JYW's Completely Short & Informal X-Files Reviews

1996-97: Season 4 Reviews

Page 2 of 2

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.

What the heck happened?
Scully checks Mulder after he wakes up in a strange place -- with blood on his clothes -- and can't recall the last few days, in "Demons" (4X23).

Important: The reviews contain spoilers. Also, the titles below are listed by ascending episode number, not by the air dates; 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 2  (go back << to Page 1)
Never Again | Leonard Betts | Memento Mori | Unrequited |
Tempus Fugit + Max | Synchrony | Small Potatoes |
 Zero Sum |  ElegyDemonsGethsemane

4X13 - "Never Again" (2 February 1997)
(The 'Mulder takes a vacation/Scully goes out with a guy she meets in a tattoo shop (and gets a tattoo)' episode)
* * (½ ?)
I was very disappointed with this episode. Scully has a chance to really run away with a good plot, and the writer did choose to use this opportunity to try to explore her feelings about work and its effect on her life. But I say "try to" because the attempt came up rather short in terms of insightfulness. Scully agreeing to go out with a man she meets in a tattoo shop? Getting a tattoo herself? I'm not saying Scully's actions were entirely unrealistic, but the writing could have definitely been better. I have to say that when I heard Scully talk about the ink on a tattoo ("The color -- the red on the lips is amazing," she says), I nearly started laughing. It was just so extremely ridiculous to me, yet sad that such a character has been reduced to making this sort of comment.

In terms of the X-File, the story was too clean-cut. Everything took place within a strict set of boundaries: there was a clear beginning (Scully depressed, Ed having hallucinations), middle (the two meeting) and end (Scully figuring out what's going on with Ed, trying to stop him). In other words, it had a resolution (to the X-File theme, never to Scully's emotions!). And seeing a resolution in this program isn't very interesting. Even Jodie Foster doing the 'voice of the tattoo' was really unnecessary; it seemed like a hyped performance. Any good actor could have done the voice just as well; Foster really didn't bring in anything special to a role that wasn't special in the first place.

The things I did find interesting:

  • Scully's choice in her tattoo. It's a snake in full circle. What could this mean? It brings up the events of "Revelations" (3X11), but it's interesting that she picked the snake, which has always been a symbol for (but by no means limited to) the devil. I could probably go on about this, but this review is supposed to be brief, and I've already ruined trying to stick to that guideline.
  • Her scenes with Mulder, obviously. Every single one portrayed her in a rather depressed state, while she battled her inner turmoils. It was really unsettling to see her go off by herself at the Memorial, leaving Mulder to question the contact alone. That was definitely a major action, since it defies what we would normally expect her to do. The rose petal (was it a rose?) was also really strange, if not interesting. Can't say what the significance of that is, but I do think that the final scene in the ep (with her and Mulder facing each other, speechless, not knowing what to say to each other or how to even begin) -- is of extreme significance and power. They're strangers; it's evident in the entire plot, but to a greater degree here. Look at Mulder's face as Scully fingers the dried petal at the end...or before, as he looks at it when she's in Philadelphia. Look at him trying to do what he usually does when he doesn't know what to do (talking his head off about a case) when Scully's dealing with herself. When he gives up and says, "All because you don't have a desk?", it's heartbreaking. He doesn't understand. The silence is immeasurably tragic, but it doesn't seem to have carried over (obviously, anyway) into "Leonard Betts."

4X14 - "Leonard Betts" (26 January 1997)
(The 'regenerating man' episode)
* * * *

This episode completely renewed my hope in the fourth season. This is a dynamic piece of collaborated writing (as it usually is in the Files), and thanks must go to Frank Spotnitz, John Shiban and Vince Gilligan. I think John Shiban (he did the not-so-great "El Mundo Gira") just came on this season as a new writer (to replace Darin Morgan on the team?), but Frank Spotnitz, as far as I know, has never participated in a bad episode. He usually works on the big 'mythology' multi-parters with Chris Carter (and the ones Spotnitz co-writes never miss). And Vince Gilligan came on last season (he wrote "Pusher", followed by this season's "Unruhe" and "Paper Hearts," which are all wonderful character-exploring stories).

Because of the last scene, this may be widely remembered as "the episode where Scully finds out she may have cancer," but the rest of the episode was marvelously handled. The iffy subject matter could have immediately stamped "Hokiness Alert" on the story, but the writers did a fantastic job with it. This is a great episode that not only has a Monster of the Week, but leads us into the extremely important Scully-and-cancer development (which is very much 'mythology' related); it even had some good, trademark X-Files humor at that (to pave a lighter-hearted road to "Memento Mori," most undoubtedly). It's very possible that I'm overrating this episode compared to season three, because after such a long drought of really great writing in this season, this reassured me that The X-Files is still my favorite show on television.

4X15 - "Memento Mori" (9 February 1997)
(The 'Scully confirms she has cancer' episode. Don't worry. Once you've seen it, you can't forget it.)
* * * * *
Wow. This is one of the best episodes of The X-Files. I won't hesitate in saying that it is so far the best episode of this season.

Now, I'm sure there are people who won't feel the same way I do, but when I think of the overall production for this particular show, I can't help but feel gratified. The writing surpasses anything I have ever witnessed in a regular television drama series, as it does many times with The X-Files, but this one was particularly special in its absolutely wonderful success in its goal. To spend an entire script conveying that Scully has cancer, and making it relevant and essential to the entire series is not an easy task. It's an important, landmark episode in both the fictional chronology as well as the history and experience of the TV series. And I have to say that although it was done through the remarkable writing team from the previous episode: Frank Spotnitz, John Shiban and Vince Gilligan, there was someone else who added some extra punch: Chris Carter. Being away working on "Millennium" really put a damper on things on the Files, from what I can tell, and his direct input here in this episode (he wrote Scully's breathtakingly moving monologue in the teaser sequence, for one thing) is something to be thankful for these days.

I could go on effortlessly about "Memento Mori," but suffice it to say that it is a great piece of writing, with some great acting by Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. Even Bruce Harwood (Byers of the Lone Gunmen) left a heartfelt impression. My favorite things about the episode were undoubtedly Scully's monologues, which showcased the power of the writers as well as Anderson (not to mention the direction by Rob Bowman). Even Mark Snow's semblance of melodies during them contributed largely. The monologues were so moving that they actually brought me on the verge of tears; and that has never happened to me before while watching The X-Files. With this episode, the show once again enters the softer tones like the teaser from "Beyond the Sea," but here it progresses farther into the realm of poignancy. (At this point I'm thinking "I have to dedicate a page to this episode somewhere...")

The reviews for these have yet to be posted, although I've included my ratings for now:

4X16 - "Unrequited" (23 February 1997)
(The 'Vietnam veteran with a cloaking device' episode (sorry if you don't like Trek))
* * ½

4X17 - "Tempus Fugit" (formerly titled "Flight 549") Part 1 of 2 (16 March 1997)
(The plane crash disaster episode)
* * * * (rating may change - still unsure)

4X18 - "Max" Part 2 of 2 (23 March 1997)
* * * * (rating may change - still unsure)

4X19 - "Synchrony" (13 April 1997)
(The infamous time-travel episode)

4X20 - "Small Potatoes" (20 April 1997)
(The 'David Duchovny pretends to be (1) Mulder and (2) Darin Morgan pretending to be Mulder' episode)
* * * *

4X21 - "Zero Sum" (27 April 1997)
(The 'Skinner, Murder and an Angry Mob of Bees' episode)
* * *

4X22 - "Elegy" (formerly titled "Tulpa" and then "Revenant" ) (4 May 1997)
(The 'Chuck and the bowling alley' episode)
* * *

4X23 - "Demons" (11 May 1997)
(The 'Mulder has a bout of amnesia thanks to some brainwashing' episode)
* * *

4X24 - "Gethsemane" Season finale, part 1/3 (18 May 1997)
(The 'Okay, how does Mulder get out of this one' episode)
* * * ½

You're on Page 2 of 2 of the Season 4 reviews. Head back to Page 1.

Season 3 index | Season 4 index | Home

Copyright © 1995-now JYW