Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The X-Files - S2:E22 "F. Emasculata"

[ S2:E21 "The Calusari" <<< Season 2 >>> S2:E23 "Soft Light" ]

When I started re-watching this show almost two months ago, I asked myself - since the mythology episodes were always the most memorable for me, what was the best monster-of-the-week episode I remember? Sidestepping Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space' - because although that's a great episode, it's more of a humorous episode than a straight X-Files episode - this is the one I decided on. Although it does involve conspiracy themes - even the Smoking Man puts in an appearance, for the first time since One Breath - but not of the extraterrestrial variety.

Mulder and Scully are called in to assist in a manhunt when two convicts escape prison. But the prison is in lockdown, with quarantine procedures in effect. So Mulder heads out with a group of U.S. Marshals to track down the fugitives, while Scully hangs back and tries to figure out what's going on at the prison. What follows is a harrowing chase (with the pursuers always one step behind), made all the more frightening by the possibility that these men could be introducing a deadly contagion (represented by some really gross, vibrating pustules) into the general population.

Begin Spoilers!

But what really puts the episode over the edge for me is the final revelation that not only is a pharmaceutical company conducting illegal human trials in order to bypass federal regulations, and not only is the government alarmingly protecting them, but that it's all been orchestrated so that the perpetrators can cover their tracks so easily, so elegantly, and so effectively, by lying, and blaming everything on a simple mailing error (thus making apology their policy).

And what's even worse, that in doing so, they're covering their own butts so that if Mulder and Scully - whom they've presumably brought on the case to clean up their mess after those two convicts unexpectedly escaped - manage to get away with any proof (even though they never do - these people are very thorough), they would be discredited as crackpots by trying to blame what was ostensibly a mistake on an elaborate conspiracy. This is chess-level genius we're talking about here!

End Spoilers!

As a paranoid tale of government (and corporate) conspiracy, it's much more effective than Red Museum was - perhaps on account of it being a little more grounded in reality. It also makes a great statement about the fuzzy issue of covering up the truth as a means to reduce panic - probably one of the most convincing arguments for the existence of conspiracies. There's no easy answer, and though Mulder - a diehard supporter of the truth - resists, even he must ultimately choose to temporarily sacrifice his principles for the greater good. This is not only a great episode, but a great example of what The X-Files is about (minus the alien stuff).

Memorable quotes:

Smoking Man: In 1988 there was an outbreak of hemorrhagic fever in Sacramento, California. The truth would have caused panic. Panic would have caused lives. We control the disease by controlling the information.
Mulder: You can't protect the public by lying to them.
Smoking Man: It's done every day.

(I love the Smoking Man's smugness - how he feels so justified in what he does - and that he has a biting response to every one of Mulder's accusations).

Smoking Man: What's the truth, Agent Mulder?

Scully: If this gets out prematurely, the panic is gonna spread faster than the contagion. Mulder, we can't let this be known.
Mulder: What if someone dies because we withheld what we knew?
Scully: What if someone dies because we didn't? There'll be a time for the truth, Mulder, but this isn't it.

Elizabeth: You're just trying to scare me.
Mulder: You should be scared. If I were you, I'd be scared.
Elizabeth: You're lying!
Mulder: No, Paul is the one who's lying, and if he's infected, a lot of people are gonna die.
Elizabeth: If that's true, how come it's not on TV? How come they're not telling everybody?
Mulder: It's not my decision.
Elizabeth: Well, whose decision is it? You knew about it, and you didn't say anything. Why should I tell the truth, if you won't?

Dr. Osbourne: Don't believe for a second, that this is an isolated incident.

Skinner: You really have no idea who you're dealing with, do you?
Mulder: I thought I was dealing with you.

Mulder: That's why we were given this assignment, right? They knew all along. So that even if we succeeded in finding the truth, we'd be discredited as part of it. Am I right? Am I right?!
Skinner: You never had a chance, Agent Mulder. For every step you take, they're three steps ahead.
Mulder: Well, what about you, where do you stand?
Skinner: I stand right on the line that you keep crossing.

Skinner: Agent Mulder, I'm saying this as a friend. Watch your back - this is just the beginning.

(Ooh, is that a teaser for the season finale? I can't wait!)

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