TV: The X-Files - S11 E08 - Familiar - Reviewed

Season 11 is near its end. How was Familiar?

It’s hard to believe that we have only two episodes of The X-Files left, possibly for good. While the second half of the season has been a bit uneven, quality-wise, the show does feel free of itself and like it’s having a bit of fun with the classic monster-of-the-week formula being told within the current political climate. The social commentary has been pretty constant throughout this season, making the Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully’s (Gillian Anderson) search for the truth that much more imperative and timely.

“Familiar” explores the consequences of witchcraft in a small town, which is something the show has done many times before, but finds new ways to creep the audience out. The teaser plays like the opening of Stephen King’s IT, with a young boy in a yellow rain jacket who meets a grim demise after seeing a twisted figure whom he believes to be his friend. The only thing missing is the storm drain.

The figure in question is Mr. Chuckle Teeth, a character from a popular kids show that plays throughout the episode. It is not a show I’d let any child watch, but it allows for some truly excellent scares throughout the episode, making it the rare episode that at times can make one’s skin crawl. While one could argue that much of “Familiar” is, well, familiar, it’s worth noting that it is written by first-timer Benjamin Van Allen and directed by TV veteran Holly Dale. You could argue, in other words, that “Familiar” strikes just the right balance of the old and the new, which is not a slight against either party. In fact, it works in its favor.

If this doesn't freak you out, you're not human. 

A seasoned professional directing a script from a new writer allows for the elevation of material. The same could be said for any writer who is matched with a good director, but here it is especially evident. Dale shoots in a very stylistic manner, making the episode feel like a true horror movie, and Van Allen clearly has a lot of fun with his dialogue.

Not everything works well, but “Familiar” succeeds in being yet another solid entry in a very good season of The X-Files. While mostly focusing on the secrets a town keeps to protect itself, it also tries to tackle mob mentality and the dangers of assuming guilt instead of innocence. I feel as though there was a first draft of this script that may have dealt with this issue more head on, but still, it’s interesting to see Mulder and Scully debate the merits, or lack thereof, of swift justice.

As a small plus for “Familiar,” the show has never looked better and the woods never less inviting. Vancouver truly gets to show off its beauty here, matching perfectly with the episode’s haunting tone. I’ll be sad when this is over, as the end is so near just when the show has finally found itself again. Familiar truly never felt so right, it turns out.


-Matt Giles