The Best and Worst of Season 3

Screencaps: 20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Screencaps: 20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

We were pretty excited when it was time to start season three — like the season before it, this is one that stands out in both of our minds as one of the strongest years of The X-Files. The show was getting a little sleeker in both style and substance, with a blossoming mythology and an ever-fascinating Mulder and Scully dynamic. And it was even more willing than before to play with the idea of comedy, bringing us some strangely absurd, but classic television moments.

In fact, we had a hard time coming up with our list of the worst episodes (minus one we really really hated), which is a sign of just how good this season was. When your “worst” episode picks are really the ones you feel indifferent about and sometimes even have a few nice thoughts about, that’s a really good sign of a TV season’s quality.

But sticking with our tradition so far, we are going to give you our top five, as well as our five least favorite episodes here. Just like we did with season two, multi-part episodes will count as one episode for the purposes of this list. And this time, we broke form a little bit and even included an honorary mention.

So let’s get on with it, shall we? Continue reading

3×24: Talitha Cumi

“Men can never be free, because they’re weak, corrupt, worthless and restless. The people believe in authority, they’ve grown tired of waiting for miracle or mystery. Science is their religion, no greater explanation exists for them.” — Cigarette Smoking Man

Mulder and Scully look for a man who seems to possess the ability to heal, amongst other things, and who may be linked to larger conspiracies.

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Radhika: “Talitha Cumi” has never been the most standout of The X-Files’ season finales to me, in part because it seems almost subdued compared to other mythology episodes. This is not to say the episode lacks suspense — it does! But those moments are subtle when compared to episodes like the season two finale, “Anasazi,” or even multi-parters from season three itself, such as “Nisei”/“731” or “Piper Maru”/“Apocrypha.” But in the grand scheme of things, this is not damning at all — the plot moves along nicely, touching upon old themes, keeping the mythology mysterious, while allowing it to make cohesive sense.

The episode opens at a restaurant where an agitated gunman shoots a number of people before police shoot him. An older gentleman, later introduced to us as one Jeremiah Smith, appears on the scene, healing everyone with the palm of his hands, including the shooter himself.

The mysterious healer has disappeared by the time Mulder and Scully arrive, but it isn’t just the case the ends up being on the agents’ minds. Mulder is informed that his mother, Teena, has suffered a stroke, moments after viewers are treated to a scene involving her and the Cigarette Smoking Man. When Mulder meets his mother at the hospital, she writes the word “PALM” on a notepad, and he believes there must be a connection to Jeremiah Smith. Continue reading

3×23: Wetwired

“I’m going to get some sleep. Looks like you could use some too.” – Fox Mulder
“No, I’m going to… watch the rest of these tapes. Just out of curiosity.” – Dana Scully
“You have fun.” – Fox Mulder

Mulder and Scully investigate a series of mysterious homicides in suburban Maryland, and what they uncover threatens to unravel their partnership…

Wetwired

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Max: Coming back to “Wetwired” is an absolute treat, because it is an incredibly rich episode not only for its thematic content but for its handling of the relationship between our heroes. Mat Beck, the show’s visual effects supervisor, turned in the script for this episode, and his tech background proved fruitful in examining the effects our “plugged-in” world have on society.

Tipped off by an associate of X, Mulder briefs Scully on a case in Braddock Heights, Maryland of a man who recently went on a homicidal spree, killing five people (including his wife) he believed to be all the same individual. A cursory search of the man’s residence turns up a closet of cataloged videotapes of news reports. Scully is curious about the tapes and has her and Mulder bring some back to the hotel to look for a connection. Continue reading

3×22: Quagmire

“You know, on the old mariners’ maps, the cartographers would designate unchartered territories by writing, ‘Here be monsters.’” — Dana Scully
“I got a map of New York City just like that.” — Fox Mulder

Our agents tackle their own Nessie when they wind up investigating a series of deaths at a lake in Georgia that Mulder believes were caused by a sea (lake?) monster known as “Big Blue.”

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Radhika: “Quagmire,” while not exactly a Darin Morgan episode — though he did apparently help a bit with its formation — is an example of what has happened to The X-Files in a post-Darin Morgan world. The show is not afraid to be silly anymore. But what’s kind of fun about this particular monster-of-the-week episode is the fact that while it has plenty of silly fun moments in it, it doesn’t just rely on making you laugh or making the characters a little too exaggerated.

In this episode, Mulder and Scully — with her dog Queequeg in tow, thanks to short notice — take a trip to Georgia where a Boy Scout troop leader has disappeared by a lake. Mulder naturally believes that a sea monster of sorts, affectionately referred to as “Big Blue” by the local population, is responsible. Deaths and other mishaps occur, before the agents eventually uncover an alligator as the apparent perpetrator of the attacks. Though the agents (including a very disappointed Mulder) leave without looking for Big Blue further, we the viewers get to see Big Blue out for a little swim, unnoticed and undisturbed.

Continue reading

3×21: Avatar

“Maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s why Skinner’s running. He’s afraid.” – Fox Mulder
“That he did it?” – Dana Scully
“That he doesn’t know he didn’t do it.” – Fox Mulder

Mulder and Scully set out to investigate the murder of a woman in a upscale hotel room, but the police already seem to have their man, Assistant Director Walter Skinner.

Avatar

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Max: The genesis of this episode was an idea that David Duchovny had of making an episode focusing on AD Skinner, as a way to lighten his own workload on the program in order to film his part in the infamous Red Shoe Diaries softcore erotica film series. Howard Gordon of the writing and production staff then wrote the episode based on a story he and David developed.

Skinner, after refusing to sign the final papers for his divorce (yes, he’s married!!!), goes to a hotel bar and is picked up by a very flirty blonde who he then proceeds to go to bed with. Asleep, he gets a bizarre nightmare of an old decrepit woman and is shaken awake by this vision, only to discover his blonde fling dead right next to him, her neck snapped in two. Continue reading

3×20: Jose Chung’s From Outer Space

“That was Detective Manners. He said they just found your bleeping UFO.” — Dana Scully

Novelist Jose Chung talks to Mulder, Scully and a multitude of witnesses about an alien abduction involving two teenagers. Hilarity and absurdity ensues.

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Radhika: There is something almost daunting about writing about this episode of The X-Files, long heralded as one of the show’s best episodes of all time. The final Darin Morgan script of the series, “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” is one of the most convoluted, ridiculous and outright enjoyable stories, full of in-jokes and the occasional kooky guest star. There’s no way I can be more hilarious than Darin Morgan, but I’m going to talk your ear off about it anyway.

For all the delightful nonsense in the episode, the heart of it is quite simple: A teenage couple is abducted by a couple of aliens, who are then abducted by another alien himself. (Whaaat?) And so, Mulder and Scully are drawn into the case, and we see them — well, mostly Scully — being interviewed by novelist Jose Chung, who plans on writing about … what else? Alien abduction. The rest of the episode is really like an absurdist game of Telephone, with different characters — major and minor — recounting their version of events (a method that would later turn up in season five’s “Bad Blood”), lampooning every cliché about alien abductions, authority figures, teenage romance, and… nerds like you and me. Continue reading

3×19: Hell Money

“You cheated them out of life by promising them prosperity when the only possible reward was death.” – Dana Scully
“In my belief, death is nothing to be feared. It’s merely a stage of transition but life without hope– now, that’s living hell. So, hope was my gift to these men. I don’t expect you to understand.” – Hard-Faced Man

Our heroes journey to San Francisco’s Chinatown neighborhood to investigate a string of cremations. This usually warrants no close examination, but in this case, the people were being burned alive.

Hell Money

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Max: After the absolute disaster of last episode, it is a relief to regain any modicum of quality in an episode of The X-Files. Luckily, “Hell Money” rewards our patience, and despite being a rather dour low key affair as compared to other more well-known episodes, it is one of those diamonds in the rough that has a rich psychological and cultural subtext.

Mulder and Scully come to Chinatown under Mulder’s assumption that some kind of spectral activity is responsible for the deaths of these men, including Johnny Lo, the latest victim. Little does he know that three masked men attacked Lo in his apartment the night prior, who obliquely demanded that Lo “pay the price.” Continue reading