It’s My First Time – The X-Files (Season Two)

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Season Two

Review

Season Two begins with the X-Files unit shut down. This gives the writers the difficult task of essentially hitting the reset switch, placing our heroes in new roles, without erasing what already exists. I thought they handled things well in season opener “Little Green Men”, paying homage to the death of Deep Throat and the new roles both Mulder and Scully have settled into, all while telling a unique story on top of it. I found Mulder’s doubt about himself, stemming from Scully’s own scepticism, a nice touch to keep their connection alive whilst keeping both characters at arm’s length from one another. It also gave Mulder an important arc throughout the episode to set a course for the season to come; he still believes and he will continue to pursue X-Files cases.

I appreciated the fact that order wasn’t immediately restored by the conclusion of the season opener, but separating Mulder and Scully for a large chunk of time didn’t entirely work for me. Whilst I understand it was an unfortunate necessity given the timing of Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy, it’d be a lie to say the show doesn’t suffer for it. Their back and forth repartee is the anchor on which this show hinges on. When the monster of the week wasn’t doing it for me during Season One, it was Mulder’s eagerness to believe and Scully’s overwhelming rationale that kept me engaged. Without it, I found myself tuning out a lot of the time.

The show suffers most during the episode “3”, and that’s largely due to her absence. The episode itself seemed like a misguided attempt at an erotic thriller which was all the rage during the time period but had little hope of working on network television. They skirt around the fact the villains of the week are vampires, with synonyms and such, all as ridiculous as the last. I was pretty much done when the term “blood sport” was used, but somehow I powered through to the end. The piano score sounds like something out of cheap softcore porn and the episodes’ attempts to create that sort of atmosphere are laughable. If it weren’t for Duchovny knocking it out of the park with his performance, it’d be nigh unwatchable.

I’ve found that thus far, I prefer the aliens featured in the series to be theoretical. Anytime there’s a visual representation, I think it comes across as a little bit hokey. The episode “Duane Barry” was riveting, had terrific tension throughout, but as soon as aliens with oversized heads and what appeared to be grey pyjamas showed up, all that tension was gone. It can’t live up to my imagination visually, and it especially couldn’t do so in 1994. There’s the argument to be made that what we’re seeing is part of the character’s psychosis, but the fact still remains, it took me out of the moment and hindered an otherwise dramatic episode.

Scully’s coma throughout “One Breath” causes the episode to suffer from the same problems as “3”, although the marginalisation of the character once again allows for Mulder to be highlighted. We do have some good character exploration for Scully – The use of a crucifix her father gave her is an intriguing insight into the character, the woman of science and chronic non-believer having faith in a higher power. Also, the introduction of Scully’s sister and the return of her mother allowed for Mulder to form a deeper connection to his ailing partner. I particularly enjoyed the somewhat combative relationship at play between Fox and Scully’s sister. There were a couple of really intense scenes between the two of them and helped once again reaffirm the depth of his friendship Scully.

This season featured a number of X-Files cases where sexual assault or sexual harassment was being perpetrated by the monsters of the week. It seems to be a recurring motif throughout the season, whether intentional or unintentional. I think this was never more explicit in the episode “Irresistible” where a man with a fetish for death begins killing women to satisfy his urges. The episode stood out, not only for its tremendously creepy vibe, but because there was nothing paranormal about the villain. That being said, he certainly fits the “monster” bill. Nick Chinlund’s portrayal of Donnie Pfaster is nothing short of skin crawling and every line he delivers is beyond unsettling. I also liked how uncomfortable Scully was throughout the episode. She’s generally so collected that whenever she’s troubled in any way, shape or form, you know things are serious.

Where the mythology episodes shined this season, I felt a number of the monster-of-the-week episodes faltered. They became overly convoluted in an effort to live up the show’s already high standard, or became derivative of prior episodes, such as “Firewalker”, which bore striking resemblance to season one’s “Ice” and “Darkness Falls”. The convoluted nature of many of the plots often leads to rather large leaps in logic to tie it into the series. A good example of this would be “Fearful Symmetry” where Mulder rather erroneously suggests that aliens have been abducting zoo animals and impregnating them via artificial insemination. It’s a bizarre conclusion for him to come to, despite his willingness to believe in the impossible. There are also a number of episodes where things just peter out towards the climax and fail to deliver a satisfying payoff, such as “Død Kalm”. The isolated setting and claustrophobic tone promised much, but the final third of the episode veers off course, as though caught up in its own muddied logic, and copped out of even trying to deliver a satisfying conclusion.

One of the standout episodes of the season, in my opinion, was “Die Hand die Verlelzt”. I loved the way the tone escalated as the episode progressed, going from fairly simplistic and almost humorous in the early portions into something wholly different by the end. There was some truly emotional stuff involving a fantastic emotional breakdown by the young female guest star and a grisly murder committed by a giant snake. Whilst it suffered from some of the same issues as other Monster-of-the-week style episodes, everything came together far better here, resulting in a far more satisfying conclusion. Also worth mentioning is two-parter “Colony” and “End Game”. The opening provided high drama right off the bat and was a break from the usual formula, as it put one of our heroes in immediate danger. What I liked about the episode was how different it felt to all the others. It was ticking along like any other Monster-of-the-week episode until a spanner is thrown in the works things take a drastic turn for the worse. The possible return of his sister gives Mulder an emotional weight to carry and Mulder, true to form, is all too willing to believe.

One thing I’d also like to talk about is how much I dislike episodes where Scully is kidnapped and/or put in jeopardy. I could go on about gender roles and how often the X-Files goes out its way to subvert them, but it would be indulgent and wouldn’t really cover the reasons why I’m not a fan of this particular practice. I don’t enjoy it because it simply feels disingenuous. Scully is portrayed as such a capable and intelligent character 99% of the time, that when she is put in harm’s way, I simply don’t buy it. I believe she should be able to subdue her captor and turn the tables without needing Mulder’s assistance, or be smart enough not to get caught in the first place. I feel like the writers really have to stretch themselves thin in trying to create these scenarios and explain how she’s outsmarted, and it’s often to their own detriment. It’s like that horror film trope where the heroine always opens the door, even when there’s no logical reason for her to do so. And let’s face it, there’re nine seasons of this show, a couple of movies and a revival miniseries on the way … neither one of these characters are going to die. That, of course, was not known at the time of airing, but that’s the trouble with reviewing this show twenty years down the line I guess.

The climax of Season Two in the episode “Anasazi” may just trump “The Erlenmeyer Flask” that concluded Season One. It’s exactly what you want from a finale, throwing everything presented throughout the course of the season into one pot and delivering a more than satisfying mix. It covers so much ground, it’s almost inconceivable that the episode still manages to put together a coherent plot. It even managed to touch on the fact that Scully was originally placed with Mulder to keep tabs on him, which had been largely forgotten since the Pilot episodes. As a finale, it gives just enough in the way of answers to satisfy, whilst adding a whole new layer of questions and information to be absorbed. I can’t imagine the absolution frustration suffered by fans of the show back then, who would have to wait months on end for Season Three to begin.

Overall, there was a lot to like about my venture into Season Two. The introduction of Alex Krycek adds a new dimension to the show and provides a good foil for Mulder to play off. It’s interesting to note that I took an instant dislike to Krycek, despite being portrayed initially as a straight-laced FBI Agent, simply because he was replacing Scully as Mulder’s partner. That dislike only intensified after discovering his affiliation with the Smoking Man and intent on hindering Mulder and Scully from reuniting. The slow burn introduction to X was appreciated. Deep Throat was such a strong character, trying to replace him right out of the gate would have been a grave mistake. Allowing X to simmer in the background and slowly come to the forefront as the show drew on allowed a more naturalistic handoff, so to speak, and helped add a layer of intrigue to the character as well. Whilst the “filler” episodes were a little more hit and miss than the previous instalment, I felt the stronger episodes were a cut above, making for a much more even fight. The show certainly found its direction in the second half of the season and laid the table for another stellar season to come. Thankfully, I won’t have to wait months to jump into Season Three.

Standout Episodes

  • 2×01 – “Little Green Men”
  • 2×05 – “Duane Barry”
  • 2×06 – “Ascension”
  • 2×08 – “One Breath”
  • 2×13 – “Irresistible”
  • 2×14 – “Die Hand Die Verletzt”
  • 2×16 – “Colony”
  • 2×17 – “End Game”
  • 2×20 – “Humbug”
  • 2×25 – “Anasazi”

Continuity and Questions

  • Was Scully really abducted and what will be the repercussions if she was? Will there be any at all? If so, when will it surface? Will they come for her again, the way Duane Barry suggested they came for him?
  • The recounting of Samantha Mulder’s disappearance differed this season to Mulder’s explanation in Season One. Continuity era or was the character purposefully misremembering to fit around his own bias opinions, and desperate need to associate it with unexplainable X-Files cases? Will we see more contradictory stories surrounding this subject?
  • Were the clones posing as Samantha really clones of Mulder’s sister? Did they simply have her memories, or did they know the real Samantha? Will the clones return in some form or another in later seasons?
  • Mulder and Scully were separated for a period of time during Season 2. Will Skinner and the FBI higher ups try and separate them a second time? Will X become a victim, the way that Deep Throat did in the “The Erlenmeyer Flask”.

D. A. Edwards is a writer of NovaCritic.com.