What is the American Dream?
Is it wealth? Power? Or it is something more existential like raising a family with a particular set of values?
By season 4, the X-Files was already considered one of the sickest, most graphic expressions of pop culture ever to be featured on a major network. That reputation could only have encouraged writers Glen Morgan and James Wong to craft "Home," with imagery so disgusting that it transcends its place in X-Files lore and stands next to the classics of the horror genre.
In October of 1996, 18 million viewers watched their favorite paranormal FBI investigators, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, enter the realm of The Peacocks, a mysterious family living in an isolated village called Home, Pennsylvania.
A grotesquely disfigured baby has been discovered near the Peacock house, buried at home plate on a baseball diamond frequented by young boys.
But what the writers of this story really want you to know is that this traditional American town is really . . . . Mayberry.
Yep, that Mayberry. And Mulder can't help but lose himself to the allure of Main street America, its nostalgia proving too strong to resist.
Sure the town of Home has baseball, cadillacs, a sheriff named Andy Taylor, a deputy named Barney and the traditional small-town architecture. But, don't be fooled. If this represents the pinnacle of traditional small town American values, then what we see portrayed in "Home" are the rat-infested ruins of those same ideals. But, like Mulder in the opening scenes, Sheriff Taylor doesn't see the rotting corpse.
An examination of the dead baby's body reveals the Peacock's are somehow breeding with each other, producing offspring with serious physical and health defects.
It is at this moment in the episode where Scully and Mulder make the fateful decision to invade the Peacock's homestead with guns drawn.
Do the Peacocks deserve to be invaded this way? There doesn't seem to be authentic evil shrouded beneath their lifestyle choices. For certain, an investigation into the baby's death is warranted. But, is this an FBI matter? When you consider that incest law varies from state to state--in New Jersey, for example, there are no criminal penalties if both partners are over 18--Mulder and Scully's case looks weak. They are entering this house under false assumptions. One can argue this is an out-of-control government provoking a confrontation. No one is in danger — that is . . . until Mulder utters this single sentence:
"The mother of the dead baby is listening. She's not only having sex with her grown boys, but she is also out to protect her children. And that threat to arrest her children leads to this :
The Peacocks remind us that baseball bats have many uses.
Under what circumstances does the government have the power to abridge the civil liberties and personal freedoms of American citizens?
The town of Home had few problems.
Until the FBI got involved.
And besides . . . .
Scully is flat wrong.
And the sheriff and his wife would be alive had the government handled this case differently.
"Home" is beautifully directed by the late Kim Manners, who packs this episode with unforgettable images, all of which contribute to the horror.
In the end, it is Mulder who finally comes to understand the Peacocks. Morally speaking, they are less like humans and more like wild animals.
And as everyone knows, if you do something stupid or dangerous to a wild animal, you might get killed. [cut to Mulder and Scully pulling a screaming Mrs. Peacock out from under the bed.] This is not their finest moment. Agent Scully is the first to realize the case against the Peacocks isn't open and shut.
With this simple ending, the writers of this episode remind us that with in every cherished axiom — there exists the very opposite of that truth. The Peacocks may not look like your family, but the love and fierce loyalty they have for each other is not hard to understand. Besides, when was the last time you told your mother how much you love her.
There's always tomorrow. The Peacock's future is just an American dream away.
Ken Cancelosi is the Publisher and Co-Founder of Press Play.
Serena Bramble is a film editor whose montage skills are an end result of accumulated years of movie-watching and loving. Serena is a graduate from the Teledramatic Arts and Technology department at Cal State Monterey Bay. In addition to editing, she also writes on her blog Brief Encounters of the Cinematic Kind.