Sunday, May 20, 2012

The X-Files: Essence (8.20)

This feels a lot like one of the conspiracy episodes of yesteryear, opening with one of those pretentious narrations that Chris Carter killed us all with when the show first began, followed by a series of scenes in which agents break into buildings, interrogate shifty individuals and argue over alien experiments. While it's all breezily entertaining, this isn't an episode that breaks any new ground, and in some ways feels almost regressive.

It's pretty jarring to see Scully holding a baby shower, especially with a bunch of female friends (does Scully even have friends? She's always seemed pretty isolated...) Her subplot here opens up intriguingly, especially with Frances Fisher being all evasive and intriguing. But the story gets strangely derailed at the episode's mid-point, the show giving Fisher nothing to do except read off a monologue of exposition. Blah.

I liked seeing Mulder and Doggett working together, especially since their bland argumentative stage has been replaced by a mutual appreciation for Scully and a determination to find out the truth. Folding into the episode's underwhelming qualities, though, they don't actually get to do a whole lot of anything here. They follow a trail of carnage, and explain that they're just as clueless as the audience when it comes to over-arching mystery.

Essence only really perks up in that last fifteen minutes, with Billy Miles written as a terrifying Terminator clone as he pursues our ensemble through various elevators and corridors. It's a wildly ambitious ending, full of running and screaming, and it's all pretty awesome. At least until the show decides to throw a 'secret super soldier' cliffhanger at us out of nowhere, naturally revealed to be the one semi-recurring character who is pretty disposable. Eh. C+

Guest stars Nicholas Lea (Alex Krycek); Annabeth Gish (Monica Reyes); Mitch Pileggi (Walter Skinner); Frances Fisher (Lizzy Gill); Jay Acovone (Duffy Haskell); Kirk B.R. Woller (Gene Crane); Sheila Larken (Margaret Scully); Zachary Ansley (Billy Miles); Steven Anderson (Dr. James Perenti); David Purdham (Dr. Lev); Denise Crosby (Dr. Mary Speake)
Writer Chris Carter Director Kim Manners

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