Wednesday, 7 February 2018

X-Files Rewatch | F. Emasculata

image credit: fox/dvd bash
‘Don’t believe for a second that this is an isolated incident.’  

There are those rare moments within The X-Files where monster-of-the-week and mythology combine, in a slightly menacing way. Menacing in the sense that it is vaguely intertwined, making sense the deeper you explore it, making F. Emasculata a pretty important episode that foreshadows a hell of a lot for the rest of the series, whether intended or not. 

Normally, an episode opens (after the teaser) with Mulder informing Scully / Scully informing Mulder about a case, then going to a location to investigate. In this instance, we skip all of that and are thrown into medias res within a prison after being sent to investigate two inmates infected with a contagious virus who have escaped in Dinwiddie County, Virginia. Mulder and Scully are immediately suspicious of the situation as the FBI does not usually investigate escapes; there’s also the small matter of the entire prison being quarantined by the CDC and the National Guard due to the death of inmate Robert Torrance, which preceded the escape of the two inmates sent to clean his cell. 

Deciding to utilize their specific skills within the FBI, Mulder joins the Marshals to hunt the escaped fugitives, and Scully stays behind to investigate the mysterious contagion within the prison. 

What Mulder and Scully begin to unravel is frighteningly realistic, often presented in conspiracy theories covering pharmaceutical companies, the FDA, FEMA and the CDC taking hold of the American public without their knowledge. The show takes these ‘conspiracy theories’ and spins their own; slowly unraveling that the Shadow government are planning on releasing an alien virus, to only which themselves and their families have the cure for. This isn’t fully introduced until season five and the first feature film Fight the Future, ‘F. Emasculata’ acts as a damning catalyst and body of forewarning for Mulder and Scully as to where their investigative paths are about to lead them. 

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Written by Chris Carter and Howard Gordon, the episode plays out as a veiled introduction to the narrative presented fully in Fight the Future, with the focus on CDC here rather than FEMA in the film. Mulder’s passion in finding the truth isn’t about discovering aliens or proving that something has been going within the government since Roswell; his passion lies within his innate empathy towards those around him, and his need to do whatever he can to save innocent lives. 

Mulder may have a job within the government that constantly provides these threats, but he – and Scully – utilize their position and resources to put an end to it, and not be any part of it. As Scully says in Fight the Future regarding the virus she was exposed to, ‘… it has a cure, you held it in your hand. How many lives can we save? … if I quit now, they win.’ But even so, there’s a layer of control that needs to be established, which Scully points out in the episode, telling Mulder that panic spreads faster than contagion and that it's influencing how he’s dealing with the investigation; i.e. revealing the cover-up to the public will cause mass-panic, and will further inhibit their ability to save people. 

Frantically-paced episodes such as this allow the balance between Mulder and Scully to be portrayed deeper, further exploring the ways in which they rely on one another. Here, it’s how Scully is the only person able to hold Mulder and reign him in as she knows his tell when he is about to explode with anger and he always abides. 

Mulder knows that she’ll save him from getting his ass kicked, an aspect of their relationship that begins to blossom towards the end of this season; this episode especially. She also prevents him from revealing the cover-up to the masses, making him comprehend the enormity of the situation. 

All these aspects combined make for an action-packed episode; almost a mini-movie of sorts. There’s so much going on, and there is never a dull moment. Of course, there are moments in the narrative that fall flat or are weirdly resolved, but that comes hand in hand with any X-Files episode. Overall, it’s structured in such a way to offset this, leaving you wanting more and more … maybe not the exploding pustules, though.

• How the hell does Mulder remember his badge number; I can't remember my phone number and that's shorter. 
• Scully takes heat from no man in this episode, especially those who tell her they'll let her see what they want to her to see. 

• 'F. Emasculata' was based on an actual practice of pharmaceutical companies sending scientists and employs around the world looking for plants and animals for medcinial use. 
• The opening shot of the Costa Rican forest was shot at the Seymour Demonstration Forest in Northern Vancouver, which was also the setting for the season premiere 'Little Green Men'. 
• 'F. Emasculata' and the pharmaceutical company Pinck are fictitious, but the practices explored in the episode are often rumored conspiracies. 
• Producers were afraid that the episode would be too similar to the 1995 film Outbreak, but once the episode had been produced it was clear they were separate entities. 
• Viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHFs) are a group of illness caused by four families; including Ebola, Marburg, Lassa Fever, and Yellow Fever viruses. 

SCULLY: According to my briefing, the prisoners escaped by hiding in a laundry cart. 
MULDER: I don't think the guards are watching enough prison movies. 

MULDER: I thought this was about escaped prisoners?
SCULLY: It is. 
MULDER: Then who are the men in the funny suits? 

OSBOURNE: Faciphaga Emasculata. We were interested in it because of the dilating enyzme it secretes. 
SCULLY: Is this what caused the outbreak?
OSBOURNE: No, not precisely. The F. Emasculata is a parasitoid, a bug that carries a parasite. In this case, a deadly parasite that attacks the immune system. Pustules are a part of the natural reproductive cycle. They're full of the larvae that you see on the scope. 
SCULLY: So, the contagion only spreads once the pustules erupt, and the larvae that are expelled bury into the new host? 

SCULLY: If this gets out prematurely then the panic is going to 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 time for the truth Mulder, but this isn't it. 

• Mulder asking Scully if she's okay, Scully tells him that she's fine and all she wants him to worry about is catching the fugitive. She knows that if she tells him there's a possibility that she could be infected, his moral compass will shift to her rather than the investigation at hand. Mulder would put his heart and soul into finding out if she has it and to potentially cure her, rather than stopping the contagion from spreading. 

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