Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sundays with the X-Files - Season 2


Season 2 begins in some disarray. Gillian Anderson was pregnant.  There was some talk about replacing her but they decided to work around it instead.  The work around ends up being a great boon for the show that  pays dividends for seasons to come. 

In TV land, the X Files have been shut down.  Mulder is working as a regular field agent and is losing his drive and faith.  Scully is teaching at Quantico sitting behind a desk a lot wearing very voluminous lab/trench coats and worrying about Mulder.  The season starts with a bang, with Mulder chasing a lead to a space listening station in Puerto Rico where he has a close encounter but in the end no evidence. He then gets a new partner, Alex Krycek, who he is a LOT less accepting of than he was of Scully.  Krycek will play a secondary role throughout the rest of the show.

In episode 5, Scully is abducted and disappears and Mulder loses his ever-loving mind.  She re-appears in a coma, two episodes later (Gillian Anderson only completely missed one episode which is crazy).  The episodes revolving around Scully's disappearance and then re-appearance are super important in establishing just how much Scully means to Mulder and to The X Files.  One good thing about Scully's abduction is that Skinner re-opens the X Files and reveals himself to not be completely under cigarette smoking man's (CSM) control.

This season also features the first appearance of Mulder's sister Samantha though she is not entirely what she seems.  In the mythology we learn that there are alien/human clones that may or may not be in place to be to prepare for Alien colonization of the planet.  The Alien bounty hunter is first introduced and we learn that these beings can only be killed with an ice pic type tool inserted at the base of the brain and that their green blood is toxic.  At the end of the season we find out that Mulder's dad knows CSM and, very shortly after this reveal, his father is killed just before he has revealed all. It suggests that Samantha's abduction may not have been random. Also, Scully shoots Mulder and he actually deserves it. The season ends with Mulder gone and fate unknown.  Other notable occurrences:  
-          The first Darin Morgan written episode (Ep. 20 Humbug).  Darin Morgan wrote four really unique and awesome X Files episodes and he played the Flukeman in episode 2 of this season and makes another appearance as an actor in season 4.
-     Mulder and Scully get stuck on a ship and get really old really fast (Ep. 19 Dod Calm)
-     Scully starts being in danger a LOT in this season requiring lots of Mulder worrying and rescuing - Eps. 5-6 and 8 Duane Barry, Ascension, and One Breath; Ep. 9 Firewalker; Episode 13 Irresistible; Ep. 17 End Game; Episode 24 Our Town. 
-     They stop using Deep Throat so much as a crutch. He does still get called in fairly frequently but in season 1 it felt like anytime they'd painted themselves into a plot corner, deep throat would show up and explain everything.
-          Mulder I think does his very first asshole taking off and not telling Scully anything and leaving her to cover his ass and hold things together (Ep. 16 Colony).


  The first part of the season establishes very well that Mulder and Scully don't work as well apart as they do together.  Mulder continues to bring Scully in (and ditch Krycek) whenever he can.  Scully has a huge office all to herself at the FBI Academy but she's had a taste of the exciting field agent life, particularly with Mulder, and even when Mulder isn't calling her to do stuff she volunteers things.  When Scully is kidnapped by Duane Barry,Mulder really loses it  - he nearly strangles Duane Barry to death, he yells at doctors and he has a one night stand with a vampire lady.  This is why it is important for Scully to be around - to keep Mulder from sleeping with too many inappropriate ladies.

Seriously though, this is a good time to talk about the 'ship.  There are some normal and unique aspects to it.  Chris Carter (X Files) creator was not a fan of the 'ship, but the FOX executives and many fans were.  Also eroding Carter's no 'ship case was that Anderson/Duchovny - Mulder/Scully had really great chemistry. This conflict translates into constant mixed messages and most of the romantic action, when it does go down, happening off screen.  So the fun/frustrating part is wondering when and how these two a) fell in love and b) revealed these feelings to one another and became physical.

I bring this up now, so early because there are some that theorize that the trio of episodes about Scully's disappearance and re-appearance are when Mulder realizes that he is in love with Scully.  I say hooey.  This is where you come to the unique part of the 'ship.  I would say that certainly by this time in the show Mulder and Scully love each other but it's not hugely sexually or physically charged.  They have become the most important people in each other's lives. Up until the X Files was closed down they probably spent 60+ hours in each others company each week and that time together is intense and involves life and death situations.  They are of daily importance to one another.   In essence,  it's like they are married without the physical side of things. They practically start off the 'ship by being an old married couple:). So it's no surprise that Mulder gets as crazy as he does not to mention that he is also feeling partially responsible for Scully's abduction and guilty for not being able to get to Duane Barry before Scully was beamed up.

So the only real question for the Mulder-Scully ship is when, how, and why does it go physical?  While their chemistry is not overtly sexual (though it can be at times), we do know that Mulder thinks Scully is attractive.  He essentially agrees with Frohicke's assertion that she's hot and in this season he refers to her as a pretty woman (in Ep. 13 Irresistible, when he is again freaking out because Scully has been abducted).

This is a also good season to point out some important things about Scully which is apparently my favorite thing to do:0).  I like her character because she's a strong, confident, opinionated and smart scientist but she's also insecure.  This is what actually makes me love her.  She has to work at being confident and is driven to work at it by a strong moral compass. To me this makes her even stronger than someone who doesn't have to wrestle with their own personal doubts and insecurity.  One of those insecurities is expressed by the fact that she craves approval and this comes up at least twice in this season.  First we know from season one that she was desperate for her Father's approval (Beyond the Sea).  She also has a much greater respect for rules and more desire to stay on  her superiors good side then Mulder does. Most importantly however is that she has transferred the bulk of her need for approval to Mulder. When she sees Mulder for the first time after coming out of the coma in episode 8 the first thing she says to him in a rush is that she doesn't remember anything and she's sorry.  Mulder for once is not a selfish asshole and brushes this aside as he should.  The second instance is more significant and it happens in episode 13 (Irresistable).  Scully is REALLY freaked out by the case they are working but she keeps trying to hide it from Mulder and showing a stiff upper lip.  When she talks with a mental health worker about her struggle, she says she doesn't want Mulder to know because she doesn't want him to feel like he has to take care of her.  Man oh Man do I know how that feels.  I work in a field that is dominated by men and I feel a great deal of pressure to make sure I carry my weight because I feel like if I don't it will be attributed to my being a woman.  There is of course more going on with Scully and Mulder but I can still feel where she is coming from.  The most awesome thing about Scully, the actual fount of her strength though is that she will not hesitate to break a rule or stand up to Mulder (or even shoot him) if her moral compass, which is almost unerringly correct, is telling her it's the right thing to do.  It's astonishing.   

Mulder's moral compass is a little more twitchy.  He wants to reveal the truth and get justice sure but his driver is much more personal and he can sometimes lose sight of the trees for the forest. His passion and insatiable curiosity sometimes push him into an end justifies the means mode. I can't think of any good examples from this season, however so maybe I'm being to harsh on him?  This is another way that Scully helps balance him.


episodes with * are my favorites

*Episode 5 Duane Barry:  Ex FBI agent Duane Barry has gone a little crazy after being abducted by aliens multiple times.  In order to avoid being taken again himself he is dragging along his psychiatrist and is holding everyone in a travel agency hostage.  This is a mythology episode where it is discovered that the implants are a little like barcode identification chips.  Mulder completely buys into and sympathizes with Duane Barry until he abducts Scully at the very end of the episode.
Episode 6 Ascension:  Mulder and Krycek are racing to find Duane Barry and Scully before anything bad happens.  They follow them to a mountain in VA where 1) Mulder is extremely reckless, 2) Krycek reveals that he's a treacherous murderous douchebag and 3) they are unable to get to Scully in time.  She has been abducted instead of Duane Barry (who is somewhat humorously always called Duane Barry - full name, nothing else). Skinner officially re-opens the X Files. 

* Episode 8 One Breath:  Really the third episode in the Duane Barry-Ascension- One Breath trilogy.  Scully shows up mysteriously in a hospital and in a coma.  This is really a beautiful episode about friendship, loss and hope.  I love some of the little touches like the mysterious Nurse Owens who helps convince Scully that she wants to come back.  We learn that Scully had a living will and did not want to kept alive and has laid it out with very particular criteria because she's a doctor.  Mulder was her witness and signed it.  I also love that Mulder is given a choice - to catch the people who orchestrated Scully's kidnapping or to just be there for his friend.  He chooses to be there for her and lets go for once. He also refrains from pressuring her to remember what happened to her and in fact never pushes her on this.  It's a great episode for Duchovny.  

*Episode 13  Irresistible:  This episode is CREEPY.  The actor who plays Donnie Pfaster is seriously disturbing which has hopefully served him well in life? That said, it has always bothered me that Scully is so off balanced by this case.  She's seen SO much worse and is a forensic scientist for goodness' sake.  But she also still suffering some PTSD from her kidnapping earlier in the season and the one key element of this case is that it is in no way paranormal.  If it was paranormal Scully could use her science battering ram to argue with,but Donnie Pfaster is just pure evil in human form and there is little explanation.  As I mentioned above this is a key character and relationship episode. The final scene is so good with Scully trying to be tough and hold it together and Mulder not letting her be that way with him.  It's their first hug but it won't be their last.  We also learn that most right thinking men at the FBI have a crush on Scully.  "There's no way out Girly Girl." *Shudders* 
Episode 16 Colony:  An important mythology episode.  Mulder's sister appears! (Or does she??) This is where we find out about all the multiples of people, alien-human hybrids, who have been ostensibly scattered around the world to wait for the day when they will colonize the earth.  A bounty hunter is hunting them down and killing them.This, I think, is also the inaugural Mulder-goes-completely-AWOL-leaving-Scully-to-cover-his-ass-and-hold-it-all-together.  Won't be the last for that either.  It does use the we-keep-just-missing-each-other-so-can't-pass-on-crucial-info a little too much, sort of like I'm using too many hyphens but still a decent episode.

Episode 17 End Game:   The second parter for Colony, it starts with Mulder having to make a choice between his newly found sister and Scully - Scully's been kidnapped and there has to be trade.  It doesn't go well for Samantha and Mulder is distraught to say the least.  So of course he heads to the arctic. I LOVE when they go to the arctic. There's a Skinner - Deep Throat smack down - Skinner's a bad ass.  This deep throat is even more dismissive of Scully. In the end Scully saves Mulder and busts out a smile that makes you realize how little she smiles.

*Episode 20 Humbug:   Darin Morgan's episodes are SO much fun even if the Mulder and Scully we get in these episodes are a little off.  They're off in a super awesome way.  X Files does absurd and grotesque really well and both Duchovny and Anderson are quite good with comedy.  Morgan's episodes also have the set up of being very funny while usually conveying a deeper message.  In Humbug the exploration is in the nature of being different.

*Episode 25 Anasazi:  The one where Mulder acts like a HUGE-O asshole, becomes even more paranoid and accuses Scully of being his enemy.  So Scully shoots him.  To save him - someone had been pumping LSD into his building and he needed to get it out of his system.  The CSM then apparently burns him alive in a buried bunker full of dead aliens.  At this point we don't know what CSM's motives are in regards to Mulder - he seems pretty murderous in this one.  This is definitely a BIG cliff hanger ending though I guess it's safe to assume they weren't going to kill off Mulder. Mulder's father however is definitely dead and that won't be the last casualty of this three ep. arc that finishes at the beginning of season 3.   


  • Episode 8 One Breath >> "I knew there was a reason to live."  Scully after Mulder gives her a "Best of the Super Bowl video (or the like). Mulder's gifts are always crap.  I think he does it on purpose.
  • Episode 16 Colony >> Mulder to Scully “Oh I changed it to trust everyone, didn't I tell you?”  Scully for once is more paranoid than Mulder.
  • Episode 17 End Game >> Scully standing up to the Doctors in the arctic and insisting that they do what she asked and keep Mulder cooled down.  And then her smile when he finally wakes up.
  • Episode 20 Humbug>> SO MANY
    • Mr Nutt: "I know what you're thinking my friend, but you're grossly mistaken...Just because I'm not of so-called average height does not mean I must receive my thrills vicariously. Not all women are attracted to overly tall, lanky men such as yourself. You'd be surprised how many women find my size intriguingly alluring." Mulder with a leering smile: "You'd be surprised how many men do as well."
    •  Dr B: "...You see, I've seen the future, and the future looks just like him...[points to Mulder, who is in a classic GQ pose] Imagine, going through your whole life looking like that. That's why it's left up to the self-made freaks like me 'n The Conundrum to remind people..." Scully: "Remind people of what?" Dr B: "Nature abhors normality. It can't go very long without creating a mutant."
    • Lenny: "Mr. Nut, the kind-hearted manager here, convinced me that to make a living by publicly displaying my deformity lacked dignity. So... now I carry other people's luggage. I believe these are your trailers; if they are not... then I am wrong."
    •  Sheriff Hamilton: "You don't mean to tell me you think these tracks were made by the Fiji Mermaid?!" Scully: "Do you recall what Barnum said about suckers? " (nods towards Mulder)
    • Dr B: "Only The Conundrum can answer that question. But, he doesn't answer questions, he merely poses them. When an audience partakes in The Conundrum's human piranha act, they are left to ask themselves... (feeds Conundrum a fist full of live crickets) .....why? But, where are my manners?" (offers Scully a cricket-filled jar) Scully: (takes one) "Thank you." (eats cricket, smiles at Mulder then walks away. Mulder looks shocked, refuses the crickets) (Scully pulls cricket she "ate" from behind Mulder's ear) Scully: "It's an old sleight of hand my uncle taught me. He was only an amateur magician but he was still better than those two." Mulder: "Well I'm going over to the lab to see if they can test the blood on the window against the blood on Dr. Blockhead's nail. (produces nail from mid-air) Everybody's uncle's an amateur magician."
  • Episode 23 Soft Light >> Dr. Banton "They’re going to do the brain suck that they’ve been dying to do." delivered perfectly by Tony Shalhoub who plays the character.


No not the real ones.  These are ones I made up.

Best Episode: Ep. 20 Humbug Duh! I love the blend of humor and poignancy that Darin Morgan creates and I love how much fun Anderson and Duchovny seem to be having.
Worst Episode: Ep. 7 '3'  Boring vampires and questionable promiscuity choices by Mulder. 
Most Paranoid:  Ep. 10 Red Museum  The government is providing alien innoculants for the local cattle and children. Yikes!
Best Mulder Episode: Ep. 8 One Breath Mulder pursues the truth with a vengeance to try and figure what's happened to Scully but in the end lets it all go just to be there as her friend.  Nice moment for him.  He's also pretty awesome in Irresistible, realizing that Scully is struggling and trying get her to open up but not pushing too hard nor coddling her either.
Best Scully Episode: Ep. 25 Anasazi  Instead of getting mad and irritated when Mulder is acting crazy she realizes something isn't right, continues to investigate and doesn't hesitate to non-lethally shoot him when it becomes necessary.  She manages to do it all while being supportive and understanding.  Don't ask me. I don't know how she manages it.
Best Episode for Shippers:  Strangely I think its Ep. 13 Irresistible.  Mulder refers to Scully as pretty and is pretty frantic after she disappears and then there's the first hug.  None of this is really romantic per se but it's early seasons yet.
Worst Episode for Shippers: Ep. 7 '3'  You know.  Because Mulder sleeps with random vampire lady.  BUT you could make the argument that he does so because he is distraught over Scully's disappearance.


OVERALL GRADE: B-  If you'd asked me before I started this re-watch, I would have said that season one was one of the weakest seasons and that season two was much better.  After re-watching however, I'd say they're about equal.  There were only 8 really notable episodes from season 2 (vs. 10 for season 1) and only about five that I would consider in my long list of favorites (vs. 8 in season 1).  In the end I gave season 2 the same grade as season one because even with fewer interesting episodes it has the advantage of it's actors really settling into their roles.  And there's Humbug which is likely in my my short list faves along with the other three Darin Morgan episodes.  Season two is also kind of the last peaceful time for Mulder and Scully.  Peaceful?!! you say.  Scully was abducted, spent time in a coma and almost died, Mulder's sister appeared after many long years gone and turns out she's an alien human hybrid, Mulder almost died from an alien virus and then Scully shot him. Mulder's dad is murdered How is that peaceful??!!  I stand my ground because 1) Scully's still bright eyed and bushy-tailed and unfazed and 2) things are about to get way more crazy y'all.


>> Yes Scully does occasionally smile  (I came across this list while looking for a picture of the End Game smile. Guess what is #1 on this list:0))
       >> Irresistible
       >> Humbug

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