A Miracle Never Meant To Be
"Emily" Plot Summary:
Scully dreams of walking barefoot in dust, and finding a cross on a chain. She says that on her journey, she is alone as ever, and the dust blows her away.
In a San Diego children's center, Mulder finds Scully playing with her biological daughter. He has learned that the surrogate mother of Emily was "Anna Fugazi" - "a fake," in Italian - and he warns Scully that the people who killed Emily's adoptive parents will kill again to keep the child's biological secrets. Mulder says he doesn't want to see Scully hurt in her dealings with this child, who was born to be manipulated. Nonetheless, he testifies to a judge about the unique circumstances of Emily's birth, and insists that Scully should be given custody.
That night, Scully receives an anonymous call which Mulder traces to the children's center. There they find Emily burning with fever, and a growth on the back of her neck. When an E.R. doctor punctures the growth over Mulder's protests, the doctor is nearly killed by green toxic material which flows out of the tumor. Emily is put into quarantine, and an MRI reveals that the growth, while not cancerous, extends deep into her brain.
Mulder goes to Transgen Pharmaceuticals to seek Dr. Calderon, who was treating Emily before her mother tried to stop the experiments. The doctor is uncooperative even when Mulder pulls a gun and threatens to kill him. Mulder tails Calderon to a nursing home where two men murder the doctor; then each change shape, and take on his form. One goes to the hospital and injects Emily with green fluid which initially seems to be benefiting her; the man escapes by shapeshifting again. The other Calderon lookalike is tailed by Mulder back to the nursing home.
Inside the home, Mulder is shocked to meet the real Anna Fugazi, and to learn that a number of geriatric women are being given pregnancy hormones. Frohicke checks and discovers that a number of the residents are on record as having given birth within the past few years. They're all patients of Calderon, who puts them in a "beauty sleep" and implants fetuses into them. Mulder finds a ward of unconscious, pregnant old women, and a freezer full of frozen embryos...including a case with Scully's name on it. He steals a vial from the case, but is interrupted first by a detective and then by the shapeshifter pretending to be Calderon, who escapes by taking on the detective's identity after a gunshot renders the detective unconscious when the shapeshifter emits the same greenish fluid as in Emily's tumor.
Emily, meanwhile, is dying - her tissue decaying from the injection she was given. Scully tells Mulder that she would not try to save the girl if she could. The child was created for an agenda, not out of love, and she wants to stop the cruelty. At Scully's request, Mulder leaves, taking with him the vial of Scully's genetic material which he removed from the now-dismantled secret lab.
At Emily's funeral, Mulder tells a despondent Scully that maybe she was meant to find the girl. Scully responds, "She found me." She opens the casket to give Emily the flowers Mulder brought, but the body is gone, turned to dust. Only the cross necklace remains, and Scully lifts it up.
I thought "The Post-Modern Prometheus" was a great stand-alone episode, a clever joke about horror movie scientists who'll do anything to create life in their own images. I didn't realize until the end of "Emily" that the earlier episode was the beginning of a trilogy about the issues raised by Frankenstein: what would it mean to create life in a laboratory, what defines a parent, what happens to human beings conceived without love and raised for an agenda. This was a heartbreaking episode, which I expected because I was certain the child would die. I also expected to feel manipulated, yet I didn't. This wasn't a meaningless death, and it wasn't a wrongful death. Quite the opposite.
This episode hooks into important aspects of the shadow conspiracy and the various medical mysteries of this series, but it's one of the most timeless, universal segments ever, in terms of the issues it raises. There's no bigger mystery than how life begins, and no bigger problem for our own era than the decisions looming as we come closer to understanding and controlling that event. It impacts on all our emotional and spiritual values, as individuals and as a culture as it did in the era when Frankenstein was first written - when women routinely died in childbirth, and rarely survived abortions. Now, when embryos are routinely conceived in test tubes and occasionally "harvested" to make room for others in a womb overcrowded by medical zeal to ensure a successful pregnancy, it's even more complicated.
In some ways, "Emily" is a very conservative episode. The fetuses moving in jars reminded me of some of the doctored footage in antiabortion movies like The Silent Scream. The overall theme suggested that cloning, surrogate parenthood, controlled genetics are too dangerous for human beings to be allowed to handle. Women and children are all too likely to be exploited by evil men - in this episode, the evil characters were all men, though not necessarily all human. I don't much like that - I particularly don't like the image of all women as breeders, given the suggestions in last week's episode that having a child is the most meaningful thing a woman can do with her life. I also don't like the suggestion that only men have a stake in artificial control of genetics, or the werewithal to perform the manipulations. We're all in this mess together, and claiming that biology is destiny in terms of individual choices about reproduction is much too reductive.
Somewhere out there, Scully and other women's genetic material is still being controlled by the successors of Dr. Calderon (very appropriate name - cauldron and caldera all in one, the primordial soup of life and the volcano waiting to explode). This is fiction, but there are hundreds of frozen embryos right now in medical facilities around the world, whose legal status has not been determined. Are they alive? Are they human? If we grant them that status, do we have to do the same for every egg and sperm cell which have managed to find one another, regardless of their condition or the willingness of the genetic providers to become parents...and how can we expect this planet to support every potential being so conceived?
I'm willing to bet that in the very near future, a doctor is going to walk out of a laboratory carrying a full-term fetus in an incubator, grown without the necessity of a mother's womb. The X Files shows us closer to such an event than any scientist has yet claimed, but the questions of who would parent such offspring, who owns genetic material, and what makes a human being are not far-distant problems. It's very courageous of this show to deal with them at all, in this year when people boycott entertainment over the political positions of the producers. By oversimplifying issues to catch-phrases like "pro-choice" and "pro-life," we've managed to put off much broader discussions of who owns the bodies of citizens, the ethics of gene manipulation, and the environmental and eugenic problems we face. The writers of this series seem determined to make us notice the insufficiency of our political language in terms of the underlying dilemmas.
To get this back to the level of individuals, which this episode does so well by focusing on one woman and one child, I have to say that I think Scully's the more psychologically wounded member of the team on this series. She believes herself isolated, even surrounded by family, even at the side of a man who's expressed personal committment to her at the expense of his previous goals - I have not forgotten that when Cancer Man told Mulder he could have what he really wanted, Mulder asked for a cure for Scully's cancer. Yet Scully chooses to be alone. She pushes Mulder away for reasons I don't quite understand, she doesn't call him when she's trying to muddle through the issues facing her. I certainly see why she'd never ask her traditionalist brother Bill for anything, and why she feels she can't expect her mother to understand everything, but why doesn't she try to make friends? Why has she taken on Mulder's quest as her own?
I'd like to believe it's purely that she's a philosopher seeking truths, but her sense of humor has increasingly gone by the wayside, and she seems depressed much of the time. The events of her recent life - abductions, assaults, the deaths of people close to her, some horrible betrayals - certainly explain much of her crisis of faith. But I wonder why she doesn't step away more often, as she did when she got that tattoo last year. I wish there had been more explicit commentary on the fact that Scully might want a child in response to social stimuli like her brother assuming she feels incomplete because she does not have a child, rather than the suggestions that of course she feels incomplete without one because all women do.
I'm no longer sure which questions she's seeking answers to - heck, I'm no longer certain which questions I'm seeking answers to on this series. I've lost track of more threads of the conspiracy than I can remember to count. Which I mean as a good thing. I want Scully to keep seeking and keep guessing at answers, but I'm upset at seeing her beaten down so often. I'd like some indication that people can triumph over the political and ethical questions that we face - or at least, like Frankenstein and "Emily" both suggest, that something as basic as love can make a difference.
Emily's illness has parallels to the virus Mulder was infected with in "Colony" and "End Game" - the E.R. doctor is saved by having her body temperature lowered, and Emily's tumor grows in precisely the same place at the back of her skull as the shapeshifting aliens must be stabbed to be killed. It seems probable that she's a human-alien hybrid (if such things still exist on this show), and even more probable that she could have a clone - either in one of those jars Mulder found, or somewhere out in the world, still alive. I have a feeling this is not the last we'll ever see of Scully's little girl. I don't know how I feel about that - the likelihood that Scully could be yanked around by her maternal instincts is deeply upsetting, and I hope the writers don't start cheap manipulation like we've gotten with the kidnapped Samantha. This series disappoints me when it becomes a women-and-children-in-danger horror movie. I have a lot of confidence, though, in its ability always to be something more.
I'm not a Christian, but the imagery of Scully walking in the dust made me think of that famous poem "Footprints," in which a man asks the Lord why he only sees one set of footprints in the sand during his hour of need, and the Lord replies that He was carrying the man. I would definitely throw up if this show started parroting popular fundamentalist literature, but I find myself wishing that Scully had some sort of faith to lean on. I don't believe that traditional religion is necessary for a fulfilling life any more than I believe that a child is necessary for a woman to feel complete, but in Scully's case, she certainly needs something. She wears the symbol of faith around her neck, but I don't think she believes that love walks with her, or even that the truth is out there. That can be as heartbreaking as losing a child.
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