Thursday, November 18, 2010

The X-Files: Never Again (4.13)

Cancer equals a death sentence. That's what we all presume, anyway. There's the fighting, the therapy, the potential overcoming of such a hideous ailment, but at the end of everything it still in all our heads equals death. Scully, here, is lost in that place. Her cancer hasn't been confirmed, but it is all she can think about. Cancer is the elephant in the room. It's never uttered, but it's all over this episode, as Scully abandons her duties and embarks on a voyage of self-discovery, utilizing her sexuality and experiencing both pleasure and pain.

Some could disregard Never Again as another episode with Scully in peril (and, yes, another 'attacked in the bathroom' finale), but it carries far more emotional depth than any of those other, similarly-plotted episodes. This is above it all a character piece, loosening up Scully just as she's about to embark on potentially the most devastating chapter of her life. As a character, she's exhibited boredom of Mulder and his various cases before, but we have rarely been given access to her actual mind. Here, she's listless, dulled and desperate for some kind of release. Mulder is written here as a complete caricature of oppressive men, he takes Scully for granted and later completely misses the point when Scully continues to be unhappy.

At the same time, we have a villain intent on destroying women. Ed Jerse is mentally stalked by a voice inside his head, apparently radiating from his tattoo, explicitly ordering him to kill and warning him of the dangers of jealous, controlling women. The episode itself is an interesting take on men. Betsy (or, subconsciously, Ed) blames women for the problems in society, while Mulder treats Scully appallingly.

Never Again works greatly as both a thriller and a dissection of Dana Scully. She's essentially a suit, dressed in expensive but unflattering attire, going through the motions and existing as nothing but a side-man. Away from Mulder, she once again discovers her femininity and explores her own sensuality. It's something so fundamentally different for this show, and it totally works. Great job by Gillian Anderson, unsurprisingly, as well as Rodney Rowland and Jodie Foster's vocal chords. Rating A

Guest stars Rodney Rowland (Edward Jerse); Jodie Foster (Betsy)
Writers Glen Morgan, James Wong Director Rob Bowman

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