Because I review a whole tv series rather than individual episodes, there is a chance of spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the whole series yet, stop reading now!
A second season defines a tv show. If a show has got a second season, it usually means it was successful enough to warrant being given at least another six episodes. It then has added pressure. It has to deliver the same quality as the first season, while still moving the characters and show forward so that you aren’t watching the same show again, for another 20 or so episodes.
This leads to a lot of shows going one of three ways. They can buckle under the pressure, losing the magic that got them all their viewers in the first place. Other shows carry-on, delivering what made them great but on a consistent, average basis. Shows like The X-Files though, can learn from the mistakes and successes of the first season and build on that.
If you read my first season review, you’ll know that I was a bit surprised by the show that I loved as a kid being so average. It was muddled, confused, too slow in places but with moments of brilliance. It seems Chris Carter, the shows creator, and the other producers looked back at what worked in the first season and delivered that in spades.
That means we get really strong “monsters” episodes. Rather than slow, steady episodes, full of interrogation and silly, quasi-science, we get unexplained, full on science-fiction monsters. Everything from an evolved tape-worm to a creature that could well be a half-monkey, half-human mermaid! Its silly but brilliant at the same time.
You can tell that the creators are learning from their successes because they also try to repeat some of the better episodes from the first season. The notable example being Firewalker, which is the same possession style, claustrophobic episode as Ice from the first season, which was the best of the X-Files debut.
Of course, alongside the monsters is the alien conspiracy. This was probably the best thing about season 1, giving the show some continuity and purpose. This season, they really kick this aspect of the show into a high gear and deliver some of the best episodes of the season because of it. The double-episodes, Duane Barry and Ascension, are suspenseful, action-packed and thrilling without being over-reliant on the science-fiction aspect of the show. Duane Barry is practically a two-hand episode between David Duchovny and Steve Railsback, who plays the title character.
It’s also a brave move by the show to write out one of your main characters. Scully’s abduction is done so well, with no real idea of where the story is going, that you can’t help but be intrigued. It’s a shame that only one episode is completed without her, and that it’s a poor attempt at vampires, but to go without one of your main characters shows how confident the series had become.
Especially considering that the relationship between Mulder and Scully is the strongest part of the whole series. Their chemistry is at its best here, with some great dramatic moments, particularly concerning Scully’s return, as well as some of the funniest lines and scenes in any X-Files shows. Humbug, where the agents investigate a murder at a circus sideshow, is just one funny moment to another. Its X-Files at its best.
David Duchovny just about manages to steal the season for best performance though. He gets to do some real heavyweight acting, struggling with Scully’s disappearance, coming face to face with (potentially) his sister and becoming much more of an action star this season too.
It’s not a perfect season. If a show has 25 episodes, some of them are going to fall short of the mark. There are some great ideas but its a shame that a supernatural show couldn’t do vampires effectively or discover the scary potential of a possessed child episode. These are small gripes in what is a hugely strong season, particularly compared to the very average season 1.
Overall, The X-Files find its feet firmly with season 2 and demonstrates why it managed to continue for another seven seasons. Mulder and Scully are at their best, the “monster” episodes are, for the most part, brilliant, scary and silly and the alien conspiracy rages on, affecting the main character more than a second season of a show would usually dare. This is more like the series I remember loving as a kid.
Best Episode – Duane Barry/Ascension: This two-parter is the alien conspiracy aspect of the show at its best and really shows how assured and confident the series had become.
Best performance – David Duchovny as Mulder.
Should there have been another season? – Yes, definitely. With season 2 being this good, it could only get better.
Season Rating – 4.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)