Michael J. Petty discusses his favourite X-File, Die Hand Die Verletzt…
“Even the Devil can quote Scripture to fit his needs.”
The X-Files is known most for its deep look into UFOs, aliens, and strange creatures or people like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, spirits, and freak shows. Maybe it’s the Christian in me or maybe it’s my interest in the spiritual/unseen realm, but one of my favorite episodes of The X-Files as a whole (and I’m not counting any Mythology episode mind you, that’s a whole different list) has got to be Kim Manners’ first X-File “Die Hand Die Verletzt”.
When Tony asked us to write an article on our favorite X-Files episodes, I knew I was going to have an issue. Between my love of the Mythology and my new-found love for the Monster-of-the-Week episodes, I was having a hard time. I nailed down my two favorite Monster episodes to “DHDV” and “X-COPS” (I know, weird huh?), but decided to write my article on the former (I’ll write about my favorite Mythology episode at another time).
“Die Hand Die Verletzt” is an X-Files episode that feels more like an episode of its unintentional spin-off series Millennium, this is probably because it is written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, and that could possibly be why I love it so much. Millennium was not afraid to dive deep into heavy spiritual, religious, and simply “human” stories that were oftentimes very hard to watch or even think of as possible in our everyday lives, though they might be (go watch “Somehow Satan Got Behind Me”). “DHDV” brilliantly encompasses all of that into one X-File that is not only chilling but makes you question what’s going on around you.
From the beginning of the episode “DHDV” scares me. I’ve been a high school teenager, I know how dumb my friends and I were back then, but none of us would ever have considered going into the woods and invoking a demon to show up, whether we thought it would work (and it probably would) or not. That is however exactly what the kids do here and it ends in death. Lots of death.
Death isn’t obviously the reason I enjoy this episode, actually one of the themes of this episode, and The X-Files in general, that I really love is that of uncovering the truth. “The truth is out there” after all. Obviously The X-Files uncovers a lot of conspiracies, Mulder & Scully’s whole goal is always to find the truth in any given situation, but in this episode they never get the full picture, only most of it.
One of the scenes in the episode that always gets to me is the scene where the stepdaughter of one of the four Cultists tells Mulder and Scully of her dreams of satanic ritual abuse. She describes a basement in which she is cut, raped/impregnated, and tied down by her stepfather, and other Satanists, from a young age well into high school. This scene is extremely powerful and even more disturbing. While investigating into the girl’s home life, Mulder does in fact find this ritual basement and the door is immediately slammed in his face telekinetically by some unknown force. In fact, when talking to the parents, Scully finds out that none of their daughter’s claims could have been true, regardless of the evidence.
Whether or not that is true is never really revealed, but I have to take the time here to mention that Satanic Ritual Abuse is a huge issue and is one that is usually not discussed or publicized due to the people generally involved (in the case of this episode, members of the school board). My family and I have a friend who lives in Ohio who actually works with local police departments to help save and care for those who have been through satanic ritual abuse. This is a real issue and the supernatural forces that I believe are behind them would rather people think that it’s just “something on TV” as opposed to something that can and does happen. I assure you, it is, and the fact that this episode of The X-Files takes the time to discuss it makes it all that much better in my opinion.
Moving from that point, “Die Hand Die Verletzt” has one of the creepiest, and most underrated, X-Files foes out there in Phyllis Paddock (her name a reference to the “toad demon” in Macbeth), whom many believe is actually either Azazel (the demon summoned at the beginning of the episode) or the Devil himself. Before Supernatural made demon possession and incantation popular, The X-Files aired one of their greatest episodes that showed these horrific events before we started seeing them on television every week.
When Azazel is summoned at the beginning of the episode, kids die, toads fall from the sky, and substitute teacher Phyllis Paddock, who no one can remember hiring, arrives at Crowley High. Paddock seems to be this sweet little lady at first, but like Gibson Praise playing pro-chess she moves the cultists and our favorite federal agents around the board to face off against each other, resulting in her slaughtering the cultists (one by use of a snake) and then thanking the agents for their “help” in killing Azazel’s former followers.
Paddock represents deep, dark, old evil and to me that’s what makes her one of the most dangerous villains that Mulder and Scully ever encountered. The interesting thing about “DHDV” is that the agents don’t actually go up against Paddock and instead kind of help her accomplish her goal. Paddock may be one of probably five X-Files villains that I desired to see in a sequel episode, and who knows maybe one day we will.
When talking about “Die Hand Die Verletzt”, X-Files creator Chris Carter said,
“It was a fun script that turned this big corner when the girl had the emotional breakdown. It suddenly became a very creepy, dark, disturbing episode. It was vintage Glen and Jim, and we had a great, great performance by the guest stars. A really good, solid episode that actually veered a little more toward the horror genre. But it worked because of Mulder and Scully.”
I couldn’t agree more. Morgan and Wong were some of the best writers The X-Files ever had and the ritual abuse scene, as I said before, is extremely powerful, but what really ties this episode together is, as always, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Scully is immediately skeptical, go figure, of demon possession, incantations, and witchcraft as told of (and seen) in this episode, even when toads fall from the sky and unexplainable things begin to happen, as they tend to do.
This really adds to the episode and brings to the table a natural and understandable attitude of skepticism to all of these concepts. There are times where Scully being the skeptic can bother me (maybe it’s because at my heart I’m a believer), but not only does it work here, but actually adds to the mystery, especially when the girl’s parents tell the agents that their daughter’s story could not be true due to their youngest daughter’s death as an infant.
On the other hand, Mulder adds just as much as the believer. Immediately understanding the implications of a demonic incantation, Mulder knows what he’s getting into, and as the agents uncover the dark mystery that have bewitched the town of Milford Haven he is vital in learning that the cultist’s sect exists. Plus, Mulder just adds a certain charm to The X-Files, no matter the episode, that I just can’t deny.
At the end of the day I love The X-Files. The Mythology is one of my favorite television sagas/mysteries and nothing can really top it in my opinion (my favorite Mythology episode review is coming guys, don’t worry), but the Monster-of-the-Week episodes have really grown on me in the past year and I’ve really enjoyed going back and watching them. “Die Hand Die Verletzt” is an incredible and very different episode of The X-Files that, for personal, spiritual, and thematic reasons as always appealed to be and as I said at the beginning it feels like a Millennium episode. I hope you guys enjoyed my thoughts on this episode and I hope you go back and rewatch this one.
Michael is a follower of Christ, a filmmaker, writer, and occasional podcaster. You can find him on Twitter @MJPETTY7