"Red Museum"
Written by Chris Carter
Directed by Win Phelps



In which Mulder and Scully investigate a bizarre series of teen abductions, which appear to be linked to experiments conducted on cattle and an odd cult called the Church of the Red Museum...

Synopsis - Analysis - Memorable Quotes - Observations


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Synopsis

As the episode begins, Beth Kane ends her shift at the J.A.S.D. Beef meatpacking plant in Delta Glen, Wisconsin. When she gets home, her sons are watching what appears to be “COPS”. Beth suggests that they order pizza while she gets changed. As Beth changes in the bathroom, a man with thick glasses watches through a peephole. Her older son, Gary, gets a call, and he tells his younger brother that he’ll be back in five minutes. Some hours later, Beth calls the police when her son has still not returned.

The following morning, Gary runs through the forest, stripped to his underwear. He appears to be experiencing hallucinations. Two police officers in a patrol car see him crossing the street, and recognize him. One officer tries to take hold of him, but Gary pulls away to walk down the road. When he turns, the officers see that someone has written “HE IS ONE” on his back in black marker.

Later, Mulder runs Scully through the requisite slide show regarding the incident. Gary has been unable to give a coherent statement. There is no evidence of sexual assault. Apparently there have been other victims, all reportedly hysterical with fear. All of the victims come from Wisconsin, and all have the same words written on their backs. Mulder became interested when the local sheriff theorized that the victims were in some way “possessed”.

The agents arrive in Delta Glen and immediately start working with Sheriff Mazeroski. The sheriff wants them to see a group called the Church of the Red Museum, followers of a man named Odin who live on a ranch nearby. Odin and the others are strict vegetarians who made the 500 head of cattle on the ranch their pets as a “monument to barbarism”. Considering the primary industry of the region, that was rather unpopular.

They arrive at the Red Museum ranch, and attend one of the ceremonies. All of the followers of Odin wear white clothes and red turbans. The fifty or so followers come together before a large screen, and Odin walks in, typing his sermon into a computer. As the words appear on the screen, a woman reads them aloud. The sermon mentions that a “new kingdom” will be coming in 18 years, and that spirit guides talk through Odin to deliver the teachings necessary for humanity’s survival. Somehow, Mulder immediately determines that the followers of Odin believe themselves to be “walk-ins”, enlightened spirits who take possession of a person’s body. Part of the teaching, it seems, is a condemnation of those who kill animals for food.

Soon after, the agents and the sheriff interview Gary Kane. Gary says that he felt some kind of spirit enter into him, maybe an animal spirit. Mulder asks if Gary has ever dealt with anyone from the Church of the Red Museum, but Gary doesn’t seem to indicate anything specific. Meanwhile, Scully comes across Stevie Kane, Gary’s younger brother, by the bathroom. The man with the glasses watches Scully through the peephole, and Scully seems to know she’s being watched. But Mulder finishes up before Scully can figure out what she’s feeling, and they leave the Kane residence.

Mulder asks the sheriff if Gary is acting differently since the incident. The sheriff explains that Gary used to live for football, but now he has no interest in the sport. Mulder asks how the Red Museum followers are treated in town, and the sheriff mentions that nobody care for them. Having seen enough to spark his interest, Mulder decides to continue investigation.

Mulder and Scully go out for meal at a local BBQ, and Scully asks for more information about walk-ins. Mulder explains the concept: when a person wholly desires to leave behind his life, it leaves him vulnerable for a new, more enlightened spirit to step in and take his or her place. Scully doesn’t quite see how that pertains to the current situation, but she admits that Gary’s testimony unsettled her.

Their meal is interrupted when one of the Red Museum is cornered outside the restaurant by local teen thugs. Mulder rushes out to stop the teens from harassing the Red Museum follower, much to the teens’ displeasure. The lead teen, Rick, mocks Mulder, but one of the others, Katie, gets worried when she sees that Scully is armed. Rick suggests that Katie call his father about the confrontation, and Mulder is more than happy to know that Rick’s father is the sheriff.

Afterward, Rick drops Katie off at her house. On the way to the house, she hears her dog whimpering and goes to investigate. A man reaches out and drags her away, kicking and screaming. The next morning, she is stumbling through the forest, stripped to her bra and underwear, reacting to severe hallucinations. On her back, “SHE IS ONE” is written.

Scully reports that toxicology reports on Katie reveal the presence of unspecified alkaloids in her blood, as well as dangerous levels of scopolamine. At the levels present, scopolamine is a powerful anesthetic with hallucinogenic properties. Scully is positive that only a doctor or pharmacist could get enough scopolamine to account for Katie’s condition. Mulder notes that his background check on Odin reveals that he was a doctor until 1986, when he left practice following an ethics inquiry.

Mulder and Scully go to question Odin, but he refuses to allow meat-eaters to desecrate his dwelling. As if to protest their treatment of their leader, the Red Museum followers surround the agents’ car. The agents have no choice but to arrest Odin. At the police station, they ask Odin if he is familiar with scopolamine, and he admits to being aware of it. However, he claims that he never used or ordered anyone to use drugs against others.

The sheriff is unhappy with Odin’s apparent dodging and attempts to inject his rhetoric into the interrogation process. But the situation worsens when the followers of Odin choose that very moment to stage a non-violent protest in front of the BBQ restaurant. Their message is lost on the meat-loving crowd, and Rick and his friends splash cow blood all over the Red Museum followers. Even the sheriff recognizes how out of control that is, and he orders Rick to leave. Meanwhile, an old man calls the agents over, and offers to show them something important.

The old man takes them to a ranch that his family used to own. After he sold it, the people who took control of the land began injecting the cows with a genetically-engineered growth hormone called BST. Around the same time, people in the local area began to act differently. People are becoming more violent, and there have been seven rapes by teenage boys in the past year. Now, there’s the current strange situation. They watch as two men inject a cow with the BST. One of them is the same man who has been watching the Kanes.

That night, a plane carrying a local doctor named Jerrold Larson crashes in the woods next to the same ranch. Larson was the man who delivered most of the children in the area. Larson’s briefcase is found to be filled with money and vials containing an unknown substance. The agents discover that all of the recent victims were delivered and treated through childhood by Larson, and that Larson had credit card information for all of the victims’ families.

As the government men finish for the day, the man with the glasses leaves as the other cleans up. Once the man with the glasses is gone, the assassin with a crew cut from “The Erlenmeyer Flask” drives onto the ranch and shoots the other government worker.

The agents speak to Beth Kane about Gary and his treatments from Doctor Larson. Beth mentions that Gary has never gotten sick, and that Larson gave him vitamin shots, just like he gave them to a lot of the local kids. Her husband wanted to take Gary to another doctor, but that never happened, because he was killed in an accident at the meat-packing plant. Mulder notices that there’s light coming through a pinhole in the bathroom, and he breaks the mirror to reveal a room with a camera and dozens of videotapes.

That night, Rick and a friend are drinking in his truck in the middle of nowhere. Rick’s friend gets out to take a leak, and at the same moment, Rick is pulled out of his truck by the man with the glasses. The following morning, the sheriff arrives on the scene. Rick is stripped, face-down on the ground, “HE IS ONE” written on his back. But unlike the other victims, he has been shot in the head. Nearby, the assassin tosses his gun into his trunk, preparing to leave. Mulder and Scully are on their way to arrest the man with the glasses, Gerd Thomas, who used to own the building where the Kane family lives. As they drive down the road, the assassin drives by, and Scully sees him. She knows that she’s seen that face before.

The agents question Thomas, noting that the man is clearly a pedophile. He admits to kidnapping the victims, but he swears that he never killed anyone. He explains that he wrote the words on the children’s backs because of what they had become, thanks to the tests that Larson was running on them. Larson was paying Thomas to inject the local cattle with an unknown solution…the same solution that he was giving the local children.

Meanwhile, Scully has realized where she’s seen the assassin, and has also identified the contents of Larson’s vial as “Purity Control”, the same solution she found in “The Erlenmeyer Flask”. Mulder immediately believes that Larson was injecting alien DNA into the local children as part of some experiment. Scully reminds him that the alien connection was never proven conclusively, but he dismisses that detail. More importantly, he realizes that the assassin is now wiping out the evidence, and he wants to capture the man alive.

To protect the kids, Mulder has the sheriff take them to the Red Museum, where Odin has consented to keep them safe. Mulder tracks the assassin to J.A.S.D. Beef, where the assassin is preparing to destroy the genetically-altered beef. When Mulder orders the assassin to stop where he is, the assassin rushes off into the storage room. The assassin gets the drop on Mulder, and locks him in. The assassin prepares to torch the place when Scully and the police arrive. When the assassin refuses to cooperate, the police open fire, killing him.

A few weeks later, Scully writes her report. Her original analysis of the unknown vial contents is more or less confirmed, but have since broken down into unidentifiable components. This was concurrent with a sudden flu-like ailment affecting the children treated by Larson. Many of the local families were also affected, but oddly, none of the Red Museum followers contracted the illness. Scully believes that the Red Museum was created to act as a control group for the experiment. The area and tainted beef were placed under quarantine.

Even though this episode actually continues a couple of plot threads from “The Erlenmeyer Flask”, and therefore continues to explore the ramifications of the X-Files shutdown/Scully abduction arc, there is a distinct feeling of disconnect between those events and this episode. This insular tone would plague many of the future mythology installments, making it that much more difficult to see how it all fits together.


Analysis

Fairly quickly, the “X-Files” gained a reputation for episodes that were so convoluted and confusing that few people could make sense of them. This episode stands as one of the shining examples of that trend, and it’s only appropriate that the episode was written by Chris Carter.

Once placed into proper context, the situation is quite simple. The conspiracy was in the process of developing and testing a vaccine for the black oil virus, which was called “Purity Control”. At that point, a viable vaccine had still not been developed, nor had a delivery system been devised. The remote nature of the Wisconsin ranching industry presented the chance to conduct those experiments, with the Red Museum as a control group, possibly originated by the conspiracy itself. When one of the scientists within the experiment can no longer reconcile the effects of the experimental vaccine, he sets off a chain of events requiring the elimination of evidence.

Unfortunately, as interesting a concept as that might be, it is buried in a series of illogical and extremely coincidental events. Add to that the complete unknown nature of “Purity Control” at the time, there is no context within which to place the events and make sense of them. As a result, the episode communicates a sense of dreadful importance, but it’s hard to figure out what that importance might be. One begins to wonder, about halfway through the episode, if Chris Carter even knew what it was supposed to be about.

Part of the problem is the conception of the episode itself. In an odd and rather questionable move, Chris Carter attempted to negotiate a cross-over between “X-Files” and another series called “Picket Fences”. The idea was developed enough for the basic premise to be decided upon, but then the deal fell through. The result was the inclusion of the developing mythology with the existing concept for the crossover.

It’s a shame that the episode became such a jumble, because this is the first appearance of some intriguing material. Certainly the open experimentation of “Purity Control” on human populations was something that should have been developed, but for some odd reason, it was dropped completely from the mythology. Considering how it fits very well with the overall tapestry, one wonders why it was ignored.

The Church of the Red Museum is even more of a profound creation, because unlike many other cults on the series, this one is relatively benign. There are elements of the later mythology that see their first iteration, not the least of which is the concept of the walk-ins. It’s odd to think that Chris Carter would completely ignore this earlier use of the concept when he wrote the seventh season episode “Closure”.

It does beg the question, of course, as to whether there is a connection between the walk-ins of the Red Museum and the walk-ins of “Closure”. It’s fairly clear that there is. The walk-ins are supposedly enlightened spirit beings who step into bodies when the original souls within those bodies decide they should vacate. Those spirits are also supposedly there to prepare humanity for a “new kingdom” to come in roughly 18 years.

Since this episode takes place after the end of “Firewalker”, it is just before Christmas in 1994. That would place the coming of this “new kingdom” in mid-late December 2012, which coincides with the date set for Colonization. Since the Red Museum is all about survival of humanity, as well as demonstrating that violence against nature equals violence against mankind, it’s clear that if there are spirits behind the Red Museum followers, they are actively working to counter Colonization to some equally profound goal.

This fits within the interpretation of “Closure” which theorizes that Samantha was converted into a spirit by older, enlightened spirits with a specific agenda of their own. This would imply that the walk-ins are just one manifestation of the spirits in question, and that these same spirits or non-corporeal beings have been working in the background to help Mulder and the others counter the Colonization efforts.

It’s a fascinating concept, and once again points to the lost opportunity that the spiritual elements represented over the course of the series. As with so many such elements, the deeper meaning of the Red Museum was dropped in favor of a purely material interpretation. At the same time, even that interpretation was ignored, as were many of the events in this episode.

Too many coincidences take place in this episode, driving the plot along where it needs to go. Thomas comes up with a bizarre and completely illogical means for revealing that there is something wrong with the local children, and his pedophiliac tendencies don’t explain it at all. Larson’s plane crash is an obvious way to drop evidence into the agents’ laps without needing to confront Larson himself. And of course, the arrival of the very assassin who shot Deep Throat is too perfect.

Perhaps it’s just that Chris Carter tried to hard to fool the audience, planting several red herrings that never quite pan out. The entire walk-in concept is nothing more than a ruse, and ultimately serves to waste a vast amount of time in the first couple of acts. Scully’s usual skepticism at such ideas is downplayed for this very reason, making her reactions unnatural.

It’s also hard to believe that there was no curfew or extra precautions taken to protect the teenagers from the possibility of abduction. Even if there was a generally held belief that the Red Museum was behind it, it doesn’t obviate the need for sensible measures. It just adds to the overall feeling of contrivance and intentional convoluted logic that plagues the episode.


Memorable Quotes

MULDER: “A cording to the literature, Abe Lincoln was a walk-in. And Mikhail Gorbachev, and Charles Colson, Nixon’s advisor.”
SCULLY: “But not Nixon?”
MULDER: “No. Not even they want to claim Nixon…”

MULDER: “I think the sperm posse just rode into town.”


Observations

- I just love watching meat-packing plants in action...not...

- If Beth left the plant after 7:30 PM, and the call about Gary was made before 11 PM, how can he have been missing for over four hours?

- Shouldn’t teenagers left exposed to night conditions in mid-late December Wisconsin be dead from exposure?

- Apparently the Red Museum also has prohibitions against home repair, given the state of their living space...

- I wonder why Odin has to speak to his followers through someone reading his version of Live Journal?

- How did Mulder figure out they were walk-ins before Odin even mentioned anything about second souls?

- Is it me, or did government abduction experiments and a month-long quarantine leave Scully with one hell of an appetite?

- Rick listens to some crappy music...

- I love how the chanting of the Red Museum followers sounds like cows mooing! I wonder, was that intentional?

- That plane crash looks so pathetic...

- So...the coolest thing to do in Wisconsin is hang out in your pick-up truck in the middle of a field, drinking beer, and listening to badly recorded generic rock music?

- Of course, they could be planning on some cow tipping after they drink some more...

- What’s with putting the itty bitty pistol in the big empty trunk?

- Gerd Thomas really looks like a pedophile, doesn’t he?

Overall, this is the perfect example of a mythology episode that takes itself far too seriously, as well as including everything but the kitchen sink. Considering that this is supposed to tie into the sense of paranoia that was evident throughout the recent conspiracy arc, this episode only betrays Chris Carter’s penchant for tossing things together rather than carefully constructing them.

I give it a 5/10.


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