The X-Files: Arcadia   Rewatch 
July 8, 2020 7:44 PM - Season 6, Episode 15 - Subscribe

Mulder and Scully go undercover as a married couple in a planned community in San Diego County, California, where people who don't follow the extensive and exacting homeowner regulations mysteriously disappear.
posted by orange swan (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The premise of this one is just plain stupid -- a Garbage Monster? Seriously? -- but it's worth watching in order to see Mulder and Scully pose as a suburban married couple.

Their clothes changed a little from from what they normally wear, most notably in the case of Mulder's pink Lacoste polo shirt. I don't think we've ever seen him in a polo shirt before -- just plain t-shirts, and we've certainly never seen him in anything pink before. He had a navy polo shirt too, and a striped Ralph Lauren shirt. Most of the rest of his clothes looked like the kind of thing he normally wears, and the same is true of Scully, who had just a few different pieces, such as a gray cardigan with embroidered flowers on it, and a lace-trimmed nightgown instead of her usual tailored pajamas. Their ordinary clothes are perfectly normal, even boringly so, and they must have just bought a few pieces each, or possibly found some Christmas/birthday presents at the back of their wardrobes that had been sitting there unworn because they weren't quite right for them, to make their wardrobes a little less serious, plain and dark. Scully's hair looks fuller, looser, and curlier too. When we see them leave the Petrie house at the end of the episode, they're back in their ordinary plain dark clothes.

Mulder was really loving hamming up the married couple act, but the really charming thing was, that for all his draping his arm around Scully at every available opportunity, and his terms of endearment and jokes about honeymoon videos and Scully coming to bed (satisfyingly, she makes him give her the bed and go sleep on the couch -- he can't argue he isn't used to that), they were never more like a married couple when they were just being themselves. Like when Mulder took off his sweatshirt and threw it on the back of a chair, and Scully gave him a dirty look, and they discussed both their case and practical domestic stuff while Scully was in the bathroom. And then Scully lets Mulder see her in her face mask -- but hey, he's seen her naked twice that I can think of, and covered with I don't know how many disgusting substances, so why not.

No one caught that Rob and Laura Petrie were The Dick Van Dyke Show characters? I think Mulder would have had to pick names that were less obviously fake, but then the fact that he didn't could be taken as a sign that he wasn't taking the assignment seriously, which he didn't at first.

How on earth did Big Mike escape the Garbage Monster when no one else did?

I did enjoy seeing Gene Gogolak die a terrible death at the hands of his own creation, and Win and Cami refusing to help him. What a controlling, anal asshole. Nice side of misogyny too, when he prompts the women to clear the table and leave the serious discussion to the men. The AV Club review for this episode says that Chris Carter asked that a monster be added to this episode, when it had formerly been about a disturbed individual who took things too far, and I think that was a mistake. This could have been much more interesting. I'm reminded a bit of the movie The Firm, when Mitch and Abby McDeere start to pick up on the fact that Mitch's new high-paying job and the affluent, and seemingly perfect community they've moved into is not the benign place they thought by such small disturbing signs as one of Mitch's co-workers sitting in a lawn chair with a sprinkler wetting the leg of his khakis, too distressed to notice or move away, or one of the other wives telling Abby, "The firm encourages wives to work." Here too we see anxious neighbours acting in not quite normal ways, but the secret they're hiding isn't as convincingly chilling as finding out that you've inadvertently taken a job at a company that's a front for a ruthless mob and there's no getting out.
posted by orange swan at 11:21 AM on July 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

No one caught that Rob and Laura Petrie were The Dick Van Dyke Show characters?

Headcanon: the X-Files take place in the Petrieverse.
posted by gauche at 11:38 AM on July 9, 2020

When I first saw this, I hated it, but on re-watch, I'm OK. This entire season was an examination of the Mulder-Scully relationship- using different tools: ghosts, time travel, garbage monsters.
posted by acrasis at 2:45 PM on July 9, 2020

I'm ok with the garbage monster, bit of a classic early season MoTW. But yes, leaving this X-File as a banality of evil/ people suck (especially within a small town community power structure) would have been a lot stronger.

Home Owners' Associations (HOA) and Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) are inherently evil, controlling, and often racist.

That big CC&R binder being treated like a religious object is a bit heavy handed. The dig on "Pier 9 Imports" is spot on. Blandly and ignorantly racist.

The X-Files isn't super duper diverse, but this community was exclusively white.

iirc, I had sympathy with Big Mike from my fondness of the actor (in a near identical role) from 'Parker Lewis Can't Lose.' Big Mike surviving, well, maybe his heart was even bigger than garbage?

Don't know about the FBI, but in CIA undercover missions the agents are assigned cover identities and don't get to choose their own name.

So... Mulder and Scully are working for Skinner again?

But yeah, I was tickled from the exploration of M&S's relationship in a what-if role-playing not-for-reals situation, with Mulder pushing boundries/ playful and Scully being an exasperated good sport.

Mulder has a different pocket knife from 'The Beginning' - I had, and lost, the same model (before this show aired); a Kershaw 2420 (or maybe he had the smaller 2410). The knife steel has far been superceded, but the design deeply informed the evolution of current generations of high end pocket knives. The thumb stud was designed that it could be flipped out almost as quickly as an automatic yet locked up tightly. It saved my life once (nothing to do with the thumb stud - climbing out of a steep muddy loose ravine, soaking wet, in near-zero temperature) but was lost during that event.
posted by porpoise at 4:04 PM on July 10, 2020

People didn’t like this? It was goofy, I’ll give them that, but I have a soft spot for Stepford Wives stories. Why is the villain so vicious? Because the stakes are so low!
posted by Monochrome at 8:38 AM on July 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Before my recent rewatch I don't think I remembered that the one with the evil HOA and the one with the garbage monster were the same episode. On the surface they really don't connect at all, and the later-revealed connection that the development was over a garbage dump just seemed tenuous. I get the whole "it's all built on a rotting foundation JUST LIKE THE COMMUNITY" thing but, eh. I don't even mind that the Pier 1 guy enforces the rules via created monster - it is still the X-Files after all - but imo adding the garbage element was just needlessly convoluted.

I think this episode also suffers a bit by comparison with the awesome Cannibal KFC episode, which has a very similar plot.

Other than that I actually do like this one, largely for the shipper bait plus Mulder delighting in being an asshole.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:22 AM on July 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

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