January 28, 2017
The X-Files 4.15, Kaddish: The Emet Is Out There
Summary: A Hasidic funeral is taking place at Ben Zion Cemetery in Brooklyn. As dirt is thrown on the coffin, a woman flashes on the last moments of the deceased, who it appears was shot during a convenience-store robbery. The woman puts dirt on the coffin, then lets an older man lead her away. There’s a thunderstorm that night, and someone uses mud in the cemetery to shape a man’s body. After the sculptor leaves, the mud body begins to breathe.
The dead man was Isaac Luria, as Scully tells Mulder. He was from Williamsburg, where a number of hate crimes have been committed against Jewish people. He was, indeed, killed in his store, and his murder was captured on surveillance cameras. However, the killer hasn’t been arrested…because he’s also dead. He was strangled while watching the footage of his crime. The fingerprints pulled from the killer’s body belong to Isaac.
Mulder, amused, wonders if they’re dealing with a zombie. Scully thinks this is a case of revenge “disguised as spectral justice.” Mulder clarifies that she means a “resurrection hoax.” Their job is the find out how the killer’s killer got Isaac’s fingerprints. The agents go to see Isaac’s widow, Ariel (the woman from the funeral), who’s with her father, Jacob (the older man who was with her in the cemetery). Jacob’s upset that the agents are interrupting their shiva to ask if they can look for evidence in Isaac’s grave.
Scully shows Ariel a picture of one of the killer, Tony, and tells her that there are two accomplices still at large. Ariel is surprised to see how young Tony is. Jacob’s furious that the police didn’t do anything when Isaac said he was in danger. Mulder asks if there was a specific threat against him. “The threat is always there,” Jacob replies. He shows Mulder a pamphlet slid under his door about how Jews are responsible for AIDS. He’s happy that someone took out the killer.
Scully points out that they’re investigating a homicide, so Jacob and Ariel have to cooperate. If they don’t, the agents can get a court order and go around them. Ariel tells them to do whatever they need, then leave her and her father in peace. In their car, Scully tells Mulder that she thinks Jacob knows who killed Tony, and he’s afraid they’ll figure it out if they dig up Isaac’s grave.
Mulder thinks it’s natural that Jacob would want to protect Tony’s killer, considering it justice after all the hatred he and his people have experienced. Scully notes that there’s a difference between justice and revenge. Mulder thinks the publisher of the pamphlet knows Tony’s accomplices and probably also knows who killed Tony. They head off on their next task as someone covered in mud watches Ariel’s apartment building.
The agents chat with the pamphlet publisher, Brunjes, who’s anti-Semitic and claims not to be familiar with the accomplices, Derek and Clinton. Mulder shows him the pamphlet, saying it could have encouraged the boys to kill Isaac. Brunjes accuses Mulder of working with “them,” remarking that Mulder looks like he could be one himself. (I wonder how David Duchovny liked that line, since he’s Jewish.) Brunjes insists that he’s not a “Zionist collaborator.”
Scully tries to impress upon Brunjes that Derek and Clinton could be in danger. In reality, Derek is currently in a backroom, watching the conversation on a surveillance monitor. He hears Scully say that there’s now a rumor that Isaac came back from the dead to get revenge. “What kind of Jew trick is this?” Brunjes asks. “A Jew pulled it off 2,000 years ago,” Mulder replies. (NICE!) Scully tells Brunjes to keep them in mind if he thinks of anything that will help them protect Derek and Clinton. “Bless you,” Mulder says to him as they leave.
Brunjes goes to the backroom to check on Derek, but he and Clinton are now at the cemetery, digging up Isaac’s grave as the muddy person watches. The coffin is nailed shut, and when Clinton goes to the car to get tools, he’s attacked. Derek uses his shovel to break into the coffin, which still contains Isaac’s body. He realizes Clinton has gone quiet, then sees his friend’s body nearby.
Like Tony, Clinton was strangled, and two sets of footprints have been found at the crime scene. Scully thinks Clinton and Derek came to desecrate Isaac’s corpse as revenge for Tony’s death. Mulder thinks they were afraid that Isaac was still alive. There are marks on Isaac’s body, but Scully can’t tell what they’re from. Mulder pulls a book from the coffin, and it immediately bursts into flames.
Derek goes to see Brunjes, who he blames for the idea of killing Isaac. Brunjes says they’re just spreading the truth about Jews, not actually killing them. Derek tells him that Clinton’s dead now, too, and he wants the money Brunjes owes him for his work.
Mulder and Scully take the remains of the book to a…book historian…guy, who tells them it’s the Book of Creation, a book about communion with the divine. He’s not familiar with the idea of a copy spontaneously combusting – it’s a book about mysticism, but that doesn’t mean it has mystical properties. Scully has a scientific explanation for the burning anyway (of course). The historian sees that a name was engraved on the cover, Jacob Weiss.
So the agents go back to Ariel and tell her that Clinton was killed right by Isaac’s grave. They have evidence placing Ariel’s father at the scene of the murder. If Ariel knows anything, she needs to help them stop it. She tells them that she and Isaac weren’t officially married yet; they had their wedding license, and the wedding itself was supposed to take place today.
She shows them their communal wedding ring made by a jeweler her father apprenticed for as a child in Prague. Her father survived the Holocaust because he was young and had small enough fingers to make bullets. He hit the ring for decades, even from his wife, because “it was a dead relic from a forgotten place.” When Ariel announced that she was getting married, Jacob “felt his village was born again.” Scully asks where Jacob is, but Ariel is certain that he would never kill anyone.
The agents want to talk to him anyway, so they go to Jacob’s synagogue. The rabbi stops the prayers and talks to the agents, giving Jacob a chance to slip away. The agents follow him to the attic, where they find a hanged body. Something (or someone) knocks them both down, but they’re finally able to nab Jacob. Someone with a muddy hand (and something written on it) is watching.
Ariel meets them at the police station and demands to talk to her father. Mulder questions Jacob, who says he was just checking out a noise in the attic, suspicious of vandals. He was attacked and fought back in self-defense. He doesn’t consider it strange that his method of defending himself was to hang his attacker. Mulder warns that his book was found in Isaac’s grave, which means he can be placed at two crime scenes. Mulder thinks there was someone else in the attic, but Jacob won’t say anything more.
Scully shares with Mulder the results of a background check on Jacob, who was once arrested for a bombing that killed seven innocent people. Since he basically confessed to the murder in the attic, Scully thinks the case is closed. Mulder disagrees, still sure there was someone else in the attic with them. Ariel asks why her father confessed, and he tells her they found his book in Isaac’s grave. Ariel finds that hard to believe.
Brunjes is printing out more pamphlets when he’s strangled by a muddy hand. Peace out, bigot. Meanwhile, Mulder goes back to the historian to ask questions about the myth of the golem. The historian explains the old belief that a man could be created out of mud or clay, using “the power of the word,” secret combinations of letters. There are actual instructions in the Book of Creation for “animating the inanimate.”
Whoever creates a golem writes the word emet on his hand, “truth.” A golem is a body without a soul, basically a monster that goes wild and has to be destroyed by the person who created it. This is accomplished by erasing the first letter of the word so that emet becomes met, “dead.” The historian notes that this demonstrates how powerful words can be – they both create and kill.
Scully calls (“Mulder, it’s me”) to tell her partner that Brunjes is dead. They meet at his shop and see his latest pamphlet, which talks about ridding the country of the “scourge” of Jews. Scully looks at a list of people who receive Brunjes’ mailings, including Tony, Derek, and Clinton. Surveillance footage shows Brunjes’ killer, who looks like Isaac. Mulder, however, has figured out the emet, if you will.
The agents confirm that the corpse in Isaac’s grave is Isaac’s, so he couldn’t have killed Brunjes. Mulder explains the idea of the golem to Scully, who has a hard time grasping that someone made a killer out of mud. Mulder, however, thinks the golem was created out of love, not hatred. They go to see Ariel, but she and her ring are both gone.
Jacob (who was…let out of jail? I guess?) finds Ariel at the synagogue, preparing for her wedding. He’s figured out that she made a golem in hopes of holding on to her husband. He reminds her that it’s not a real person, but an “abomination.” Ariel tells her father about the last conversation she had with Isaac, and how she knew right away something had happened even before she got the call telling her he was dead. She just wanted the chance to say goodbye to her fiancé.
Ariel says she just wished for Isaac to come back – “they were just words.” But now we know that words have the power to create beings. Jacob hears a noise and goes to intercept the golem as the agents arrive at the synagogue. They find him hanging from the ceiling but are able to cut him down before he’s strangled. Mulder goes looking for Ariel, but she doesn’t want to leave without the Isaac golem. Mulder has to shoot him so he won’t run off and harm anyone else.
The golem attacks Mulder, but Ariel stops him, offering him their ring. She recites her vows and the golem places the ring on her finger. She rubs the first letter of emet off of his hand and tells him she loves him. The golem disintegrates, and Ariel says a final prayer and goodbye to her fiancé.
Thoughts: I can’t believe this episode came up right after Holocaust Remembrance Day, and in the midst of the trash-fire hellscape that is the United States in 2017.
Jacob is played by David Groh, who’s probably best known as Joe on Rhoda. …Which was a spin-off of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Mary Tyler Moore just died. THIS IS FREAKY.
For more fun with golems, watch the awesomely named Supernatural episode “Everybody Hates Hitler.” Also check out the sequel, “The One You’ve Been Waiting For,” in which Dean kills Hitler.