The X-Files #46: F. Emasculata

"There's probably something going around."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: A Costan Rican bug causes a deadly - and incredibly gross - epidemic.

REVIEW: This is the grossest episode in a while, and possibly since the series began. Past gross, way up to disgusting. Pulsing pustules and exploding mucus filled with larvae, bugs aplenty, ugly murders... it's all quite unsightly, and I shouldn't have been eating dinner while I watched it. But it's X-Files does Outbreak, and they don't want to pretty it up. What follows is understandably suspenseful and even has some fun action bits as Mulder chases down escaped convicts inadvertently spreading the epidemic. For a contagion story, it rolls along at a brisk pace, with Breaking Bad's Dean Norris playing to type as the U.S. Marshal in charge of the manhunt (I like to think this was Hank Shrader's old job), Hard Core Logo's John Pyper-Ferguson as one of the infected convicts, and Republic of Doyle's Lynda Boyd back again (with a new look and teeth) as yet another innocent woman hit by something absolutely horrendous. Your mileage with those guest-stars may vary based on your Canadianness, but for me, it was positively star-studded.

So it's really too bad, then, that F. Emasculata is such a gaping, aching plot hole! Starting with the title and name of the bug... do the victims' dicks fall off, or what? Just draws attention to itself needlessly. For some reason, everyone in this thing leans down towards throbbing pustules without protection, even the scientists who know what will happen, and Scully breaks quarantine like it ain't no thang. (Maybe if the make-up effects weren't so damn obvious?) How the infection is transmitted is quite clearly delineated, so there's really no way for 15 prisoners in solitary confinement to die from it unless the guards were spreading the mucus around and not getting infected themselves. The marshals aren't very good at their jobs either just so Mulder can come up with leads. But the biggest plot hole of all is the WHY. Apparently, Pinck Pharmaceuticals send the infected pig leg to Patient Zero so they could test their new medication without having to go through lengthy animal and human trials. Except... what's this drug supposed to do?! Kill people and make bugs hatch out of their cheeks?! That's not a prescription anyone needs!

Married to the main Swiss cheese of a plot is the Conspiracy theme and the idea that the government lies to the people all the time so as not to undermine their trust in the state, prevent panic in the streets, etc. The episode definitely comes down on the side of "the people have a right to know", and Scully is a little too quick to contradict him. After all, she herself caused the death of a man because she was denied vital information. And then she not only tells Mulder he shouldn't try to expose the cover-up, but also denies him much of the information! She NEVER tells him how the contagion spread, for example, which puts him at risk, don't you think? Especially in a world where people like to look at pulsating puss bags up close. Bringing the Smoking Man in - and of course, always conveniently in Skinner's office the minute Mulder decides to confront his boss - is awkward. Because if the Conspiracy's plan is to put Mulder and Scully in a position to blow the cover off a conspiracy which can then be easily denied so it discredits them, well, why not make sure they do expose the conspiracy? It's all very convoluted and inefficient.

If we go into Pinck's agenda more deeply than the episode does, the government is essentially in cahoots with a pharmaceutical company that's working to - as far as we can see - weaponize insects as viral delivery systems. A very dangerous game to play, if that's what they're doing, or is it really an even more convoluted than believed plan from the Conspiracy? Skinner tells Mulder to watch his back, and he's right. These people aren't just after him, they're insane.

- Entertaining the first time through, but too badly constructed and gross for a second go.


American Hawkman said...

I'll note that the conspiracy DEFINITELY weaponized insects, as a key plot point of the first X-Files movie. Good catch.


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