Satanic teachers. Toads falling from the sky. Where do I enrol? I liked this episode... it was a bit cheesey and totally retarded but I actually quite enjoyed it. Plus the drowned rat Scully look is quite appealing.
Marking Glen Morgan and James Wong’s last X File before disappearing off into Space: Above and Beyond (only to return in Season 4 after the cancellation of that show), “Die Hand Die Verletzt” is also noticeable as being Kim Manners’ first directorial effort for the series. And it’s easy to see why he became probably the show’s most popular (and most used) director. There’s a fluidity to the camerawork that we haven’t really experienced before, a lot more invention (dizzying overhead shots, clever use of background and foreground focus) that really ups the ante in making this series feel less like a series and more like a mini-feature film. And one rather important fact that Manners brings to the table is an appreciation and awareness of how the characters of Mulder and Scully have started to become media currency. He uses a lot of close-ups of the two, almost in reverence to – and an acknowledgement of – their newly found iconic status. By doing this, of course, he only helps to perpetuate the myth.
Once again, “The X Files” explores a seemingly normal facet of our lives and places an evil subtext over it. As always, it’s the very normalcy of the situation that makes it so fearful, and in this case, we’re talking school PTA meetings with a bit of devil worship thrown in. We are naturally suspicious of black magic so it was quite a clever conceit to mix it in with the authoritarian dealings of a school, and even more so to find that the teachers have summoned up something a lot more powerful than they. Mulder sums it up nicely (and lays out the theme of the episode) when he says “Did you really think you could call up the devil and ask him to behave?”
And Satan is here apparently incarnated in the rather amusing form of Mrs Paddock, a seemingly nice and concerned supply teacher who also does a nice line in masochism and casting spells. Generally, this episode is largely remembered for her and the frogs falling out of the sky moment (which seems to be there for effect only and has little bearing on the action in the plot). But the episode’s finest moment involves an open door down to a basement, a suspect handcuffed to a banister and a very large python slithering down the stairs for a spot of dinner. Potentially ludicrous, director Manners has made this a thoroughly creepy experience through judicious use of lighting, framing, sound effects and absolutely no music whatsoever. It works a treat.
About 1/3 of the way through this devil worship at school episode though it takes a very dark turn with the introduction of child abuse. And really horrific child abuse at that. As young Shannon regales the agents with some dreadful stories about what has befallen her, our two agents are deeply troubled by what they’re hearing. And it’s very interesting to see how they deal with the parents about these accusations. Scully sympathetically listens to the mother, while Mulder’s approach is a bit more direct. “Did you do it?” he asks the father outright. Just as disturbingly the whole child abuse angle is dropped as quickly as it appeared, bar a not entirely satisfactory explanation from the father that also doesn’t seem to convince Mulder too much.
Nice to see that her experiences in “Irresistible” have hardened her some, as Scully doesn’t seem too perturbed by the body desecration at the start of the episode. And the first thing the school in question should do when it finds replacements for virtually all of its teaching staff is buy a back-up generator. It was sure dark in there for the duration of much of the storm.
Although “Die Hand Die Verletzt” is dealing in some dark themes, it’s actually not that dark an episode. Compare it with the intensity of Morgan and Wong’s highpoint in the show “Beyond the Sea” and it seems remarkably light. But it covers a lot of interesting ground in an economical fashion. And when Mulder and Scully discover Mrs Paddock’s parting words “Goodbye. It’s been nice working with you”, it’s a little in-joke from the writers. And yes, it was been nice working with Morgan and Wong. They’ve produced some outstanding episodes. However, with the confidence that “The X Files” is demonstrating in its second season, you feel secure knowing that Morgan and Wong’s departure will not spell an end to some great episodes to come.
I loved this episode from the beginning! Before I ever started caring about who wrote each episode, and much later I was amused to find in "Die Hand die Verletzt" the trademark quirky humor of Morgan & Wong: apparently innocent and caring parents and teachers leading secret lives as satanists, the raining toads, the "Goodbye" at the end... For me, this is a classic XF episode. A solid story anchored in the everyday life of modern suburbia.
Some scenes do not add significant story elements but are there for the scare factor or to add to an uneasy atmosphere: the toads, the water flowing the other way round, the dissection of the baby pig, the child abuse issue, Mrs Paddock keeping body parts in her drawer, the horror trademarks of lightning and thunder at night when M&S investigate a house... While other scenes that are significant to the story are shot with an almost leisurely pace -- the girl remembering her traumatizing abuse, the snake scene, Mrs Paddock satanic divination -- the scenes are given long enough time to provide the fullest effect possible on the viewer. This is something quite rare on TV, where everything is sped up, and I believe adds to the quality of XF.
I hadn't noticed it was Manners' first episode! For a first, it's a masterly stroke. Morgan & Wong leave, while Manners, and Spotnitz 3 episodes later, arrive. The young girl actress is seen again in season 1 of MillenniuM (The Wild and the Innocent).
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A great, solid, scary episode, this is one of the reasons I love season two so much, the mixture of great scares, vats of gore and disturbing storylines, although this one seems to have a current of black humour running through it. The best of it is, the story can be taken two ways, as something silly and far fetched, or as a genuine horror story. The imagery is disturbing, yet the story gets more silly and outlandish as it goes on and yet never forgets to remain anything other than genuinely brilliant.