It’s no secret that we were pretty excited when we started looking back at season two. To us, as well as our readers, season two is where The X-Files really started to pick up. The strongest episodes of the mythology, an even more established tone, and the start of some experimentation in writing style, can all be found in this season, which essentially cemented the show’s cult status.
But with 25 episodes in the season, there was still some room to stumble.
So just like we did with the first season, we’re compiling our five favorite and five least favorite episodes of season two. Some disclaimers first: Though we’ve recapped them separately, we are counting two-part episodes as a single installment for our purposes here today. So yes, maybe this means we are referring to more than five episodes while discussing our favorites, but we truly believe that the two-part episodes are telling one story, so we’re going to run with it.
We also freely admit that the mythology overwhelms our top episodes. This doesn’t mean that we paid no attention to the Monster of the Week episodes; it really just means that the mythology really was that good (before the writers eventually lost the plot years down the road).
TOP 5 EPISODES OF SEASON 2
Duane Barry / Ascension – This two-part story brought us Scully’s abduction, a pivotal, transformative moment in The X-Files history. The storytelling is topnotch, the mythology grows deeper, and the level of suspense is brilliant. It’s an important story arc for serious Philes and casual viewers alike.
One Breath – Less about aliens, and more about emotional and spiritual themes, this is the episode where Scully is returned after her abduction. With Scully spending most of her time on the brink of death in this episode, it’s more about watching a shattered Mulder and her family members cope with her return. This episode is all about the characters and provides us with even further evidence of the Mulder and Scully bond.
Irresistible – The strongest Monster of the Week episode in season two barely contains hints of the paranormal, instead focusing on the terrifying figures we may encounter in our everyday lives. As a result, death fetishist Donnie Pfaster remains one of the creepiest, most memorable villains in X-Files history.
Colony / End Game – Alien-human hybrids, clones, the return of Samantha Mulder… who isn’t actually Samantha Mulder, and the introduction of the Alien Bounty Hunter. These episodes represent another pivotal moment in the show’s mythology and they really just feel more like mini movies. What’s not to love?
Anasazi – One of the most memorable cliffhanger season endings of all time, “Anasazi” gives us a little more of a peek into the show’s alien storyline, while also introducing key characters like Albert Hosteen and killing off others. It’s also the episode where Scully shoots Mulder, so you know this is some quality entertainment.
THE WORST 5 EPISODES OF SEASON 2
3 – Sex and vampires should be a pretty winning combination, and yet everything goes horribly wrong in one of the cheesiest, most boring episodes of The X-Files ever. Worth watching if you’re in the mood for some secondhand embarrassment, though. Also, this episode has no Scully.
Firewalker – We don’t really hate this episode, but it also suffers from being a little less exciting and a bit too derivative of past episodes. Our review referred to it as not being particularly remarkable, which on some level shows you how good season two was if that’s the most damning thing about an episode.
Excelsis Dei – Tedious and muddled, this story about vengeful spirits in a nursing home could have been a lot less cliched and generally less of a mess. Alas, it wasn’t, so it made our list of not-so-great episodes.
Fresh Bones – While it doesn’t offend us as much as “3,” this episode joins the ranks of “Firewalker” in that it could have been a lot better than it was. The pacing lends to viewers’ minds wandering, and certain characters could have been portrayed in a much better manner than they were. A nice attempt to incorporate voodoo into The X-Files, but definitely not one of the strongest episodes either.
Fearful Symmetry – This is an afterschool special about how we treat zoo animals, the environment, and oh yeah, maybe the aliens want to save them. Sound nonsensical to you? Yeah, it was nonsense to us, too. Really an episode that everyone should skip when watching this show.