heartbreaking to happen. When Scully remarks that she’s trying to will her mom back to life, Mulder simply says, “I invented it,” and that thunk you just felt was a Superstars of the Super Bowl VHS tape hitting you right in the heart. “You’re a dark wizard, Mulder,” she replies, amused. “What else is new?” he shoots back, and I love how Duchovny can’t say the line without laughing.

A call from Charlie rouses Maggie momentarily. She opens her eyes, takes Mulder’s hand, says, “My son is named William, too,”… then dies. Scully of course, is a mess, and once more I’m proud of Mulder for just holding her and letting her cry without spouting off about starlight or some other ridiculousness.

“Her last words were about our child, her grandchild that we gave away,” a bereft Scully says tearfully. “Why did she say that? Why did she have to say that?” But before she can use Mulder’s shirt as a hanky, she pulls herself together and demands that they throw themselves back into the case so she doesn’t have to think about what’s just happened. Aw, poor Scully. Bright side? At least you’re not insisting you’re “fine,” which I’ll view as progress.

BABY BLUES | Scully’s distraction plan backfires, though, when Trashman’s reflection on modern consumerism and waste reminds her of William. When the artist says that the creature is doing its own thing, she refuses to let him off the hook that easily. “You put it out of sight so it wouldn’t be your problem, but you’re just as bad as the people that you hate,” she says. Wait, guys, I THINK SHE’S TALKING ABOUT HERSELF.

X-Files Revival RecapLater, Scully and Mulder sit with an urn of Maggie’s ashes and Scully reminds him that just like Maggie and Charlie, they’re responsible for their son William, even if they can never speak to him again. She’s still stymied by the quarter her mom was wearing on a necklace at the time of her heart attack, and she realizes that she’s probably never going to get all the answers she seeks. (Though that bit about being by Mulder’s side when he gets his answers? And when she calls him “Fox”? For the love of moose and squirrel, GIVE ME A MOMENT.)

“I want to believe. I need to believe,” she says tearfully — and I wish the line had ended there, but it doesn’t — “that we didn’t treat him like trash.” I understand the sentiment, and Scully’s clearly not at her best, but did we have to so clunkily tie the A and B stories together? I have the feeling that if this storyline were in the “Tooms” episode, she would’ve said “that we didn’t treat him like a surplus liver” or in the “Humbug” episode “that we didn’t treat him like a homicidal vestigial twin.” Your devoted viewers are used to studying every line and visual for hidden meaning, ­ X-Files: You can rest assured that we probably get it.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Was the “dark wizard” line second only to Scully’s quip about running up stairs in 3-inch heels “back in the day” — and Mulder’s insistence that “back in the day is now?” Will you never hear “Downtown” the same way again? Sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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60 Comments
  1. Jon says:

    This is the kinda episode I always wanted from the xfiles revival. Loved every second of it. My favorite so far

  2. Lysh says:

    This episode makes me think that Morgan was the stronger writer in the Morgan and Wong writing duo. It was excellent. A nice mix of humor, gore/eeriness, devastating sad times, mystery. I loved the sort of comparison between creating art and creating life. I enjoyed Scully taking down that one guy. And the “Downtown” part reminded me a lot of Home.

    • Nichole says:

      I loved that Morgan managed to get the fluke worm thingy into the episode!! lol, nice easter egg, wonder if he was actually in the costume for that shot? :D

  3. Aly says:

    My heart :( Great episode, but I feel devastated that we’ve lost Maggie Scully. She was my favourite recurring character, and I loved how calm and dependable she was. When all else failed, Scully still always had her mom in her life (a more reliable presence than Mulder himself, especially in the later seasons). I’m very sad we won’t see her being that support again.

    • tyranthraxus says:

      You know I was half expecting .. if only for a few seconds, Mulder to make a call and for a certain Bounty Hunter to turn up. It would of cheapened the moment immensely but a part of me thought that Mulder might have the power to do that. It would of only worked with a same age Brian Thompson though…. and that would of been totally freaky.

    • victoria says:

      I was absolutely elated to see Sheila Larken’s name as a guest star, because I knew that meant Margaret Scully would be making a showing in the episode. Then I was devastated at the end when she died!! How could they? Oh, wait…this is the X-Files. No one is safe…Mulder’s parent’s had an affinity for getting murdered, and Scully’s apparently had bad hearts. I guess that means Scully better stay current on her check ups. Somehow, I always sensed that there was an issue with the younger Scully brother, Charlie. He was never shown, except in a flashback of Dana’s youth and at Ahab’s funeral. I always wondered if he was the black sheep of the family. Apparently, I was right. The author was right…I would have LOVED to see Bill Scully make an appearance, if only to sneer at Mulder again. Priceless! It would have been nice to meet the elusive Charles Scully, too. I bawled my eyes out when Margaret died, and cursed at the T.V. I’ll be sad when episode 6 is done.

  4. Annie says:

    I would love to respond to this delightfully knowledgeable review from someone who clearly is just as invested in this show as we are, but I’m still crying too hard right now

  5. SmilingOceanLover says:

    THIS. “Mulder shocks me by choosing not to travel to Peru or somewhere equally far flung in search of some storied sculpture-whisperer guru person or whatever but by doing the right thing by showing up at the hospital, shutting up and giving Scully someone to lean on.” This review is everything I wanted to say and didn’t have to.

  6. Drew says:

    It wasn’t as good as last week. The monster was a rehash of “Arcadia”. And I kept wondering why they couldn’t get Scully’s brother to appear. The emotional connect-the-dots between the trash monster, Scully’s mother’s death and William was a bit of a stretch. Especially when Mulder seemed so disconnected from the William stuff.
    There was some good stuff, but I feel like too much was jammed into the episode, making it all feel muddy.

    • Neil says:

      I don’t feel like there was any stretching in connecting all of the plots. Obviously Scullys mother dying is going to get her thinking about her own family, and the trash monster was all about taking responsibility for your own creations, something Scully felt she failed at doing.

      I do agree it was just like Arcadia though, but I liked it regardless

    • Steven says:

      I agree, this episode felt off. I loved the stuff with Scully’s mom, but it didn’t all fit right. By far my least favorite episode of the revival thus far.

      • KCG19 says:

        Less than the disaster of the first episode? This is my favourite so far. I loved last week’s epsiode but this was so much closer to classic X-Files.

  7. Alichat says:

    I feel like if Scully’s line had been “I want to believe. I need to believe, that he doesn’t feel we treated him like trash.” or something about her fear of how William feels about having been put up for adoption….it would have fit the moment better. I loved the interaction between Mulder and Scully in this episode. His immediate recognition of the tone change in her voice, the look on his face when she leaves the crime scene, the conversation by Margaret’s bedside about Scully’s coma, Mulder’s “I’m here”, Mulder actually being there……so many feels.

    Also, am I the only one who thought Margaret’s last words were a sign that she had found William and had spoken with him? It was just the first thing that popped into my head. She hears her estranged son’s voice, opens her eyes, sees Mulder, and says something that sounded to me like something she’d say to William if she found him but didn’t want him to know who she is. I’m probably reaching.

    • Drew says:

      My first thought was that Charlie was raising William, and Margaret knew it. But that would probably be a stretch.

      • Alichat says:

        Hmmm…that’s a thought. If we didn’t see the couple that adopted William in season 9, I’d say that was a possibility. Plus his reactions to Margaret being in the hospital and Scully asking him to speak to her don’t fit that theory. He didn’t seem to care that his mother was dying. That actually bothered me. I think your mother dying would be the point you forget your estrangement and get there as soon as possible.

        • Drew says:

          If he was watching William, it was probably with the understanding that he couldn’t be involved with the rest of his family (especially Dana). Being on the phone with her could have been dangerous for William, leaving Charlie torn between speaking with his mother and protecting the boy who is pretty much his son at this point.
          If it was true, it would provide some closure. Scully would know that he was raised well, by family. That William would know about the person that his mother is and why she had to give him up.
          On the other hand, I don’t see how William could possibly end up with Charlie without Scully knowing about it. Like I said, it’s a bit of a stretch :)

          • Alichat says:

            True, a bit of a stretch, but it’s not like The X-Files hasn’t had a few moments that are a bit of a stretch. ;-)

  8. Billy Bob Johnson says:

    Great episode. Hope they get to do this again next year.

    • Drew says:

      Agreed. And if they could get more episodes ordered, I’d love see not only the great old X-Files writers come back, but maybe a few writers of today who grew up with the show too. It’s be cool to have people who were inspired by the series come in and write for it.

  9. Laura says:

    All I want to know is when is Fox renewing this for season 11?

  10. james says:

    Watching X Files revisited left me wondering whether it is a self indulgent reminiscence or just another old 80’s show speculating on former ratings successes The limited release is supposedly because the original stars though paid handsomely didn’t want an extended season so it’s unlikely a show of typically 12 to 24 episodes will ever happen and due to it’s digressive quirkiness X Files does need an extended season. Maybe a yearly mini series will do the trick for Chris Carter but his future really should be about producing an original new show for a new era.

  11. Zoe says:

    It broke my heart and yet I absolutely loved it. Also, Emmy nod for Gillian Anderson, y/y?

  12. Horace Ford says:

    In episodes 2 and 4 the relationship between Scully and Fox continues to flourish bound by the depth of their feelings for each other and by William. Great story, great writing and stellar performances. Hope they’ii go on somehow.

  13. Eh…I empathize with Scully’s grief and conflicted feelings about the adoption, but I don’t consider putting your child up for adoption, because you think it is in the best interest of the child, to be treating them like trash. There are parents who actually keep their children and treat them like garbage. That is probably not the subtext of those lines (I hope), but it was nonetheless a thought that crossed my mind.

    As for the case…yawn (at least it was for me). But not all the cases can be winners.

  14. DarkDefender says:

    I really loved the first couple episodes easing back into it all and then the were-human was classic. Tonight was just another example of the range of episodes the original series had when it was at its best. I can’t believe it is almost over, but if next week’s preview is as good as it looks, I’m totally on board for the Robbie Amell/Lauren Ambrose spin-off. <– I mean if I can't have Scully & Mulder.

  15. DrJScully says:

    The last paragraph of your review? Exactly what I just said on Twitter. Haha. Downtown is ruined, like Wonderful, Wonderful. And I want my own Dark Wizard now. Great review from a clear fan of the show.

  16. This episode reminded me of why I loved The X-Files so much! It had Mulder with Scully at the hospital like he was when she was dying of cancer. I loved seeing her mother again, and I’m sorry she passed, but I was touched by Mulder and Scully being together through it. I loved Arcadia, so I loved the tulpa and the garbage monster this time in a garbage-strewn ghetto, instead of a gated community build on a landfill. I’m a huge fan of Petula Clark, so I loved hearing her sing Downtown in it! I didn’t even notice what was happening since I enjoyed hearing the loud song, and it reminded me of Home when we heard Wonderful, Wonderful playing when someone was being killed. I loved Mulder’s funny one-liners in it! Loved Mulder and Scully’s flashlights crossing like an X! I loved the ending with Scully saying that she would be there with Mulder when he finds the answers to the biggest mysteries – that was very touching.

  17. Jane says:

    There are so many shows these days where the acting is so bad that I cringe my way through the episodes or end up quitting because I just can’t stand it. This episode showed what true actors can do to with a decent script. With very little dialogue these two managed to display the love, affection, and partnership that have held these two together through so much. In many ways they are currently the most real couple on television and considering the fact that this is a sci-fi show that is pretty amazing.

  18. I was an AVID fan of the series before. This mini-series revival has brought even more than I thought could be possible. The characters are superb and the writing beyond wonderful. I was kinda afraid that it would be “cheesy” but every episode has brought something different to the table. Last night’s episode was extremely emotional for me because I know I will soon be in Scully’s place with my mom and it touched me in ways I cannot explain. Thank you, Writers for explaining things I can’t possibly put into words; thank you Gillian Anderson and David Duchovney for portraying characters with strength and a depth of emotion I can only hope to have.

  19. Couch Mom says:

    Great episode. Thought provoking and sad. Everyone has great comments and observations. Will miss it when it ends and hope CC and Fox along with Gillian and David can bring this back in a year or so with another run with at least 10 eps if their schedules allow. One of the best shows ever.

  20. JayKay says:

    Why is the sound so bad?

  21. With William being brought up again in two episodes so far, it seems as if we are going along for a payoff in some demented cliffhanger twist. I can see right now that when these six episodes will run their course, the final episode will have us screaming at the screen or will find our collective mouths agape with disbelief in what we see. This episode brought back memories and milestones with William and if you feel as if you are being led into an ambush of challenging your emotions, you are absolutely correct. We are dealing with the human condition. Scully’s guilt was overpowering and also damaging to her investigation technique. We take a look a little more into her relationship with Mulder and perhaps see what may have been the cause of their breakup. Mulder is stoic throughout giving that shoulder to lean on, to cry on, to feel safe on, to say that it will be alright. Her desperate plea to Mulder to get back to work was a response to not facing those demons, not right now, but much much later. To those who are fans with the show, this was one of those heartbreaking moments that made the X-files what it was and one that you’ll never forget.

  22. Steve Wilson says:

    I think I got the reverse out of this episode. The plot of the murders seemed like many of the original episodes, but I did not care for the touchy feely parts so much. And yes, it will take me a bit of time to be able to listen to “Downtown” like the days of old.

  23. Ana says:

    Love it!!

  24. Ross says:

    I wished Scullys shirt wasn’t half opened. I had thought that she was a bit more modest in the past. The wardrobe doesn’t fit the “agent”.

  25. Masterminde says:

    I feel as if they were trying almost too hard to integrate eeriness in that Dying Mom scene – and I hate to be overly Hollywood in my assessments of acting persons, but honestly, David Duchovny really needs work done on his face – he looks like an exotic fruit that’s imploding with ripeness –

  26. Harley says:

    Fantastic Episode!!

  27. It is the first of the new ones I’ve seen. Never got caught up in the X-File mythos but I understand the Mulder/Scully thing is a big part of it. I wasn’t that enthused by the personal stuff but I did love the Trashman aspect. Very much the X-Files I did see Back in the Day. I also enjoyed the snark Mulder was putting out in the first scenes.

  28. KC says:

    Just wanted to say how much I’m enjoying reading your recaps and comments on TXF. You’re obviously a hardcore longtime fan, and totally get it. At the end of everything, it’s all about the dynamic between Mulder and Scully that keeps me and the core fans coming back. Thanks.

  29. Jilly B. says:

    I don’t know what was better, the episode or this recap. 🤓😦 Both left me feeling as warm, nostalgic, and safely at home as Scully must have felt wrapped in Mulders embrace in Requim. Warm fuzzies are real people. Ps Is it a given that Gillian Anderson was easily Preformer of the Week? #SnapsforScully. 😭👍🏼

  30. Juan Montiel says:

    It was a good episode. Reminded me a lot of, “One Breathe.”

  31. REALLY ?? This is THE WORST episode so far….TRASH MAN ? WHY was the Woman killed…She is one who Did NOT want to force the Homeless out ? Wasted my time….

  32. LInda says:

    Kimberly, Thank you for writing an amusing, fan relatable article! I have read some really mean ones. I totally agree with what you said.

  33. Dragonfly says:

    It was the coolest episode of season 10…maybe the monster of the week was a little weak, but overall- I loved it. And the flashlights creating the X while they were in the basement so class. I really liked emotional Scully, her doubts and fears, hopefully we will see William by the end of this season maybe just a glimpse of him

  34. bruce says:

    Great episode. I used to watch this show religiously. Never missed 1 episode. This was no different. Always left you guessing. Their chemistry is little short of Brilliant!!! Wish this show would never End!!!
    I DO BEILEVE!!!!!

  35. Shelley says:

    This can’t be!! This is the second episode that focuses on William. They have to make another movie and find their son! I agree- Ms. Scully added a lot of comfort in all the darkness that is this show! I will miss her too-any guesses on the what the quarter means?????

  36. C.J. says:

    Great review! I enjoyed the episode very much! It’s the kind of X-Files story I love best! But I’m already sad and dreading the end. I hope that they will continue with Season 11! Please !!!

  37. Has Scully ever mentioned Charlie before?

  38. Mel says:

    I loved this episode – there’s so much emotion in there! It did feel at times that the case was secondary and ultimately just meant to highlight the personal issues… But then again you know what, the personal issues are everything! I was really heartbroken for Scully – Maggie was a great character and she’s been there for her daughter through everything. But at the same time I was very glad that we got to see into Scully’s heart and experience all of her pain over her mother and William. And those scenes with Mulder.. the fact that he showed up at the hospital when her brothers were MIA, the fact that he consoled her, and held her and supported her, the fact that he and Scully were together to say goodbye to Maggie, the way he looks at Scully… Aaaaaaarrrrgghh! There goes my heart!!