#17 – Dod Kalm (70/100)
Dod Kalm is less memorable than the episodes in my last post, despite having a higher score. Some of the episodes with lower scores had quite a few glaring lows which Dod Kalm never gets saddled with, mostly because its energy levels seem to match that of the Sodium Choloride versions of Mulder and Scully.
This episode is not ambitious enough to warrant strong emotions one way or the other. It opens well with a creepy teaser and some fun Mulder and Scully moments. Some of the character moments towards the end (despite my complaints below) are well played with real emotion behind them. Ranheim’s death is directed fantastically by Rob Bowman and Scully’s panicked search of the ship are moments where the episode feels like it might aspire to be more than it is.
However, once the makeup artists get their grubby mitts all over our beautiful agents, things grind to a halt (or should I say…grind to a salt?)
It’s not like the stuff going on on the ship is bad. It just doesn’t move the needle enough. It stays pleasantly neutral. Mulder and Scully are rapidly aging (actually they are rapidly turning into salt or something)…but is this supposed to be tense? Even without 24 years of hindsight, was anyone actually concerned that Mulder or Scully wouldn’t make it out of this episode intact (and their bodies magically repaired)? That and the actual threat is too indirect for it to be dramatically satisfying. The back half of the episode relies on tons of existential angst between Mulder and Scully which would have been more effective if we thought there was a chance of them dying. Instead, we get a lethargic ending which reinstates the status quo and we are left with memories of David Duchovny shivering in full makeup and Gillian Anderson test-driving her raspy voice that she would release for general consumption in Seasons 10 and 11.
#16 – Our Town (72/100)
Our Town is also a pretty middle of the pack episode ala Dod Kalm but where that episode meanders about in its neutrality, Our Town revels in its absurdity. On the surface level, this is a very bog-standard episode. We have no deep character moments for either of our principals, the dialogue is not at its best, and the episode feels very formulaic for a good portion of it.
However, things start to get really interesting once Mulder and Scully begin to realize that the townsfolk are feasting on their own. Its a sick twist that injects some life into matters…its genuinely unsettling to see the sheriff, the town doctor, and other random folks from town all participating in some good ol fashioned cannibalism. Combine that with some frightening imagery (the mask that the executioner wears is terrifying) and you’ve got a solid episode that is enjoyable throughout. (I’m biased towards anything related to fried chicken…)
My major issue with the episode is the finale with Scully in peril. Its well executed from a technical standpoint (direction, music, acting) but it feels like a forced ending. Scully being kidnapped in prior Season 2 episodes is a running theme but in those episodes (Ascension, Irresistable, End Game), it feels like a natural extension of the plot. In Our Town, it feels like it was tacked on to make the ending more exciting but it actually makes it less effective for me.
#15 – The Host (75/100)
The Host is similar to Our Town in that they are both very standard Monsters of The Week (MOTW) that embrace the idea of grossing out the viewers. With The Host, we have Russian ship crew members being yanked into raw sewage, New Jersey sanitation working in raw sewage, FBI Agents wading through raw sewage, and giant worm monsters living in raw sewage. There is a ton of poop in this episode.
However, while Our Town relies almost solely on the shock of a bunch of people eating each other, The Host has notable elements other than shit. The Flukeman is great…this is a creature that straddles the line of being just a cheap B-movie costume and being extremely creepy. And Darin Morgan’s mouth breathing gives it this sick, almost child-like aura behind its slimy visage. We also get introduced to Mr. X. and while it feels shoe-horned in this episode, it still adds an extra layer to overarching mythology. And Mulder gets some really strong character beats here, with him considering leaving the bureau. Not bad for a MOTW.
But my favorite part of this episode is Walter Skinner. His character really gets developed as this is the first time we see him without the Smoking Man by his side. Here (and in Little Green Men), you start to get a sense of Skinner’s moral code and Mitch Pileggi steals every scene he is in. And that scene where he puts Mulder in his place when Mulder comes in being all self-righteous is pure gold.
Honestly, this episode seems to have it all but it does drag a little bit at points and it suffers some from a general lack of Scully (as several of the early episodes of the season do). But all in, a solid #15 in my rankings!
#14 – Sleepless (76/100)
Sleepless is such an important episode to The X-Files that I feel like its almost a travesty that its this low on my list. Not only is Alex Krycek introduced in this episode but Mr. X gets his first scene onscreen! Krycek is solid though his full potential is not realized until later in the show (I feel like the show would have benefited by not revealing his duplicity at the end of the same episode he was introduced in). X though…damn, he realizes his potential IMMEDIATELY and then some. Just listen to the music from this scene! Every moment between Steven Williams and David Duchovny sizzles with intensity and this is one of my favorite scenes in the entire show’s run (even though they didn’t act this scene together).
Aside from the bevy of major characters that show up in this episode (CSM shows up at the end), the main plot to Sleepless is also good. I love the concept. The idea of soldiers having not slept in more than twenty years and having to cope with their extreme guilt is very grim. (I mean, I am writing this on five hours of sleep and the only guilt I feel is from vacuuming up hundreds of baby spiders that hatched out of my Christmas tree last night. And I feel like crap.) Tack on one of the soldiers (Tony Todd) having the ability to tap into an individuals subconscious and kill them with their waking dreams and we have so much potential.
Oh did I mention that CSM and Krycek set into motion Scully’s abduction arc? Yeah, this episode is important. So why only #14?
Well I feel like the high concept of the episode is undermined by some serious inconsistencies. Scully makes it clear that Dr. Grissom died because his brain believed he was on fire but he showed no primary physiological signs of being in a fire. But then how come the second victim, Henry Willig, has “forty-three small internal hemorrhages and skeletal fragments”? Those sure do sound like physiological signs of being shot. Then later, how come Mulder gets “shot” by Preacher and appears to be dead? Then just after the act break, he wakes up, no worse for wear. Did Mulder avoid the primary physiological signs of being shot and also all the mental trauma that apparently killed Grissom and Willig? So why did Mulder get knocked unconscious? Did he just faint at the sight of a gun?? WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING?!
That may sound nitpicky but those logic gaps take me out of the episode every time I watch it. That and the rushed handling of Krycek’s arc pull this episode down to a 76.