The X-Files #242: Medusa

"I'll be your eyes and ears. I wish someone would tell me what the hell it is I'm supposed to be looking for."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Doggett goes down into a subway system where people are dying from an electric flesh-eating organism.

REVIEW: Medusa has a good nice cinematic set-up, with Doggett going into a dark tunnel system where an unnatural killer may roam, as Scully coordinates from above with municipal government official breathing down her neck and creating a sense of urgency. If that sounds cliché, well, it's because it is, and whatever twists are put on the typical Hollywood tropes either fail to be as interesting AS the cliché, or else aren't enough to save the episode from obscurity.

So Doggett goes down into the subway with three other people (including Penny Johnson!), the better for them to die from whatever horror lurks below! Except no one dies, they're all saved. Well, okay. One of their number is at least a trouble-maker who doesn't want to follow orders and endangers the missing, except he's down by the time Doggett catches up to him (a symptom atypical of the problem) and he's an ally again. So that was a waste. The monster turns out to be tiny plankton rather than yet another mutant that eats your flesh or whatever, that's cool, but the way this infection is killed is highly suspect. Even though Scully does all the research (or has scientists do it on her behalf) and "figures it out", the way Doggett kills them by connecting one patch of water to the third rail has nothing to do with Scully's findings. Even worse, his move kills all medusa organisms everywhere ever, somehow. We're told there's no proof at all it ever existed, even though samples have been sent a Dr. Bowe who has a full analysis and pretty microscope pictures on her laptop! And this means the cliched obstructive authority figure who wants the trains to run on time even if they have to run through a Pandemic game can't be charged with anything because, hey, there's no way to tell WHAT killed those people. They have dead bodies, and they have the FBI and other witness' word, and there's at least an obstruction of justice when the jerk disobeys the FBI and can be implicated in hiding bodies underground, but no, the medusa are dead and even their tiny corpses have vanished. Never mind the giant leak of contaminated sea water in the subway system. And what the hell is that kid all about? Aside from giving Scully the crucial but unused clue about sweat conducting the microbe, what is he doing doing in the tunnels?!

One thing I did like is that Scully is very much treated as the boss in this episode. Doggett defers to her to the point where they aren't partners; she's definitely his superior. That's an interesting dynamic, at least for a one-off. But if you're going to pull the cliché of having men go rogue and not follow the leads' directives, putting a woman in charge taints the story with sexism. Which given the number of highly competent female scientists in the episode, doesn't seem to be the point. And I still don't quite get what's happening in the last scene where Doggett has to be told that no one will be punished for what happened. Okay, sure, he's very "culprit-driven", but the hangdog faces of both agents is a little strange, both of them trying to credit the other with saving the day. I dunno. Is Scully feeling guilty because she realizes she and Doggett make a good team? Is she cheating on Mulder? But that's me reaching for some kind of explanation, when clearly, this episode doesn't really care to give any that make sense.

- I think the premise, the mood, the effects, these work. But the twits don't negate the clichés so much as make them look good in comparison.



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