Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The X-Files - Season 6 (1998-9)

[ Season 5 <<< The X-Files >>> Season 7 ]

The X-Files post-Fight The Future is really a different show. Between the move to L.A., and the more prevalent focus on comedy and romance, the overall tone and atmosphere of the sixth season is off-putting (to me personally). Some reviewers have referred to it as "X-Files Lite". In the first half of the season, Mulder and Scully are taken off the X-Files, and so the writers have to bend over backwards just to have them investigating cases. Instead of Skinner, they answer to A.D. Kersh - who is not a bad character, but he's no Skinner. Plus, with the recurring appearance of Agents Spender and Fowley (neither of which have ever been fan favorite supporting characters), the mythology veers more toward the soap operatic, emphasizing the emotional ties and rivalries between people (Scully and Fowley, Fowley and Mulder, Mulder and Spender, Spender and the Smoking Man, the Smoking Man and Mulder, Mulder and Scully...) at least as much as the alien conspiracy. We're a long way from "classic" X-Files now.

However, if I don't appreciate the overall tone of the sixth season, I daresay that it has more standalone episodes of note than the fifth season had. Certainly, the second half of the season is more consistently satisfying to this fan of the darker tone of earlier seasons. Milagro is downright fantastic, and Field Trip is another noteworthy episode in the monster-of-the-week format. Monday is a thrilling "time loop" episode, and Tithonus is a striking and grim portrait of immortality. From the earlier half of the season, there is also Drive - Vince Gilligan's introduction to Bryan Cranston - and Chris Carter's festive ode to both Halloween and Christmas simultaneously, in How The Ghosts Stole Christmas. I also enjoyed the imaginatively dark and fun Terms of Endearment, which stars Bruce Campbell.

I'm not sure I would rate the mythology episodes as strong as those in the fifth season, but they're still captivating enough to draw my attention at this point. The Beginning does an adequate job of tying the events of the movie back into the series, while the Skinner-centric S.R. 819 is a surprise hit. Two Fathers/One Son is a landmark, as it concludes one major chapter of the mythology, laying many (if not all) answers on the table, and giving the Syndicate an apparent send-off. And Biogenesis leads into what could turn out to be one of the last great mythology three-parters in the series. We're heading into the final third of the show now, and the best is almost certainly behind us. Still, we march onward.

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

S6:E1 "The Beginning" (Chris Carter)
Introducing Aliens
S6:E2 "Drive" (Vince Gilligan)
S6:E3 "Triangle" (Chris Carter)
S6:E4 "Dreamland" (Vince Gilligan, John Shiban, Frank Spotnitz)
S6:E5 "Dreamland II" (Vince Gilligan, John Shiban, Frank Spotnitz)
S6:E6 "How The Ghosts Stole Christmas" (Chris Carter)
S6:E7 "Terms of Endearment" (David Amann)
S6:E8 "The Rain King" (Jeffrey Bell)
Asymptotic Romance
S6:E9 "S.R. 819" (John Shiban)
S6:E10 "Tithonus" (Vince Gilligan)
S6:E11 "Two Fathers" (Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz)
 S6:E12 "One Son" (Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz)
S6:E13 "Agua Mala" (David Amann)
S6:E14 "Monday" (Vince Gilligan & John Shiban)
S6:E15 "Arcadia" (Daniel Arkin)
S6:E16 "Alpha" (Jeffrey Bell)
S6:E17 "Trevor" (Jim Guttridge & Ken Hawryliw)
The Joy of Formula
S6:E18 "Milagro" (Chris Carter; John Shiban & Frank Spotnitz)
S6:E19 "The Unnatural" (David Duchovny)
S6:E20 "Three of a Kind" (Vince Gilligan & John Shiban)
S6:E21 "Field Trip" (Vince Gilligan & John Shiban; Frank Spotnitz)
S6:E22 "Biogenesis" (Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz)

Monster-of-the-week Episode of the Season: Milagro (although Field Trip was also very good)
Mythology Arc of the Season: Fight The Future (maybe not strictly part of the season, but I don't care)
Clunker of the Season: I think Alpha would be the popular pick in this season, but I enjoyed some of the more popular episodes even less. My vote for the worst episode of the season would have to be The Unnatural.

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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