The second season of The X-Files opens in despair for Mulder and Scully. The X-Files have been disbanded and Mulder has been relegated to a normal FBI job, one for which he is extremely suited despite his lack of passion for it. The first episode of the season serves to remind viewers that despite his “Spooky” moniker and reputation, Mulder is one of the FBI’s top agents. Other than this reminder, the beginning of the second season seems weak to me, a handful of episodes where the writers try to sell the idea that the X-Files are gone and they aren’t coming back.
Of course they are.
I guess that’s a fundamental problem with shows like this you know a story arc like this can’t last long. The X-Files is built around three things: Mulder, Scully, and the X-Files themselves. No matter what the show pretends, it’s clear that sooner or later the team will have to get back together sooner or later.
That’s not to say the cases that make up the beginning of Season 2 weren’t interesting, but the ruse of the X-Files not existing was distracting. Season 2 doesn’t really hit its stride until Scully gets kidnapped in the two-part Duane Berry episode (Episodes 5 & 6). Unlike the underwhelming ‘The X-Files have been shut down’ storyline, the stakes in these two episodes felt very real. Even though I knew that Scully would ultimately be okay, it brought some much needed tension back to the show. It also concluded with the X-Files being reinstated and introduced us to Deputy Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) as the honorary third member of the team.
And now, because he is so wonderful, an ode to Walter Skinner.
When you were first introduced it was unclear,
Were you a villain or a pawn,
seemingly a friend of the Cigarette-Smoking Man?
You appeared cowardly, or perhaps complicit, but then things changed.
You began to notice the truth,
You kicked the Cigarette-Smoking Man out of your office.
You later re-opened the X-Files because “that’s what they fear the most.”
And we began to love you.
As the season progressed you made yourself a bigger part of the team.
You even put your life on the line, trusting Mulder and backing Scully,
And now you’re indispensable, as important to us as our duo.
*Cue finger snapping*
Without going too much more into it, (because really, once you’ve composed an ode to a character, where else can you go?) by the end of the second season Walter Skinner became a very important character, one I’m very excited to watch develop as the show goes on.
Once Scully was rescued and the X-Files were reopened the show took off, almost as if the first part of the season was more of a bridge from the first season to the true second season. Much of the latter part of the second season followed a very similar and pleasing format. Something strange would happen, and Mulder and Scully would go and try to figure out what it was, with a persistent undercurrent that something big was looming over them. The middle of the second season felt like it had less episodes that had to deal directly with the government conspiracy, but this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. These episodes instead focused on the case at hand, with part of each episode revolving around the bigger picture.
Season 2 also introduced a few new characters as well as the True Enemy. A new, significantly more villainous unnamed character (Steven Williams) replaced Deep Throat as Mulder’s source, but unlike Deep Throat, he didn’t appear to care as much about Mulder as he did about getting what he wanted. Additionally, a new pawn for the Cigarette-Smoking Man was introduced in Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea), initially appearing as Mulder’s partner but eventually revealed to be working against him. Along with these new character, we were finally introduced to an organization of men, including the Cigarette-Smoking Man, who were the ones pulling the strings. Our cigarette-smoking friend is not working alone, it seems.
It wasn’t until the end of the season that the big picture finally started to come into focus. It began with a major revelation: Mulder’s father worked for, or perhaps with, the Cigarette-Smoking Man in his younger days, although he had since become disillusioned. The final episode “Anasazi” was information overload, but in a good way. Between the revelation of the kind of company Mulder’s father used to keep, Mulder’s father’s subsequent death and the final revelation of the episode, everything else in this season seemed miniscule in comparison. The final reveal that the government was experimenting on humans was blunted by an explosion and the seeming possibility that Mulder was killed in said explosion.
The end of the second season was so packed with suspense and action that the beginning of the third season will have to find a way to defuse things and get it back to the status quo. This show, as I’ve now learned after watching through two seasons, works better when there is a larger air of mystery abounding with the overly suspenseful episodes, because, again, this is just a really great procedural cop show.
Final Takeaways from Season 2:
- Vince Gilligan’s first X-Files episode was the 23rd episode Soft Light
- Don’t mess with Walter Skinner
- The connection to Mulder’s father will be revisited in some way later and it might be a key to something important
- Scully really needs to stop pretending that everything can be explained by her science. I mean, seriously, come on, Horatio.
- The conspiracy is deeper and much darker than just aliens
- Seriously, don’t mess with Walter Skinner