X-Files Flashback: ‘Essence’


Season 8, Episode 20
Director: Kim Manners
Writer: Chris Carter

When properly inspired, Chris Carter could really turn out a fantastic episode of The X-Files or three. Even though the upcoming series revival apparently focuses only on mythology subject matter, it’s somewhat heartening to see additional examples of where Carter got it right, mythology wise. I’m long on the record as being a “monster of the week” person, but I’m willing to give mythology episodes their just desserts when they deserve it. “Essence” just happens to be an excellent example of The X-Files‘ mythology running  full steam ahead. By the end of the episode, most of the major cast and a handful of fan-favorite supporting members are all brought out in a thrilling attempt to save Scully’s baby. I’ll be damned if even I didn’t get caught up in the excitement.

“Essence” basically runs two stories in parallel that eventually converge by its end. One involves Scully’s baby shower and new at-home assistant (Lizzy Gill, played by Frances Fisher) hired by her mother. Of course, this being The X-Files, Gill is a double agent of sorts and works for the Syndicate. She tampers with Scully’s medications and is eventually caught by Scully. Turns out, Scully’s baby is the object of interest of multiple parties, and Gill was instructed by the Syndicate to ensure the baby is delivered safely. When she tampered with Scully’s meds, it was to switch them out with vitamins, not something nefarious. Scully’s child is not an alien-human hybrid but is instead a perfect human baby with no weakness or frailties, genetically engineered to counteract the alien hybrid soldiers who are waiting for another colonization attempt.

One such super solider is Billy Miles who, in the episodes parallel story line, stalks the doctors and genetic engineers responsible for the program that spawned Scully’s baby. He brutally murders them one by one and nearly kills Mulder in the process. By the end of the episode, Scully and Mulder are nearly cornered by Miles as they attempt to flee town, but Alex Krycek hits Miles with his car, only stunning him momentarily. Krycek takes Mulder and Scully to Doggett and Skinner where they regroup and bring in Monica Reyes for additional assistance. In a fantastically directed sequence, Scully is eventually whisked away when Miles is pushed from the top of a building into a garbage truck. And the action is to be continued, naturally…

“Essence” plugs along genially at the beginning, giving Anderson the kind of material she hasn’t had in a few episodes. Casting Frances Fisher as the suspect nanny was also a stroke of genius as the actress has a naturally harsh and suspicious look about her, even when playing a perfectly genial person. As a persistent, Michael Myers-like threat, Billy Miles is an effective foe, although all human characteristics seem to have devolved completely. He’s more of a killing machine than anything else, but we have enough back story so that I didn’t really mind the shift. Like Michael Myers, he’s a seemingly innocent, baby-faced instrument of death, which is a chilling dichotomy. But it’s not until the very end sequence where the action really hits home. The sequence deftly structures its multiple players in various locations all over the FBI building – in elevators, in stairs, on the roof – to attempt to stop Miles as Scully is saved. The sequence is so efficient and effective that it nearly feels shot in a single take. It wasn’t, of course, but the result is the same – a heart-racing example of a well made action sequence.

Let’s hope the same filmmaking prowess is made available in the eighth season finale.

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