JYW's Completely Short & Informal X-Files Reviews

1996-97: Season 4 Reviews

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Rating Explanation
* * * * * Superb. This only comes once in a blue moon.
* * * * Very good. X-Files on its toes
* * * Good. Your typical X-Files entertainment.
* * Below standard. They can definitely do better than this.
* What happened?!

I also use fractions, usually ½.

Let's rack up those ratings points, Scully... A print ad promoting The X-Files' move from Friday to Sunday nights. The inaugural Sunday episode was "Unruhe" (4X02), which aired on 27 October 1996.
Important: The reviews contain spoilers. Also, the titles below are listed by ascending episode number, not by the air dates; please keep in mind that for this season, the Fox Network frequently aired the episodes out of order (a frustrating thing). If you get confused with the time shifts, just pay attention to the air date of the episode in relation to the episode number.

Index - Page 1  (go >> to Page 2)
Herrenvolk | Unruhe | Home | Teliko | The Field Where I Died | Sanguinarium | Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man | Paper Hearts | Tunguska + Terma | El Mundo Gira | Kaddish

4X01 - "Herrenvolk" Part 2 of 2 (4 October 1996)
(4th season premiere; the 'Jeremiah Smith, Samantha clones, angry bees' episode. AKA 'The episode where X gets killed')
* * *
This was much better than the season finale last spring, although I have to confess that it was just standard fare. I think Carter may have tried to unleash too many plot devices and angles than necessary (Marita, killing X, Cancerman & Mrs. Mulder, the Arnold Schwarzeneggar-wannabe alien that could heal, Samantha clones...). With all of that going on, I still didn't find the story very exciting; it simply wasn't very well written. I did like:

  • The scenes with X, most notably the ending where he gets shot and still manages to drag himself to Mulder's apartment, and scrawls SRSG in his blood before dying. It's an extremely important action that reveals a lot about X's character and his principles.
  • The wonderful sequence with the bees. This was a hum-dinger. All I can ask, is "How did they do that??"
  • Mulder finally letting himself collapse emotionally in front of Scully at the hospital. This scene reminded me a lot of the last scene in "Paper Clip", the second half of last season's premiere. The hospital room, the words spoken -- both instances are similar. In "Paper Clip," Scully mourns the death of her sister while Mulder comforts her and tries to give her hope; in "Herrevolk," Mulder is emotionally exhausted over his mother's condition and just having seen Samantha clones, and Scully comforts him and tries to give him hope. The rather hopeful ending of the episode does quite match with the rather bleak "Everything Dies" tag line (replacing "The Truth is Out There") this time around.

4X02 - "Unruhe" (27 October 1996)
(The 'Gerry and the icepick' episode)
* * * ½
Overall, the whole photograph/technical side was a bit less realistic than I would have liked. The actor who played Gerry though, Pruitt Vince, did a good job. It was almost a normal 'dark, creepy' X-File, but it was much better than either "Home" or "Teliko" (to follow). It wasn't wonderful, because it did bring to mind recycled ideas, but it still had some pretty good moments:

  • I loved the Ford Explorer. I don't drive one, and I don't usually single it out in 'real life,' but it was a great change of pace from the usual sedans Mulder and Scully drive.
  • A great series of shots: when Scully walks out of the drugstore towards the Explorer alone (while Mulder waits for the tell-tale prints), it's obvious that something's going to happen. The camera follows her, cutting from a long shot of the street to eventually a close-up of her left trouser leg, and slowly follows it down to her shoes. This whole series is absolutely mesmerizing. I had no idea what was going on, and then -- out of nowhere -- a hypodermic needle stabs her foot, and then the camera pulls back to see her reaction. Wow.
  • The scene after Scully's abduction (while she's strapped to the chair) was great. I particularly mean the instance when she frantically speaks German to catch Gerry's attention. Anderson did an excellent job here. It fit and intensified the edginess of the situation. I found it really impressive.

4X03 - "Home" (11 October 1996)
(The family incest episode)
* *
I agree totally with Fox's decision to air the viewer discretion warning before the show aired. This wasn't just a warning sign (which, by the way, has never had to precede an X-Files show before -- so in that sense it was ground-breaking), but it put me as an X-Phile in a different frame of mind. I thought, 'What could this episode be about that warrants such a warning?' It was 'dark and creepy' to the max, but perhaps too freakish for me. Even the shadows didn't add much to the scenes -- they looked too trite for this kind of episode, which I found more disgusting than scary. And this is the second time we've heard Johnny Mathis in The X-Files. This time it was "Wonderful, Wonderful," but last time, remember, was in last season's "Pusher" when Modell hums along to "Misty" at the supermarket in the teaser sequence.

In any case, I didn't like it. The story was too much of a 'horror without any brains' tale, and to me wasn't very involving. The parts I did like were the dialogues Mulder & Scully had about 'genetic muster' and Scully and motherhood: very personality-revealing material. Perhaps the episode would have been better if it had aired when it was supposed to -- the weekend before Halloween (like some alt.tv.x-files posters pointed out). It would have made a lot more sense.

4X04 - "Teliko" (18 October 1996)
(The 'melanin-sucking man' episode)
* *
This isn't much better than "Home," if at all. (There isn't even a 'personality revealer' here like in "Home.") The black/white/grey tones were perhaps a bit too obvious -- the episode might have even been better if the entire thing was shot in B/W. The shots I found most annoying were the close-ups of the killer's eyes staring out into the darkness, which was a device also used in "Tooms (or was it "Squeeze"?) and other episodes; I thought it was a bit too cliché.

The scenes that were so crucial (especially the ending where Scully crawls through the vent tubing) reminded me of a kind of reverse "Tooms" from the first season. And when she actually finds him, I can't believe how long it takes for her to realize that Mulder's trying to get her to look behind her. I mean, even after she finds Mulder, she should still remember that the killer is still at large. The end also was a bit frustrating -- there is no reference as to how Mulder survives the drug (what procedures were taken, how long he was in that state, etc.), which definitely did not help close the episode. I kept waiting for Scully to mention what the drug turned out to be, but it never happened. Usually Carter changes the normal "The Truth is Out There" tag line only when the story is important enough, but "Teliko's" "Deceive, Inveigle, Obfuscate" tag line could have and should have been used for a better episode.

4X05 - "The Field Where I Died" (3 November 1996)
(The 'Mulder recalls his past lives' episode)
* *
The print ad was better than the actual show. Story-wise, it was a real disappointment from Morgan & Wong, and it didn't have any consistency with the previous one. It seemed completely out of place, out of nowhere. Even the case itself was unbelievable -- I can't see how Mulder and Scully could actually be called into a case like this. I admit that the only things I was struck by was Kirsten Cloke's performance (especially as Sidney), and Anderson trying to keep her cool as Scully. Oh, and of course I can't forget the brief exchange between Mulder & Scully regarding their four years working together (and the sly, comic remark directed toward Darin Morgan).

4X06 - "Sanguinarium" (10 November 1996)
(The 'plastic surgeon (Benjamin Horne!) and his messy scalpel' episode)
* * ½
This is your basic cut-and-dry X-File. It's a plot cranked out through the 'standard' cookie-cutter of many previous X-Files episodes. Hey, it even has a witch casting spells! ;-) It was your basic horrific/shock value episode; not as horrible as "Home," but scary. It reminded me of "Our Town" and "Die Hand Die Verletzt" from the second season: very widespread use of color contrast. Even the title of the episode provokes lots of red imagery. It was interesting to see Richard Beymer (Benjamin Horne on "Twin Peaks"; yet another actor from "Twin Peaks" to appear) in another (albeit more violent) bloodsucking role. ;-)

4X07 - "Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man" (17 November 1996)
(The Cancerman episode without (practically) Mulder or Scully)
* * *
This was a very different experience...how else can I categorize an episode without Mulder or Scully? The story could have been very confusing, but the editing was well done in the end. Although there were some inconsistencies in the episode's history (the ages of Cancerman is questionable, and this episode's facts conflict with those from the teaser in "Apocrypha"). Although it's mostly from the POV of Frohicke, I don't think it's all from his mind.

4X08 - "Paper Hearts" (10 December 1996)
(The 'Mulder thinks Samantha may've been kidnapped by a vacuum salesman' episode)
* * *
This episode had emotional overtones (and bleak at that), but I had to remember that it comes before the events of "Terma." It deals pretty well with Mulder (who ditches Scully again) and his conviction to find out once and for all if this convict murdered his sister. But I felt that the story's ending was easily predictable. It's completely obvious that the criminal did not have anything to do with Samantha's disappearance, but was only playing with Mulder's mind (how he knew, though, I don't buy). Weak story, but very good character development for both Mulder and Scully. I actually think that Scully would be getting a little less patient with Mulder taking off on her, but even though it happens again in the next episode, she demonstrates in "Terma" that she doesn't let up. How does she do it??

4X09 - "Tunguska" part 1/2 (24 November 1996)
(The 'Mulder ditches Scully to go to Russia with Krycek' episode)
* * * ½
Carter may have once again tried to put in too many details in this episode. The teaser was the best thing about it. It's completely different from the usual 'here's how the crime was or will happen' in that it jumps right into the plot, head first. We see Scully facing the Congressional panel, and have no clue as to what's happened at all, and where Mulder may be. I enjoyed this 'ahead of the action' teaser immensely. It caught my attention probably more so than perhaps what might have been the original teaser (which begins after the title sequence here). But I was bothered by a lot of questions brought up by this episode. There were a lot of nitpicks I had, and things that didn't make sense, among them:

  • In the next-to-final scene, Mulder's facial scratches have mysteriously disappeared.
  • In the third act, there's some sort of spot on the camera lens that can be seen for a few ongoing scenes.
  • No snow in Russia for that time of year?
  • The police don't mention that Skinner's place had been searched; they just talk about the guy who fell from his balcony.
  • Mulder ditches Scully again?? He's starting to annoy me.

4X10 - "Terma" part 2/2 (1 December 1996)
(The 'Krycek loses an arm, Mulder escapes Russia and Scully fights Congress' episode)
* * * *
Wow. "Terma" certainly didn't have as many loose ends as "Tunguska" (which, I think, was intended for a first-parter), but it still wasn't a fabulous show. I liked it far better, though, because of the character development of Scully.

  • The tag line was different yet again: "E pur si muove." Although this two-parter is partly set/based in Russia, it's definitely not Russian, and it wasn't spoken in the episode, which is unusual. It looks Italian; the "E" may mean "and," but I can't guess the rest.
  • All of the prisoners in the Gulag were a bit too clean-cut for the situation. Also, nobody stopped Mulder as he ran out to the truck; it's hard to believe that he could have so much energy to run and then punch Krycek out after spending X number of days being tortured, experimented with, and going without food or water.
  • Finally, we get to the point where the "Tunguska" teaser began: Congress. At first I wasn't sure if the 'footage' was still the same -- that it was just a repeat -- but after a while of watching, I knew that it wasn't quite the same. I think that Scully's speech may also have differed, but the cutting was definitely not the same. There are some new cuts in this version (also it feels longer) that include Skinner in the background. But one shot of her, one person, against a line of Congresspeople (an overhead view, looking straight down) really proved effective.
  • But the real story here was Scully. She maintained her position against Congress, refusing to tell where Mulder was (she didn't even know herself) and being charged for being in contempt of Congress. She went to jail for Mulder, once again evidence that she sees herself as his protector (to reaches she cannot herself accompany him, though). I felt sad for Mulder for her sake. He ditched her again, but she looked past that to protect him in the end. In the last scene, she chose not to pursue the Russian infiltrator who knew about Krycek and the alien rock; she instead found out if Mulder was okay or not. That's what I call devotion, patience and loyalty.

4X11 - "El Mundo Gira" (12 January 1997)
(The 'yellow rain and the Chupacabra in California' episode)
* * ½
Rather standard fare. It was just another episode bringing out the skills of the makeup artists. I should mention Ruben Blades and Raymond Cruz -- although Cruz did a good job, I'm rather disappointed that Blades didn't have a better role. I'm still, though, looking for an episode where minorities aren't portrayed as migrant workers or people who speak with accents. Although those people are out there too, stories focusing on them have been done too many times, and I'd like to see a better story and a better portrayal. Another thing...Mulder basically leaves Scully again here. If we don't see him change soon, or her blow up at him soon, I am going to be seriously disappointed. Scully cannot take this much longer.

4X12 - "Kaddish" (16 February 1997)
(The 'revenge of the golem' episode)
* * ½
Standard stuff. I don't know, maybe my standards for the show have increasingly risen since last year... but this was your normal, everyday MOTW (Monster of the Week) episode (with dark tones to boot) that really has no real interest in the 'mythology' chronology of the shadowy government conspiracy. This episode could have taken place in any season for that reason, and it's no wonder the Fox Network has been choosing episodes like this to postpone (only it still messes up the continuity of the show). For example, this aired right after "Leonard Betts", which certainly didn't make much sense. As for the episode (back to the review now), I actually did find some of the historical and mythological information interesting. And also, it was strange but refreshing to see Mulder and Scully really dealing with discrimination head-on here; I say strange because we've really never had a chance to see them in this sort of situation before, and the writing in a nice and subtle way showed off their responses. Perhaps the music could have used a bit of that subtlety -- for a while it sounded as if Mark Snow was giving us a promo for "Millennium."

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