Once upon a time, I could have told you that we’d reached the midpoint of The X-Files onscreen canon. Well, “The End” is not the midpoint any longer, but the conclusion of Season Five still feels like the distinct end of an era. And it is, with our heroes about to hit the big screen for the first time in The X-Files: Fight the Future and the production making the move from the forests of Vancouver to the sunny shores of Southern California. To recap this short (in ’90s network TV land) but undeniably snazzy season of television, Kim and I are joined once again by fellow #TrustNoOne rewatcher, KatyBeth. So check your motel Bibles for bugs, fill up your Stanley with some deionized water, and get your cowboy boots on, because we’ve got a lot of cases and interpersonal drama to cover. Yeehaw. —Sage
- Favorite Mythology Episode?
Sage: I was caught up and watching live by the time Season Five started, and boy do I remember the experience of tuning into “Redux II” for the first time. It’s a rollercoaster of dramatic moments, from the successful culmination of the race to save Scully’s life to Mulder exposing Blevins mid-hearing as the FBI’s high-ranking traitor. The thing this episode does so well is to pack in the plot without leaving viewers discombobulated and giving due weight to the script’s emotional beats. I’m talking of course about the hospital scenes, particularly the one where Scully offers to take the fall for Mulder and he practically laughs in her face, because he would never allow her to besmirch her own reputation, even in death.
Of course, he’s offered a deal with the devil again, but for the second time, Mulder chooses Scully over “Samantha,” a carrot that CSM is now officially dangling in vain. “Redux II” is Mulder and Scully standing their individual and shared ground while a storm rages around them. Scully is struggling to accept her fate while continuing to fight, easily agreeing despite Bill’s protests to give Mulder’s Hail Mary a try – a show of trust and faith if I’ve ever seen one, not to mention an indication of just how desperate this trained medical doctor is. And Mulder finds himself holding the good names of both Scully and Skinner in his hands, walking a wire in the hearing about Ostelhoff’s death and miraculously pulling the right name out of his ass.
The trilogy as a whole throws a wrench into the mythology as we know it, namely in how Mulder perceives it. He’s disillusioned now, that sense of wonder that we’ve talked about in these posts has been dulled. The look of sheer joy and relief on his face when he tells Skinner that Scully’s cancer has inexplicably gone into remission is one thing, but otherwise, he’s been unmoored. “Redux II” blows things up even further by seemingly killing off the Cancer Man (and if you thought this resurrection was unlikely, just fucking wait) and confirming the paternity we’d all suspected for years. This is Kim Manners and certainly Chris Carter at their finest – let it never be said that he didn’t write some truly great episodes when he still had a handle on his characters. A killer start to the season and an episode that foreshadowed what a feature film version of the show could be.
Kim: I was certain going into this season that I was going to pick the “Redux” duology for my favorite mythology episode, but then I was reminded just how much “Patient X” and “The Red and the Black” fucking slap. If there are two things I love about a mythology episode, they’re a long credits roll that has me gleefully shouting “Gang’s all here!” and excellent callbacks to previous episodes. This duology has both in spades. And the only missing recurring characters in this one are the Gunmen, who were given a big spotlight both in “Redux I/II” and “Unusual Suspects,” so I’ll allow it. We have WMM at his most terrifyingly ruthless, reminding us that even though he looks like a soft English Gentleman, he’s still a part of the inner circle of a global conspiracy. We have Alex Krycek and Marita Covarrubias DOING IT. Jeffrey Spender is set up to be one of our new antagonists. CSM returns from the dead!! And he’s Spender’s dad!! Literally the gang’s all here!
And the callbacks!! “Patient X” seamlessly picks back up the Russian/black oil threads that had been left dangling since “Tunguska” and “Terma,” and takes it up a notch in regards to the body horror. It invokes the name of Duane Barry and takes it ALL BACK to Season Two and that fateful night on Skyland Mountain. GOD, I love that shit. We’ve got emo Mulder still questioning his beliefs in the wake of the events in “Gethsemane” and “Redux.” The episode starts to move pieces into place for the Syndicate as we head towards the movie. (God, and I love how like, shook they are in this episode. For the whole series it’s felt like they’ve been running things but their backs are against the wall here with the faceless assassins and it’s SO GOOD.) The duology is anchored by two amazing performances with Veronica Cartwright doing the heavy lifting in “Patient X,” while Gillian Anderson reminds everyone why she ran the table the previous awards season with her performance in “The Red and the Black.” Back in the spring of 1998, I had just started to dabble in the world of The X-Files, intrigued by the trailers for the movie. For whatever reason, I watched both “Patient X” and “The Red and the Black” as they aired, knowing NONE of the backstory and it still made an impression on me. These episodes are that good! The cliffhanger on the bridge and the hypnosis scene are seared onto my memory. I had no idea about the history between Mulder and Scully, yet I still gasped when Scully grappled for Mulder’s hand when she was under hypnosis. A shipper always knows, even when I didn’t KNOW I was a shipper at the time. It’s big, it’s bombastic, and it’s blockbuster television. Basically, it’s Season Five in a nutshell.
KatyBeth: To answer this question, we need to do a little time travel. Picture it, if you will… September 1998. It’s a Sunday, and my family is visiting with some distant relatives who have come to town. They’re college-aged and impossibly cool to me, a preteen. So when one of them turns on the TV to watch a rerun of The X-Files, I don’t chicken out and leave like I would have before.
Until then, The X-Files had been a show parents watch on Friday nights. I remember hearing it on down the hall at so many slumber parties. I remember hiding under a blanket during “731” and only coming out when someone explained to me that the people I was afraid of were actors in makeup – not that different from the makeup some adults I knew wore to work every day. But listen, I was cool now. I’d just moved and started a new school. I was making new friends. I could be this brave person who watched the scary Friday night show.
It turned out, I didn’t have to be brave! The scary Friday night show wasn’t so scary after all. It had a kid near my age who was a chess champion and could hear what people were thinking. He was protected by these very attractive people who had a lot of tense interpersonal stuff going on. One of them had a tall, bland ex causing trouble. There was a bald guy and a smoking guy and a curly-haired guy and some nerds and at the end, a big fire happened and the attractive people were very sad and there was a hug. The happy chemicals in my brain went haywire and I knew I needed to know more about these people right away.
I’m speaking, of course, of the iconic Season Five finale episode, “The End.”
There are a lot of important mythology stories in Season Five, all pretty dang good episodes. But this one is my origin story for The X-Files, for fandom, for the internet. It shaped my life for the next 24+ years. If it wasn’t for that rerun of “The End,” I wouldn’t be typing these words right now.
- Favorite Standalone Episode?
KatyBeth: I’ve been having a debate with myself for weeks now over whether to give this to “Bad Blood” or “The Post-Modern Prometheus.” (Season Five has too many banger standalone episodes!) And even though my first memory of “Bad Blood” is one I treasure, my heart is solidly in Frankenstein-land this weekend.
This is maybe the most visually beautiful episode in the show’s history: the use of black and white accentuates the shadows and light, creates an eerie vibe despite the familiar locations, and makes Gillian Anderson more ethereal than ever. It feels like almost the entire audio commentary track is just Chris Carter mentioning how pretty Gillian is in every scene. (This episode makes the lighting in “Triangle” look even more like a crime by comparison.)
The episode is a good time – scored with music by Cher, overflowing with a distinctive and delightful guest cast (Pattie Tierce’s line reading of “Christmas 1993!” never fails to crack me up), and giving Mary Shelley’s tale a fun little retelling.
But. But, but, but.
Let’s meet the problem of this episode head-on: only this show would make Frankenstein’s monster tender and loveable under his “horrid lumpy face”… and then make him part of a horrible medical rape scheme that gets played for laughs. He’s soft-spoken and kind! He loves Cher and peanut butter sandwiches and wears a blazer. Do you think the farmer father ever considered just… introducing his mutant child to people, instead of impregnating the townspeople with genetic material from farm animals (yuck) in an attempt to make him a “mate” (somehow, even worse)?
I’m just saying. If they can accept a chicken reporter and a pig boy who makes comic books, then the people of this town could definitely handle a man with two faces. Just don’t let him near your kitchen.
Sage: Gillian Anderson would be disgusted that this even has to be said. It’s “Bad Blood,” always and forever.
Not just a perfect X-File, not just the best standalone episode of the series, but a perfect episode of television. From God Himself Vince Gilligan’s golden ticket of a script to David, Gillian, and Luke Wilson making a meal of playing three versions of their characters to some killer slapstick comedy, this meticulously crafted romp never gets old.
We’re still in the pre-prestige television era right now, when there was still a whiff of inferiority to the form. What I love about GHVG episodes specifically is that they are clearly created out of a pure love for TV. “Bad Blood” is structured magnificently, the shifts back and forth in perspective and back and forth in time ensuring that every joke lands exactly how it’s meant to. And it makes spectacular use of the partnership that David and Gillian had forged to that point. The only reason the comedy of their unflattering portrayals of each other doesn’t come off as mean-spirited is because we know that Mulder and Scully are ride or die, and we know how they act when they’re annoyed with one another. Same as in “Syzygy,” their ability to get under each other’s skin here only underlines the intimacy they share that no one outside of their bubble can truly understand.
I can’t imagine how satisfying it was to play these exaggerated versions of the characters they’d established over time, and another point to “Bad Blood” is that it’s obvious how much fun everyone is having. That fun is contagious (and quotable!), making this the episode of comfort TV I most frequently turn to in a crisis.
Kim: In the words of Gillian Anderson, “‘Bad Blood’ all the way, motherfuckers.” Next question, please. I don’t have anything else to say.
I kid, I kid, of course I kid. But in a way, I’m also not kidding. What can you say about GHVG’s masterpiece that hasn’t been said before? “Bad Blood” is just THAT bitch, you know? It’s “Remedial Chaos Theory,” it’s “The Constant,” it’s “International Assassin,” it’s “Blink,” and it’s “The Injury.” It’s an episode that manages to distill everything we love about The X-Files into forty-two minutes and it also takes that essential DNA and does something completely new with it. Quite frankly, it should be held up as a shining example of what network television is capable of and taught in Making Good TV 101, if there is such a class. (There should be such a class.)
What makes it so good? There’s a bit of serendipity involved, of course. It’s the perfect script coming at the perfect time in the life of the show, for the creators, for the actors, for the fans. You couldn’t do an episode like “Bad Blood” in Season Two or Season Three because everyone was still figuring Mulder and Scully out and writers were only just beginning to play with their dynamic. Doing “Bad Blood” in Seasons Seven or Eight could have potentially gone the opposite direction, veering into caricature. But Season Five? That’s the sweet spot. “Bad Blood” made the show feel new and exciting because it was something they had never done before but it also felt so familiar because we know these characters SO WELL. We’ve seen them bicker and we’ve seen them flirt and we’ve seen them lay their lives down for each other for five seasons. GHVG knows them so well. In fact, he knew Mulder and Scully like the back of his hand from the moment he wrote his first word for them. David and Gillian are not only settled into their individual performances, they are settled into each other’s performances as well. There’s an element of play in “Bad Blood,” like director Cliff Bole just sat back and let ‘er rip, in the best way possible, because everyone is just so confident in the script and in the execution. It’s the type of episode that if it aired today, it would be an automatic writing Emmy. It’s the best of The X-Files, but it’s also an episode of The X-Files that you have to earn after investing your time in it. But what a return on that investment, huh?
- Least Favorite Episode?
Sage: Sure, “Travelers” is pretty dull and asks us to accept that Fox Mulder, whose first word was apparently “JFK,” did not hear about the existence of the House Un-American Activities Committee or the Rosenbergs until 1990. But in my book, “Schizogeny” is like, “Space”-level bad. Atrociously boring and with a muddy (pun intended) moral at its center, this episode feels more like a Season One experiment than something found worthy enough to even get a full treatment in Season Five. “Killer trees” is a concept that should have never even made it to the writers room white board, let alone off of it, and I remain flabbergasted that it did.
Kim: Are you really telling me that “Travelers” was the most exciting Bill Mulder origin story John Shiban and Frank Spotnitz (two of the series’ most consistently good writers) could come up with? My biggest yawn of all time.
KatyBeth: “Travelers” is so deeply boring and Bill Mulder has never not sucked. The hats are good. Next!
- Scariest Episode?
Kim: Oh, the late ’90s. A much more innocent time when GHVG could write “Folie à Deux,” an episode that largely revolves around a telemarketer taking his entire office hostage with a semi-automatic because he’s convinced that his boss is literally a monster and no one really bats an eyelash. Mass shootings just weren’t on our radar in May 1998 (a mere eleven months before the Columbine shooting would change life in America forever), so of course it could be used as a concept of unspeakable horror rather than something that could potentially happen every time we set foot outside our doors. Today, if the script were to make past standards and practices in the first place, it would be slapped with graphic content warnings after every ad break. It’s harrowing even without the supernatural element and you can see early shades of GHVG’s future work through Gary Lambert and later, Mulder’s paranoia. I love that the resolution is so open-ended too, from not knowing exactly WHO is involved in the “madness shared by two” (cases could be made for Lambert and Mulder OR Mulder and Scully OR BOTH pairs) to seeing the exact same situation start again in a different telemarketing agency. The whole thing is X-Files horror at its best.
Sage: Kim tweeted during “Folie à Deux” that the episode would not have made it to air today, and she’s absolutely right. Disgruntled employees making their grievances known through acts of violence wasn’t exactly a novel concept in the late ‘90s, but mass shootings weren’t taking place at the disquieting rate they are today. As a result, Gary Lambert’s spiral into either a state of delusion or a cabal of zombies created by his monstrous boss is more effective than ever, and even more sickening. The gigantic bug creature is fairly beside the point – being at the mercy of someone like Gary and his anxieties (no matter how valid they may be) is the place in which it’s far too easy to put yourself.
KatyBeth: When I think about “Schizogeny”, my brain says “trees do murder!” and that seems okay. But then I watch the episode and remember the evil therapist and the misunderstood stepparent subplot and realize that yes, this one is the worst.
- Underrated Episode?
KatyBeth: From the moment Dana Scully throws open the doors of a surveillance van and takes a running jump from inside, the “The Pine Bluff Variant” is a ride. Anytime we get to see Mulder and Scully interact with other agents or be on a task force is a treat, but seeing Mulder go secretly undercover and Scully realize he’s lying to her (“Are you the wife?” “Not even close.”) and fight with him about his loyalties (in his dark apartment!) is like adding sprinkles on top. This episode even weaves in the season’s throughline about Mulder’s lapse of faith as a reason the terrorists will trust him. But even they know Mulder can never break his allegiance to Scully – who identifies him in bank robbery footage by the splint she put on his broken finger during their late-night rendezvous.
Kim: “The whole episode feels like lightning in a bottle, which is exactly why Season Five’s ‘Kitsunegari’ doesn’t work, but that’s another story for another post.”
Okay, let it never be said that I am unable to admit when I am wrong, because I said that with my whole chest in our Season Three post and now here I am in the Season Five post picking “Kitsunegari” as my underrated episode of the season. Look, I still maintain that the episode falls apart in the final act because it tries to one up the climactic Russian Roulette scene from “Pusher” and that just can’t be done. But the rest of the episode had me turning to Sage and saying the phrase that has become my barometer for this category: “You know, this episode is better than I remembered.” Separate it from the massive shadow its predecessor leaves and it’s a cracking good episode. There’s some genuinely horrific imagery, from a victim basically drowned in cerulean blue paint to Modell convincing a cashier that he’s holding a rattlesnake instead of a baseball bat. We get to see Mulder and Scully being boss-ass bitches running the local investigation. Few criminals have gotten under his skin the way that Robert Modell has and I’m never going to complain about a case that makes Fox Mulder go absolutely feral. At the end of the day, “Pusher” exists in the stratosphere of The X-Files universe. “Kitsunegari” shoots for the stratosphere and it doesn’t get there… but it still lands among the stars.
Sage: It had been years since I’d seen it, and I had it in my head for some reason that “Kitsunegari” was a complete flop. Well, GHVG and co-writer Tim Minear are owed my apologies, because the episode’s only major flaw, really, is that it’s not “Pusher.” On rewatch, I found that “Kitsunegari” is a perfectly serviceable sequel that doubles the threat posed by Modell by simply introducing another one. (Sometimes both twins are evil.) Sure, the climax doesn’t quite live up to the iconic Russian roulette scene of the first Modell case, but it’s stressful enough and once again involves Mulder having to face the possibility of being manipulated into killing his person. The production design is cool, especially at the cerulean blue crime scene, and the cat-and-mouse game Linda Bowman picks back up with Mulder propels the episode and makes it personal. Not one of the season’s greats by any means, but good enough to convince me to stop telling people that “Tooms” is the only instance of a returning MOTW paying any dividends.
- Best Mulder Moment?
Sage: Fox Mulder is a romantic, and while he so rarely gets to bear witness to happy endings, his hope for them persists. And in “The Post-Modern Prometheus,” he sees an opportunity to literally rewrite the end of the case of the Great Mutato.
Scully: We should go, Mulder. The prisoner’s in the car.
Mulder: [shaking his head] This is all wrong, Scully. This is not how the story is supposed to end.
Scully: What do you mean?
Mulder: Dr. Frankenstein pays for his evil ambitions, yes. But the monster’s supposed to escape to go search for his bride.
Scully: There’s not going to be any bride, Mulder. Not in this story.
Mulder: Well, where’s the writer? [Izzy enters.] I want to speak to the writer.
Whether or not Mutato deserves the resolution Mulder dreams up for him is a question for another day. What I want to talk about now is Mulder’s unwavering faith that someday, things will really turn out how they should, despite all the evidence he’s seen to the contrary. For 26 years, the fandom has debated whether the final scenes of this episode are canon or not. Did they happen in our reality? No, of course not, but the rest of “The Post-Modern Prometheus” is already half fairytale anyway. To me, they’re canon in the sense that they’re what Mulder dictated to Izzy.
Just to recap, Mulder’s ideal conclusion to this adventure includes: exchanging looks with Scully while Mutato bops to the radio in the backseat of their rental car; front-row seats for all three of them to a Cher gig; a private moment between Mutato and the only person he ever imagined might love him for who he is; and a slow dance with his partner. That that dance happens in front of a room full of people and involves Mulder and Scully holding significant and unselfconscious eye contact speaks even louder about the storyline he’d write for them in a perfect world.
We’ve talked a lot throughout this rewatch about Mulder’s wounded inner child, but it doesn’t always hold him back. Sometimes Mulder’s arrested development shows up like this, in a boyish insistence on closure and forgiveness and people enjoying each other’s company just for the hell of it. That optimism is echoed in his song choice – Cher’s cover of Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis,” a song about breakthroughs and visiting a place that changes you forever. After all, when you’re “as blue as a boy can be,” there’s no place to go but up.
Kim: I am a simple woman and the sight of Fox Mulder with a small child is enough to send me into the next plane of existence. He’s just so SOFT and GENTLE with little Emily, squatting down and getting on her level, making her smile with his Mr. Potato Head impression. This softness is made a million times worse because we KNOW Mulder is absolutely gutted. He was like .05 seconds away from literally clutching his chest as he watched Scully and Emily quietly sitting together on the floor, and you can see him shoving his emotions down because he doesn’t want to upset or scare a little girl. We lovingly drag Mulder for being emotionally stunted all the time, but the emotional intelligence he expresses in this scene can’t be denied. It’s one of his most quietly loving and steadfastly supportive moments of the entire series.
KatyBeth: The moment in “Emily” when Fox Mulder makes a Mr. Potato Head face to get Emily Sim to giggle (and bonus accomplishment of a Scully smile).
- Best Scully Moment?
KatyBeth: “What do you mean you want me to do another autopsy? And why do I have to do it right now? I just spent hours on my feet doing an autopsy, all for you! I do it all for you, Mulder! You know, I haven’t eaten since 6 o’clock this morning, and all that was was half of a cream cheese bagel, and it wasn’t even real cream cheese, it was light cream cheese! And now you want me to run off and do another autopsy?”
Kim: I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve tried to not make this entire post about “Bad Blood” but when I think of Dana Scully in Season Five, all I can think of is her hungry rant, because I say it my head every week when I order my Friday bagel with real cream cheese.
It’s just that we’ve been wanting Scully to lay into Mulder like this for five seasons now. All the spontaneous late-night autopsies. All the times she’s stayed behind to do the forensic grunt work, all the PCR tests she’s run, all the hours she’s spent peering into a microscope. She does it all for him! Part of the joy of “Bad Blood” is that Mulder and Scully are obviously unreliable narrators and it’s up to the viewer to decide whose version of events to believe. While most of the episode I tend to believe Scully’s perspective, this scene is the one time that I believe Mulder’s because I know what hanger does to a person, and that woman 100% deserved to snap.
Sage: Normally, whenever Scully gets a break from Mulder, she’s punished with some sort of indelible trauma, like her one-night stand trying to murder her or being forced to look helplessly on as the biological child she just discovered dies. Enter Stephen King, who said we’re gonna do something fun, something for the summertime, something for the girls to get ready and party to. In “Chinga,” not only does Scully get to make a nice new friend and solve an entire X-File on her own, she also gets to keep that shit to herself. Considering the amount of access Mulder feels he should have to her life, I support her denying him the immense satisfaction he’d surely get from hearing the tale of her battle with (and belief in!) a demonic doll. A girl’s gotta have some secrets.
- Best Shipper Moment?
Sage: My answer to this question would be much different if Mulder had actually taken the gargantuan hint Scully was flashing right in front of his face bringing wine and cheese to his room in “Detour.” (She wanted to get laid at a nice hotel but was willing to settle for getting laid in a shitty one! It was the least he could do!) Alas, he is a very stupid smart man, and thus, the night they spend together ends up being in the middle of the woods, surrounded by mothmen, nursing an injury Mulder sustains while pursuing said mothmen.
Fortunately, Scully knows and forgives her idiot, both for his obliviousness and for getting them stuck in this situation in the first place, which leads to one of the softest MSR scenes that doesn’t take place in an ICU. Passing the time, they talk about everything and nothing, from her brush with death to The Flintstones to how naked they would be if there were a sleeping bag to share. Mulder lays in Scully’s lap to stay warm! She stays awake to protect him! From his muttered “go, girl” when she’s able to spark a fire with the gunpowder from one of her bullets to her choice of song to make him feel less afraid, this scene is domestic MSR at its finest.
Honorable mention to the unholy alliance of Marita Covarrubias and Alex Krycek.
Kim: When it comes to television, I completely subscribe to the Lostian tenet of “Whatever happened, happened,” so I am going with the finale of “The Post-Modern Prometheus” and that magical moment where Mulder and Scully share a dance. How can I not? The opening chords of “Walking in Memphis” produce a Pavlovian response in me to this day. That scene makes me want to claw my face off every time I watch it and it makes me want to immediately want to put my face back on so I can watch it again and claw my face off a second time and so on and so on and so on. It’s just so overwhelming for my poor shipper heart, in the best way.
It’s how Mulder and Scully are definitely holding hands behind the Great Mutato as they watch Cher perform and the glee in their faces when she plucks Mutato out of the crowd. It’s in the way you see Mulder make up his mind that he’s going to ask Scully to dance. It’s how that motherfucker doesn’t even ASK HER to dance, he just spins around and holds his hand out, not even looking at her. It’s in the surprised but delighted smile on Scully’s face as she takes his hand. It’s how he pulls her to him and they click into each other like a pair of magnets. It’s the little twirl that didn’t make it into the final cut because Chris Carter is a hateful, hateful person. And it’s in the way that Mulder and Scully gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaze at each other, all the government conspiracies and the evils of the world melting away until there’s just a boy, a girl, and one hell of a bop. “You want moves, Rose? I’ll show you moves. Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once. Everybody lives.”
KatyBeth: There can be no other answer than the slow dance to Cher at the end of “The Post-Modern Prometheus.” Mulder gazes at Scully, he shoves their mutant friend/suspect off to dance with Cher, and then he does the smooth move of holding his hand out to Scully and pulling her from her chair and into his arms. The delight is clear on her face. Who the heck cares if this actually happened within the show itself. It is real in my heart.
Runner-up: the little impressed face Scully makes at Mulder in “Kill Switch” when he knows that the random number in Invisigoth’s email refers to a shipping container.
- Thirstiest Moment?
KatyBeth: The gleeful smile Scully gives to Sheriff Hartwell after Mulder leaves her alone with him. Listen, who among us did not have the hots for Luke Wilson at the end of the 1990s? Scully deserves.
Also hot: Krycek and Marita’s hallway scene. Hoo boy.
Sage: True, Mulder is not at his best in “All Souls,” but David’s jaw acting is another story entirely. The nerve of this man to show up looking practically edible in his standard but sexy casual uniform (jeans, boots, t-shirt, leather jacket) and some weekend stubble just to treat Scully like she’s some kind of religious nut. Unfortunately for us all, skepticism looks very good on him – just check out the subtle clench in this third gif:
Kim: The only answer here is Scully busting into Mulder’s “Kill Switch” induced hallucination and absolutely annihilating all those naughty nurses, literally kicking their asses whilst wearing heels. I am guessing that’s the closest we’ll ever get to live footage of the inside of Mulder’s brain 99% of the time.
- Grossest Moment?
Sage: I’ve gone on record several times in these posts as being number one fan of the black oil aliens, and – credit where credit is due – it’s impressive how Chris Carter managed to keep building on the concept as this mytharc played out. In the “Patient X”/”The Red and the Black” sweeps two-parter, this results in one of the grossest and most striking images of the series. Because how do you keep a sentient liquid virus from oozing into your face holes? You sew those face holes up. It’s a crude solution, but exactly the kind of operation you’d expect Comrade Alex Krycek to be running.
Kim: I’m going with the awkward car ride where Mulder and Diana Fucking Fowley are making eyes at each other in rearview mirror right in front of Scully’s salad because it’s emotionally gross. Sir, your soulmate is sitting RIGHT THERE, control yourself!!!
KatyBeth: The boy infected with the black oil peeling his face-stitches so the oil can get loose and infect Marita Covarrubbias while she is just trying to use a payphone? Nasty. No thank you, show.
- Funniest Moment?
Kim: *Spins wheel of scenes from “Bad Blood”*
We don’t often get scenes of Mulder getting petty over Scully and other men, mainly because Chris Carter is determined to have her lead a sexless existence. But that makes the rare moments when Mulder DOES get jealous all the more delicious and hilarious. Mulder is peak petty when his recollection of Luke Wilson’s Sheriff Hartwell makes him out to be a country bumpkin with giant buck teeth, and he somehow ups his level of petty by having Scully completely dickmatized by him. That on its own is hilarious but the real payoff is when we find out which agent was telling the truth. Of course, Sheriff Hartwell is a bit of a country bumpkin…with perfect normal teeth. A flared lip and a quick tap of her teeth is all Scully needs to do to rub it in Mulder’s face. She’s got his number and I just think that’s neat.
Sage: When it comes to “Bad Blood,” everyone always quotes the light cream cheese rant. And that’s valid, because Gillian destroys it and because Scully more than deserves her pizza and a full night’s sleep on the Magic Fingers. But the clips of this scene always cut off before the button that wraps it all up in one beautiful, snarky bow. As Scully’s storming out of her motel room, Mulder’s voiceover cuts in: “Finally…you left.”
It’s one sentence consisting of three words, and to me, it encompasses why “Bad Blood” is such a perfect comedy. Even in his own version of events, Scully’s complaints have had no effect on Mulder. He remains unmoved and wholly un-empathetic. David’s delivery is everything: petty, perturbed, over it. They’re sick of the sight of each other at this point; it’s just one of those cases. The moment will and does pass, but it speaks volumes of the intimacy of their relationship that they have to concoct slightly shittier versions of each other in their heads to rationalize being in a tiff.
KatyBeth: Every moment of “Bad Blood” (motherfuckers), but if you make me pick only one, I’ll tell you it’s Mulder attempting to Mirandize Ronnie Strickland while straddling his coffin to keep it shut (and then attempting to use breadsticks to make a cross to defend himself from the rest of the vampires at the trailer park).
- Best Monster/Villain?
Sage: I’m not spoiling anything still to come with this answer, because all Diana Fowley has to do to present as an antagonist in “The End” is show up. Other obstacles that could have torn Mulder and Scully apart (abduction, cancer, reassignment) have only served to bring them closer, both in their purpose and in their loyalty to one another. The moment Diana steps into the picture, she’s a threat unlike any other they’ve faced. Her presence is jarring and destabilizing, and I unapologetically hate her. (Flames on the side of my face, etc. etc.) But I think that’s valid, because the show plants us firmly on Scully’s side of this betrayal, allowing us to experience the shock of discovering that there was a first Mrs. Spooky right along with her – and then to wonder what it means that Mulder has never confided in her about this history.
Anybody who makes Dana Katherine Scully cry in her car qualifies as a monster by my scorecard, and that moment is so searing because you can see not just that Scully’s heart is breaking but also that she’s panicking. It’s too late for her, she knows. She’s already thrown all in with Mulder, and suddenly she’s left to ask herself whether she’s not just done that rashly but foolishly. She’s also humiliated because she’s in love with him, and while she used to at least be confident that she occupied a singular, elevated place in his life, that pedestal is starting to feel a little crowded.
But back to Diana, who fully knows what she’s doing the entire episode. Calling Mulder by his first name, making excuses to touch him, subtly and not-so-subtly undermining Scully…she’s re-staking a claim, and he’s too oblivious or flattered to discourage her. True, Diana isn’t one of the show’s most well-rounded characters – she’s pure “the other woman,” without a single other attribute. But as a flesh-and-blood wedge to divide Mulder and Scully, she sure gets the job done. That bitch.
KatyBeth: I’m cheating and giving three answers because I can’t pick only one:
- This show loves to make a scientist the bad guy, and John O’Hurley’s Dr. Pollidori from “The Post-Modern Prometheus” is a standout terrible scientist for the season. Doing questionable experiments on living things because he “can” in search of accolades: check. Emotionally harming his wife who wants a baby so badly, she has decorated their house like a holiday shop to distract herself: check. Murdering his own father and blaming his mutant half-brother (who he created in a lab??) for the murder and then somehow weaseling out of going to jail: check.
- That creepy doll in “Chinga.” It’s 24 years later and I am still afraid of “The Hokey Pokey.”
- The AI in “Kill Switch,” which made me suspicious of artificial intelligence long before our current timeline.
Kim: I love an AI that turns murderous out of its sheer will to live, so I’m going with the computer in “Kill Switch,” an episode that feels weirdly prophetic watching it in the year of our Lord 2023.
- Right in the Feels Moment?
Kim: “Redux II” is basically a forty-two minute assault on the feels from Scully offering up her own name to save Mulder because she’s accepted she’s going to die to Mulder adamantly refusing to do so all while gently petting and kissing her (HONESTLY!) to Bill Scully dismissing Mulder’s place in his sister’s life to yet another heartwrenching Samantha scene to a devastating Scully and Maggie scene. It’s A LOT. The peak of the feels punching comes when Mulder sneaks into Scully’s hospital room in the middle of the night. He looks down at his sleeping partner, so sick and fragile yet still so beautiful. He gently brushes her hair behind her ear and then sinks to his knees, sobbing silently as he holds her hand. This is a series full of bedside hospital scenes, but this is THE bedside hospital scene and it’s one of the most indelible images of the entire series.
KatyBeth: There used to be a website that had a page devoted to the many kisses and touches of the Reduxes and I read it many, many times. My personal favorite is Fox Mulder crying silently by Scully’s hospital bed, his mouth open as he clutches her hand like a lifeline. And she sleeps through it! Only when she’s unconscious can Mulder allow himself to feel the full force of his fear and grief at their upcoming separation. He can’t put the burden of his fears on Scully, and he definitely can’t let her family see him break. All he has is this short moment to fall apart before he resumes fighting for Scully’s survival.
Sage: I could easily choose the entirety of “A Christmas Carol” and “Emily,” including Scully’s ditsy sister-in-law Tara showing up to Emily’s funeral hugely pregnant. (Use your head, Tara.) I maintain that Scully didn’t have to be put through any of this, and that the harvesting of her ova could have come up in a way that doesn’t slice her open all over again. Alas, the men were men-ing.
Anywho, for me, it’s the deployment of Scully’s Necklace, which is already loaded with symbolism by this point. It was given to her by her parents, so when Scully takes it off of herself and fastens it around Emily’s neck, we know what that means. That the necklace finds its way back to Scully in the most devastating way possible only adds more weight to the charm hanging off that chain. Give this woman a break!
- Best “Mulder, You’re Lucky You’re So Cute” Moment?
KatyBeth: Mulder, let the woman take a vacation. Let her pump gas or take a bubble bath or flirt with a random dude or investigate a possessed doll without you calling constantly, talking about nonsense and dribbling a basketball and proposing marriage.
Sage: I get that he’s having his own sort of crisis of faith this season, but I don’t have to like that Mulder is so dismissive of what Scully (his ONE IN FIVE BILLION, lest we forget) experiences in the regression hypnosis she undergoes (on his suggestion!!) in “The Red and the Black.” He’s longed for her to open herself up to extreme possibilities for so long, yet he’s not in any place to receive it now. And it doesn’t come from a place of cruelty or indifference – what makes Mulder the most furious about the alleged hoax is that he believes they gave Scully her cancer to convince him of it. Even so, he could be a little nicer about it.
Kim: Can you believe that Scully waltzed into Mulder’s hotel room bearing a plate of cheese, cracking jokes about how this goes against the FBI’s policy about male and female agents CONSORTING in the same hotel room as she opened a mini-bottle of wine and Mulder DIDN’T pick up what she was laying down, almost immediately ditching her to go pursue a mothman? I swear to God, he’s lucky he’s so cute.
- Best Guest Star?
Sage: Lili Taylor was rightfully nominated for the Guest Actress in a Drama Emmy this year for her work in “Mind’s Eye,” but since Veronica Cartwright was also nominated for her arc, the two canceled each other out and Cloris Leachman won for a Touched by an Angel spinoff. (A thing that certainly existed.) It’s a damn shame, because Lili Taylor gives a stunning performance as a blind woman who can only see through the eyes of her serial killer father. No one does self-righteous stubbornness quite like her, and she adds gravitas, dignity, and an arch humor to Marty’s story. It’s a frustrating case for the viewer and for Mulder, because all we want is for Marty to let Mulder help her, but Lili ensures that we understand and accept why she has to see her mission through to the bitter end. Also, she has incredible chemistry with David; Marty is the only other woman on the show I’ve shipped Mulder with, and the fact that their connection remains unspoken only makes “Mind’s Eye” all the more tragic.
I’d also be remiss not to mention the now late Richard Belzer, who cameos in Lone Gunmen origin story “Unusual Suspects” as – who else? – Det. John Munch of the Baltimore PD. Did you know that tin foil also makes a lovely hat?
KatyBeth: Let me state for the record that I adore Veronica Cartwright as Cassandra Spender and I can’t watch “Patient X”/“The Red and the Black” without thinking of the time she talked in an interview about the butt mold they made for the levitation rig used for her abduction scene, but Lili Taylor as Marty Glenn in “Mind’s Eye” is on another level from any other guest star this season. Marty feels real and grounded in a different way than the guest cast normally does. Her chemistry with Mulder is beyond compelling. And that speech at the end, about seeing the ocean? I still think about it on a regular basis.
Kim: Season Five is sick with fantastic guest spots from Luke Wilson in “Bad Blood” to the incredible Lili Taylor in “Mind’s Eye.” But after rewatching “Patient X” for this post, I was just like… how can I say anyone other than Veronica Cartwright? She’s just so fucking good as Cassandra Spender and really, she’s the whole reason the episode works. It’s her gravelly voice, it’s the wild fanaticism in her eyes, and it’s the way her whole body believes everything she says. It’s how she speaks to Mulder as a fangirl first and then as a disappointed
stepmother. It’s the warmth and compassion she brings to her scenes with Gillian Anderson, Cassandra recognizing a kindred spirit in Scully, even as Scully fights against it. It’s how it FEELS like she’s in more of the episode than she actually is. I always think of her as being a major part of “The Red and the Black” as well and she literally doesn’t have a line, we just see her being beamed up into the spaceship. That’s the mark of a good guest performance, and it’s criminal that both she and Lili Taylor lost that Guest Actress Emmy to Cloris Leachman. The ’90s were wild, y’all.
- Favorite ’90s Fashion?
Kim: I really need to know the story with Scully’s hella cute Maine T-Shirt. Did she own it already and wear it on her road trip like a fan wearing a band’s merch to their concert? Did she spill something on herself whilst driving and buy one at a rest stop rather than dig through her luggage for a new shirt? (Side tangent: did she actually make the 12-hour drive from D.C. to Maine?? For just a weekend trip? Or did she fly into Portland and rent the convertible to go to the shore?) Did she just see it at a gas station and think “I must buy this and wear it immediately?” Is this just Stephen King being clever and knowing Gillian Anderson would look hot in a late ’90s baby tee? Inquiring minds need to know!!
KatyBeth: At the end of “Folie A Deux”, Scully wears a double-breasted lavender skirt-suit in her meeting with Skinner. The color! The buttons! The length of the jacket! And now that lavender suits and clunky heels are apparently in again, we can all dress like Season Five Scully.
Sage: When Scully wears a lighter color suit, it’s usually in the ivory, tan, or light gray arena. We don’t see a lot of pastels on our favorite medical doctor aside from her autopsy scrubs, which is why the lavender suit Scully wears in the final scenes of “Folie a Deux” stands out so much. The shade suits her coloring perfectly; it even brings out the green-ish tones she has in her eyes. We love the occasional softer look on her, and intentionally or not, this one coincides with a moment of openness and vulnerability – just the thing to wear to admit to Mulder that if he’s crazy, then she’s crazy too.
- Sum up your feelings about the season.
KatyBeth: A wise man on the other space alien show once said: “Everything ends, and it’s always sad. But everything begins again too, and that’s always happy.”
While this was the final season (for now) filmed in Vancouver, it was also my first season (thanks, weeknight syndication on FX!). After that day in September when I first saw “The End,” I voraciously sought every episode, book, website, messageboard, magazine, and VHS rental I could get my hands on.
For me, this season is the definitive season of the entire series. The culmination of Scully’s cancer arc and the discovery that she has a child as a result of the experience. Mulder’s loss of faith and season-long questioning of his beliefs. The reintroduction of CSM (*Gonzo voice* “Who did not die!”) and the discovery that he had a whole-ass family who he might have let the aliens experiment on. The standalone episodes are excellent, the mytharc is still mysterious and scary, everyone is somehow even hotter than before, and Mulder and Scully continue to cling to one another to make sense of the world and themselves.
This season is so good that I feel awful for excluding some faves: Mulder and The Lone Gunmen’s 1989 meet-cute in “The Unusual Suspects,” yet another nice trip to the woods (this time with cuddling!) in “Detour,” the striking blue paint murder scene in “Kitsunegari,” every bit of “Kill Switch,” Krycek’s leather jacket in “Patient X,” Marita being operated on in the very same OR where the Seventh Doctor was murdered in Doctor Who: The TV Movie in “The Red and the Black,” Scully’s strangely hot regression hypnosis, the facial expressions Gillian makes in the final scenes of “Folie a Deux,” and honestly, everything Scully does or says or wears.
The series has blown up to the point that it attracted major novelists to pen episodes. (Stephen King’s was famously heavily rewritten by Chris Carter because it was swimming in MSR.) It has won awards and made it into the cultural consciousness via everything from crossover episodes to New Yorker cartoons. The movie and the move to LA is about to send it into the stratosphere.
The X-Files, as we know it, is leaving its original home on a high point. Let yourself be sad, just for a moment, then take a deep breath and get ready to jump into the new beginning. I promise, Season Six will make you happy.
Sage: Season Five is when The X-Files really starts to build on itself, banking on and upending so much that happened in the four years of TV that came before it. Swapping Mulder and Scully’s roles as the believer and the skeptic may be the most obvious way to do this, but that’s a story that’s (for the most part) carefully spun and wholly understandable. To make Scully’s illness Mulder’s breaking point as far as his life’s work is concerned is a heartbreaking bit of genius, and it hurts so good to see them both on their knees because of it.
Yet even as the mytharc is getting us primed for the movie, the show doesn’t lose any of the playfulness it’s started to explore in its standalones. We get taken back in time to learn how the Lone Gunmen became friends (and how Byers was radicalized out of a career at the FCC); we’re whisked away to a living storybook in the visually stunning “The Post-Modern Prometheus”; and we climb into the brains of our favorite agents in “Bad Blood,” learning firsthand how they see the world and each other (on a bad day, to be fair). And though I have always been and will always be a shipper, I also contend that it’s just good and faithful storytelling to allow the dynamic between Mulder and Scully to soften and shift, making any number of different outcomes seem possible for them.
By the end of Season Five, The X-Files has a proven track record of being able to service almost every genre. And that creativity will persist even as we close the chapter on Vancouver and production moves to LA. To make a shortened season that feels epic is a tall order, but by smartly rationing out David and Gillian’s time and knowing what canon buttons to push in the lead-up to Fight the Future, the show not only manages it but nails it.
Kim: Whenever I start this section, I always think of our friends Graeme and Joy at Reality Bomb. One of their favorite questions when opening up a fandom discussion is asking you to describe an episode or a season in one word.
My word for Season Five of The X-Files? Blockbuster.
With the movie imminent, everything about Season Five feels bigger and glossier, with better hair and nicer clothes. The season feels tighter too and not just because reshoots on the movie necessitated a reduced episode order and several Mulder/Scully-lite episodes. The X-Files is a well oiled machine at this point, but not one that’s hitting cruise control. Season Five delivered series classics like “Bad Blood” and “The Post-Modern Prometheus,” it pushed the mythology arc further while still keeping it mostly understandable, and it really danced along the line of almost giving the MSR lovers everything they wanted while maintaining plausible deniability for the NoRoMos. There are a lot of balls in the air and the show is effortlessly juggling them without breaking too much of a sweat. Season Five is also the end of an era, the end of their time in Vancouver, and the end of what I tend to refer to as Act One of The X-Files. To compare the journey to my other fave Lost, everything that comes after this is less for the casual viewer and less for the viewer who demands answers to all the questions. Basically, Mulder and Scully standing in the smoldering remains of the basement office in “The End” is the NOT PENNY’S BOAT of the series. It’s time to sit back and just enjoy the rest of the ride. And oh, what a ride it’s gonna be.
What are your key moments from The X-Files Season Five? Let us know in the comments!
Featured Image Source: 20th Television