8×20: Essence

“Your baby was a miracle. Born of a barren mother’s barren womb.” — Alex Krycek

As everyone prepares for the birth of Scully’s child, a new danger emerges in the form of super soldiers trying to put an end to the birth.

Essence

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Radhika: There’s an unwritten rule on The X-Files that our protagonists can’t have nice things. And so, it’s not entirely shocking that Scully — a once-barren woman about to give birth to a child she wants so badly — can’t really have a pleasant birthing experience. What we receive in turn is an action-packed episode with our heroes (and some friends and unlikely allies) up against some crazy new foes.

After a number of stretches where the show generally ignored Scully’s pregnancy, we’re finally at game time: Scully’s preparing to give birth — her mother’s helping her out, baby showers are happening and a woman named Lizzy Gill, found by Margaret Scully, is around to help as well. Meanwhile, a suspicious fire takes place at a genetics laboratory, leading Mulder to go to John Doggett in an effort to get to the bottom of things. “Billy Miles” is the culprit behind this and other attacks on labs — he’s now a reprogrammed alien replacement for Billy Miles (as indicated by weird bumps on the back of his neck), out to destroy evidence of experiments involving alien biology.

In the midst of all this chaos, Scully realizes that Lizzy Gill is something of a plant, monitoring Scully’s pregnancy — but the woman reassures our favorite agent that there is nothing wrong with her child, a perfect human child who has no weaknesses. The focus turns to Scully and her child — with Mulder, Skinner and even Alex Krycek joining in to help save the baby. According to Krycek, the aliens are trying to wipe out humans’ abilities to survive invasion and Scully’s child, a miracle baby, is somewhat scary to the extraterrestrials.

Essence

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

The episode culminates with Reyes trying to help Scully get away — and they’re guided away by another agent while Mulder and Doggett battle Billy Miles, who ends up pushed off a building into a garbage truck that compacts him. But as the episode concludes, we see the agent that told Scully and Reyes to get away also has the tell-tale misshapen neck, which means they may have been fooled by sinister forces.

While it doesn’t live up to the crazier, classic mythology episodes of yore, “Essence” is a fairly well-done episode with a sense of urgency that helps make it a compelling watch. With even Alex Krycek being willing to help our agents out, it becomes clear that Scully’s pregnancy is no joke (though of course the fate of our world has to rest on the shoulders of our protagonists’ kid, right?). And while there’s an element of newness in this episode, with Doggett and Reyes playing their respective roles, it’s nice to see familiar players like Krycek and even Margaret Scully (in her own way) back in the game.

Essence

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

It’s kind of sweet seeing Scully have a baby shower earlier in the episode — while it’s such a normal thing for a woman to go through, these types of things are rare for Scully and often times, when we do actually see her go out on a date or do something semi-normal, it’s too awkward or ill-suited for the show. But there’s something poignant and bittersweet here: Scully’s finally getting to experience something she wants, but we the viewers are well aware that there’s a ticking clock here in more ways than one.

Max: The ticking clock scenario is amplified by the very claustrophobic nature of the second half of the episode, as our assembled group of heroes work to prevent Scully and her unborn child from falling victim to the young man who has now turned into a new breed of alien-human hybrid, dead set on causing harm to the expectant mother. Scully is shuttled back and forth from the halls of the Bureau to the adjoining parking garage, something that Krycek couldn’t help cracking a joke about when he is told by Skinner to stay behind, only to be pressed into service when Billy Miles is within striking distance.

Essence

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Parking garages have turned from an homage to All The President’s Men into a potent motif of the mythology, a place where the dirty dealings of the conspiracy are conducted and where secrets are trafficked like so much currency. For us, in this episode, this knowledge takes the form of the paternity of Scully’s child as well as the potential of what this child could be to both the remnants of the human collaborators as well as the Colonists intent on retaking the planet.

Radhika spoke about how this episode compares to earlier entries in the mythology, and I think the somewhat singular focus on Scully and her pregnancy does a lot of good in strengthening the impact that the episode has, bringing us to a place where the tension and stakes are high, a perfect environment for the final episode of the season to payoff everything that has been seeded since Mulder got himself abducted in the forests of Bellefleur.

Essence

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Speaking of Spooky, not even an unceremonious firing from the Bureau can keep him away from potential X-Files, or in assisting Doggett with investigating the Zeus Genetics fire and Billy Miles’ efforts in getting rid of the humans experimenting with extraterrestrial genetics. Mulder may not have met Doggett in one of those prototypical parking garages, but I picked up a definite informer vibe from his interactions with his successor. Unfortunately, Duchovny will be gone from the show — barring the series finale — after this season, but one could only imagine how cool it would’ve been to have Mulder assume the mantle that Deep Throat, X, and Marita Covarrubias left behind. Doggett and Reyes may not have had the indelible chemistry of their predecessors, but with Scully at Quantico and Mulder looming the shadows, perhaps season nine could’ve avoided its fate.

All the players are in action on the chessboard, with the extremely personal stakes of Scully’s baby in the balance. But then again, when aren’t the stakes in The X-Files extremely personal? As Scully lamented, she “can’t live like this—as, as the object of some unending X-File.” Mulder and Scully’s lives have been utterly consumed by their cases, and their names feature way too many times in those white and red folders. In fact, one has to wonder who all those women at the baby shower are, given how it has been established that our heroes have little in the way of friends or social lives! But now it the time of graver concerns, and Scully has a date with perhaps the strangest delivery since Rosemary’s Baby.

YES, IT’S THAT LADY

Frances Fisher – Seen here as Lizzy Gill, Fisher has had a long and varied career, starting with soap operas like The Edge of Night and Guiding Light. Film credits include Titanic, Unforgiven and House of Sand and Fog. Additional TV credits include Roseanne and Matlock.

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One thought on “8×20: Essence

  1. It’s also quite a bittersweet episode; we knew at that point that Duchovny wasn’t coming back for the following Season, which really made it difficult to watch. I remember being caught between wanting the episode to finish so I would find out what happened and not wanting it to ever end because it was one episode closer to no Mulder!

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