Trust No One: Looking Back at Season Two of The X-Files

SCULLY: …And you're worried that for all these years you've been seeing elves?

MULDER: In my case, little green men.

The X-Files are no more.

Agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) has been reassigned to mind-numbing surveillance work, while Dr. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) teaches at the academy in Quantico. In the wake of Deep Throat's death, Mulder no longer has the support he needs within the Bureau to continue his search for the truth.

Naturally, this state of affairs doesn't last long. It's hard to keep a true crusader down.

If Season One pushed the envelope, Season Two rips it in half. The stakes are higher than ever for our heroes—and the number of stellar episodes makes this season a must-see.

“LITTLE GREEN MEN” (2.01)

Suffering from a personal crisis over whether his memories and beliefs are even true, Mulder defies orders and rushes down to Puerto Rico in search of proof of alien contact. Scully promptly follows after she “hacks” Mulder's great password and dodges interfering agents.

“THE HOST” (2.02)

There's more than just alligators roaming the sewers of New Jersey; the carnivorous Flukeman is part-man, part-tapeworm, and all disgusting. He's also one of the more striking monsters our heroes take on—a horrific addition to The X-Files rogue's gallery.

“SLEEPLESS” (2.04)

Mulder gets a new partner—the very cute (and very untrustworthy) Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea), who could be someone straight out of Night Vale—wears a very tight red speedo and faces down a Vietnam vet (played by the always ominous Tony Todd) that hasn't slept in over two decades and kills through hallucinations.

“DUANE BARRY” (2.05) / “ASCENSION” (2.06)

A hostage negotiation takes a turn for the strange when the gunman, Duane Barry (Steve Railsback), claims to have been abducted by aliens. Mulder, naturally, begins to sympathize with the man—but things get personal when Barry escapes and kidnaps Scully. This two-parter has a majorly depressing ending with Scully disappearing off a mountain, presumably abducted by aliens, and Mulder left behind guilt-stricken and hopeless.

“3” (2.07)

Grieving over Scully's disappearance, Mulder sleeps with a vampire. Yup, that's a thing that totally happens on this show.

“ONE BREATH” (2.08)

Scully is found, but in a comatose state. While her mother sits at her bedside and Mulder confronts the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) about her abduction, Scully has a philosophical journey and a decision to make: does she stay or does she go? One of the more powerful episodes of the show.

“FIREWALKER” (2.09)

This episode's got a great guest cast—Bradley Whitford as a scientist who may have gone murderously mad and Shawnee Smith as his student/ladylove—and the threat of a dangerous parasitic spore from the heart of a volcanic vent to keep everyone on their toes.

“AUBREY” (2.12)

Psychologists have long wondered if the urge to kill could be a genetic predisposition; this episode tackles the idea and takes it a step further. Could a child—or grandchild—relive their ancestor's past crimes and passions? “Aubrey” is a creepy and unique take on a serial killer story, with Terry O'Quinn (of Lost fame) guest-starring.

“DIE HAND DIE VERLETZT” (2.14)

A small-town cult learns it shouldn't merely dabble in Satanism—in other words, shouldn't be “Sunday-only” Satanists—when a demonic substitute teacher arrives to teach them a harsh lesson. Scully and Mulder are purely bystanders in this episode, unable to do much more than watch as the cultists pay the price for their half-hearted practicing.

“COLONY” (2.16) /  “END GAME” (2.17)

Holy crap is this another whammy of a two-parter. The murders of identical doctors lead our heroes right back into the thick of alien cloning. A shape-shifting bounty hunter targets Scully, and Mulder meets a woman who claims she's really his sister Samantha, all grown-up.

“HUMBUG” (2.20)

As someone with a long-held interest in carnival sideshows and cabinets of curiosity, this episode feels like a present wrapped just for me. The Alligator Man has been killed, and the signs point to the work of another performer in his old carnival community. Real life oddity The Enigma—a man covered from head-to-toe in tattoos with a split tongue and piercings—plays the geek known as Conundrum, and Vincent Schiavelli guests as a conjoined twin.

Dr. Blockhead’s (Jim Rose) parting jab to Scully, “Twenty-first century genetic engineering will not only eradicate the Siamese twins and the alligator-skinned people—you're gonna be hard-pressed to find a slight overbite or a not-so-high cheekbone. You see, I've seen the future, and the future looks just like him,” with a significant gesture at Mulder, standing like he's some damn J Crew model, never fails to make me snicker.

“F. EMASCULATA” (2.22)

The government decides to test the killing capacity of a bug-delivered virus inside a prison, leading to a serious epidemic situation when two inmates escape and begin infecting the innocent public. Mulder rushes to stop the plague, while Scully works with another doctor inside the prison in an effort to secure enough evidence to reveal the truth.

“SOFT LIGHT” (2.23)

Long before Tony Shaloub was Adrian Monk, the obsessive-compulsive detective, he guest-starred on The X-Files as a scientist whose experiments turned his shadow into a killing force. Shaloub sure does a great job of playing unhinged, and who knew a shadow could be so terrifying?

OUR TOWN” (2.24)

Scully and Mulder uncover a cannibal cult obsessed with preserving their youth in a small southern town; after watching this one, you'll never look at KFC the same way again…

“ANASAZI” (2.25)

Mulder rushes to find a Navajo code-talker following the discovery of alien bodies and the involvement of the Lone Gunmen with a hacker who got his hands on top secret D.O.D. files. This is a finale that stirs up a lot of personal history involving both Mulder's father and Scully's abduction and ends on a literal bang—luckily, we don't have to wait a whole summer hiatus to pick up the next season and find out what happens…

Season Two may be the season I most consistently re-watch, with the strongest one-off monsters and mythology episodes. It's definitely where things really get cooking, where The X-Files cements itself as landmark television.

If you're not hooked by now, I'll find that hard to believe. 

See also: I Want to Believe: Looking Back at Season One of The X-Files

 


Angie Barry wrote her thesis on the socio-political commentary in zombie films. Meeting George Romero is high on her bucket list, and she has spent hours putting together her zombie apocalypse survival plan. She also writes horror and fantasy in her spare time, and watches far too much Doctor Who. Come find the angie bee at Tumblr.

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