David Duchovny posted it publicly on Facebook, saying: “I think I know you from somewhere …”
Gillian Anderson responded: “It’s all coming back to me!”
[THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.] Well … it pains me to admit it, but even a diehard fan of “The X Files” has got to admit that its quality waned in the last season of its regular run — 2001’s Season 9 was pretty uneven, with great “monster-of-the-week” episodes and surprisingly disappointing final entries into the show’s over-arching “mythology” episodes. I’d give this season a 7 out of 10, and that’s from a biased fanboy who loves this show in much the same way that others love Star Wars and Star Trek. Frankly, I’d recommend that you peruse Wikipedia’s episode list to select the standalone eps so that you can watch only those. Skip the conspiracy eps entirely — even if you’re a lover of the long running mythology, as I am. (You’ll only be disappointed.)
Again, a few of the single stories really shined, and weren’t symptomatic of the creative problems that visibly plagued the show near the end of its 90’s era run. At the top of the list is the outstanding “Release,” in which the murder of John Doggett’s son is resolved. This episode had everything that made “The X Files” great — good guys, bad guys, and ambiguous guys all working at cross purposes; a tragic mystery; a haunted past; pathos; twists and red herrings; and great emotional interactions among key characters. Plus … wrath and gunshots. Damn cool.
“Release” also highlighted Cary Elwes’ wonderful talent. What a great, darkly ambiguous character he made Brad Follmer. I liked him far better in this role than his comic caricature in “The Princess Bride” (1987) or his traumatized victim in the “Saw” movies. This show could have taken on great new directions if it had emphasized the triangle among Doggett, Monica Reyes and Follmer, instead of belaboring past stories so much to retain fans of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.
Other episodes shined as well. “4D” and “Audrey Pauley” were like great episodes of the classic “The Outer Limits” (1963). “Audrey Pauley” benefited from a fantastic actress (Tracey Ellis) in the title role. “Hellbound” frighteningly pushed the limits of gore and shock-horror. And “John Doe” was a pretty decent old-fashioned Hitchcock-type crime tale.
Let’s … just not dwell on “Improbable,” the utterly stupid … “numerology episode.” They bagged an amazing guest actor like the iconic Burt Reynolds and subjected him to this?! If anyone can tell me the significance of those two unidentified Italian men crooning in the episode’s coda, I’d be eternally grateful.
The mythology episodes … sigh. They failed to please. I know that many fans point to David Duchovny’s absence as the reason, but I disagree. This is the story of a decades-old, global, inter-planetary conspiracy. It isn’t just one man’s story, and we’d followed Fox Mulder’s quest for the prior eight years. We can have a coherent and logical continuation of the story without him. And the writers and actors of “The X Files” did just fine in introducing more crusaders that we care about — two great characters in the form of Doggett and Reyes. Robert Patrick was terrific; Annabeth Gish wasn’t perfect, but had room to grow, as Gillian Anderson did in the early years. And of course Anderson’s immense talents still made Scully a perfect heroine. You know what would have been a daring creative decision? Martyring Mulder to motivate the survivors. (Duchovny wanted to leave anyway, didn’t he?)
For me, two other problems were responsible for the show’s decline. The first was structure, and the second was the redundancies with past seasons. Season 9 was all over the place — at this point, I’d bet the viewers had largely lost hope that the show’s long-running mysteries would be resolved. Subplots were raised and dropped with little impact; the episodes concerning baby “William” were maudlin and tiresome. The season moved forward with minimal clues and exposition. Its penultimate episode, “Sunshine Days,” was … a mythology episode? Or not? I’m not sure — we have a new superpowered character whose unique gifts might be “the answer to everything.” Well … that’s pretty much the same plot point with which we left off with Gibson Praise in a prior season. It was a nebulous plot point that wasn’t well supported in the script then, and it’s even less believable now. And the final episode was a cobbled together rush job, in which past guest stars cameoed in a literal trial for Mulder. (Admittedly, I, for one, thought Chris Carter did a decent job of wrapping up pre-existing story arcs.) The we leave off with a kind of … distant-future cliffhanger … which was subsequently unaddressed by the second feature film in 2008.
But the recycled story arcs were worse. Instead of a conspiracy, we have “a new conspiracy.” Instead of superpowered Alien Bounty Hunters with a little known Achilles’ heel, we have … “super-soldiers” with a little known Achilles’ heel. (And this silly story device seems like something out of the old “Roadrunner” cartoons.) Instead of a credulous guy and a skeptical lady, we have a credulous lady and a skeptical guy. I’m not sure what Carter was thinking, except that he must have been consciously paralleling past seasons that had proven so popular.
Oh, well. It’s still “The X Files.” And it wasn’t all bad. Check it out on Netflix and decide what you think.
“The X Files” was in its heyday during Season 5 – this deserves a perfect 10. There were a slew of fantastic mythology episodes, and the standalones included all-time classics such as “The Pine Bluff Variant,” “Folie a Deux” and “Bad Blood.”
There was only one misfire – the draggy and unsatisfying “Chinga.” And even that was at least watchable, thanks to onscreen chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.
I am blogging my past TV reviews from Facebook; this was my surprisingly unenthusiastic reaction to “The X Files” Season 1. Yes, this review is dated, as it makes no mention of the show’s impending return. (Hooray.)
I love ‘The X Files.” And I mean I REALLY love “The X Files.” It’s possibly my favorite television show of all time, running neck and neck with shows like “24,” Battlestar Galactica” and “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” So I was very surprised at my own disappointment when, via Netflix, I was able to watch Season 1 in its entirety for the first time. Taken together, I think its 24 episodes deserve a 5 out 0f 10. And bear in mind – that’s coming from a diehard fan.
I first fell in love with this show as its fourth or fifth season was currently airing. This was long before Netflix streaming, and I’m pretty sure it was before DVD’s were even a thing. (I’m old.) What few episodes I’d seen of Season 1 were from syndication and purchased VHS tapes. So I’ve been proclaiming my love for the show (which had a nine-year run) for years without ever having seen much of the early seasons.
Some great TV shows can get off to a rough start. “The Simpsons,” “MST3K” and even “Family Guy” were less than stellar when they first began. Shows like “24” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” were good, but got much better. “The X Files” was surprisingly average.
The first nine episodes were, frankly, poor. There was little of the suspense, mystery and characterization that would eventually make the show great, with Mulder and Scully being flat, and even annoying characters that were thinly scripted and awkwardly played by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. Duchovny, early on, was just bad. His wooden line delivery made him seem like a Fox Network intern who was standing in for a sick professional actor. Anderson was better, but could only do so much with the clunky and simplistic dialogue.
Episodes like “Ghost in the Machine” and “Ice” seem clearly like ripoffs of sci-fi classics (“2001: A Space Odyssey” and John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” respectively), though “Ice” still manages to be fun. One episode, “Space,” was so boring that it was painful to watch. “Squeeze,” which is a favorite for many longtime fans, was good, but even it hasn’t aged all that well. I’m surprised the show lasted.
As mysteries or police thrillers, these early episodes also failed. Eager witnesses cheerfully and conveniently present themselves early on to volunteer clues and exposition. The underlying reveals seemed like elements thrown together with little exposition. And Duchovny looks like he’d never held a gun in his life. (I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to wave it around like that.) I can’t remember the episode but, at one point, Mulder (a supposedly brilliant Oxford-trained criminal psychologist) actually confuses schizophrenia with MPD (multiple personality disorder). Sigh.
Then there was a shift in tone and quality. “Eve” is one of the all-time greats. (And it was here where the dark themes and complex overarching plotlines were truly established that would later define the show.) “Beyond The Sea” saw Anderson shine, along with the writers and directors. It was simply fantastic … even unforgettable (thanks in no small part to amazing guest actor Brad Dourif).
“Darkness Falls” and “Born Again” established their creators’ abilities to make great standalone, scary mysteries. Duchovny just seemed to … get better. He settled into the role, became more natural, and the writers seemed to begin giving Mulder the endearing quirks and idiosyncrasies that eventually grew him into an attractive, three-dimensional character that so many people would grow to love.
And the final episode, “The Erlenmeyer Flask,” clinched it. Here the show seemed to reach the greatness that I remember, with a great story with humor, pathos, creepiness, tension and seemingly plausible twists and mysteries. It was wonderful, and a great precursor of the greatness we would see in later seasons.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the show. And Season 1 was really more average than flat out bad. I’m just saying that the first season compares poorly with what longtime fans remember from the next eight years.