Friday, December 18, 2015

The X-Files - S8:E13 "Per Manum"

[ S8:E12 "Medusa" <<< Season 8 >>> S8:E14 "This is Not Happening" ]

Spoiler Warning: Mythology episode. Expect spoilers.

I may have a few qualms about this episode, but unlike the half-assed The Gift, this is how you do a post-Mulder mythology episode. It deals with the advancement of Scully's pregnancy, and her fears that she might be carrying an alien baby! (Surely, we've all been thinking that). And thanks to the complications involved with an eerily similar case that falls across their desk, Doggett ultimately (and finally) finds out her secret. The case involves a woman - a multiple abductee - who recently gave birth (allegedly) to an alien baby (despite having been barren), and then was killed as part of a coverup. There's a nice overarching conspiracy plotline in this episode (culminating in a scene where Scully is tossed from the frying pan into the fire, effectively underlining the fact that we don't know who to trust), by which we find out at the end that the whole case was a setup just to get at another alien baby. But the question remains, is the baby Scully carrying an alien too?

The fact that she survived the ordeal with the baby intact would suggest that the answer is no, although it's still a possibility. There is also the parallel plotline told in flashback that gives another possible source for her pregnancy. Unfortunately, however, the episode opts to blur the line completely between flashback and reality. It's easy enough to distinguish the two in hindsight, which leaves you wondering what the purpose for this technique was, if not just to trick the audience into thinking Mulder is back, without realizing right away that they're watching a flashback. Which is kind of cheap, and makes me angry. Stop stringing us along! Regardless, in these flashbacks, Mulder finally drops the bomb about stealing Scully's ova back from the government (in Memento Mori), and then she basically asks Mulder to be her baby-daddy.

I have to be honest, stories about immaculate conception just leave me dry. They smack of an ultra-prudish mindset, not a little bit inspired by that super-popular religion that labels sex a sin and attributes sexlessness to divinity. You get all the hassle of pregnancy, child birth, and then child-rearing, without even the fun of having sex. Sounds pretty lame, to me. If Chris Carter's plan to (allegedly) never have Mulder and Scully get together really meant a romantic relationship and even a child together, but no sex, then that's just beyond the pale. Besides, this whole in vitro thing is just another retcon - more stuff that happened before Mulder's disappearance, but written into the chronology after his disappearance. Instead of plowing ahead, or even treading water, as it has in the past, the mythology is backpedaling now.

And what's more, eight seasons in, and Chris Carter is still stringin' us along! Watch how he does it. He hints at the obvious possibility of Scully having an alien baby. Then he provides an alternative (and arguably more dramatically satisfying) explanation - in vitro fertilization with Mulder's "donor tissue" - only to reveal it to have been a failure in the end. But having provided that explanation, it's not completely off the table that it could work on another try. Yet we just don't know, and that alien baby is still a possibility. So it's left up in the air, and we just can't be sure. There are advantages to this kind of storytelling - certainly, open endings let viewers fill in the spaces with their imagination - but after so long, you just start feeling like you want some straight answers for once. Haven't we earned it yet?

Memorable quotes:

Scully: So you're saying that it was the doctors that killed your wife?
Mr. Haskell: And stole the alien baby!

(Well, we gotta get our paranoid fix somehow, now that Mulder is gone).

Doggett: I thought you'd find it interesting, actually.
Scully: Interesting? As in preposterous, and outrageous?

Doggett: I'm just tryin' to do my job. Only it gets hard to do if the person you're workin' with is keepin' secrets and tellin' lies.

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