Sunday, May 13, 2012

The X-Files: Empedocles (8.17)

Had The X-Files exhausted its standalone origins by this point? Are there no more monster-of-the-week stories left to tell? I ask because Empedocles opens up as a traditional standalone mystery, only to become another episode more concerned with character development than breezy spookiness. I'm not complaining, since the Doggett work here is particularly strong, but it feels like forever since we had an honest-to-God, straight-forward horror episode -- and you have to wonder if the well has finally gotten dry. The show is about to close its eighth season... so it's not surprising, but it's hard not to miss what was at one point such a trademark of the series.

Empedocles grows quickly more concerned with Doggett as the hour goes on, elaborating on the intriguing relationship between him and Reyes implied back in This Is Not Happening. With Scully on the fringes on the show and Mulder unsure of his allegiances anymore, it's time to push Doggett and Reyes center stage, and it's Doggett sense of belief that forms the groundwork for the episode. While he saw the same fiery vision that Reyes saw, buying into that form of belief is so removed from anything in his personality that he'd feel it a disservice to his deceased son and his moral obligation to find his killer. At the same time, Reyes is so believing in extreme phenomena that any sense of rationality seems particularly alien -- something even Mulder finds annoying, despite his superficial resemblance to her.

The B-plot here is less successful, even if it opens promisingly with some subtle shades of season one's Shadows. But it's another story that feels self-consciously vague -- some potential theories are explored, but there's nothing concrete. It's probably supposed to read as ambiguous, but it only comes off as annoying more than anything else. Empedocles works well as a Doggett showcase, but struggles everywhere else. B-

Guest stars Annabeth Gish (Monica Reyes); Jay Underwood (Jeb Dukes); Wendy Gazelle (Katha Dukes); Denise Crosby (Dr. Mary Speake); Ron Canada (Detective Franklin Potter)
Writer Greg Walker Director Barry K. Thomas

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