Over the course of nine seasons and 2 feature films, The X-Files transcended its cult status, becoming a phenomenon and cultural touchstone. With a new series on the way, special agent Rick Shingler has accepted the assignment to rewatch the entire series from the beginning and provide detailed reports about his findings. Come with us now, as we explore the mysteries of the complete X-Files. During the second season of X-Files, things quickly go from bad to much, much worse. By the end of the first season, the writers faced a particular stumbling block. Gillian Anderson was pregnant and there was no way to hide it. By shuttering the X-Files at the end of season one, it became possible to separate the two agents and keep Scully on the sideline for the first part of the season. Of course, Mulder doesn’t fare well with these developments. It’s bad enough being separated from his work, but separation from Scully proves the biggest challenge of all. This season would also introduce several new players into the series. Deep Throat’s death was a shock and could have been a devastating blow to Mulder and his work, except for the introduction of the man we only know as X. His connection to the intelligence community remains elusive, but he proves a trustworthy source, even though he’s far from the fatherly figure cut by Deep Throat. Alex Krychek would be introduced early this season before going underground to become a major thorn in nearly everyone’s side later in the series. Mulder’s parents and his long-lost sister (sort of) are introduced this season. The shape-shifting Alien Bounty Hunter would make his first series appearance as well. Alliances are formed and strengthened, and betrayals run deep in this season of the X-Files. S2E1: “Little Green Men” (w: Glen Morgan & James Wong/d: David Nutter) This second season opener is something of a crash course on modern man’s search for extraterrestrial life. Mulder narrates the opening sequence, which explains the journey and mission of NASA’s Voyager projects as well as elements of the SETI project scattered around the globe. The episode breezes past quickly, but at the end one can’t help but marvel at how much ground was covered and how quickly. It’s been several months since the bombshell closure of the X-Files, and Scully is teaching forensics students at the FBI Academy. Mulder spends his time on the clock eating sunflower seeds and listening to potential felons discussing their favorite strippers on a bureau wiretap (“I like Shelley. You like Jane. What was the girl with the snake skin’s name?”). Neither agent is particularly invested in his or her work. Mulder is particularly lost, unknowingly brushing past Scully in the hallway without noticing her. She arranges a clandestine meeting, during which she finds her former partner doubting himself in a way she’s never seen. A note for all you shippers: pay particular attention to Scully’s reaction when Mulder mentions San Diego. There’s a subtext between the two that she nearly expects him to ask her to fly away with him for a rendezvous. To this day, I wonder what her answer would have been. Her knee-jerk reaction is guarded, yet somewhat expectant. Instead, he tells her about the Palomar Observatory, to her… Relief? Disappointment? I digress. Mulder has a flashback to the night of his sister’s abduction. Interestingly, several of the details of this flashback don’t quite jive with his recollections back in the Pilot and the episode “Conduit” in the first season. Is this inconsistency a flaw in the writing? Maybe. Maybe not. This exchange between them exhibits a bond between the two agents that has only grown stronger during their time of exile from each other. Later, Mulder is called to an audience with Senator Richard Matheson (yes, he’s named for the science fiction novelist and frequent Twilight Zone scripter; if you haven’t read him, do yourself the favor post-haste). The Senator has been supporting Mulder’s work for some time, but this is the first we’ve seen this benefactor on the show. He directs Mulder to the Arecibo observatory in Puerto Rico, where the abandoned equipment there has been contacted by something non-Earthly. Matheson tells Mulder he will attempt to delay the Blue Beret retrieval team for as long as possible, but that he will only have about twenty four hours before they catch up to him. Additionally, they are authorized to shoot to kill in order to protect the evidence that likely lies in the station. With Mulder gone missing, Assistant Director Walter Skinner questions Scully, but she doesn’t know anything. Cigarette-Smoking Man reviews the tape of Skinner’s interview with Scully and thinks she is lying. Skinner corrects him, telling him that Scully showed far too much concern for Mulder for her to have known anything. Despite having to dodge around surveillance details in and around Mulder’s apartment, Scully conducts her own investigation, eventually tracing him to Puerto Rico and the observatory. Meanwhile, Mulder has arrived at the station and finds a terrified local named Jorge hiding in the claustrophobic building’s bathroom. The two men can’t quite surmount their language barrier, but Jorge draws an unmistakably alien face on the wall. As Mulder analyzes the data and Jorge just hangs out and plays with buttons, the equipment suddenly switches on and begins recording unidentifiable sounds that are being transmitted to the array. Jorge is terrified and bolts from the bunker into the night. When Mulder catches up with him, he is sitting against a tree, dead with a look of terror plastered on his face. Mulder returns Jorge to the bunker and attempts to perform an informal autopsy, recording all of his observations for Scully. While he is doing this, the door opens and in the blinding light, Mulder sees an elongated alien form, the same as in his memory of Samantha’s abduction. The following morning, Scully, having eluded agents who were following her from Washington, finds Mulder unconscious on the floor of the station. As he regains his bearings, the Blue Beret team Senator Matheson had warned Mulder about arrives. Grabbing the tape of the previous night’s encounter from the audio recorder, they narrowly escape the trigger-happy UFO retrieval team. Back in DC, Skinner threatens Mulder with disciplinary action for abandoning his wiretap post while Cigarette Smoking Man looks on. Mulder tells Skinner about the illegal wiretap on his own phone, which catches Skinner flat-footed. CSM steps forward to smugly inform Mulder that his “time is done”, but Skinner orders CSM to leave the office. Once he’s gone, he orders a reluctant Mulder back to his wiretap detail. He and Scully review the tape they were able to retrieve from the station, but it’s blank. Through this episode, we can see that with Deep Throat out of the way after last season’s finale, Mulder and his work are dangerously exposed, and no one is even trying to keep it a secret that he’s a thorn in the side of the intelligence community. He is under surveillance, Scully is being watched, and even his Senator friend is worried that someone might be listening to their conversation in his private chambers. In a surprising turn, Skinner seemingly turns against the Cigarette Smoking Man. While not in any way showing support of Mulder or the agents’ pursuit of their extracurricular work, he is doggedly defensive of his agents against any outside agencies conspiring against them. Perhaps most alarming to those agencies is the fact of Mulder and Scully’s bond actually growing, despite their professional isolation from one another. This episode also presented us with our first look at an actual alien, which was a shockingly rewarding payoff. Its design was culled from several actual alien abductee interviews, most notably Whitley Strieber’s depictions from his book “Communion”. S2E2: “The Host” (w: Chris Carter /d: Daniel Sackheim) Ew. Remember back near the beginning of the first season, and I commented that among the Monster of the Week episodes, “Squeeze” was one of the best of its kind? The reason for the qualifying “one of” in that statement was because I was holding out for this one. “The Host” is, for my money, the very best of all the Monster of the Week X-Files episodes. Its pacing is perfect, the reveal of the monster hits at just the right point in the story, the monster itself is undeniably horrific, and it even serves to help drive the over-story of the fallout of the closure of the X-Files at the end of the last season. Even after all these years, a repeat viewing of this episode all but guarantees Flukeman’s guest appearance in my dreamscape tonight. The last time, he was wearing a top hat and tails and singing “Putting on the Ritz”, but that was my own fault for watching “Young Frankenstein” and an X-Files episode in the same evening. It should also be noted that as of this episode, Operation: Hide Gillian Anderson’s Pregnant Body is in full effect. Oversized trench coats, strategically-held file folders, abnormally high examination tables, and lots of head-and-shoulders close-ups of Scully are the way of things for the next several episodes. Also, this season’s Most Helpful Townie Award just has to go to New Jersey Sewer Foreman Ray (played by the late Ron Sauve). Way to jump in there Ray. We may never know if you actually survived the fight in the sewers, but your tasteless jokes about people flushing their toilets will forever live on in our hearts. It all starts aboard a Russian freighter off the coast of New Jersey, where the toilets are backing up. A maintenance worker opens the access to the ship’s septic system to investigate the trouble. Something inside the septic tank grabs him, pulling him in. Sometime later, his body is found in a Newark sewer with no identification. Skinner orders Mulder away from his monitor duty and sends him to Newark to investigate the body. Mulder is inflamed and confronts Skinner about what he thinks is a simple gangland slaying case. Once he’s calmed down from his angry confrontation with the boss, he calls Scully and tells her that he’s thinking of quitting the FBI. Despite his insistence that the Jersey sewer case is a load of… well, sewage, Scully performs an autopsy on the body. She is startled by a live flukeworm crawling out of the strange wound on his back. Back in Newark , a sewer worker named Craig is trying to clear a storm drain when he’s grabbed and dragged under the water by something, only to be rescued by his co-worker. At his medical examination, a bite matching the one on the dead man is revealed on his back. The pattern of the bites matches that of the flukeworm Scully had removed from her John Doe, only much bigger. The sewer worker also complains of a terrible taste in his mouth. Mulder attends the man’s examination, during which he receives a cryptic phone call telling him that he “has a friend in the FBI” before the call disconnects. That night, Craig the sewer worker coughs up a bloody flukeworm and dies in the shower. Again, ew. Mulder goes to the local sewer processing plant, where Ray the weird man with the horrible job shows him around. They are able to trap something in one of the runoff tubes, which turns out to be a human sized monster with a flukeworm’s mouth. Oh, yeah, it’s full-on icky. Back in Scully’s office, a mysterious benefactor slips a tabloid newspaper under Scully’s door. It’s one of those Weekly World News-type papers that Tommy Lee Jones refers to as “The Hot Sheets” in Men in Black. Inside (presumably past the page six girl), she finds a story of a monster on board a Russian freighter. Remembering the Cyrillic letters on her subjects arm, she is able to ascertain the identity of the corpse. She meets with Mulder and he introduces her to Flukeman. Back in Washington, Skinner admits that this case should have been an X-File, but goes on to remind Mulder that they all take orders from someone. Flukeman escapes custody near a lakeside campground. So, is Flukeman going to slip quietly into the lake and disappear forever? That would be the prudent choice, right? But no! Flukeman, you sewage-loving fool. He slips into a port-a-potty. Dude’s got some issues with sewage. The port-a-potty sanitation guy comes along next morning to clean out the Flukeman’s new happy place and it ends up inside the truck. Mulder, once he’s determined what must have happened, traces the shit trucks back to helpful and friendly Ray’s treatment plant. Damn, Flukeman! You could have been living the high life in Lake Betty, NJ, but noOOo. It’s back to the Newark sewage treatment plant with you. Following the traces back down into a storm drain, Helpful Ray is attacked and Mulder jumps in to save him. In the process, Flukeman tries to escape through a drain tunnel. Unfortunatly for Flukeman, Mulder drops the guillotine to seal the tunnel, slicing Flukeman in half. Scully explains to Mulder that the cargo ship had been originally commissioned to help haul toxic waste after the Chernobyl disaster, so Captain Kool-Aid Lips had grown in a primordial slush of radioactivity and excrement before lashing out. Back in the sewer, the upper portion of the sundered Flukeman wakes up and opens its eyes. The question remains open as to how complicit Skinner is in the proceedings. Did he somehow recognize this as a potential X-File from the start? Was he contacted by Mulder’s mysterious new “friend in the FBI”? It’s an incredible thing to behold Skinner’s layers falling away. He’s a consummate professional, which is the main reason why Mulder confounds him as much as he does. But that same professionalism is what helps him see past the petty bureaucratic politics that might be hindering the progress of meaningful investigation. On another front, Mulder and Scully slip comfortably into the natural pattern of their relationship over the course of this investigation. Scully even slips and comments on how it “feels like old times”. Mulder is learning to play the game, and Scully is acting as his coach. Never quite as single-minded as Mulder, Scully’s entry into the X-Files in the first place was a matter of playing along to gain advancement. It soon evolved into something less superficial, but her acceptance of the initial assignment was that of a good agent following orders to secure a special assignment. S2E3: “Blood” (w: Darin Morgan (story) Glen Morgan & James Wong (teleplay)/d: David Nutter) In a fascinating turn of events, the guy in the Flukeman costume in the previous episode gets a writing credit for this episode. Darin Morgan, brother to Glen Morgan, helped to flesh out the story for this one, thereby earning him the credit. Darin would go on to write quite a few episodes of the show, most notably “Humbug” from later this season and “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space,” one of my personal favorites. “Blood,” unfortunately, probably should have been better than it was. With veteran character actor William Sanderson guest-starring (sans his brother Daryl or his other brother Daryl), the expectation would dictate a stronger story. As it was, the episode just barely held itself together. Not the best of season two, at any rate. Not even the casting of then-current porn star Ashlyn Gere could turn this one around. Edward Funsch (William Sanderson) is a postal worker on the verge of a layoff. His supervisor tries to put it as kindly as possible, but getting fired is still getting fired, ya dig? He gets a paper cut from an envelope, and soon after the digital readout on his equipment tells him to “KILL EM ALL”. As far as I can see, there would be room on the display for the “TH” in “THEM”, but the zip-code labeler must think it’s hipper than it actually is. Edward does not act on the machine’s directive, but he seems to strongly consider it. Meanwhile, in the town’s civic center, a decidedly claustrophobic man in the elevator is not so successful when it comes to denying the orders of the elevator’s digital readout. It starts by convincing him that everyone else in the car is taking all the air from him before issuing the kill order. His rampage is ended by a bullet from a security guard. When Mulder arrives on the scene, he notices that the digital display inside the elevator has been damaged. Mulder also observes that the perpetrator/victim (who I’m going to call Klaus Trafobia just this one time, because his name is never mentioned and it’s just late enough as I type this that I think it’s hilarious) has some sort of green residue on the ends of his fingers. The sheriff tells him that seven other people have murdered a total of twenty-two people in this small Pennsylvania town in the past six months. As Mulder reviews each case, the only common factor in all of them is the destruction of an electronic device at each crime scene. That evening, porn star soccer mom Bonnie McRoberts goes to pick up her car from the shop, but the diagnostic machine convinces her that the mechanic is planning to rape her (truth be told, this is likely similar to a scenario from one of her other scripts that week, albeit with less lead-in dialogue and much less paranoia). She kills him by stabbing him with an oil can spout. When Mulder and the sheriff show up at her house to question her (her service appointment led them to her), her microwave tells her to kill Mulder. Her attempt with a kitchen knife is cut short by the sheriff’s gun. When Scully examines her body (also a possible porn script, albeit a bit niche), she finds that her adrenaline levels are extremely high and there seems to be something in the system of both Ms. McRoberts and Mr. Trafobia (I got to use it again! And it’s still funny! I need to lay off the rum while I’m typing!) that, when combined with adrenaline, produces something similar to LSD in their systems. Thus, the digital hallucinations. Er, sure. Mulder ends up in an orchard (God knows why) and is sprayed by a crop duster with some sort of insecticide. He realizes that the people of the town have been exposed to this experimental spray and it is what has been causing the hallucinations. Edward (remember him?) is asked by a woman in a department store about contributing to a blood drive, which sends him over the edge. The store’s TV display seems to direct him to the gun aisle, where he dutifully makes a purchase. He ends up on the roof of the local college campus library, taking pot shots at coeds when Mulder stops him. Frankly, I just found this episode confusing as hell. It’s called “Blood,” and blood seems to have something to do with triggering Edward’s fugue state, but I am never really able to understand how it is tied together. I believe Edward is meant to be hematophobic, in that he is afraid of the sight of blood, but if this point is ever made explicit, I probably missed it when I was Googling Ashlyn Gere. Still, the episode wasn’t a total wash, as we were treated to the second series appearance of the Lone Gunmen, returned by popular internet demand. S2E4: “Sleepless” (w: Glen Morgan/d: Rob Bowman) This is the good stuff. One of those stand-alone Monster of the Week episodes wrapped around a juicy advancement in the series’ overall mythology. It’s an interesting story, but also introduces Mulder’s newest benefactor who will come to be known simply as “X”, played by Stephen Williams. Also joining the fun this episode is perennial pain-in-the-ass Alex Krychek (Nicholas Lea). Incidentally, if you are able to maintain a sharp eye, you will also spot Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite in this episode as Salvatore, the Vietnam vet turned diner bus boy. Dr. Saul Grissom calls 911 to report a raging fire in his New York apartment building. Strangely, when firefighters arrive at the scene, there is no sign of fire, but Grissom is dead in his apartment. The Mysterious Informant Courier Service (serving the greater DC area since 1993) delivers a cassette tape of Grissom’s 911 call to Mulder, prompting the agent to ask Skinner to sign off on the assignment. Mulder is soon approached by a new agent named Alex Krychek who informs him that he had opened the case an hour before Mulder’s meeting with Skinner. They are going to work the case together, it seems. Of course, Mulder ditches him like a smelly prom date to pursue the investigation. Mulder asks Scully to perform Grissom’s autopsy before he is confronted by an angry Krychek. The two agents visit Scully, who tells them that Grissom’s body shows all the secondary evidence of exposure to fire, but none of the primary signs. She says it’s almost like Grissom’s body was convinced it was in a fire, even though it wasn’t. Weird, right? Meanwhile, in an apartment in Brooklyn, a Vietnam vet is visited by one of his old war buddies, a man he calls “Preacher.” A group of wounded, armed Vietnamese villagers appears in the apartment and open fire on the veteran. Examination of the body next day shows several wounds under the skin that are consistent with gunshot wounds, but the skin above the wounds is intact. Mulder and Krychek find a scar on the back of the vet’s neck, and are able to use it to connect him to a particular Vietnam Special Forces unit, whose only other survivor is Augustus Cole, a resident at a New Jersey VHA hospital. At the hospital, they do not find Cole, because his doctor discharged him without having any memory of signing the papers. Mulder slips away from Krychek and meets with X (his mysterious “friend in the FBI” from last episode). X gives him information about a “sleep eradication” experiment performed on Cole’s unit. The idea for the experiment is based around the thought that a need to sleep is a soldier’s worst enemy. X also tells Mulder about Salvatore, another member of the unit who was reportedly killed in action, but was, in fact, alive and well. Cole robs a drug store, and two responding officers shoot each other, allowing Cole to escape. Mulder begins to form a theory that Cole has somehow developed a telekinetic ability to manipulate other people’s perceptions, putting them into a sort of dream-state, which he can then control. The agents meet with Salvatore who tells them that he hasn’t slept for twenty-four years. He goes on to tell them about the horrific things his unit did in Vietnam once they all stopped sleeping. Using information supplied by Salvatore, they catch up to Cole as he attempts to kill Grissom’s partner who performed the original experiment. Cole convinces Mulder he has a gun to the other doctor’s head, but he doesn’t. Mulder chases Cole to a construction site, where Cole projects Krychek the image that he is holding a gun to Mulder’s head (he’s really holding a Bible). Krychek shoots him, which is exactly what Cole wanted all along. In the end, all of Mulder’s and Scully’s files on the case disappear. Krychek attends a meeting with Cigarette Smoking Man, during which he tells him that separating Mulder and Scully professionally has proven ineffective and that they may have to take further measures to keep them apart. Well, it didn’t take Krychek long to show his true colors, did it? He’s firmly in CSM’s nicotine-stained grip, which means he was placed with Mulder deliberately, further echoing Deep Throat’s dying hiss of “trust no one.” Again, it begs the question as to Skinner’s level of involvement in the campaign against Fox Mulder. It’s sort of hard to see him as an ally at this point, but he hardly seems an innocent bystander either. What sort of happenstance could possibly tip him over the edge one way or the other? Time will tell, I suppose. S2E5: “Duane Barry” (w/d: Chris Carter) / S2E6: “Ascension” (w: Paul Brown/d: Michael Lange) We’re combining these two episodes into one lump because this was the show’s first two-parter. While the approach to each individual episode is quite unique, and they stand apart in that way, the story is continuous, complete, and riveting from the opening minutes of “Duane Barry” all the way to the jolting conclusion of “Ascension”. “Duane Barry” marks Chris Carter’s directorial debut on the series and represents another huge leap forward in the mythology of the series. It exists as a sort of bottle episode, in that most of the episode’s action takes place inside a besieged travel agency office, and involves a hostage situation. “Ascension” follows from the chilling closing moments of “Duane Barry” and races cross-country toward its conclusion high in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. From a purely functional and technical aspect, this story was a way to get an extremely pregnant Gillian Anderson out on her maternity leave. Also, it was the first time Chris Carter admits to having written a character with a specific actor in mind. But then, Steve Railsback played Charles Manson in the Helter Skelter miniseries, so his involvement in the X-Files was probably inevitable. CCH Pounder is able to check another box in her contractual obligation to be on every single 90s crime procedural as well. The tagline at the end of the opening credits of “Ascension” changes from the usual “The Truth is Out There” to “Deny Everything”. In 1985, Duane Barry suffers an alien abduction from his bedroom. As the little greys mill around his bed, Duane pleads “not again”. Jump to 1993, and Duane is institutionalized, but not for much longer. He escapes, taking his doctor with him as a hostage. He feels compelled to return to the site of his first abduction, but there’s a problem with that plan. Namely, he can’t remember where it was. So what did anyone do in the days before phones with GPS and navigation apps? Why, we went to a travel agency for a triptych, naturally. Mulder and Krychek are called in to assist with the negotiations with Duane, who has added several travel agents to his growing cache of hostages. The agent in charge, Lucy Kazdin (CCH Pounder) enlists Mulder’s particular level of expertise to talk to Barry, who claims to have been an abductee. Mulder calls Scully and asks her to look into Barry, who, as it turns out, is a former FBI agent. Mulder’s job is to engage him, keep him talking, and win his trust enough to begin negotiations for the release of the hostages. You had one job, Mulder! Actually, looking at that last sentence, it sort of looks like he had… All right, you had three jobs, Mulder! He ends up exchanging himself for an injured hostage and gets face to face with Barry. Barry tells him all about his abduction experience. The drill to the teeth, the tracking implants in his gums, sinus cavity and abdomen, probably some sort of probing which, thankfully, remains implied rather than explicit. Scully arrives on the scene and tells Mulder through a secret spy earpiece that Barry suffered brain damage from a misfired weapon, damaging the frontal cortex of his brain, causing him unpredictable fits of rage and wild flights of fancy and no conscience. Mulder convinces him to release two more prisoners, but then questions Barry’s story, driving him into a full Bruce-Banner-don’t-it-make-my-brown-eyes-green rage. Giving up on the line of questioning, Mulder convinces him to go lock the front door, putting him in the sniper’s sights. Barry is shot and rushed to a hospital. The next day, Mulder goes to check in on Barry. Agent Kazdin, proving herself to be awesome, admits to Mulder that some sort of unidentifiable metal shrapnel was found in and removed from Barry while they were working on his gunshot wound. It was implanted in his gums, nasal cavity, and abdomen, just as he had described. Additionally, there were small holes drilled in his molars, the likes of which would be impossible with any known dental equipment. Mulder gives one of the metal pieces to Scully to examine, but she can’t make any sense of it. Barry wakes up in the hospital and escapes (again). Scully stops at the grocery on her way home from her unsuccessful attempt to examine the metal shard. She buys pickles and ice cream, by the way, which is pretty funny considering just how gut-stretchingly pregnant Gillian Anderson was while filming this episode. On a hunch, she passes the shard over the register’s scanner which effectively crashes the cash register. Back at her apartment, she calls Mulder to update him. As she leaves a message on his machine, Barry breaks through the window and grabs her. Mulder arrives at home to find Scully’s message on his answering machine, including the sounds of Barry subduing and abducting her. Rushing to her apartment, Mulder examines the crime scene and intercepts Scully’s mom, who is trying to fight her way into the building. She tells Mulder that she had a dream that Dana was in danger. Remember Scully’s experience upon the death of her father last season? Them Scully girls got the ‘shining, if yehs ask me… The next day, AD Skinner orders Mulder off the case, citing his personal proximity to be a hindrance to the investigation. He directs Krychek to take Mulder home. You know how that goes. Barry is pulled over along the Blue Ridge Parkway and not only does the officer’s dash cam capture Barry shooting the officer, it also catches a glimpse of Scully in the trunk when Barry opens it to check on her. Renewed by the knowledge that Scully is alive (but still very much in danger), Mulder remembers something Barry said during the hostage situation about going “Up…up…up… Ascend to the stars!” and connects it to a yellow pages ad for Skyland Mountain along the Blue Ridge Parkway. While they prepare to go, Krychek calls Cigarette Smoking Man to update him on their movements. CSM seems pleased with the turn of events, somehow. He’s such a weirdo. Anyway, they reach the base of Skyland Mountain just behind Barry. Mulder uses the resort’s tram to ascend the mountain, hoping to reach the summit before Barry and Scully. Krychek, left behind with the tram operator at the base, kills the operator and shuts down the tram in an attempt to hinder Mulder. Mulder, however, manages to climb to the roof of the tram and nearly falls off. Side note: Duchovny performed all of his own stunts for this episode. He makes his way to the top, but finds Barry’s car already there. Rushing to the woods, he finds and apprehends a triumphant Duane Barry, who is too busy celebrating having traded Scully for his own safety to notice the handcuffs being slapped on him. Mulder attempts to interrogate the suddenly blissful Barry, but gets frustrated and nearly strangles his captive. He attempts to regain his composure with a walk and leaves Krychek on guard duty. When he returns, he finds Krychek in the room with Barry talking to him. Skinner shows up on the scene minutes later, just as Barry breaks into convulsions and dies. Back at Quantico, Mulder tries to question the examiner who handled Barry’s remains, but the military circles its wagons and will give him no assistance. The Navy ME even goes so far as to tell him that the only reason she did the examination was because an “FBI examiner was not available to do it”. Way to twist the knife, lady. Mulder borrows Krychek’s car to pay a visit to Senator Matheson, but is intercepted by X on his way in. X discourages his having contact with Matheson, as it would put the Senator in unnecessary danger. Meanwhile, Krychek is likely feeling flush from having his last suggestion of removing Scully from the picture (at the end of “Sleepless”) taken so seriously, further suggests that Mulder should be killed. CSM smacks Krychek’s suggestion down, telling him that killing Mulder would risk turning “one man’s religion into a crusade.” After meeting with X, Mulder finds Morley cigarettes in the ashtray of Krychek’s car. Putting the pieces together, he grows convinced of Krychek’s involvement in Scully’s abduction and takes his case to Skinner. Skinner summons Krychek to give him a chance to answer Mulder’s allegations, but it is reported to him that Krychek is not anywhere to be found and his phone has been disconnected. He’s in the wind. Now Skinner’s pissed. Realizing they have been played by both CSM and Krychek, he tells Mulder that he’s reopening the X-Files, effective immediately. Further, he says it’s the “only thing that scares them”. Mulder meets with Scully’s mom and tells her he won’t rest until her daughter is found. Meanwhile, in a futuristic-looking medical bay, Scully lies on a table. A drill works her teeth, and some sort of pump device attaches itself to her belly, hyperextending it as if it were being inflated somehow. This can’t be good. Over the course of this season so far, we’ve seen Mulder spiral deeper and deeper into the darkest reaches of his being. The closure of the X-Files project, his reassignment to mind-numbing drudgery, his separation from Scully, his frustration with his new partner, the constant scrutiny and surveillance has been but a buildup to the abduction of Scully. While the reinstatement of the X-Files should be a cause of joy for him, the circumstances surrounding the event will only serve to drive him deeper toward rock bottom, as we’ll see in the next episode. On a positive note, Skinner’s protectiveness of his agents and the institution of the FBI finally drove him over the fence and squarely in the allied trench. He’s taking a risk by reopening the X-Files, but he’ll be damned if he’s willing to stand idly by while one of his agents is misused by forces in the intelligence community. He’s seen too much to dismiss Mulder for a fool. As bleak as things are by the end of this story, at least Mulder can claim a new ally in his crusade. S2E7: “3” (w: Chris Ruppenthal, Glen Morgan & James Wong/d: David Nutter) This is the one where Mulder gets a little strange. In more ways than one. It’s as much a bleak character study of Mulder as it is a vampire story. This was the first episode of the series in which Gillian Anderson did not appear, as she was busy birthing her daughter Piper at the time of production. Actress Perrey Reeves, who portrayed Kristen in the episode, was dating David Duchovny at the time. Chris Carter thought the wider circumstances surrounding this point in the season would be a perfect time to break Mulder out of his monastic lifestyle and succumb to his humanity. In LA, a man settling in for an extramarital romp in his hot tub gets considerably more than he bargained for when she bites through the skin of his arm, then invites two of her friends to join them. They proceed to repeatedly stab him with hypodermic needles. Geez, guys. It wasn’t supposed to be that kind of party. Back at the FBI, Mulder wearily puts some personal effects into an X-File designated “Dana Scully.” Her badge ID goes into the file, but he keeps her cross necklace, putting it in his pocket. He’s clearly at rock bottom since her disappearance several weeks before. He makes his way across the country to the hot tub crime scene and meets with LAPD detectives. This case is one in a long pattern of killings across two states, making it a federal investigation. Their pattern includes painting Bible verses at the crime scenes using the victim’s blood. Mulder’s profiling skills come to the fore, and he has determined that the killers consider themselves to be some sort of “Unholy Trinity.” Tracing one member of the trio to a local blood bank where he has landed a job, Mulder captures and interrogates him. He tells Mulder that they are seeking immortality through ritual killings. He further explains that he is “The Son” and that there are a man and woman who represent “The Father” and the “Unholy Spirit”. Mulder, for his part, believes “The Son” to be a victim of delusion and leaves him in the interrogation room. The rising sun comes through the window and burns him to death nearly instantly. Mulder admits that he had always considered vampirism to be a myth. “The Son” has a stamp on his hand for someplace called Club Tepes, so Mulder goes to check it out. Get it? Vlad Tepes was Vlad the Impaler, from which all the earliest vampire legends sprung? Yeah, yeah… Anyway, while at the club, Mulder meets Kristen, but strikes out with her. She moves on to another guy, who leaves with her. A suspicious Mulder follows, but gets caught playing peeping Tom. Kristen’s new conquest storms outside and takes a swing at Mulder. I swear, this could easily have been an episode of Californication. After Mulder leaves, the vampires descend on the club guy. And there are three of them again. Whah-huh? Didn’t The Son go extra-crispy back in the interrogation room? Mulder runs a background check on Kristen and is able to place her at the scenes of at least two of the prior murders in this case. He goes to her apartment and waits for her to come home. When she arrives, she tells Mulder about how she had met The Son in Chicago and gotten involved with him. She had bugged out when he formed the Unholy Trinity and started killing people, but they followed her everywhere she went. Only a man as desperately numb as Mulder currently is could possibly fall for this femme fatale’s sob story. And he does. As Mulder gets down with the freaky vampire fetish chick, The Son, having apparently recovered from the worst sunburn ever, looks on from outside. The next morning, The Son tells Kristen that all she needs to do in order to be one of them is kill Mulder and drink his blood. She approaches Mulder with a kitchen knife, but uses it to attack The Father, who is hiding in a dark corner of the bedroom. Mulder is able to get out of the house. She pours gasoline over the Father and herself and lights up. As Mulder looks on from outside, the house becomes engulfed in flames. Mulder clutches Scully’s cross necklace in his hand as he watches it burn. Aside from its resonance as a part of vampire lore, Scully’s cross serves as a totem of an entirely different power for Mulder at this point. Having no traditional faith system to call his own, this item’s power is in the faith entrusted in him by Mrs. Scully in the previous episode. The hope it represents transcends its religious trappings and becomes his only symbolic lifeline to his lost partner. He has been lost since the beginning of the season, having had the X-Files taken from him. But, despite the fact that he has his work back, he’s even further gone. The loss of Scully is much more acutely felt than the loss of the X-Files ever was. Fox Mulder has crossed into a dark moment of the soul, so it makes perfect sense that he would clutch at any shelter that happens along. Even if that shelter is wrapped up with a freaky vampire sex death cult. Strike that. ESPECIALLY if that shelter is wrapped up with a freaky vampire sex death cult. S2E8: “One Breath” (w: Glen Morgan & James Wong/d: R. W. Goodwin) Serving as sort of a breakaway departure for the series, this episode was not based around a monster or alien so much as it was about human emotions associated with loss and grieving. It earned an Emmy nomination for Cinematography, and stands as a series high point for David Duchovny as an actor. Gillian Anderson had just given birth to her daughter Piper mere days before the filming of this episode. If you go back to work, but spend all your time on the clock lying in a hospital bed, does it still count as maternity leave? It opens with Dana’s mother, Margaret, telling a story about her daughter’s first moment of empathy over a dead garter snake. She has invited Mulder to show him Scully’s tombstone. She’s ready to let go of her daughter. Mulder, naturally, is not. Later, he gets a call that Scully has turned up comatose in a local hospital. He rushes to the scene and, in turn, creates quite a scene in his attempt to get information about her arrival and condition. Once he’s calm, Dr. Daly explains to Margaret and Fox that no one knows how or when she arrived or even what’s causing her coma. There seems to be no medical reason for it. Furthermore, Scully had signed (with Mulder as her witness) a living will indicating that she did not wish to be kept alive by artificial means. Dr. Daly, in accordance with his patient’s explicit wishes, has no choice but to pull the plug. Scully’s sister Melissa turns up to visit and dangle power crystals over her sister’s supine form. Now it’s Mulder’s turn to play skeptic, which is sort of a fun reversal. Scully, deep in her coma, experiences a vision of Mulder and her sister standing on a dock. Scully herself is sitting in a boat tethered to the dock. Behind Mulder and Melissa stands a nurse, whom we will soon learn is named Nurse Owens. Frohike (of the Lone Gunmen) takes a shower and shows up at Scully’s bedside. One look at her chart, and he and Mulder immediately take it back to the Lone Gunmen’s office. Upon analysis, the charts show that Scully’s blood is laced with branch DNA, indicating some sort of highly sophisticated experimentation. They may have been used as some sort of tracking marker, but are now inactive and possibly a poison in her system. Nurse Owens is visiting Scully to offer her encouragement when a somber Mulder arrives. Another nurse extracts a blood sample, but puts it down to attend to another patient. In the confusion, Mulder notices that Scully’s blood sample has been stolen by an unknown man who he chases him down to the parking garage. Mulder’s pursuit is stopped short by the arrival of “X,” who orders him to step away and let Scully go. Mulder doesn’t listen and catches the guy with the blood vial, only for X to execute the man right there in the garage. Meanwhile, an increasingly intolerant AD Skinner is cheekily showing Cigarette Smoking Man his new “Thank you for not smoking” sign on his desk. CSM lights his smoke anyway and leaves just as Mulder knocks on the other door. Skinner questions him about the dead man in the hospital parking garage, but Mulder denies any knowledge. He goes on to try to convince Skinner of CSM’s involvement in Scully’s abduction and her current condition, but Skinner remains frustratingly neutral. Back at the hospital, Mulder is anonymously given an address for CSM’s apartment and goes to confront him at gunpoint. He demands to know why Scully was taken instead of him, to which CSM says simply that he likes them both, which was why she was returned. He also tells Mulder that he was the one who told Skinner about the dead man in the parking garage and Mulder’s involvement. He doesn’t seem to know anything about X being there at the time of the man’s death. He also tells Mulder that if he kills him, he will never find any of the answers he’s looking for. Mulder lets him live. Scully has another vision, this time of her father. He speaks with her then leaves to allow her passage back to the living. Nurse Owens arrives again to urge her recovery. Mulder attempts to resign from the FBI, but Skinner denies his resignation, telling him a story of a near-death experience he himself had suffered as a Marine in Vietnam. Skinner doesn’t want to look past that experience, but he knows Mulder does, and that’s why he can’t accept his agent’s surrender. X catches up with Mulder and tells him that the men responsible for Scully’s disappearance would be at his (Mulder’s) apartment at 8:17 that evening believing Mulder to be out of town. All Mulder has to do is sit in his apartment in the dark with his pistol and wait for them to show. However, at Melissa Scully’s urging, he abandons his post and goes to sit with the still-comatose Scully. Next morning, he comes home to a ransacked apartment. Reeling from exhaustion and grief, he nearly doesn’t answer the phone when it rings. When he does, a smile breaks across his face. Scully has awakened. Rushing back to the hospital, he returns her cross necklace that he’s been carrying ever since the night of her disappearance. She tells him that she doesn’t remember anything that happened after Duane Barry kidnapped her, but remembers hearing Mulder’s voice while she was in her coma. When she asks the duty nurse if she can speak to Nurse Owens to thank her, she is informed that no one named Owens works at the hospital. What makes the title of this episode particularly apt is that by the end we are able to take a collective breath for the first time this entire season. Mulder and Scully are reunited safely. The X-Files are reopened. We now know that AD Skinner is a staunch and powerful ally. We have seen some cracks form in the heretofore pristinely menacing façade that is CSM. We have been able to be made privy to X’s level of clearance insomuch as that we can be happy he’s on Mulder’s side in these dealings. For the entirety of this season up to and even including a large portion of this very episode, Mulder has been in a tailspin, spiraling deeper and deeper into despair. But with this conclusion, the storm clouds would seem to be clearing and for the first time since Deep Throat was gunned down at the end of the first season. A bold ray of hope dares to show itself. This was a welcome turning point in this as-yet utterly bleak season. Admittedly, some of the imagery is a bit clunky and the “Touched by an Angel” twist to the story might be perceived as slightly saccharine compared to the usual fare presented by this show. But as Melissa Scully tells Mulder in the episode: “Just because the belief is positive and good doesn’t make it silly or trite.” Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... 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