Sunday, April 22, 2012

The X-Files: Medusa (8.12)

There are various real-world locales that I've always felt work wonders when depicted through the prism of genre film-making. Like planes or trains or subway stations. It's why I always dug The Lady Vanishes, or Daylight, or the parts after they get off the bus in Speed (woops, spoiler!) Medusa opens promisingly, with some sort of acid-monster presumably responsible for the death of an undercover cop on a subway train. Soon after, we're introduced to a collection of guest characters to support Scully and Doggett, giving Medusa an early air of vintage X-Files classics like Ice. But rapidly the potential trappings of locale-set storytelling take over, leaving the episode feeling like a strained collection of dimly-lit scenes involving people walking along empty tunnels.

Uncharacteristically for a Frank Spotnitz script, there are a ton of plotholes exploding all over the place, too. The effectiveness of the big bad of the episode, a virus that turns lethal when exposed to human sweat, wildly fluctuates depending on the screentime of the victim -- so the cannon fodder in the teaser gets his face ripped off, while Doggett and his cronies just suffer an unhealthy toxic glow. Then there's the strange little boy appearing out of nowhere, as well as the weirdness of the virus' eventual destruction. It's a script that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and the out-of-place horror of the teaser sequence lingers far longer than it should have done, considering the flatness of the rest of the hour.

Scully also gets saddled with some lazy characterization here, barking orders at inexpicably shit-for-brains superiors and forced to look all intense while staring at a bunch of computer monitors. Gillian Anderson's performance is also far too loud, like she's forgotten all about her 'inside' voice.

Where Medusa works is in the Scully/Doggett growth, with Scully recognizing her own need for the guy once his life is threatened. Their partnership is gradually becoming stronger by the episode, and you really feel the depth of their trust for one another when they're barraged by unhelpful suggestions from other individuals and Scully feels like it's her job to keep Doggett safe. It's the only area of the hour that feels purposeful, the rest of Medusa an unusually messy hour that wastes the potential of its claustrophobic premise. C

Guest stars Vyto Ruginis (Lieutenant Bianco); Penny Johnson (Hellura Lyle); Brent Sexton (Steven Melnick); Judith Scott (Dr. Kai Bowe); Adam Gordon (Philbrick); Bill Jacobson (Gangbanger); Ken Jenkins (Deputy Chief Karras)
Writer Frank Spotnitz Director Richard Compton

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