Friday, January 15, 2016

The X-Files - Season 9 (2001-2)

[ Season 8 <<< The X-Files ]

The ninth season is when The X-Files finally screwed the pooch. The eighth season was burdened with the challenge of carrying on without David Duchovny appearing full-time, but succeeded in spite of itself thanks to Robert Patrick's great work as Agent Doggett, and a mythology arc that made sense of Mulder's disappearance - until his triumphant return for the last several episodes at the tail end of the season. In the ninth season, however, David Duchovny had left the show completely, and the writers were tasked with explaining away Mulder's re-disappearance, in a frustrating way that could potentially allow for his return at some unspecified point in the future. The result is less than satisfying, with Gillian Anderson remaining behind, albeit preparing for her own eventual departure. Despite receiving top billing, Scully is written more and more onto the sidelines, as Doggett and Reyes take center stage as the new agents assigned to the X-Files. Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish try hard to keep the show interesting, but in the wake of the Mulder & Scully era, they're fighting an uphill battle.

The season is not completely without merit, however, as a few episodes justify their own existence. For those not too biased against the Doggett & Reyes partnership, episodes like 4-D, Audrey Pauley, and Underneath are good meat-and-potatoes X-Files. Vince Gilligan's John Doe, while feeling less like an episode of The X-Files, is satisfyingly gritty and gives Robert Patrick a workout. Above all, I recommend Release, which closes the case once and for all on the tragedy of what happened to Doggett's son. Unfortunately, the mythology in this season - further exploring the Super Soldiers, and going back and forth in a confusing manner on the significance of and threat to baby William - is very dull, and at a series' all-time low. It improves slightly from the middle of the season onward, but you could be forgiven for skipping it entirely and jumping ahead to the double-length series finale, The Truth, which sees Mulder reunited with the rest of the cast in a nostalgic sendoff of nine years of more and less groundbreaking television.

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

S9:E1 "Nothing Important Happened Today" (Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz)
S9:E2 "Nothing Important Happened Today II" (Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz)
S9:E3 "Daemonicus" (Frank Spotnitz)
S9:E4 "4-D" (Steven Maeda)
S9:E5 "Lord of the Flies" (Thomas Schnauz)
S9:E6 "Trust No 1" (Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz)
S9:E7 "John Doe" (Vince Gilligan)
S9:E8 "Hellbound" (David Amann)
S9:E9 "Provenance" (Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz)
S9:E10 "Providence" (Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz)
S9:E11 "Audrey Pauley" (Steven Maeda)
S9:E12 "Underneath" (John Shiban)
S9:E13 "Improbable" (Chris Carter)
S9:E14 "Scary Monsters" (Thomas Schnauz)
S9:E15 "Jump The Shark" (Vince Gilligan, John Shiban, Frank Spotnitz)
S9:E16 "William" (Chris Carter; David Duchovny, Frank Spotnitz, Chris Carter)
S9:E17 "Release" (David Amann; John Shiban & David Amann)
S9:E18 "Sunshine Days" (Vince Gilligan)
S9:E19/20 "The Truth" (Chris Carter)

Standalone Episode of the Season: Release (although John Doe is also very good)
Mythology Episode of the Season: The Truth (it may not be up to the quality of golden-age mythology episodes, but it's by far the best one this season)
Clunker of the Season: I didn't like Sunshine Days as much as many others seem to, and Lord of the Flies is also pretty dreadful, but my vote would have to go to Improbable, another ridiculously goofy episode written and directed by Chris Carter, and starring Burt Reynolds.

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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