The X-Files: Season 3, Episode 19

Hell Money (29 Mar. 1996)
"The X Files" Hell Money (original title)

TV Episode  |  TV-MA  |   |  Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 1,364 users  
Reviews: 8 user | 5 critic

The agents investigate a deadly game in San Francisco's Chinatown district.



(created by), (as Jeffrey Vlaming)
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Title: Hell Money (29 Mar 1996)

Hell Money (29 Mar 1996) on IMDb 7.3/10

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Episode cast overview:
Det. Glen Chao
Kim Hsin (as Lucy Alexis Liu)
Hard-Faced Man
Doug Abrahams ...
Lt. Neary
OPO Staffer
Johnny Lo
Donald Fong ...
The Vase Man
Diana Ha ...
Dr. Wu
The Large Man (as Stephen M.D. Chang)
Paul Wong ...
The Wiry Man


Scully and Mulder investigate the murder of someone who was burned alive in a funeral parlor crematorium. The autopsy reveals that he was missing several vital organs - an eye, a kidney - and Scully immediately suspects that the man was selling his organs, any of which would fetch a very high price. Working with a local Chinese-speaking detective, Glen Chao, Mulder gets a lead when they find pieces of hell money, fake currency that is used as a symbolic offering. It all leads them to a deadly game among newly arrived immigrants in need of real money. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis






Release Date:

29 March 1996 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The vases and tiles used were created entirely by the production department. See more »


Dana Scully: Do you know how much the human body is worth, Mulder?
Fox Mulder: Depends on the body. I don't know, a few bucks?
See more »


References Ghostbusters (1984) See more »

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User Reviews

How many dishes do you have to break before your boss tosses you in an oven?
3 November 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

With episodes like "Irresistible" and "Grotesque," The X-Files proved it could weave together some fairly interesting stories without steadfastly adhering to the canon of paranormal activity. "Hell Money" is one such episode and perhaps in this regard strays farthest from the status quo. The script, after all, isn't quite so interested in exploring the foreign on an extrasensory level than it is on a cultural level, with the Chinatown of San Francisco serving as an effective and mystical backdrop. Much of the dialogue is daringly, although brokenly, presented in Cantonese and coupled with subtitles, a convention that, though in the modern television world has been made common practice with such culturally-inclusive programs as Lost, was a far more courageous move in 1996.

The premise is interesting enough: a Chinese-American mafia operates an organ-bidding lottery that has been murdering its defectors. When the corpse of a living man is discovered in a crematory oven, the talents of Mulder and Scully are summoned to the case.

It is a shame then that this episode so easily falls between the cracks of the Clyde Bruckman's and Jose Chung's of season three. More shameful is that it falls victim to the exact same problem as the previous episode (though, very thankfully, to a CONSIDERABLY less extent). "Hell Money" does not feel like an episode of The X-Files, and curiously enough it has nothing to do with the absence of paranormal occurrences. Instead, it is the relative absence of Mulder and Scully in the resolution of the crimes.

The arguable protagonist of the script is Detective Chao, played by B.D. Wong. Chao is an amiable enough character to interest the viewer's attention but it becomes rather apparent early on that he has a personal stake in the case. Although this stake determines his fate by the episode's end, his dilemma is unique in that he is clearly caught in the rift between two cultures, one reflecting the plight of the immigrant and the other the requisite of universal justice. The racial tensions presented in this episode, though touched upon, are never fully explored in-depth.

Lucy Liu appears as the daughter of Mr. Hsin, a luckless participant of the lottery. Known primarily for her more abrasive roles in Kill Bill and Charlie's Angels, it's interesting to see Liu in a gentler, more diffident performance.

Ultimately, "Hell Money" is an intriguing, albeit thin, look at human savagery in a culturally-bound setting, playing out similarly to a procedural drama (much like writer Jeffrey Vlaming's earlier offering, "2Shy"). As such there is not a lot of breathing room for either Mulder or Scully. Despite the occasional red herring, there is not much in the way of paranormal manifestation, but the underlying plot is competent enough to compensate for this. Though not one of the more memorable excursions of its particular year, "Hell Money" is certainly one of the more overlooked. 6 out of 10.

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