Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The X-Files Halloween Countdown | Season Two (10 Seasons, 10 Episodes)

It's day two (kind of) of The X-Files Halloween countdown, and now it's time to feast your eyes on my favourite episodes of Season Two.

Technically it's not 'day two', but I since realized that one, I don't really like many episodes in Season Eight and Nine; and two, there are only six episodes in Season Ten; I'll lump them all into two posts on Halloween itself. 

Image via Fox

Often regarded as one of shows best finales, Anasazi left viewers in 1995 on a tense (and horrifying for me) cliffhanger: is Mulder alive or dead? 

Much like Season One's finale 'The Erlenmeyer Flask', 'Anasazi' pushes Mulder even closer to the truth; this time actually giving him some semblance of truth in the form alien carcasses in a boxcar in the middle of the New Mexican desert. 

'Anasazi' is such a gripping episode, not only due to it focusing on the shows mythology, but with the sheer amount of terrible events that are thrown Mulder's way. 'Anasazi' is definitely a Mulder-orientated episode in terms of story, but it also highlights the developing trust and love between Mulder and Scully; especially since her abduction earlier in the season. They'll do anything to save each other, and 'Anasazi' gives us the chance to see the lengths that Scully will go to to keep Mulder in her life. 

Image via Fox

I don't know why, but 'F. Emasculata' has always been one of the episodes that has stood out to me. To me, it seems to be an episode that is always overlooked when it comes to both writing about The X-Files, and talking about it in fan forums. 

'F. Emasculata' isn't an episode that is outright amazing, but it's the build up to a exceedingly deadly contagion spreading amongst the American population that always has me gripped till the bitter end. It has plot holes, sure, but what episode of The X-Files doesn't? Hell, I still don't understand the mythology arc to the series and I've seen it at least five times. That's the beauty of the show; you don't know what to believe in. 

And God, as much as I admire the special effects in this show, the exploding pustules are absolutely disturbing. 

Image via Fox

My favourite thing about 'The Calusari' isn't the episode itself, more so the ideas surrounding it before it was made. Especially that the prevailing inspiration behind this episode was Carter having an idea of someone getting hanged with a garage-door opener. How more X-Files can you get. 

'The Calusari' is one of the few times that the show dealt with the prospect of Eastern medicine; which is due to writer Sara Charno's experience as a doctor within the field. Mulder and Scully are drawn to the case of the episode from a photograph taken just before the death of a two-year-old boy; giving the impression that there was some sort of supernatural intervention at play. 

Much like 'Home' in Season Four, 'The Calusari' was deemed too violent and gruesome for television. Fox's standard and practices department took issue with several scenes, which comes as no surprise with the garage hanging and an eventual exorcism on a child. Apparently that wasn't scary enough either for Carter, who re-cut the episode to make it even scarier.

Image via Fox

My parents watched The X-Files back when it was airing in the 90s; as did I in the late 90s/early 2000s when I couldn't sleep and I'd peak at the television through the stairs. 'Humbug' is one of the only episodes my Mum remembers during her first watch of the show, alongside the season seven episode 'Arcadia'. I can see why, both these episodes are extremely humorous yet unsettling; something I always aim for in an episode of The X-Files.

Written by Darin Morgan and directed by Kim Manners (a winning combination), 'Humbug' sees Mulder and Scully investigating a series of murders in a sideshow community. Mulder believes that the murders are the result of the mysterious 'Fiji mermaid', whereas Scully believes the situation is a humbug. 

I remember 'Humbug' being one of the first episodes of the show that I had to pause at laughing from; distinctly the funhouse sequence but a lot of other quips and jokes throughout the episode (as per usual). Usually I hate anything that is set in or even references fairs or sideshows, but I always let this episode slide in my irrational fears. 

Image via Fox

The first episode to truly terrify me, 'The Host' is one of the prevailing episodes of the show that exemplifies how much the writers and directors could get away with. Especially in terms of nightmare-inducing monsters; this time in the form of a giant, mutated flukeworm. 

Due to Anderson's pregnancy at the end of Season One and beginning of this season, 'The Host' is again a Mulder-centric episode. Scully does appear now and again, but not in a strenuous manner. It's Mulder that has to go knee deep in sewage and nearly get killed by the fluke. 

Again, my favourite thing about this episode? Carter being inspired to write it through experiencing his dog having worms, reading about Chernobyl and the extinction of species during the 1990s. What episodes for television have that level of variation in inspiration these days, huh? 

Image via Fox

Being one of the most major plot-turning points of the series, you can't not have 'Duane Barry', 'Ascension' and 'One Breath' on a top ten list. And I couldn't pick just one; seeing as I watched these three in a frantic row when I first watched the show the whole way through. 

These three episodes see the foundation of The X-Files mythos entirely; that being Scully's abduction, subsequent return and near-death experience. Not only do these three episodes deal with the trials and tribulations of Scully being tortured, experimented upon and left to die, but also the lengths that Mulder will go to to save his partner - and ultimately his best friend at this point in the series. 

Both Mulder and Scully go through hell in these three episodes, with Anderson and Duchovny portraying the characters with such prowess and raw emotion. It's hard to imagine that these three episodes - and the rest of the show's mythology - were all down to Anderson's unexpected pregnancy and the need to write around it. 

Image via Fox

When talking about the scariest episodes within The X-Files canon, a majority of choices lean towards episodes that contain some sort of terrifying entity or monster. But in the terms of 'Irresistible', there is no monster afoot. At least, that's what we're lead to believe; here we are met with the most horrifying antagonist imaginable - a human being. 

The use of a human antagonist rather than a 'monster' adds a level of chilling uncertainty in regards to the underlying knowledge of what human's are capable of; this being in the form of death fetishist Donnie Pfaster. 

'Irresistible' is a multi-layered episode in terms of what Carter is able to bring to the forefront; something without an inherent paranormal aspect, the exploration of human behavior and how not only Scully deals with PTSD from her abduction, but how Mulder deals with it too. 

David Nutter, the director of the episode, sums it up perfectly: "I really worked hard to make it a special show, because I thought it was special. It was Gillian's post-traumatic stress episode, because she had not really had the opportunity to vent her feelings about the whole Duane Barry situation. This was an opportunity to sit back and let all that happen."

The episode also gives Mulder and Scully the chance to finally let themselves go emotionally in front of each other, culminating in the tender moment between the two at the end of the episode. They cling on to each other and thus start a whole new chapter of trust in their relationship. 

Image via Fox

The first episode of this season, 'Little Green Men' establishes that even if The X-Files are closed, Mulder can't stop looking for the truth. The truth takes him as far as the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico; meanwhile Scully attempts (and succeeds) to find Mulder and help him on his quest, even though the two have been separated. 

Being enthralled by the mere mention of anything to do with space or NASA, this episode is a goldmine for me, especially in terms of NASA's Voyager Program. More so the Voyager Golden Record; a phonograph record that contains a collection of sound and imagery selected to portray the life and diversity on Earth. The record was launched aboard the Voyager spacecraft, and is intended to be viewed by any intelligent extraterrestrial life or future humans. 'Little Green Men' also references another one of my favourite programs, SETI - otherwise known as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

In all, 'Little Green Men' is an extremely strong episode for the show, especially in terms of an opener for a season. It's tense, it has an underlying sense of wariness and uncertainty as to whether Mulder will find what he is looking for, and the representation of Mulder and Scully's bond strangely growing stronger the further they are apart. 

Image via Fox

"Better hide your Megadeath albums"; an episode featuring one of my favourite quotes of the series, 'Die Hand Die Verletzt' (German translation: The Hand That Wounds) is a staple episode in regards to the emerging resurgence of interest in the paranormal/supernatural. 

The episode sees Mulder and Scully investigated the death of a teenager in a small town, seemingly at the hands of an occult ritual. Upon questioning staff and students at the town's high school, they find that the faculty are themselves self-stylized devil worshipers when they were teens, and are trying to conceal their past; but the devil isn't having any of it. 

Again, the episode doesn't stem from an almighty prophecy or vision that any of the writers had; rather writer Glen Morgan's idea to have a scene in which a snake eats a man. From there, 'Die Hand Die Verletzt' began to blossom, including the incorporation of the occult and the supernatural, naming the high school featured in the episode after the famed occultist Aleister Crowley. 

Image via Fox

In what was probably my first 'what the fuck' moment of the series, the joint episodes 'Colony' and 'End Game' are again Mulder-centric, focusing on the ongoing mystery surrounding his sister's disappearance. 

Stemming from an idea from Duchovny that Mulder and Scully should face an alien bounty hunter, Carter and Duchovny sat down and mapped out the mythology-arc over the two episodes, which would eventually include the return of Samantha. Not only that, but both 'Colony' and 'End Game' give the first insights into the human-alien hybrid project that is an integral part of the series, and the beginnings of Scully's doubts as to not only what happened to her when she was abducted, but what will happen to her in the future. 

Both episodes follow Mulder's typically dangerous and stupid journey that eventually leads him to Alaska in which he very nearly dies, thankfully leading to Scully being at the rescue. But it doesn't stop the panic from slowly boiling in my stomach when Mulder's being brought back to life towards the end of 'End Game'. Even if I have watched these two episodes countless times.

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