wendelah1: Fox Mulder and Dana Scully (Split the Lark)
[personal profile] wendelah1 posting in [community profile] scully_fest
In truth, I haven't rewatched these episodes in years because they're so depressing; nevertheless Christmas Carol and Emily are essential viewing to understand and appreciate the character arc of Dana Scully.

 photo 64e408ee-b8fd-4953-af52-f96aefafddc6_zps1b64b542.jpg  photo ad64b2d7-5ccc-4b56-9b95-ce6cca4c367f_zpsd21c280c.jpg


Writers: Vince Gilligan,John Shiban and Frank Spotnitz
Director: Peter Markle
Originally aired: December 7, 1997

Synopsis: While visiting her family in San Diego, Scully is contacted by her sister Melissa's spirit, who prompts her to become involved in a murder case. During the course of this investigation, Scully discovers that she has a genetic daughter, Emily, who was created from an ovum stolen from Scully while she was a prisoner of the Consortium.

Most Memorable Quote: Just reading through the quotes is making me feel so sad.
SCULLY: Who are the men who would create a life whose only hope was to die?
MULDER: I don't know. But the fact that you found her... and had a chance to love her... Then maybe she was meant for that too.

Links:
Review by Joanne Larue. We have such a smart fandom. And thank God for the Wayback Machine.
A.V. Club reviews:
Christmas Carol by Zack Handlen
Emily by Todd VanDerWerff
For Emily Wherever We May Find Her by [livejournal.com profile] fialka. Technically this essay is about "All Souls" but you should read it anyway. Also watch "All Souls" when you feel sufficiently recovered from this episode.

Fanfiction: CC/Emily inspired hundreds of stories. These are my favorites.
Arizona Highways by [livejournal.com profile] fialka. My candidate for best TXF novel. Ends in MSR if that matters to you.
Iolokus by [livejournal.com profile] rivkat and [livejournal.com profile] mustangsally78.
The Mill by [livejournal.com profile] cofax7.
Sweet Nothings for the Numb by [livejournal.com profile] amalnahurriyeh.
EDITED TO ADD: Five Years and One Night by Shalimar. Also at Gossamer.
Soliloquy: Bill Scully by Fialka.

Date: 2014-02-19 06:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tri-sbr.livejournal.com
oh shit. someone pass the tissues please.

Date: 2014-02-19 07:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tri-sbr.livejournal.com
yeah, there are a bunch of things to say, but right now i'm still recovering.

Date: 2014-02-20 09:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tri-sbr.livejournal.com
I scribbled down a lot of things as I watched, but then I read the linked review by Joanne Larue, and she said everything I thought plus more so much better than I would be able to.

I think part of what makes these episodes so sad, aside from the obvious, is that Scully feels so terribly *alone* in them. I get that her family doesn't realize in the beginning that she can't have children so I can't blame them for the excitement over Tara's pregnancy that reminds Scully of what she can't have, but when she finds Emily, they are just not at all supportive. It seems like she used to be able to talk to Melissa, but Melissa is gone. Bill has the gall to tell her that it isn't about Emily but about Scully wanting to fill a void in herself, and that she is creating the whole scenario to fulfill a dream. Wow. And she barely reacts to that - maybe she knows anything she would say would make it worse, but still, I wanted her to smack him. This bothers me about Bill, much more than his reaction to Scully's (almost) dying in the Reduxes.

She comes up against resistance from Kresge and from the condescending old guy pathologist / ME who doesn't want to entertain the idea that Roberta Sim may have been drugged as opposed to it being suicide until Scully finds absolute proof. Again, we see she is alone in trying to figure out what's going on.

The adoption woman throws up every obstacle and line of reasoning as to why Scully shouldn't have Emily. Scully confesses to her that she has avoided emotional attachments and has not allowed herself to get too close to people in the past, but that she doesn't feel that way anymore. (Although, I don't really see evidence of this supposed shift to more emotional closeness in Scully.)

She certainly closes herself off to Mulder. At the very start, she calls him only to hang up before he can answer. Then, he does come to San Diego, but she only lets him in marginally, even though he wants to and tries to be there for her in the hospital and after the funeral. He so clearly feels her pain and wants to share it, but knows that she won't really let him. I do think his words after the funeral are something of a comfort; sometimes Mulder knows what to say.

Not sure there is a point to any of this; just some thoughts.

Also, that teen-aged Melissa was well-cast in terms of looks, I thought.

Re: Part 1

Date: 2014-02-21 02:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tri-sbr.livejournal.com
I guess I do expect more from Bill; before they know it's Scully's daughter, there is decent reason to believe it's Melissa's daughter, and even if the circumstances are confusing, that possibility combined with the news that Scully can't have children could have engendered some compassion in Bill. I say could, not should, because, sure I can imagine someone reacting the way he does, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

I don't think the trip to San Diego is evidence of a shift to greater emotional openness on Scully's part. I don't think we see any signs that this trip is more than it being the holidays and visiting with family is 'what one does' (or at least what the Scullys do) for the holidays. Before Melissa's first call, it sure looks to me like Scully is putting on a happy face and playing the part she feels she is supposed to play on this trip. And, as you mentioned, she hadn't told her mother about not being able to have children until she basically had no choice, so she has kept that closed off from her mother. (Not that I blame her, I'm just saying I can't find this emotional openness she refers to. But, maybe - and I have no real evidence for this either - when Scully says that, she really means that she is *ready* to be more open emotionally, so maybe it's more of an internal thing.)

Re: Part 1

Date: 2016-08-14 07:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hooves.livejournal.com
I agree entirely with your read on Bill. I'm probably one of the few people who actually likes Bill in the sense that he's generally a believable sort of guy; Dana hardly shares anything with her family, least of all with her brother, and so his understanding of her life and of her personal feelings is...limited.

It reminds me a lot of some of my familial relationships. I, too, am from a family of siblings, a set of two boys and two girls, and am closest, of course, to my sister. My brothers tend to find me emotionally distant, cold. My sister oftentimes does, too, but she's always known there was more below the surface; I've been pulling up barriers since I was a kid; I couldn't even tell you when it started happening. In that way I feel some kind of a connection to Dana as a person, but I think it also helps me understand Bill, who probably primarily knows only what Dana wants him to know because Dana is the sort of person that doesn't want to burden anyone else with herself: her needs, her wants, her overwhelming tides of emotion about things she'd have to explain in detail if she brought them up at all.

In light of this, Bill's reaction seems pretty realistic. She's been through so much and he knows that most recently it was cancer that very nearly killed her. Months of recovery until she looked whole again and even then I doubt she looked the same to him. I understand that he blames Mulder for this probably only a little less than he blames Dana. He hates Mulder because Mulder doesn't stop it. He can stop it, he's the only one with the sway to do so, but he doesn't. Mulder needs her and I think he resents that: probably resents the fact that Mulder needs her and doesn't even know it, isn't even aware of it. He's dragged Scully into one horrible thing after another, her family getting calls about her being missing or presumed dead or terminally ill and everything points back to Mulder, to the job she was never supposed to have taken, and in Bill Scully's eyes, what can he see except the fact that Fox Mulder takes and takes and takes but doesn't ever give. That takes its toll on people, you know? Her job, her near-misses with death: he thinks his sister is falling apart at the seams, desperately wanting an out of the life she has because it's destroying her but also desperately clinging to it because she's become so reliant on its inconsistent consistency.

Dana Scully comes off as unreasonable and paranoid to almost everyone in this episode, especially her family. I, too, wish we had seen more of her family's reaction to the news of Emily being hers. Mostly, I think it would raise questions that Dana herself would be unable or simply not ready to answer, most of all to her family. I feel like she could probably tell Mulder about them, but her own family might think she was far over the edge, and--well, what a mess that would be.

As far as Dana's phone call to Mulder goes, I think she oftentimes wants to talk to him, wants to really just...talk to him. Tell him things. Confide in him. But I also feel that her gut stops her every time. She probably wanted to hear his voice, wanted to tell him exactly what was on her mind, and then he answers and she freezes up; she cares about him, certainly loves him, and she can't burden him, can't bother him. Pack it all away, all the things you feel, put them in a box and close the lid, don't bother Mulder with your own stuff. This isn't his quest. His plate is full, don't put more on it.

I occasionally wonder how secretly self-deprecating Scully might be, but I'm not sure how much a role that could have played here in these episodes. I feel that at least it part a shadow of it was present.

Re: Part 2

Date: 2014-02-21 03:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tri-sbr.livejournal.com
I think I agree with quite a lot of what you say about Scully doing the best she can to hold herself together and about not having a reason to let Mulder in. And, to clarify, I definitely do not think Mulder feels her pain as in he knows/understands what she is feeling; I meant he feels her pain more in the sense that she feels pain and he hurts because of it. (and he's enraged too! of course he is. I'm glad he's enraged.)

I do see Mulder as more supportive than Bill. He comes to San Diego when she calls. We know and Scully knows he says sort of jerk-y things sometimes, so him saying he shouldn't have come doesn't have the impact it might have were it someone else. He does argue to the adoption people for Scully to get Emily, despite the danger it puts Scully in. (And in their private discussion where he brings up the potential dangers, Scully does agree with his points - she says something to the effect that she has considered those things but she has also considered that this is the right thing to do. And he knows it is too. This is a world away from her conversation with Bill, where Bill doesn't take her at all seriously.) And, again, the reviewer said it better than I could, but when he asks Scully who is going to protect her (Scully) if she has Emily, clearly it's a ridiculous thing to say, because he will! He is not kidding anybody.

Hmm, all of this is not to suggest I want to let Mulder off the hook. In a different conversation, I would probably be the one saying the sorts of things you are saying about where Scully is coming from. I'm not condoning or excusing Mulder's withholding of information from her. I guess my original point (was there one? :)) was about her being alone in a lot of different ways and about how sad that made me. I don't think there is a fix for that in the context of these episodes. There is no way anyone else except Mulder will ever be able to understand all of the things that have happened in Scully's life, so even with some rotten decisions on his part, if she is going to let someone in at some point, I think it's gotta be him. If they can get to that point.

I would be interested to hear your take on the end if you have time at some point. In the meantime, I hope you get some sleep and feel better!

Re: Part 2

Date: 2016-08-14 07:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hooves.livejournal.com
I think Mulder wants to understand Scully's pain, but can't. For all intents and purposes he can still have children if he wishes to, though not with Scully (accepting the canon at this point is that she's 100% infertile and he believes that). I don't think he could understand the unique situation Scully is in, or how she came to be put in it in the first place. It almost feels engineered, and that's terrifying. This little girl has no parents anymore; she needs somebody. Scully is biologically her mother and cannot have children any longer. In fact, she's quickly nearing the end cap of Safe Years to have children even if she was fertile. Custody should have been swiftly given to her; I always felt that someone else was blocking it, that pressure was being put on foster/child care services to delay the process. Emily would have died no matter what; her treatment didn't seem to be something she would grow out of; she would need it constantly for the rest of her life and she was a pawn from the start, an experiment. If she hadn't died the way she did someone or something else would have killed her; I'm sure of that, and I'm sure Mulder was sure of that, and I'm not sure Scully could quite grasp it in her emotional state but I think she was trying to.

Anyway, my point is that Mulder could not possibly grasp what it is his partner is going through in these episodes. He can try but he'll always come up blank. He is not a woman, he was not abducted, he has no chip in his neck, he didn't suffer terminal cancer, he didn't survive medical rape or infertility. All he can do is see things from the outside, and what he probably sees is Scully, acting and appearing emotionally unstable, desperate to reclaim something she's lost, terrified of losing this chance--her only shot at having biological children. In this way I think Mulder felt Scully wasn't really capable of giving Emily the kind of home she would need as a special needs case. She would have to leave the X-Files. I wish this had been explored more thoroughly and with a dose of sympathy from Mulder. But I think deep down Mulder knew Emily would die, knew Scully would never get custody of her because They wouldn't want her to, knew it was all a waste of time--and made the effort for Scully's sake to try anyway because there was nothing to lose.

But there really is no forgiving his tactlessly not telling her about those ova before going in there to spew it out publicly. Way to go, Mulder: make her feel like everyone else knows more about her body than she does. UGH.

My point is this: I wouldn't let him in emotionally, either, after that. I'd feel justified in keeping him out.

But I wanted to comment, too, on your bit about Mulder being a dangerous man, especially when he's angry. He does feel rage. He's a huge jerk to Dr. Calderon, who might have deserved some rage directed at him, but Mulder does a terrible job of channeling his emotions. Since Scully's abduction all she's ever needed and wanted from Mulder is for him to be there for her when it counts, and it seemed that he learned that lesson in the end, right? It seemed that way. And then the character development fell away from him, almost as if he'd never realized it to begin with. Like he fights and he fights and he fights because fighting is all he knows, all he's good at, all he feels capable of doing, and in the case of Scully's cancer he made a choice to pursue a cure and it wasn't a waste of his time, but there are times when what she needs is for him to stand beside her and hold her hand and tell her it'll be okay. But he didn't do that, here; he fought for her and for Emily in his own (frankly terrible) way, but what Scully probably needed the most was some tangible emotional support from him.

Like I wouldn't say his feelings are completely irrelevant but by this point in the series he should have known better, and I'm not sure if I should blame it on Mulder or on bad writing/inconsistent characterization, tbh.

Date: 2014-02-21 02:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] discordantwords.livejournal.com
This arc always seemed so exceptionally cruel coming right on the heels of Scully's remission. Looking back, I can see where the fan anger that ultimately led to Iolokus came from.

The two episodes are distinctly different in tone. I actually quite like Christmas Carol. It's an interesting glimpse into the Scully family dynamic. On my most recent rewatch I found myself sympathizing with Bill-- from his perspective, his sister flies all the way out to California to spend time with the family, and then promptly skips all of the events, disappears for large chunks of the day, and is distant and remote even when physically present. To someone not caught up in her world, her behavior is downright bizarre. It's easy for him to default to blaming Mulder, because he has no real concept of what his sister has been through.

And Scully, off on her own, again proving open to extreme possibilities without Mulder there. Kresge is a nice distraction. He's attractive, pleasant, flirty without being pushy. His little "Scully FBI" nickname was endearing. But he's wholly unprepared for the darkness that comes along with the territory.

The ending to Christmas Carol, with Scully, so sure that she's going to find out that Emily is Melissa's daughter, getting her unexpected news, is a gut punch. What a way to end an episode.

Emily, on the other hand, is kind of a mess. Most of the meaty Scully family scenes are sacrificed for more meaningless conspiracy that goes nowhere. Mulder is blindsided and bewildered by everything, but he tries his best. Unfortunately, having Scully answer "no" to a hypothetical "would you treat her" question is not exactly the same as telling her "hey, so this green vial I stole at great risk to my own life might actually be helpful here, maybe you should take a look at it" and winds up being another frustrating example of him choosing to withhold certain facts.

Date: 2014-02-22 01:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estella-c.livejournal.com
I think the best thing about this whole arc is that it inspired "Iolokus."

Date: 2016-08-14 06:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hooves.livejournal.com
What a discussion! I don't have a whole helluva lot to say except that I agree at least a little bit with every comment on this thread. I can see where everyone is coming from, where they're pulling their interpretations/thoughts from.

As far as my personal opinion, I think a lot of what you said is firmly grounded in something noncontextual, and I'll call it common sense. Perhaps that's harsh to the writers but, well, you've all really pulled the receipts on these episodes and I think all of your criticism is justified.

My biggest criticism of the writing in these episodes is probably centered on Mulder's, uh...characterization. He loves Scully; she means nearly everything to him as far as personal relationships go; he knows her better than anyone else at this point in her life...and yet he treats her poorly and never reaps long-term consequences for it. He dares to decide for her what she should and shouldn't know, and we're never made aware of what he's told her vs. what he hasn't. It feels like he never tells her everything about herself and what we end up with is this really inconsistent characterization for Mulder.

...And frankly it feels written to appeal to the male gaze, forgive my intruding feminism. It's the time old narrative where the Action Man goes off and does his own thing and no matter how shitty he is, the love of his life somehow manages enough patience to hold on, to wait for him. I'm so tired of that narrative BS that it's grating to see in this series, particularly this far in when Scully has been characterized as not necessarily being that kind of person.

Don't get me wrong, I think the series did a good job of showing her turning into that kind of person, but someone who has realized that she's slowly become like that and doesn't want anything to do with it anymore. Of course, two minutes later he's back to being terrible an she's still, you know, waiting.

But things like this, like him deciding what's right for her and what isn't, deciding not what she's having for dinner but what she should know about her own body, her life, her ova, her experience... It's like...damn, there should be some fallout for this in some way, some capacity. But. There never is. At least, not as far in the series as I've gotten (middle of S6).

Scully's character has felt fairly consistent throughout the series but Mulder's hasn't, at least not IMO. Sometimes it happens to Scully but I feel that more often than not, Mulder's written to say things just to cause tension in the series between he and Scully. And I hate it.

Date: 2014-02-23 05:30 am (UTC)
maidenjedi: (gaze)
From: [personal profile] maidenjedi
I didn't get a chance to properly rewatch these, and they're so oddly plotted and painful that I'm okay with that.

But I do want to chime in about something. Scully's infertility. How often did we see that issue handled on television prior to this? I can't recall. Despite the later botching of the issue altogether, these two episodes feature some moments that really twist the knife on Scully. And it's an issue that even now, pop culture doesn't always handle well. I think Gillian plays Scully's pain really well; the excitement over Tara's pregnancy, Bill's dig about "filling a void," the subtle pressure about when will Dana have kids, etc. - none of that could be easy for her and a lot of women would not be able to handle it at all.

I wish I could like these episodes. Instead they make me feel incredibly uncomfortable and sad, and I appreciate them for what they tell us about Scully and what they add to the mytharc, but that's as far as it goes. (and, season five being my favorite, I do have to say I think these are the weakest eps in a strong season, in terms of plot)

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