Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The X-Files: Emily (5.7)

It was an odd but at the same time entirely predictable decision to make the follow-up to Christmas Carol so conspiracy-heavy. What set this episode's predecessor apart from recent conspiracy episodes was that character was put ahead of action, a decision which has resulted in several strong mythology episodes in recent seasons. It's also disappointing that after driving so much of the action in part one, Scully takes a back-seat to Mulder, who seizes control of the mystery and does his regular 'truth-hunting' thing. There are some impressive moments along the way and a welcome proclivity to avoiding vagueness, but it's still a disappointing second part.

Don't get me wrong, Emily is by no means bad. It has a sense of urgency which is always fun to watch, as well as effective throwbacks to some of the more successful conspiracy stories of the past, such as Scully's abduction, the harvesting of ova, and the oozing shapeshifters. I also liked the reveal of the retirement home being used as some kind of baby factory. It's such a horrible idea, taking advantage of defenseless elderly folk like that, but it works in a horrifying sci-fi way.

But there's undeniably a feeling that this has all been done before, which lessens a lot of the episode's potential. It's cool seeing the alien fetus move, but we've had at least three exact scenes in the past with Mulder or Scully opening up one of those tubes. Same with the shapeshifters, again tricking Mulder and escaping the scene. While a lot of this is effective, it's impossible to ignore the fact that we've seen all of this already.

While Scully isn't as active a participant here (likewise her family, their reaction to last episode's doozy of a cliffhanger occurring off-screen), there are some wonderful moments. The imagery of the teaser is pretty remarkable (ignoring the annoying Chris Carter narration), while Gillian perfectly conveyed Scully's horror while she watched Emily undergo the CAT scan, just like she did last season. And although Emily's death isn't the dramatic sucker punch I'm sure the writers were hoping for, you do still feel for Scully, who clearly saw this as a gift of motherhood after all she's been through. Emily isn't great, but works occasionally. C+

Guest stars John Pyper-Ferguson (Detective John Kresge); Sheila Larken (Margaret Scully); Pat Skipper (Bill Scully Jr.); Karri Turner (Tara Scully); Bob Morrisey (Dr. Vinet); Gerard Plunkett (Dr. Calderon); Patricia Dahlquist (Susan Chambliss); Lauren Diewold (Emily Sim); Tom Braidwood (Melvin Frohike)
Writers Vince Gilligan, John Shiban, Frank Spotnitz Director Kim Manners

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