Thursday, December 24, 2015

The X-Files - Season 8 (2000-1)

[ Season 7 <<< The X-Files >>> Season 9 ]

This is the season that introduced Robert Patrick as Agent John Doggett, and put Mulder on the sidelines. It's not classic X-Files (but then, neither were the sixth or seventh seasons), but it's a strong season nonetheless, and the most consistent in a while. I daresay I enjoyed it more than the seventh season, which was a surprise. The show was perceptibly exhausted in its seventh season, but the way that the eighth season shook things up gave it new life. It represents the show's second wind - a hearkening back to the first season (even more of a return to form, surprisingly, than the first half of season 7), which concerned itself mainly with developing its characters and telling basic, scary stories week after week.

The first half of the season consists mainly of standalone freak-of-the-week episodes, giving Scully and Agent Doggett a chance to build a rapport before resolving the issue of Mulder's disappearance. Of the best of them, Roadrunners puts Scully in danger from a small town cult as a consequence of not trusting her new partner more fully, and Via Negativa explores Doggett's visceral reaction to the paranormal aspect of your typical X-Files case through a series of Lynchian dream sequences. Invocation, which hints at a tragic event in Doggett's past, and Medusa, which involves a mysterious subway killer, are also good. On the flip side, Badlaa (about an Indian mutant who hides inside people's bodies) is notorious for its ridiculous premise and demonstration of poor taste.

The latter half of the season consists of a string of mythology episodes and standalones with notable mythology content. It begins with Per Manum, which explores certain frightening possibilities for Scully's condition in this season, and then continues to This is Not Happening, in which Mulder finally returns to the series, albeit under extenuating circumstances. Deadalive kicks off a whole new chapter in the mythology, involving the aliens' newest weapon, in the form of indestructible "Super Soldiers". This thread is continued in Three Words, and carried through the rest of the season - taking a break to explore Doggett's past more fully in Empedocles, putting Mulder and Doggett together on a case in Vienen, and stirring up some nostalgia in Alone - until the two-part finale, Essence/Existence, which wraps up many of the season's lingering questions, while poising the series to continue with a shifted focus in the next, and last, season.

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

S8:E1 "Within" (Chris Carter)
S8:E2 "Without" (Chris Carter)
S8:E3 "Patience" (Chris Carter)
S8:E4 "Roadrunners" (Vince Gilligan)
S8:E5 "Invocation" (David Amann)
S8:E6 "Redrum" (Steven Maeda & Daniel Arkin)
S8:E7 "Via Negativa" (Frank Spotnitz)
S8:E8 "Surekill" (Greg Walker)
S8:E9 "Salvage" (Jeffrey Bell)
S8:E10 "Badlaa" (John Shiban)
S8:E11 "The Gift" (Frank Spotnitz)
S8:E12 "Medusa" (Frank Spotnitz)
S8:E13 "Per Manum" (Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz)
S8:E14 "This is Not Happening" (Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz)
S8:E15 "Deadalive" (Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz)
S8:E16 "Three Words" (Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz)
S8:E17 "Empedocles" (Greg Walker)
S8:E18 "Vienen" (Steven Maeda)
S8:E19 "Alone" (Frank Spotnitz)
S8:E20 "Essence" (Chris Carter)
S8:E21 "Existence" (Chris Carter)

Standalone Episode of the Season: Via Negativa (although Roadrunners is also excellent)
Mythology Arc of the Season: There's not one that really stands out, but the loosely connected string that begins with Per Manum and follows through This is Not Happening/Deadalive and Three Words probably gives you the most bang for your buck.
Clunker of the Season: Badlaa is notoriously bad, but at least it's got some spirit. I'd sooner pick Surekill, which commits the greater crime of being plain boring, and squanders the potential of its nifty premise.

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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