Thursday, December 30, 2010

X-Files--"F. Emasculata"

F. Emasculata“ is one of those rare episodes of the series that feels more like a standard cop show than X-Files. the only feature that says it belongs on the show is the loose tie to the overall mythology. In hindsight, it does not fit well into the mythology unless you speculate the bugs that carry the title injection lead to the later experiments with the bees. I do not recall any connection emerging, but that could be my lapse of memory. I promise to flog myself thirty lashes with a wet noodle as penance if this episode turns out to be a bigger piece of the puzzle than I recall.

A scientist researching in the jungles of Costa Rica for possible new drug sources for Pink Pharmaceuticals comes across the corpse of a hog covered in pustules and crawling with strange insects. A pustule bursts in his face, squirting a sticky fluid all over him. Later that night, he is desperately radioing for help. When help arrives sometime later, the scientist is dead.

Flash ahead to a prison in Virginia where prisoner Robert Torrance receives a package. It contains an animal leg which looks like it has been infected by the same disease as the hog in Costa Rica. Soon, the entire prison is quarantined, allegedly by the Center for Disease Control. Over a dozen prisoners, including Torrance, have been infected. Torrance uses the panic to escape with his old partner in crime.

Mulder and Scully are inexplicably assigned to assist federal marshals in assisting in the capture of Torrance and his partner. Neither can figure out why. This is not an FBI matter. They are not the only ones in the dark. The marshalls have no idea there is a contagion being contained or that Torrance is infected. Mulder joins the manhunt while Scully, suspicious about the strange goings on at the prison, elbows her way in to find the truth.

The chase for Torrance is a standard police procedural until it is discovered Torrance’s partner died on the run after a pustule on his face burst. Scully learns the prison quarantine is what she thinks a CDC operation, but later learns and informs is a purposeful infection of prisoners by Pink Pharmaceuticals in order to save time on research. She informs Mulder, who later discovers the Cigarette Smoking Man is in on it.

The revelation begins the true conflict of the episode. Mulder, ever obsessed with revealing the truth, wants to go to the media to inform the public of the contagion. The Cigarette smoking man says no in that smug way of his. It will cause a panic that may cost more lives than the disease. Torrance needs to be captured quietly. Scully, still stuck in the prison because she may be infected, too, agrees. Lying to the public goes against everything Mulder is working for, but he reluctantly agrees. It is painful to face a logical argument against beliefs you hold dear, particularly when your greatest enemy and closest ally both agree on it.

Mulder learns through Torrance’s girlfriend, who is also infected, he is planning to leave for Toronto by bus. Mulder and the marshals catch up to him and defuse a hostage situation, but a sniper kills Torrance before he can implicate Pink Pharmaceuticals. All evidence, including the corpses, are burned inside the prison, so there is nothing left of the conspiracy. Had Mulder or Scully gone public, there were plans to implicate the two. Cue foreboding music. The Syndicate is out to get them.

While the mythology connection is flimsy and quickly forgotten, it is not a bad episode. It is interesting to see Mulder and Scully working apart in roles that emphasize their crime fighting skills. They do so without being corny. Mulder is not the ubber-profiler who knows every step Torrance is going to make even before he does. Dr. Scully does not come up with a miracle cure by the end. In fact, they are both hapless victims right until the end and beyond.

The way the contagion is presented is disgusting. The exploding pustules that spray fluid everywhere are the nastiest concept the show has come up with so far. There is at least half a dozen that explode, so you get an eyeful on a fairly regular basis. The brief time Scully may have been infected does not carry much drama. By that point, we have long since figured out the disease is spread by the exploding pustules. That is the only real drag on the episode outside of the forced mythology aspect. It is not for the weak of stomach, but it is an entertaining episode.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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