These mutant predators operate in secret and are usually, though not always, hostile in the manner by which they garner their sustenance. Victor Eugene Tooms (of “Squeeze” and “Tooms”) devours the livers of victims, and stalks his prey like animals. Mr. Incanto of “2Shy” lures unsuspecting plus-sized women to their doom -- playing on their lack of self-confidence and vulnerability-- to drink and digest their body fat and thereby nourish himself.
The first is the less-than-malevolent nature of Mr. Betts, played by Paul McCrane. Unlike Tooms or Incanto, he is the most reluctant of mutant "eaters," and also perhaps the most “surgical” or skilled. Betts doesn’t want to kill anyone, but he does want to survive. There is an element of sympathy and sadness in the way he approaches his victims. Also, as a paramedic, he is no berseker.
Mulder discusses this theory with Scully, and it’s an authentic hypothesis in evolutionary biology. Punctuated equilibrium suggests that most species exhibit small or inconsequential change for most of their duration on this Earth, dwelling in a brand of biological stasis.
But when significant evolutionary change does come, the theory of punctuated equilibrium suggests it will include rapid, radical events of cladogenesis, a process by which one new species branches away from the main or established one.
Exploring the idea more deeply, the implicit question becomes: why is cladogenesis occurring now? Why is it appearing so frequently in the 1990s America of Mulder and Scully? What we are truly discussing here is a second X-Files Mythology, one that ties together the so-called “Monster of the Week” stories.
The agents also gather evidence that suggests Betts is riddled with cancer, and that somehow this sickness aids in the regeneration process. Betts’ cancerous form also explains the nature of his gift. He can pinpoint cancer in others because he must consume cancer to survive.
On at least two notable occasions, The X-Files shone a light on that sausage-making in ways that make us, the audience, feel intensely uncomfortable. Two of the best episodes of the series, “The Host” and “Our Town” tackle this notion.
In the former case, the issue pinpointed is: where does our bodily waste go after we flush it down the toilet? What happens to it?
The second (examined in “Our Town”) is equally disturbing: what goes into our food preparation at meat plants across the country? What are the chickens we eat at home fed as they are grown? And what is in that feed?
Here, Mulder and Scully go diving into a large tank of biological refuse or waste. They sift through discarded body parts, and again, this is something we just don’t generally talk or think about as a society...let alone on television in the 1990s. Essentially, this is a place where the human body becomes…garbage. The disgusting exploration of cast-off body parts is leavened somewhat by Mulder’s persistent sense of humor, but the fact is, this is another aspect of modernity we live in ignorant bliss about.
In other word, the jaw distends, and the eyes open as Scully's scalple nears.
There is still, apparently, life in that severed head. Scully is so shaken by this idea that she must cease her efforts.
I really, really don’t blame her. Some of the terror here emerges from our sense of imagination about what could have come next. What if Scully had started cutting? What reaction would she have caused? Would the head have...screamed?
For all his murdering ways, Betts' doesn’t desire to be a killer. He wants what we want…to continue living. But for some reason, nature has made him a freak who must kill to live. Betts is a reluctant monster, and thus we can feel sympathy for him.
I can't help but be reminded of Alfred Hitchcock’s stated desire to play the audience like a piano.