With all our favorite shows taking their usual break in the summer months, this opens up an opportunity to watch some of our old favorites. That’s where the Multiversity Summer Binge comes in. Last year, I took a look at the entire first season of my favorite show ever, The X-Files and this summer, I’m back with a vengeance covering season two. The first season of this show was more of a prelude. It teased all the things that were to come and spent a lot of time doing the ground work. In the second season, the show really kicks into gear. Truth be told, of the 11 seasons, this is easily top three for me. I’m really excited to be writing about these episodes, particularly the middle of the season. This week I’m looking at “The Calusari,” one of my personal favorite “monster of the week” episodes.
1. The Premise
The episode opens at an amusement park. We meet a family that seems to be having a good time but the oldest son Charlie is being fairly bratty over the attention his young brother Teddy is getting. Maggie, the boys’s mother takes Teddy to the restroom to change him and when she’s singing to him, his balloon seems to get a mind of its own and Teddy is mysterious untied from his harness and follows the balloon all the way to the miniature train tracks that run through the park. Teddy is killed as he follows the balloon and doesn’t move when the train comes. We then see Charlie standing there with the balloon looking on very menacingly. Three months after his death, Mulder finds a photo from the incident and becomes obsessed with the inconsistencies. Initially the F.B.I. is called in because Steve Holvey, the boy’s father, works at the State Department and so they want to make sure everything was looked at. In the photo, you can see that the helium balloon is traveling in the opposite direction of the wind and when it’s enhanced, you can see that there is a electromagnetic force of some kind in sight. They decide to take this case and what they find is a case of actual demon possession and lots of tragedy. This is an episode that wasn’t and still isn’t really praised by fans and critics but it’s one of my personal favorite one off stories.
2. The Exorcist, X-Files Style
As an adult, I think of myself as a horror movie fan. I like getting spooked and I like what the genre offers in terms of storytelling. This wasn’t always the case though. As a kid, I watched The Exorcist way too young and it kind of traumatized me. I was unable to watch anything mildly scary for years and it wasn’t until I was a teen that I could read anything like the “Goosebumps” series. As an adult, most of that has gone out the window. I love scary movies and I love demonic possession stories especially. “The Calusari” is basically this show doing The Exorcist from unwilling child host to full on exorcism at the very end and I think it works so well. The first time I saw this episode, I was genuinely scared. I can’t watch that movie to this day because I only think of being that traumatized kid so this episode brought up a tiny bit of those feelings in me. It’s such a well crafted episode that is just so tragic and scary. It’s probably the scariest episode of the series so far because that movie is such a direct influence. From the plot to the lighting to the actual scares, it’s so clear where all of it comes from.
3. Real Tragedy
One of the things that sets this show apart from a lot of other procedurals is that the people who aren’t Mulder and Scully aren’t safe. They are often disposable in the plot and while that sounds like a bad thing, it often times makes the paranormal elements of the show work better. “The Calusari” is one of the most tragic feeling episodes of the series. In the first scene, the two year old Teddy dies. Shortly after that, the unexplained force here kills Steve, Charlie and Teddy’s father. After that, grandma dies. Everyone in this family other than Maggie and Charlie die in a really short span of time and that’s incredibly tragic to me. It does make this force seem far more deadly and that makes everything feel so much more tense. This show is a dark show. Bad things happen all the time and they’ll happen to Mulder and Scully. I think sometimes we forget that.Continued below
4. The Calusari
I think one of the most interesting parts of this episode is that it doesn’t involve conventional Roman Catholics. This is a Romanian family dealing with the Devil and the way they deal with this in their traditions feels very different than most possession stories. There’s something most raw and tied to mysticism with blood being needed in their rituals. There’s even a scene where they start working and you see the face of what they’re dealing with in the smoke. It really works and sets it apart from anything else.
5. An Honest To God Exorcism
At the end of the episode we find out exactly what is happening here. It turns out that Charlie is a twin. His twin Michael was born stillborn and they never told him about it. However, he somehow knows. How does he know? In this version of Romanian traditions, a separation ceremony needed to be performed and it wasn’t. Their spirits were never removed from each other and now Michael has become and angry and violent and now he has to be exorcised from Charlie. At the end of the episode, when Charlie goes to the hospital, Michael finally physically manifests and leaves with Maggie. The Calusari begin the exorcism to start to get rid of him but Michael still has some time and at the house, he almost kills both Maggie and Scully. This last part of the episode plays out so well. It’s so tense and the kid who plays Charlie is so good at capturing the fear and evil that exists at both times in these kinds of exorcism stories. It’s horrifying and sad and it just works so well. In the end, the case remains open and Charlie and Maggie go on to live their lives. It’s open ended but it makes sense. The F.B.I. can’t prove this stuff exists without the science behind it and that’s how it all ends. Evil exists and even by being “good” we may not be able to always escape it.