Kelechi Ehenulo continues our alphabetical breakdown of The X-Files by looking at arguably the most famous ‘monster of the week’…
If there’s one thing that helped define The X-Files as a cult phenomenon, it was its ability to mix up its core themes. Expanding beyond the mythology allowed the show to become flexible and appeal to a wider audience. This knack took its shape in what is commonly known as MOTW or ‘Monster of the Week’ – one off (or sequel), genre-crossing episodes exploring the weird and the strange in our world.
One character started and defined that era of storytelling. His name was Eugene Victor Tooms.
Long before Millennium, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation or Criminal Minds, Eugene Victor Tooms operated as your classic serial killer. He followed a strict and unrelenting pattern. He randomly stalked and murdered his victims. He collected items belonging to the victim, a symbolic trophy of his targets. And finally, it’s always five victims before he disappears. There’s an added twist, though… he’s a mutant and has the dangerous ability to squeeze himself through tight spots. Now he probably won’t be accepted in Professor X’s School for Gifted Youngsters, but his modus operandi certainly explains Eugene’s nature.
Eugene’s desires are wild and animalistic. His genetic make-up acts as an uncontrollable and obsessive compulsion. He’s a calculating individual, not afraid of playing the victim whilst providing enough clever, monosyllabic answers to get by. Working the streets as an animal catcher means he can do his job with little or no disturbance. Whilst he watches the world with a quiet voyeurism, to everyone, he’s invisible, hiding in plain sight. When the perfect target is selected, his eyes turn yellow and the world fades to grey. His colourized target stands out from the crowd. He overwhelms his victim with brutal violence, ripping and consuming their liver with his bare hands. Eugene is not Hannibal Lecter. There’s no fine dining decadence with his liver consumption. It acts as food sustenance so when he’s finished, he can hibernate for the next thirty years in his newspaper and bile nest. In other words, given his unique abilities, Eugene Victor Tooms is a predatory survivor.
In ‘Squeeze’ and ‘Tooms’, The X-Files tapped into the world of criminal psychology and profiling that we may not have been aware of. Mulder and Scully utilise every investigative and technological tools to uncover Eugene’s methodology. It’s unsettling and dark, especially as there’s limited information on Toom’s background.
He’s nature’s greatest anomaly. It’s never really revealed on how he became this way. Why does 66 Exeter Street hold so much value to him? It’s not like he was exposed to toxic waste materials linking back to Chernobyl just like the Flukeman. It’s not like he was a science experiment gone wrong, creating this monster. Did he have biological parents with the same ability? Who knows? He just exists, appearing, disappearing and re-appearing like a convenient myth. He makes time the real enemy. Despite having psychiatric care, his drive, his compulsion and his biological nature always won… and that’s scary. However, the psychosis of Eugene Victor Tooms goes deeper which strikes at the heart at what we value dear.
We see our homes as sanctuaries, a place where we can relax and unwind from the troubles of the world. Now we may not be living in the era where “I don’t lock my doors” doesn’t seem true anymore but the security of our homes is paramount. Whether we just lock our doors and windows or secure it like Fort Knox with panic rooms, let’s be honest to ourselves – how often do you think about that vent, that letterbox, that fireplace or even the toilet? That’s Eugene’s lasting legacy. His genetic and contortionist mutation that allows him to squeeze through small areas, breaks all the rules about home security by abusing our naivety. It results in an uncomfortable and unnerving feeling that not even your own home is safe. One way or another, Tooms will get you.
Despite the horrors of this case, Eugene Victor Tooms provided a positive impact on Mulder and Scully. The ‘Squeeze‘ / ‘Tooms‘ two-parter gave us the first real insight into their partnership. Despite the mockery and the casual digs at Mulder from other agents, it’s Scully who becomes Mulder’s champion and supporter. His theories may be “out there” but she respects the work that Mulder does. She respects the journey, putting aside career opportunities and defying her personal friendship with Tom Colton (wouldn’t it be great to see him back again?)
As for Eugene himself, his character sets the benchmark and blueprint for the series. Without Eugene, we wouldn’t have Donnie Pfaster, Virgil Incanto or Robert Patrick Modell – dark complex killers with an uncontrollable need to fulfil their deepest desires. So next time when you’re thinking about home improvements and there’s something strange in your neighborhood, it might be worth super gluing your letterbox. You may not get any mail for a while but, hopefully, it will stop Eugene squeezing through for a visit.
You can follow Kelechi @geekminduk.
Next week… F is for F… B… I…