Sunday, October 3, 2010

The X-Files: Sanguinarium (4.6)

Plastic surgery is intrinsically horrifying. Just the names of the procedures represented here (liposuction, face peel) sound pretty gross. Pair this with the at-the-time growing popularity of such procedures, and it's unsurprising that the show would explore this area of medical science, if only to exploit it for all of its grotesque qualities. So, we're audience to face meltings, face suckage, explosions of blood, and pentagram leeches. The latter is clearly a band-name in the making. It's a little disappointing, however, that Sanguinarium is lacking in the substance department. Sure, it's insanely gross, but pretty light everywhere else.

The mystery of the week felt a little like Die Hand Die Verletzt, with a group of superior-types sitting around and discussing a cover-up of some kind of supernatural phenomena responsible for mass casualties, all within a place that's supposed to be safe. I guess it was a neat red herring that the medical board at the hospital weren't a huge coven of black magic folk, but it dragged the episode down a little. I've voiced my belief in the past that guest star-driven scenes never really work in a show like this, unless Mulder and Scully themselves are intentionally written as supporting characters. Seeing a bunch of random people interacting with one another with ambiguous dialogue and vacant faces just isn't fun.

The resolution, involving face-swapper Dr. Franklin and white witch Nurse Waite, is intriguing, but newbie writers Valerie and Vivian Mayhew struggle to justify some of the more elaborate set pieces. It's all a little empty. Yes, it's fun seeing Franklin levitating, it's great when Waite begins to cough up pins, and equally awesome when she emerges from a bath of blood. But none of this has any real purpose or explanation. It's insanity for the sake of insanity.

While there are a lot of problems here, the episode does at least have a momentum which never lets up. It's fun, but completely lacking in anything resembling a point or purpose. Rating C

Guest stars Richard Beymer (Dr. Jack Franklin); O-Lan Jones (Nurse Rebecca Waite); Arlen Mazerolle (Dr. Shannon); Gregory Thirloway (Dr. Mitchell Kaplan)
Writers Valerie Mayhew, Vivian Mayhew Director Kim Manners

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