Hello everyone, I’m back for some more rankings of X-Files episodes. I’ve been on a hiatus doing…well anything other than these rankings. Thankfully for you guys, I had an X-Files-Episode-Ranking shaped hole in my heart so I had to come back! So without further ado (other than this filler sentence), here we go with my next batch of Season Two episodes.
#21 – The Calusari (61/100)
Wow, this season is a huge improvement on Season One. I mentioned it in my last post but this season only really contains four clunkers, all of which were in that post. The Calusari, despite not hitting nearly all of the marks, is still an enjoyable ride…
The Calusari’s biggest attribute is how damn bleak and upsetting it is. It’s an incredibly dark episode which is not all that odd for The X-Files. Teddy’s death at the beginning is truly grim, Steve’s hanging is brutal, an old woman is killed by chickens, Mulder exorcises a ghost, and Scully is almost killed. But all of those pieces is not what makes it so dark. It’s the fact that all of this shit basically relates to the destruction of one woman’s life (Maggie Holvey). Rarely does an X-Files episode seem to relish torturing a one-off character like The Calusari does and I think this actually enhances this episode. She’s not particularly well acted but she is an empathetic character.
Where this episode struggles though is in executing some of the details. The Calusari themselves feel very generic, the grandmother does that “only-on-television” thing where she isn’t a native English speaker but she feels the need to helpfully speak English for the viewers. David Duchovny does that “only-with-David-Duchovny” thing where he hardly emotes at all during the climax. And Scully does that “only-fucking-Scully” thing where she is levitated by a ghost, thrown against a wall, and nearly murdered by said ghost but still doesn’t believe in the paranormal after this episode. All of these things keep the episode a bit lower than it could have been.
#20 – Three (64/100)
Three gets unfairly shunted to the bottom of many die-hard fans’ X-Files lists. To me, this seems a distorted case of many feeling absolutely mortified that Mulder would DARE to even sniff around at the idea of feeling better through sex rather than mope around over Scully being missing.
Now to each his own but I feel like Three is one hell of a character study on Fox Mulder and shows incredible insight into how lost he becomes without Scully. Everything Mulder does in this episode is reckless. He’s erratic, he’s off his game, he’s actively misleading law enforcement (more so than usual), he’s got some sort of protector complex going on…
All of that combined shines a spotlight on a Fox Mulder who differs from the character that we had gotten to know for 1.5 seasons up to this point and it is great. Wounded Mulder brings out some of David Duchovny’s best work and he is awesome here. And to all those people who hate that this is how he reacted to losing Scully, I’d say this is much more realistic than if he literally searched the ends of the earth for her non-stop without breaking down mentally a bit.
So why only a 64/100? Well, it just doesn’t flow right to me. There are scene transitions that feel jarring and confusing and characters do things with me being a step behind. We get a ten second shot of Mulder calling a blood bank but before I can even process that is what he is doing, he is suddenly skulking around dark corridors shooting at some vampires. We have Mulder bonding with Kristin at the club (this is the one Mulder scene I dislike) and she abruptly leaves to hang out with the asian guy who … does or doesn’t know her? I’m not really sure, the episode doesn’t explain it well but the guy seems to know her judging by him saying he promised to protect her or something. And the episode feels a bit unnecessarily grimy…I get that’s the vibe they were going for but it feels almost trashy.
There are many instances of this which hamper my view of this episode structurally. But despite it being a mess, its an emotionally resonant mess.
#19 – Blood (68/100)
Hmmm, I think I’m sniffing out a pattern here with these four episodes. Here’s another episode that should be better but its some of the details that hamper it. We have a really strong idea here with a town’s population being exposed to some sort of paranoia inducing pesticide that causes them to become homicidal. William Sanderson is an awesome guest star as he really makes you feel for his character as his life seems to be caving in on him. The soundtrack (particularly that repetitive theme that shows up when the people start receiving the messages) really enhances the atmosphere. All seems to be good…
But sadly, I can’t watch this episode without getting bored. That’s because many of the non-William Sanderson scenes are really lethargic. This includes several Mulder scenes and nearly every Scully scene. I get they were working with Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy but she feels shoe-horned into this episode. She adds really nothing and it would have been better without her. As for Mulder, he just seems listless (other than in the climax). His confrontation with the town official is particularly bad with a shoe-horned attempt to throw a “spooky” reference in. Mulder just seems out of it.
But still, a great guest star, a solid story-line and some other positives (a LGM appearance is always fun) still make Blood a generally enjoyable episode.
#18 – Fresh Bones (68/100)
And now, Fresh Bones. Running with that theme I identified, lets figure out what this episode does well! Lets see, it’s got a really interesting premise with zombies before zombies were hip. It’s got a Mr. X sighting which is always a pleasure, no matter how clunky his appearance is. The music is great. It’s phenomenally directed by Rob Bowman — his episodes just have this great big budget feel to them. Of the four episodes in this post, this has the most classical X-Filey feel. And finally, Mulder and Scully are in mortal danger….which I usually enjoy.
However, something about Fresh Bones just doesn’t work for me. Maybe its how we have all these interesting elements but none of them really rise above being just that — interesting. Really, the zombie aspect is never explored past “whoa, its zombies”. The military abuse angle is explored but Colonel Wharton is so obviously evil that its hard to take seriously. The voodoo stuff ends up being confusing — was Bouvee actually into voodoo or what? What the hell was with that goofy story Dunham told Mulder and Scully? What happened there at the end of the episode?? Scully had an actual paranormal experience that by itself is terrifying but its undermined by the fact that she brushes it off like it was nothing. People don’t just brush things aside like that!
Fresh Bones is probably the most well-executed episode of this quartet but it’s also the one that really lacks any sort of heart.
That’s it for now, hopefully I have my next set up sooner rather than later!