Thursday, February 07, 2013
The X-Files 20th Anniversary Blogging: "Eve" (December 10, 1993)
“Eve” is our X-Files episode of the week as we continue to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the classic Chris Carter TV series. This eleventh episode of the fledgling series was penned by Kenneth Biller and Chris Brancato, and directed by Fred Gerber.
“Eve” commences as Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Duchovny) fly to Greenwich, Connecticut to investigate the death of a suburban man who was drained of blood. Mulder suspects alien abduction is behind the murder, citing examples of cattle-mutilations with a similar modus operandi. At first, the only witness, young Teena Simmons (Sabrina Krievans), seems to obliquely corroborate this theory.
When an identical murder occurs in Marin County, California, however, and the only witness is a dead ringer for Teena, little Cindy Reardon (Erica Krievans). Scully and Mulder realize that they are looking not at an alien abduction case, but a case involving illicit experiments in in-vitro fertilization.
While Scully investigates the activities of a doctor named Sally Kendrick (Harriet Sansom Harris) at the Luther Stapes fertility clinic, Mulder learns more on the subject from his covert government informant, Deep Throat (Jerry Hardin).
Deep Throat reveals a top-secret genetic experiment of the 1950s called “The Litchfield Project” that was designed to compete with a similar eugenics program in the Soviet Union. The goal was to breed a new race of super-soldiers. The American version of the project created a number of “Adams” and “Eves,” all identical, all incredibly-intelligent…and all homicidal.
After visiting with the incarcerated Eve 6 (Sansom Harris) at the Whiting Institute for the Criminally Insane, Scully and Mulder realize that Eve 7 and Eve 8 may still be free, and even attempting to kill Cindy and Teena, the grandchildren of the program, essentially.
Unfortunately, their suspicions prove absolutely wrong, and Teena and Cindy prove to be far more cunning adversaries than either F.B.I. agent could have possibly predicted.
At the heart of “Eve” is a well-worn horror trope involving evil children. In the 1950s, the movie The Bad Seed famously raised a crucial issue regarding diabolical children: nature or nature?
Could a child be evil by dint of the genetic material passed on from his or her parents? Or did that evil arise out of the manner in which he or she was raised?
The X-Files takes that notion a step further – and straight into the post-modern 1990s -- by noting that an evil child might actually be designed so by over-reaching scientists run amuck. Although the twins possess superior intellect and cunning, these girls were not gifted with a superior sense of morality, and that fact makes them monsters.
Didn’t the scientists ever stop to think about morality? How about mere emotional stability?
The 1990s was indeed a perfect time to re-visit the notion of evil children, and accordingly a few horror movies of the era did so, including The Good Son (1993). The reason this issue was so timely a concern involves the development, in 1990, of the Human Genome Project, an initiative designed to map fully our DNA.
In terms of the horror genre and its development, this scientific project was every bit as important, creatively, as was the Manhattan Project to an earlier era. In both cases, creative artists explored the notion that “tampering in God’s domain” could effectively destroy mankind. By harnessing the atom in the 1940s, and by mapping the human genome in the 1990s, mankind was opening “Pandora’s Box.” The “real” monster in “Eve” is thus wanton genetic experiment, vetted without a controlling, moral authority.
The Krievan twins portray Teena and Cindy here, and do a remarkable job. They play their roles, at first, as though everything happening to the girls is observed from some great emotional distance. They are disassociated from the horrific and monstrous things happening around them.
Late in the episode, we understand that this distance arises from a lack of empathy. The deaths of their foster-fathers means nothing to the girls, emotionally-speaking, and their almost blank facades embodies not shock, but mere boredom.
In the finale, when the audience learns their true nature, the twins finally reveal a new aspect: childish glee in their anti-social activities. To the very end, Teena and Cindy try to manipulate others with their childish appearances. “We didn’t do anything wrong,” they insist, “we’re just little girls…”
The distance between Teena and Cindy’s youthful appearance and their evil acts is one factor that makes this episode so chilling, and therefore so successful. There’s something deeply disturbing about children who are disconnected from their emotions, and also, deceitful and manipulative.
Again and again in the episode, Scully and Mulder make mistakes because they can’t quite reckon with the idea that these little girls could possibly be monsters. They can’t make the leap that appearance isn’t reality.
Interestingly, “Eve” doesn’t end without an important, if brief glance towards the “nurture” end of the eternal debate about children. Cindy’s mother, after learning of her daughter’s evil behavior, completely abandons her. She cuts her off. She rips up her photograph of Cindy and burns it in a fire. This is not the act of a loving mother, even one whose child has acted badly.
Call this the Frankenstein Principle. We make life in our own image, but when we don’t like that image, we dismiss that life as “monstrous.” Suddenly, it’s not a part of the family anymore. It can never be spoken of aloud…just burn all the photographs in the fireplace.
This act or purging a family member, depicted in the finale of “Eve,” suggests that Cindy and Teena aren’t the only ones who lack empathy, and perhaps that “missing” factor is indeed a matter of nurture.
If these girls had been raised in loving homes, would they have resorted to murder, even factoring in the genetic predisposition towards instability?
In terms of the character development, “Eve” is a necessary piece of The X-Files puzzle for a few reasons. I often read other critical evaluations of the series, and some reviewers have complained (loudly) that the series is not actually concerned with the science vs. belief battle, but rather with a strange kind of faith in which Mulder is always right, a priori, no matter what. These critics see Mulder as unrealistic. They term him infallible, always able to guess what is happening and deduce correctly the solution to a mystery.
As a reviewer, I don’t see this as a legitimate complaint about the series, and could point to “Eve” as Exhibit A refuting it.
Here, the episode begins with Mulder hell-bent on proving a case of alien abduction. He discusses missing time (a call-back to the pilot episode), cattle-mutilations and the like. He obsesses over the idea of a “red cloud” in the sky on the day of the crime. Young Teena – sensing Mulder’s desire to reach a pre-ordained conclusion -- plays into his vanity and supports Mulder’s reading of the investigation. She is doing this merely to trick him and throw him off the scent.
As the investigation unravels, Mulder realizes he is barking up the wrong tree, and drops his theory, as any smart investigator concerned with the facts rightly would. The conclusion to draw here is that he saw a commonality between a contemporary case and some old case in his X-Files, but that the lead didn’t pan out.
So, already -- just ten episodes in -- the series is proving that Mulder can be wrong, and in his zealousness to be right, even make mistakes. This quality makes him a fallible and interesting protagonist, not the kind of “infallible” master detective I’ve seen him described as in other reviews. His viewpoint is not constantly validated.
There’s also a very nice, very effective moment in “Eve” that plays upon audience expectations and desires regarding the Scully/Mulder relationship. Scully and Mulder have “rescued’ the two girls, and are unaware of their true, homicidal natures. They decide to take care of the girls, and drive them to their next destination. On the long road trip, the girls need to use the bathroom, and Mulder, slightly annoyed, pulls over at a rest-stop restaurant.
With a slight smile, Scully takes the two girls to the bathroom with her, while Mulder gets their order of four sodas. While he uses the rest-room, one of the girls poisons two of the sodas, the ones meant for the F.B.I. agents.
There’s a great dramatic conflict in this scene between what Scully and Mulder (and a waitress) believe is happening, and what is actually happening.
Scully and Mulder are knowingly playing Mom and Dad, and seem to recognize it…and even enjoy the roleplaying a little. That waitress thinks Mulder is the twins’ dad, and says so.
As viewers tantalized by the Mulder/Scully relationship, we too are pulled into this world of sudden parentage, though we know better. Despite our knowledge, we are suddenly contextualizing these folks in terms of a “family,” something that has explicitly always been denied the original Adams and Eves.
Then, of course, the illusion is shattered, and Mulder realizes at the last moment that the girls have poisoned the sodas. It’s a wonderful moment when he realizes the truth, and realizes, fully, how successfully the girls can play on the illusion that they are made of sugar and spice and everything nice…plus, apparently, a healthy dollop of foxglove.
A tense, intriguing, and fun episode, “Eve” is another bonafide victory for the first season team. In terms of The X-Files canon, it points towards the series’ obsession with genetic experimentation and research. “Eve” is sort of the tip of that iceberg on that front, and the theme will return in a big way in later seasons, though in a more intimate fashion that affects Scully and Mulder directly.
“Eve” thus represents a promise of things to come -- and another indicator of past government malfeasance -- rather than a direct connection to the overarching Mytharc.
Next Week: “Beyond the Sea.”