‘The X-Files’ 10.4: “Home Again” – The Trash Man Cometh

On this week’s episode of The X-Files, Mulder and Scully investigate a series of horrifying murders linked to the homeless of Philadelphia, while Scully handles a personal tragedy.

This is the episode that I, as a die-hard fan, have been waiting for this season. It combines all the elements that made the X-Files great. A disturbing villain, a social message, some fantastic jump scares, and a wonderfully emotional story for Mulder and Scully.

In fact, the only thing I found myself not liking was a specific camera angle, which says a lot about the episode as a whole. “Home Again” offered some amazing opportunities for both Scully, and us as viewers, to examine the aftermath of William’s adoption and how that has impacted Scully ever since. It also opened up new questions, including the nature of Charlie Scully’s estrangement, and of Scully’s relationship with her mother over recent years. But a good episode of The X-Files always had to end by giving us more questions, and this one delivers in spades.

Read behind the jump for our spoiler-filled recap of “Home Again”.

The episode opens on a homeless camp being destroyed with water canons, and residents moved along. An unsympathetic man, Detective Cutler, watches the events unfold callously pointing out that they had been warned. Heading back to his office, he threatens others that their street is next on the list and scheduled to be “cleaned” the next morning.

After he heads inside, a strange wind begins to blow, rattling the trash on the street. The homeless people on the street panic and begin to flee, hiding inside their tents. A garbage truck rounds the corner, stopping for a brief moment before moving on. In its wake, a tall man in a trenchcoat stands on the road. He begins to move toward the office block.

Inside, Detective Cutler is on the phone checking in with the others when he begins to choke on a terrible smell. The power goes out, and feeling threatened, he dials 911 to report an intruder. The man on the street – Trash Man – bursts through the doors and attacks Cutler, ripping both his arms off in a single move. He leaves as calmly as he arrives, taking Cutler’s arms with him and dumping them in the back of the garbage truck which is now parked outside, before climbing into the back himself.

Mulder and Scully in "Home Again" © 20th Century Fox/1013 Productions
Mulder and Scully in “Home Again” © 20th Century Fox/1013 Productions

Mulder & Scully arrive at the crime scene and almost discover immediately that their suspect appears to have been born without footprints, “which is impossible,” Mulder points out with delight. The body is strewn around the room, with its head in the trash can – “not even in the proper recycling bin”. Looking out of the window, Mulder spots some strange graffiti on a building across the street that oddly resembles Trash Man.

While Scully examines the torso, she receives a call from her brother Bill informing her that their mother has been admitted to the ICU across town following a heart attack. However when she first grabs her phone, she misreads the display, briefly seeing it read simply, “William”.

Clearly in deep shock, Scully leaves at Mulder’s behest, and he continues the investigation, looking through security camera footage from the previous night. He notes that the graffiti he spotted earlier has appeared overnight. Leaving the office to look into it further, he discovers a filthy band-aid stuck to the sole of his shoe.

Scully arrives at her mother Maggie’s bedside, finding her intubated. A nurse informs her that Maggie awoke briefly and asked for Charlie, her youngest son from whom she is estranged. Scully speaks to her unconscious mother, recalling her own time in a coma following her abduction over twenty years before, and reminding her mother of all the people who are still here for her. She begs her mother not to “go home yet”.

Mulder stumbles across an argument between Mr. Landry and Nancy Huff, the president of a nearby school board. The pair exposits their argument for Mulder’s (and our) benefit. Landry wants to move the homeless along and into an old abandoned hospital so he can build a new apartment building, Huff wants the “downtown people” as she calls them (with a superior air) kept away from the hospital which is only blocks away from her high school.

The pair both claim to have the best interests of the homeless in mind, but Mulder calls them out on this, pointing out that really, they both only have their own interests at heart. “Who really speaks for [the homeless]?” he asks. “The band-aid nose man,” a nearby homeless man pipes up. Mulder asks the man what he means but he just smiles and slides away. When Mulder looks up, he realizes that the graffiti has vanished.

At her mother’s bedside, Scully recalls Mulder visiting her during her own coma. She goes through an envelope of her mother’s possessions, discovering an old quarter on a chain. Bill calls from Frankfurt but she refuses to give him an answer about whether or not their mother might die before he can get there. The pair briefly argues about their mother’s living will and whether or not to keep her on life support, Scully telling him that she discussed these possibilities with Maggie years before and that their mother wanted them to “do everything possible” to keep her alive.

Mulder takes the band-aid he found on his shoe to the lab, only to discover it is clean. Not just clean, unnaturally clean. There’s is nothing on it at all, living or dead. Both Mulder and the technician are left baffled.

Meanwhile, Scully learns from the ICU nurse that Maggie amended her living will to “do not resuscitate” in the case of unconsciousness the previous year, and her fear visibly increases.

In a warehouse across town, two men unwrap the Trash Man graffiti they have stolen, hoping to sell it for a fortune. One of the men leaves to call collectors, but after a cold wind blows, his buddy turns to discover that the graffiti has vanished from the board.

His friend enters the room just moments later to find his buddy dead on the floor – his head wrapped in a garbage bag. The trash man appears from behind the board and attacks, ripping the second man’s head clean off.  The Trash Man heads for the doors, carrying the body parts out to the waiting garbage truck, while we see that the board which originally held the graffiti is now marked by a liberal blood splatter, and the tag, “Trash Man”.

Mulder in "Home Again" © 20th Century Fox/1013 Productions
Mulder in “Home Again” © 20th Century Fox/1013 Productions

Back in the ICU, a doctor explains that Maggie must be extubated in accordance with the law, and her wishes. Scully’s phone rings and once again she mistakenly sees the caller ID display “William” before it flashes back to show “Mulder”. He has arrived at the ICU.

In the city, Landy gets ready to move the homeless people onto a bus to their new hospital home, however, Huff shows up with an injunction preventing the buses from taking anyone to the abandoned hospital. As she walks smugly away, we spot a new Trash Man graffiti piece watching the street.

Mulder explains the case so far to Scully but she is distant. He is surprised to hear that Maggie had asked for Charlie, and has no answers for Scully when she asks him why she would ask for him  or change her living will without telling her.

Scully shows Mulder the quarter on a chain that she found in Maggie’s possessions and wonders aloud why her mother owned it but once again, he is unable to offer her any answers. The hospital team prepares to extubate Maggie, Mulder holding Scully at a distance as she whispers to him that she does not currently care about the “big questions” they have long sought answers to, but simply wishes for a little more time to ask her mother some of the little ones.

Huff drives home to her enormous mansion, picking up a message from her husband who is away on business. We watch her making food, disposing of large quantities of trash as the garbage truck rolls along her street to the strains of Petula Clark’s “Downtown”. As the song continues, the power goes out and she discovers maggoty water on her stairs. Trash Man appears and chases her through the house and soon we see him stuff her head into the trash compactor before climbing back into the garbage truck with the rest of her remains.

Mulder and Scully sit at Maggie’s bedside reminiscing until Scully’s phone rings. The caller is her brother Charlie finally getting in contact. “Do what I can’t do,” Scully begs him, her voice cracking, “bring her back to us”. Scully puts him on speaker & Charlie speaks to his mother. Suddenly Maggie awakens, grabbing Mulder’s hand and whispering, “my son is named William too”. These will be her last words as she suddenly stops breathing, and Scully sobs over her as we hear Charlie calling his sister’s name over and over through the discarded phone.

Nurses arrive to take Maggie’s body away and Scully lashes out, Mulder has to support her, explaining that because Maggie was an organ donor her body needs to be taken immediately. Scully completely breaks down, asking him why her mother would talk about their son at the moment of her death. She watches from Mulder’s arms as porters take her mother’s body away, suddenly pulling away and demanding Mulder drive her back to their case in Philadelphia so she can work, and giving him no opportunity to refuse.

Back at the lab, they discover that the spray paint used in the Trash Man graffiti is, conveniently, only sold in one store. The agents stake it out, eventually following the most obviously suspicious man ever to grace television to an abandoned building.

Scully, acting worryingly OK, takes down the suspect but when they begin to descend into the dark basement, the suspect surprises Mulder and escapes back outside. Scully is unimpressed with Mulder letting the kid escape but he grins and explains that he doesn’t “do stairs anymore”. “Back in the day, I used to do stairs and in three-inch heels,” she points out, the pair flirting over their flashlights.

In rooms below, they find strange creatures running around with clay like faces. The agents find a man holed up in a corner, along with a clay sculpture of the Trash Man, his nose held on by a band aid.

Mulder and Scully in "Home Again" © 20th Century Fox/1013 Productions
Mulder and Scully in “Home Again” © 20th Century Fox/1013 Productions

The man, an artist who wants to increase awareness of the homeless, lectures them on the wastefulness of society, explaining how people simply have their trash taken away “by magic” and don’t see the toxins leaking out in the landfills. “If you don’t see a problem, there’s no problem right?” he asks sarcastically. The artist suggests he has accidentally created a Tulpa which Mulder dismisses (apparently forgetting his experiences at The Falls at Arcadia) but the man will not be dissuaded. “I meditated on it, I willed it… why I wanted him,” he explains, “I think there must be spirits and souls floating all around us, and if you think real hard, how you want them so bad, they come to you.”

As he explains his theory, Scully experiences flashbacks of baby William and her mother. She clutches the quarter almost in a trance. “You’re responsible,” she tells him. “If you made the problem, if it was your idea, then you’re responsible. You put it out of sight so that it wouldn’t be your problem, but you’re just as bad as the people that you hate.” It’s obvious that she is talking more about herself than she is about the artist.

Across town, Landry finally moves the homeless along to the repurposed hospital where he stalks along the corridors, proving how little he truly cares. He is suddenly overcome by an ungodly smell and all the homeless people rush into their new rooms, securing their doors behind them and making the building unnervingly empty. Landry follows the same trail of splashed liquid we saw on Huff’s stairs into a darkened corridor, soon coming face to face with Trash Man. Mulder, Scully, and the artist follow his screams but they arrive too late. We see the artist leave his hideaway, watched over by yet another Trash Man graffiti.

The two agents sit together by the coast with an urn containing Maggie’s ashes, and Scully reveals to Mulder what she has come to understand during this case. Maggie needed to speak with Charlie before her death, and not the two children she was close to, because she needed to know that the child she “made” was OK. He was her responsibility.

Her final message to Mulder and Scully was meant to make them face their own responsibility for their child. She explains to Mulder that although she knows she gave William up for his own good, she cannot help but think of him. “I need to believe that we didn’t treat him like trash,” she whispers through tears, the camera pulling away to leave them contemplating the world together.

Mulder and Scully in "Home Again" © 20th Century Fox/1013 Productions
Mulder and Scully in “Home Again” © 20th Century Fox/1013 Productions

Sophie is a staff writer at X-Files.News where you can find all the latest news about The X-Files, and the latest news from the show’s cast and crew.

Top image: Mulder and Scully in “Home Again” © 20th Century Fox/1013 Productions