Sideshow Attractions: My Review of Humbug

For most of my life, I have considered myself a freak.  And I have accepted this fact, embraced it, even.

X Men 1

However, I have spent much of my life looking for my fellow freaks…I mean, they have to be out there somewhere, right?  In fact, let me give a shout-out to my bee people…I know you’re out there somewhere!

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In fact, what if a community existed, made for just us freaks?  Sounds pretty cool, huh?

Freaks 1

Well, maybe.  Being able to be with your own kind is always a good thing.  However, even communities of freaks can have their drama…

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Although, on a certain TV show, that drama can escalate a bit…

Well, a lot actually…

Yes, I refer to The X Files.  More specifically, I refer to what I consider to be a classic episode:  Humbug.

Humbug 1

Humbug was a disturbing episode, because unlike most of the episodes of The X Files, it was actually somewhat plausible.  The premise is still a far reach, but it is actually not much of a stretch to imagine conjoined twins who have gone rogue.  The setting is something that is also attached to the “real world”:  the circus and its performers.  For me, the circus has been fascinating, and a little frightening as well.  Even though I am a freak, I can hide my “freakiness” when needed.  However, there are those who cannot hide what makes them different, and were exploited back in the day by an unnamed man.  People with genetic abnormalities are still feared by many even today, even though science has shed light on many of these conditions and taken away some of the mystery.  Still, the circus and its performers is seen as mysterious, and a backdrop for many horror themed shows, such as The X Files, American Horror Story, etc.

So, with out further ado, here is my recap and review of the freak show known as Humbug!

Oh, and as always:

Spoiler alert


 

Synopsis

Humbug begins with two boys playing in a pool one night in Gibsonton, Florida.  The brothers are interrupted by a man with a skin condition that makes the man look like he has alligator scales.  The man is actually the boys’ father, and tells the boys that they must now go inside and go to bed.  The man stays in the pool by himself  for a bit, but he is not alone, as he is attacked by an unknown intruder.  The attack proves fatal, and the man is quickly killed.

Agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder are sent by the FBI to investigate this murder, along with several others that may have been committed by the same person.  It turns out that Gibsonton is actually a town established for “circus freaks”, and that most of the inhabitants are “freaks”, or people who genetic abnormalities who have worked the sideshow circuit.  Mulder and Scully encounter several of the “freaks”, including Dr. Blockhead, who is able to endure large amounts of pain and has turned this ability into a sideshow act, and his partner, The Conundrum, who is a “geek” and able to eat anything, but never speaks.  The local sheriff is even a former sideshow freak, known as Jim Jim the Dogface Boy, due to the excess hair on his body.  The sheriff tells Mulder and Scully that he retired from the sideshow circuit once he began losing his hair, and took up a career in law enforcement instead.

Mulder and Scully are given temporary quarters in the Gulf Breeze trailer court.  There, they meet a dwarf named Mr. Nutt, who acts as the landlord, and an alcoholic named Lanny, who has a undeveloped conjoined twin named Leonard, who is kept hidden.  The agents pursue several false leads as suspects, including Mr. Nutt and even the local sheriff.  Eventually, they arrest Dr. Blockhead for the murders, who protests that he is innocent.

The agents and the local sheriff begin the process of charging Dr. Blockhead, but are interrupted because another inhabitant of the town has been murdered.  Mr. Nutt is the murder’s latest victim.  Lanny becomes distressed and the sheriff puts him into the “drunk tank” to “sleep it off.”  Mulder and Scully speak to Lanny and eventually discover that the murders are being committed by his conjoined twin Leonard.  Lanny is dying of complications due to alcoholism, and Leonard is searching for a new host.  Somehow, Leonard is able to separate himself from Lanny, and does so when Lanny is in the jail cell.  Mulder and Scully realize that Leonard has escaped again, using the window in the jail cell, and decide to pursue him.

Mulder and Scully track Leonard down to a local fun house.  However, Leonard is able to deceive the agents again, using his small size and quick movements.  The agents realize that Leonard has escaped them once again, and wonder where he is now.

In the meantime, The Human Conundrum is taking out his trash and is attacked by Leonard.  There is a struggle, and The Human Conundrum is seen laying on the ground, with his stomach somewhat distended and a contented smile on his face.

The next morning, Dr. Blockhead makes plans to leave town, as he fears that Leonard is still on the loose.  Scully reveals that Lanny passed away the previous night, due to complications from alcoholism.  The Human Conundrum sits in the passenger’s seat of the car, but appears unwell.  Mulder and Scully inquire about his condition, and The Human Conundrum remarks that it may have been something that he ate, speaking for the first time.  Dr. Blockhead and his friend then leave town, leaving behind a horrified looking Mulder and Scully.


 

My Thoughts

Oh, Humbug

So much to love about you, and I don’t know where to start!

First of all, I love the idea of a community of “freaks.”  I have always been a freak, and the idea of living among my own kind is just awesome.  Imagine encountering your kind everywhere, from the grocery store to your kid’s kindergarten teacher to even the local sheriff.  You would no longer be the one who stood out for whatever reason, so you could be known for other reasons (well, known for reasons other than being a conjoined twin who murders people, even if unintentionally.  I would think that it would be better, say, to be known being able to bake the perfect loaf of banana bread.  I am sure even The Human Conundrum would be able to appreciate a good loaf of banana bread).

I also love the homage that Humbug pays to PT Barnum, the circus and sideshows in general.  And there are more than a few of those in this particular episode…

The Fiji Mermaid for instance.  One of Barnum’s most famous “exhibits”, and Humbug referred to it multiple times.  Hey, it was even a suspect for the murders!  You know you’ve made it big when you get to be one of Mulder’s suspects!

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I also loved the carnival speak that was thrown around in this episode.

I heard the term “rube”, so of course my mind immediately went here:

Rose the Hat

And again, the references to the classic sideshow acts, such as the Dog Faced Boy, the Alligator Man, the Bearded Lady just added another dimension to this episode. making it that much more memorable.

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So let’s talk about the cast of characters in this episode, as there are quite a few of them.

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I love the funeral scene in particular…it was a who’s who among the circus performers…it was awesome!

However, there are a couple of particular characters in this episode that stand out…

And boy, do they put the C in character!

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Yes, Dr. Blockhead, and his loyal friend, The Human Conundrum!

And no, I don’t even know where to begin with these two…

I think the best scene in this episode is when good old Dr. Blockhead tries to scare Scully, but she won’t have any of it.  She pretends to eat a bug, much to the astonishment of Dr. Blockhead.  And then, much to the astonishment of Mulder, she pulls the bug out of his ear.  What do you know, two for the price of one!

And of course, Mulder on his morning jog.  Jogging can be interesting, can’t it?  Especially when you see a guy gleefully munching on a very much alive fish?  Ah, the benefits of early morning exercise…suddenly, the small furry dogs that seem to have it in for me while I am out on my morning jog are pretty mild…wait, scratch that…those dogs scare me way more than blue tattooed guys who have the worst case of the munchies!

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Then, we have The Human Conundrum…

Boy, does he live up to that conundrum part, too!

Right up to the very end, even, when he ended up being the “hero” of the episode…

And speaking of the ending to this one…

Really, this may be one of the best endings to anything ever, let alone an episode of The X Files!

The chase of Leonard through the funhouse, after he escaped from the jail cell…this episode is not a scary one, for the most part, but Scully in the funhouse…shudder!  It was those magic mirrors…those things are pure evil, I say!

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And Leonard himself…sufficiently disgusting and gruesome.  In other words, I wholly approved!

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However, poor Leonard…where did he go?

It seems like he just got swallowed up, poor guy!  I just hunger to find out what happened to him…

In fact,the end of this episode can just leave you speechless…

Well, unless you are The Human Conundrum!

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Well, folks, that’s a wrap on Humbug!  Join me next week for my recap and review of Our Town!

Our Town 1

Uh no, oops, wrong town!

Join me next week, so we can discuss the episode that forced teenaged me to become a vegetarian (well, maybe)!  There, that’s better!

Tune in next week…same Bat time, same Bat channel!

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