The infamous X-Files episode deals with horrific themes, creating a story so unnerving that it was banned and never replicated.
The X-Files never shied away from controversial topics. Part of the show’s premise was an exploration of the fringes of science, ideas and humanity. It may be unsurprising now that The X-Files dove into taboo topics like incest, but these episodes at the time proved wildly controversial. “Home,” the second episode of Season 4, is perhaps the best example of this.
Insufficiently described on streaming platforms as a monster-of-the-week episode with Mulder and Scully encountering a family of inbred brothers, the horrors of “Home” are hard to capture. The episode features three brothers, one of whom is also the father of the other two, defending their way of life from outsiders through murder. The FBI is called in after the body of a deformed newborn was found buried alive, and the family decides to attack local residents so their secret won’t be uncovered. The episode eventually reveals they have been keeping their mother, a quadruple amputee, underneath a bed.
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Part of what made “Home” so controversial was that it relied on human antagonists. Crimes were committed and people where injured and killed, but it wasn’t the result of supernatural intervention. Instead, “Home” was about all too real human evil. When the one surviving brother escapes at the end with his mother, the two seem eager to rebuild their family, suggesting that these horrors will only continue.
“Home” became the first network television episode in U.S. TV history to receive a TV-MA rating. The troubling concepts of incest and burying newborns alive certainly earned the warning for audiences. But even the increased rating wasn’t alarm enough, and many viewers (and producers) thought that the episode had gone too far and created something truly gruesome.
As a result, Fox refused to re-air the episode for three years after its initial broadcast. When they eventually did re-run it, the controversial nature and subsequent banning from the air waves became part of the promotional material, with Fox leaning heavily on the grotesque nature of the episode to draw in a larger audience. Some think that the episode is only remembered because of the controversy surrounding banning it, rather than than the gruesome themes it depicts.
Viewers speculated that despite — or because of — its reputation, “Home” would be revisited in The X-Files revival in 2016. The fourth episode of the revived Season 10 was titled “Home Again,” contributing to these rumors. However, the episode didn’t return to the same controversial subjects, for better or worse, and The X-Files seems to have left “Home” in its past.
Other shows, however, have borrowed themes from “Home” to try to recreate the controversial and taboo episode. Supernatural, a show that relied heavily on The X-Files for content and themes, included human culprits mistaken for supernatural in the Season 1 episode, “The Benders.” Similar plotlines are found in the first season of Torchwood, too. But these shows don’t go quite as far as The X-Files did, and none reach an audience quite as unexpecting.
“Home” shocked viewers at its initial airing, but despite being banned from television for years after its release, it is easy to find and watch on streaming platforms now. Perhaps modern audiences have grown more accustomed to the types of horrors that The X-Files explored, but it’s easy to see why “Home” wasn’t revisited after it was aired; yet, it’s still hard to see why it was greenlit in the first place.
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