"I think it's possible that there's an occurrence in somebody's life, a tragedy or a loss, that leaves them vulnerable; hurts their immunity to evil. And all of a sudden, at that point in their lives when they're weakened, they're open to evil... and they can become evil."
REVIEW: There's a monster of the week in Empedocles, an under-developed one, but one hardly notices given that the show's continued focus on the personal lives of the leads is what entrances. We never really find out what the fiery being is. Demonic possession? Elemental? Evil disease? Did it kill Doggett's son while in another host? Seems so. And they do have the most recent host strapped to a hospital bed, but her fate is ambiguous. There certainly isn't a sense that the murder of Doggett's boy has been solved. Where do the visions come from? And why is Denise Crosby doing such a small part? It's like she's meant to return or something! So on that front, while we get good effects and some strong tension, it's not a satisfying story. Thematically, it's not too bad, from the joke about being fired before merging with a flaming entity, and then the focus on the guy's family, just as the X-Files are growing their own (new agents, and of course, Scully's problematic pregnancy with everyone asking who the "husband" is). But where the episode actually lives is with the four leads.
Yes, four. Agent Reyes is back, still light smiles and nicotine addiction, and pushing the guys' buttons something fierce. No wonder Scully likes her. It takes a woman with real gall to tell Mulder he's closed-minded, but it works. Post-abduction Mulder is an edgy guy (with everyone but Scully, at least), but he's closer to her position. Doggett, on the other hand, denies even his own experiences with the paranormal. Kersh commended him in the previous episode for getting more arrests than Mulder ever did. He's a cop FIRST, and comes at these things from that angle. He DOES get results. Beating the pavement, knocking on doors, following traditional leads has its place even in The X-Files, and this case does have human faces behind it. You just can't understand what's really happening with police work alone, and so a Doggett will always need a Mulder, a Scully or a Reyes, but I think the episode also suggests Reyes needs a Doggett. Mulder's contention that she'd be a good X-Files agent is more of a threat than she realizes. Her New Age view of the world just isn't something you can bring to the Justice Department.
Reyes plays a big part, and Doggett is eventually pushed to an uncomfortable place where he can accept some of the things he's denied. Mulder and Scully are somewhat sidelined, but we still feel their presence. From a hospital bed, Scully nevertheless plays matchmaker and forces these disparate agents into a team. By strength of will, she forces Mulder to trust Reyes and Doggett, and through his involvement, I think Doggett gets to know Mulder a bit better. A light touch is kept through the Scully-Mulder scenes, but there's still tension there. We're getting very close to her giving birth to SOMETHING.
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: There's a scene where Mulder says none of his files talk about crime-related visions as anything more than random. Has the Millennium Group been in there and expunged information on the kind of people they routinely recruited? Reyes' special ability really did evoke people like Frank Blank and Lara Means. Or is it just me?
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Another great episode where the leads get to explore their new dynamic. There just isn't enough room for the A-plot to breathe and make proper points.