The X-Files: Die Hand Die Verletzt   Rewatch 
August 23, 2015 8:06 PM - Season 2, Episode 14 - Subscribe

After a teenager is ritualistically murdered in a small town, Mulder and Scully are caught up in a secret occult practice within the local PTA and a substitute teacher with odd powers.
posted by town of cats (12 comments total)
Sorry, I forgot to add the "rewatch" tag.

I haven't had a chance to actually rewatch this yet, but I always think of this episode as a missed opportunity for a Buffy crossover. The evil substitute teacher sent to rid the devil of some annoying PTA sycophants feels like such an early-season Buffy plot to me.

I almost tried to get out of dissecting the fetal pig in 7th grade because of this episode but instead I put on my Scully-doing-an-autopsy pants and learned a ton.

More to come once I actually rewatch it!
posted by town of cats at 8:11 PM on August 23, 2015

When I was 14, watching this episode on a Friday evening in my parent's attic was basically the most freaked out I've ever been in my life.

The wrist-slitting. Bleh.
posted by figurant at 9:50 PM on August 23, 2015

Wow, I remembered this episode as being waaay sillier and campier than it actually is! There are a lot of sort of silly-sounding things that happen in it, and a couple of good one-liners from Mulder ("You really do watch the Discovery Channel" is a standout) but on the whole it's actually pretty creepy and spooky while you're watching it. The cold open sets up the tone perfectly; this is an unlikely setting for a story that's actually scary, so it feels like it's going to be spoofy and parodic, which makes the fact that they play it totally straight and keep getting legit creepiness out of it and keep raising the stakes all the more fun. Every single twist in this episode seems goofy on paper (except for the teen's pretty shocking account of being ritually abused, later pretty conclusively denied, plus subsequent suicide, which felt exploitative and out-of-place to me. The episode didn't need it and I'd like to think that if it were being made now they wouldn't have kept it in) but somehow it keeps Mulder and Scully busy, and on the wrong track to the very end.

The whole final act is lit by flashlights and candles, which makes it much more effective. In general, the direction on this episode felt stellar to me, much more polished and professional than anything I saw last year. It was shot very cinematically on the whole.

Even years later when I read the title of this episode, I didn't remember much about the plot but I did remember the shot where the substitute teacher's eyes look like snake eyes. I can't say that about many episode of X-Files (that a single scary visual was what stuck with me, rather than a funny line or a plot synopsis) so I guess that should have indicated to me that this episode was a bit scarier than I remembered.

Scully's >:( face at the end is pretty epic.
posted by town of cats at 9:59 PM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

When I rewatched this episode, I was surprised to see that it had two of the scenes which had stuck with me from childhood as being SUPER CREEPY AND SCARY - namely, the fetal pig wrist-slitting thing, and the speech the girl gives about having been made to participate in Satanic rituals. I couldn't believe they were from the same episode!
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:46 AM on August 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Good episode - also Morgan and Wong's last with the show for a while (they came back later).
posted by rmd1023 at 7:52 AM on August 24, 2015

I missed this episode when it originally aired, because I giggled so much at Satan's PTA that I wrote the rest of it off immediately. I should have given it a chance, but frankly, I'd just gotten my driver's license and a used car, and what's a 16-year-old very-finitewindow gonna do?
posted by infinitewindow at 11:27 AM on August 24, 2015

Totally sympathize with your reaction, infinitewindow...but it's never too late to give it another shot :)
posted by town of cats at 9:10 PM on August 24, 2015

The episode title, "Die Hand Die Verletzt", is German for "the hand that wounds". The German title of the episode was "Satan", which does not seem to me an improvement.

We've all had a teacher like Mrs. Paddock, and having a no-nonsense, capable, old-school-style teacher like her turn out to be a snake-eyed instrument of evil was truly inspired. Even now, having seen this episode multiple times, I can hardly accept that she's not a good person at heart.

It bugged me to see Mrs. Paddock throw a dissection piglet in the snake's terrarium. Aren't dissection samples preserved in formaldehyde and therefore poisonous?

Shannon Ausbury's death felt gratuitous to me, but then I suppose it was a divide and conquer ploy to get her stepfather to turn on the rest of the PTA, and when you are, or are working for, Satan or some other evil entity, you don't care about little things like body counts.

The rain of toads was a nice touch. It didn't have any real relation to the rest of the plot, but then, you know, it's a rain of toads.
posted by orange swan at 12:00 PM on April 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Vitaris: If he wants to be young, I have no problems with Grease, or Annie, or...

That was a painfully middle-aged thing to say in 1995. I am middle-aged now, but I sincerely hope I never get so out of touch as to think 20-year-old musicals are young and hip. Though let it be said that I saw my now 23-year-old niece perform in both Grease (she played Marty and had a solo) and Annie (she played a maid at the Warbucks residence) when she was in high school, so they aren't so terribly passé.
posted by orange swan at 12:14 PM on April 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

This was a really fun episode. Mulder and Scully "lost" but the antagonists were cool enough that I didn't mind.
posted by Monochrome at 6:14 PM on April 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

The fetal pig - yeah, they're at the very least exsanguinated and embalmed in some variant of formaldehyde. I still remember the smell. Even back in the early 90s there were fancy versions with some kind of coloured plastic pumped through the circulatory system so you could dissect out/ observe the larger blood vessels (not the case here).

The rain of toads is cool, wonder what their animal protocol was when filming that. Live toads on the ground, rubber toads from the sky?

The drinking fountain anti-Coriolis was a nice, inexpensive effect.

Yeah, the smirk on the lead antagonist's face when Scully was being skeptical of secret cults.

Jeeze. Shannon Ausbury's backstory.

How did the python undo the guy's handcuffs?
posted by porpoise at 7:22 PM on April 5, 2020

The whole final act is lit by flashlights and candles, which makes it much more effective. In general, the direction on this episode felt stellar to me, much more polished and professional than anything I saw last year. It was shot very cinematically on the whole.

It was Kim Manners' first episode in the director's chair. He would go onto be the most prolific director in the show's history (and immortalized in the foul-mouthed Det. Manners in "José Chung's From Outer Space.") From this episode, it's not hard to see why.

There's a lot of silliness to be found here, slathered like frosting on a lot of really, genuinely creepy shit. That's a hard tone to pull off. Today, hopefully nobody would do Shannon's heart-wrenching recollection of ritual sexual abuse and everything else she goes into and then have it be essentially all confirmed untrue fifteen minutes later. The performance was too raw, and too good, and it's the denial of it that feels like a cop-out, even without the implication that maybe it's okay not to believe women (or young women) who bring forward such claims.

Shannon's suicide scene, however, would likely not be done today because nobody would have the guts to do it on network tv (later seasons of Game of Thrones of course jumped at the chance to do anything depraved, but also didn't know how to give those scenes weight anymore, c'est la vie.) That scene works incredibly well and is the linchpin for the episode being as effective as it is. Especially as it plays, at the time, like Paddock is silencing Shannon, who was blabbing about the "faith" to Mulder and Scully, and only later does it become clear that no, this was punishment for Ausbury for lapsing. That's super dark, in a good way.

I will say that I was left wondering how many of the adults in the town follow the "faith." It's something Ausbury was brought up in, and he seems to say that the "faith" founded the town, but we don't have hard evidence that anyone but the PTC are actually participating in it. This is something I would have liked to see dug into a little more: why the PTC? I can fill in my own reasons - that they can use their power there to influence the young minds of the town, such as keeping Jesus Christ Superstar off of the high school stage - but this could have been slightly more spelled-out. In my small-town experience, the evil adult cabal was more likely to be running the chamber of commerce.

The "Buffy Crossover" idea is fun, but I think Buffy hadn't quite started up yet. Weirder still to me is the fact that Laura Harris is in this (as Ashley, one of the girls from the woods ritual) and would show up in a much more crucial role four years later in the very, very similar "The Faculty."
posted by Navelgazer at 9:31 PM on June 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

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