“Okay then. How do you feel now? Why don’t you tell me what your company’s really in the business of. Huh? Abducting women and stealing their unborn children? Medical rapists! That’s all you are! You don’t care if that little girl dies! She’s just a lab rat to you!”
The enigma that is little Emily Sim continues as Scully attempts to reverse Emily’s declining health while Mulder gets to the bottom of her creation.
Max: If the first episode of this two-parter dealt primarily with the deep emotions that the discovery of the little girl named Emily stirred up within Scully, then this installment represents the the usual twists and turns that are the familiar contours of conspiracy within The X-Files. Called to San Diego ostensibly as a character witness on Scully’s behalf in her attempt to adopt the child, Mulder’s conjectures to the deciding judge over what Emily could possibly be opens up the avenues we as viewers will traverse.
Throughout the episode, I could not help but draw comparisons to the show Orphan Black, which just completed its second season. Both involve genetic experimentation which results in the birth of human girls whose sole purpose seem to be the product of illicit pharmaceutical research. In “Christmas Carol,” Scully contended with the roles that society prescribed for her versus those she ascribed to herself.
Those threads become complicated in a quite insidious fashion, as Dr. Calderon, the man responsible for the treatment of Emily’s condition, is shown to have experimented on a population of elderly women inside of a nursing home. After following Calderon into the home, Mulder (with the help of Frohike) determines that these women have been given hormones normally produced during childbirth, and stumbles upon a rather ghastly room filled with pregnant elderly women. Emily is the result of one of these pregnancies, presumably using the same ovum Mulder discovered in “Memento Mori.”
Meanwhile, Scully’s attempts at treating Emily’s condition prove to be fruitless, especially after Mulder discovers the tell-tale mark of alien-human hybrids on the back of Emily’s neck. Things get even more dire when Dr. Calderon refuses to release Emily’s medical records, and is later seen at the hospital injecting a foreign green substance into Emily. Scully attempts to apprehend him, but she nabs a different looking man. If that tingles your spider-sense, then you’d be correct. Calderon is actually one of a trio of shapeshifting clones, the other two being the shadowy men who “visited” Mr. Sim in prison last episode. By the end of the hour, we don’t know much outside of these basic facts, as any trace of the experimental program that produced Emily is cleaned up, and sadly Emily herself succumbs to her condition a few days after slipping into a coma.
The episode itself weaves together various strands of the mythology that haven’t yet converged on each other. The use of the elderly as guinea pigs is reminiscent of their use in “Terma” as test subjects for a vaccine for the black oil. And the concept of alien-human hybrids reaches back all the way to “The Erlenmeyer Flask,” where we first got hints of the very important project we would learn is the domain of the CSM and his compatriots in The Syndicate. The oddity though here is that (to my knowledge at least) we never really learn who the Calderon clones were working on behalf of, nor the true purpose of the project that produced Emily Sim. At Emily’s funeral, Mulder and Scully question why she was created in the first place, and the callousness of doing so with the full knowledge that she was born to serve a specific purpose and then die. Mulder comforts his partner by telling her that at least there was the brief time where Emily knew of Scully’s love.
Opening the casket to say goodbye one last time, Scully finds Emily’s body taken, replaced by sandbags. Miraculously (or a plot contrivance, whichever way you look at it), Scully’s cross necklace is left in the casket, a bittersweet reminder of the too-brief maternal bond she shared with the sickly little girl. Scully may have returned to her faith when she was dying of cancer, but I’d be hard pressed to see her finding solace in a God who would present her with a child but take it away just as quickly.
Radhika: As difficult as Scully’s plight is in this episode, I find it admirable that she is eventually willing to give up on holding onto Emily when she realizes the misery the girl has gone through. Mulder presents the possibility of being able to help Emily to Scully, but by that point, Scully has grown staunch in her belief that she can’t — and shouldn’t — do more to prolong the little girl’s life. It’s a difficult decision for someone in Scully’s position to make, but she holds onto her ethics as a scientist (and decent human being) quite well. Whether she struggles with her faith after this is one thing, but Scully’s moral center holds true throughout. It’s all part of what makes the character study element of this two-parter so compelling, soapy sci-fi plot and all.
Mulder is also rather wonderful in this episode, fighting for Emily, fighting for his partner and doing as the latter wishes instead of only following his own personal gut instinct. His mostly silent outrage, minus the outburst quoted at the top of this blog post, is respectful — and while he still continues to blindly plunge into all sorts of missions as the show continues, here, he seems to understand his actions can easily affect someone else. Of course, he does have to explain why he never told Scully sooner about why Emily is even a possibility, but at least he is able to convey that he was trying to protect her.
That said, man — Scully sure has had it rough hasn’t she? By the time this series is over, both characters will have gone through way too much hell for anyone to endure, but this is nearly four seasons of Scully constantly suffering — abduction, attackers, cancer, and now a dying surprise child after finding out she can’t have kids. (And then on top of that, her idiot brother shows up to her surprise daughter’s funeral with his wife and newborn child. Let’s just keep kicking her while she’s down, show!) It’s pretty exhausting to watch at this point and if Gillian Anderson wasn’t such a magnificent actress, I’m not sure how much I’d be able to buy this set of episodes. This is ultimately a sad set of mythology episodes to watch, and while the acting keeps them compelling, I’m happy to move onto the next chapter of the show.