Evil Is a Disease
"Empedocles" Plot Summary:
Mulder brings Scully a baby gift and jokingly worries that she's in love with the pizza-delivery man, but when she collapses in pain, he rushes her to the hospital. As if he didn't already have enough on his mind, Mulder then receives a phone call from Monica Reyes asking for his help. She is investigating a murder down south and has had a vision of a body turned to ashes -- the same vision she had when she found Doggett's dead son. Moreover, she knows Doggett had the same vision, though he will no longer admit to it.
Mulder agrees to help Reyes investigate, although he is skeptical of any connection between her visions. When Doggett learns that Mulder has opened a file involving his personal history, he becomes furious, but Reyes insists this may be their best chance to catch his son's killer. She tracks down Katha, the sister of Jeb, the suspect from New Orleans. When another victim turns up, Reyes calls both Mulder and Doggett to the scene to see whether Doggett sees this body turned to ashes. Doggett rejects any possible connection with his son's case, but when he's alone with Scully in her hospital room, he keeps having visions of the discovery of his son's body -- which he did envision turned to ashes.
When Jeb takes his own niece hostage, Doggett puts down his gun and says he just wants to talk, but Reyes shoots the suspect to protect the little girl. At the hospital where Jeb lies dying, Reyes says that maybe their saving the niece is the only connection with Doggett's son's death, but she thinks it's still a good thing. Mulder tells Doggett of the theory that evil exists as a disease triggered by a tragic event in the life of the perpetrator, but he still can't see any connection between Doggett's son's murder and this latest case. When Jeb dies, his evil enters his sister, who attacks Reyes. Doggett saves her. Meanwhile Scully learns that her condition is no longer critical and goes home to open Mulder's baby gift, a doll.
Sorry if that's a half-assed summary but "Empedocles" is a half-assed episode. In "Invocation," a supernatural event tied into the death of Doggett's son, and we get more of the same here. In that episode and "Closure," in which Mulder supposedly shut the book on Samantha, we're given a suggestion that the end justifies the X-File: as long as the evil is harnessed in the future, it doesn't matter what random series of supernatural events ties it to the past. This is incredibly sloppy storytelling technique.
So Mulder makes quack speeches about evil being a disease -- speeches he doesn't even believe, although as he says, he'll believe almost anything. Meanwhile Doggett maintains his skepticism, even though he lost someone closer to him than Mulder was to his sister and even though he has more concrete evidence of supernatural goings-on from his past life than Scully had when she joined The X-Files. Scully says she likes Reyes, and the newest agent certainly has chemistry with all three series regulars, but her rah-rah spiritualist psychobabble adds exponentially to the give-me-a-break garbage quotient on this show. I'm starting to like Kersh a lot; unlike everyone else, as far as we know, he's never had a paranormal experience.
Empedocles was the Greek philosopher who said all matter was composed of fire, air, water, and earth. I'm trying to come up with some sort of equation whereby Mulder is fire, Scully is water, Doggett is earth and...oh, forget it. Fire is the relevant element in this episode, as it's the external representation of the evil in Jeb; it passes right over him without injuring him, and we see it burning through his face when he Does Bad Things. And when he dies, it passes on to his sister, who is angry rather than relieved when Reyes rescues her daughter from his threats of murder and tries to kill her with her own gun. Lovely family.
The weirdest part of this episode is the fact that Doggett only experiences his son's discovery -- or perhaps, as Reyes says, he can only allow himself to experience his son's discovery -- in the presence of Scully, usually when she's asleep or drugged. We've getting not-too-subtle suggestions in previous episodes that he's falling in love with her, but what does it mean if he feels closest to her when she's unconscious, unable to start a debate with him about things he obviously wants to believe? He does a lot more talking with Mulder, his rival, adversary, and principal X-File thus far. No one seems weirded out anymore about how recently Mulder was dead -- not even Reyes, who practically jokes with him about it since he can't remember the first time they "met."
And to think I was worried Mulder wouldn't be allowed back on The X-Files after such a long absence. It's Scully who's missing, as she's been missing most of this season -- pregnancy seems to be a convenient excuse to think about nothing else. Next week we get more Mulder-Doggett bonding as the skeptical agent comes face to face with the legendary black oil. It'll probably be standard action-movie fare with some new loopy arc stuff, but it's just fine with me having the guys go off together -- Doggett throwing Mulder into a wall during "Empedocles" is my second-favorite scene all season, just behind the one in "Three Words" where Mulder attacks Doggett in Skinner's office. Maybe when the women stop fretting over babies, they can add something entertaining to The X-Files.
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