Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The X-Files - Season 3 (1995-6)

[ Season 2 <<< The X-Files >>> Season 4 ]

In its third season, The X-Files has established itself. The mythology is as good as it will ever be, and the monster-of-the-week episodes are feeling less like filler, and more like good television - some of the series' all-time best and most popular episodes (of both stripes) can be found in this season. Many fans rightly call it one of the series' best.

The mythology has matured, and is growing intriguingly more complex, yet is still fresh enough to keep the audience enthralled and waiting for answers, while leaving lots of room for further development. In the first two seasons, the details of the conspiracy barely went beyond the suggestion of a government cover-up involving extraterrestrial life. But in The Blessing Way/Paper Clip, we are introduced to the Syndicate - the shadowy group of business men with which the Smoking Man works - finally giving more of a face to the show's mythology. Additionally, in Nisei/731, we learn more about the specifics of some of the secret experiments the government has been involved with, while critical seeds of doubt are placed in anticipation of later developments in the next season. Season 3 also begins to explore the lasting repercussions of Scully's abduction that occurred in season 2, which will irrevocably change the course of her life. Also, in Piper Maru/Apocrypha, we are introduced to another pivotal mythology element - the Black Oil.

Meanwhile, the monster-of-the-week format has been settled to the point where clever writers can begin to get creative with it. Three of fan favorite writer Darin Morgan's four (and a half?) episodes show up in this season, including two of his best - Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose, and my favorite, which I (and many others) consider to be one of the all-time greatest non-mythology episodes in the show's history - Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'. The rest of the monster-of-the-week episodes run the gamut from horror (Grotesque) to sci-fi (Quagmire), while Vince Gilligan's Pusher introduces us to one of the series' most beloved freaks of the week. This season is not without a couple of inevitable duds, but on the whole it is a very strong block of programming.

For your convenience, here is a list of links to my reviews of each of the episodes in the third season (names in parentheses are the episodes' writers):

Rating The X-Files
S3:E1 "The Blessing Way" (Chris Carter)
S3:E2 "Paper Clip" (Chris Carter)
To Believe or Not To Believe
S3:E3 "D.P.O." (Howard Gordon)
S3:E4 "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" (Darin Morgan)
S3:E5 "The List" (Chris Carter)
S3:E6 "2Shy" (Jeffrey Vlaming)
S3:E7 "The Walk" (John Shiban)
S3:E8 "Oubliette" (Charles Grant Craig)
S3:E9 "Nisei" (Chris Carter, Howard Gordon, Frank Spotnitz)
S3:E10 "731" (Frank Spotnitz)
Mytharc is dead, they say
S3:E11 "Revelations" (Kim Newton)
S3:E12 "War of the Coprophages" (Darin Morgan)
S3:E13 "Syzygy" (Chris Carter)
S3:E14 "Grotesque" (Howard Gordon)
S3:E15 "Piper Maru" (Frank Spotnitz & Chris Carter)
S3:E16 "Apocrypha" (Frank Spotnitz & Chris Carter)
S3:E17 "Pusher" (Vince Gilligan)
S3:E18 "Teso dos Bichos" (John Shiban)
S3:E19 "Hell Money" (Jeffrey Vlaming)
S3:E20 "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'" (Darin Morgan)
S3:E21 "Avatar" (David Duchovny & Howard Gordon)
S3:E22 "Quagmire" (Kim Newton)
S3:E23 "Wetwired" (Mat Beck)
S3:E24 "Talitha Cumi" (David Duchovny & Chris Carter)

Monster-of-the-week Episode of the Season: Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'
Mythology Arc of the Season: Anasazi/The Blessing Way/Paper Clip
Clunker of the Season: There's a lot of scorn for Teso dos Bichos out there, but I got even less enjoyment out of Oubliette.
Underrated Gem of the Season: The List - Call me shallow, but the look and feel of this episode, taking place largely in a prison, and filmed in a sickly green palette, is immaculate. That not even Mulder with his genius talent can figure out the game by episode's end makes for a satisfyingly frustrating (if that makes sense) scene in which he has no choice but to just give up and let events run their course. You can't win 'em all.

Heavy Mythology Content (These are the essential mythology episodes).
Light Mythology Content (These episodes feature light or incidental mythology-related content).
Must watch! (If you're short on time, or just want to revisit the highlights of the series, these are the best episodes the show has to offer).
Recommended. (While not being the best of the best, these are quality episodes; I recommend viewing them if you have the time).
Good for a viewing. (These are not essential episodes, but if you want to dig deeper into the series, they're worth sitting through).
Skippable. (Unless you are, like me, dedicated to absorbing the series in its entirety, these are the episodes that you can afford to skip).

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