Welcome, one and all, to the latest step in my ongoing X-Files re-watch. There was quite a noticeable delay in getting to this one. Sorry about that! The main thing though is that we’re now onto season five. Way back when I first watched the series, I’d begun to lose interest by this point. Did giving the season a proper watch change that? Let’s find out.
Running from November 1997 to May 1998, season five of The X-Files reduced the episode count to twenty. Story wise, we get to see Mulder start to fall apart and lose his faith in the existence of extra-terrestrial life, while Scully fights her cancer and regains her health. We also got to meet a couple of new characters, including Agent Jeffrey Spender, who would become more important as the overall arc moved forward. The series’ growth continued with the episodes averaging 20 million viewers, landing the 11th spot in the top viewed series in the US for the year, topping Fox’s top viewed list, and gaining a generally positive response from critics.
The season finale, The End, served a dual purpose here, setting up both the season six premiere, and the 1998 film. As a note, I don’t own either film, so they will not be part of this re-watch. From my viewing of them a few years ago, I recall finding the second film to be the marginally better of two, but not really being impressed with either. Back to the season at hand though, it was the season that received the most award nomination with 16 in total. It won 2 of these, namely ‘Outstanding Art Direction’ (The Post-Modern Prometheus) and ‘Outstanding Single Camera Picture Editing’ (Kill Switch).
Now, upon running through this one, I was surprised. There wasn’t anything in the series that didn’t keep me interested, and while not all the episodes are memorable, it lacked the clangers of season four and there were a lot of really good episodes too. When you consider that this season dragged it all beyond the 100-episode mark, that’s really quite impressive. Bu what stood out? Let’s check the top ten …
10) Chinga (Episode 10) – ‘Scully takes a vacation to Maine, where she encounters a bizarre case where the victims appear to have inflicted wounds upon themselves – apparently at the behest of a strange young girl. This episode was co-written by famous horror writer Stephen King. It carries the alternate title of “Bunghoney” in some sources.’
It’s got a haunted doll in it. That in itself makes it pretty scary. In all though, this was a good showcase for Scully while also showing a light-hearted side of Mulder.
09) The Post-Modern Prometheus (Episode 5) – ‘Filmed in black-and-white, Mulder and Scully investigate a letter from a single mother that leads them to a small town where a modern-day version of Frankenstein’s monster lurks, Jerry Springer is an obsession, and Cher plays a significant part.’
This one was designed to be a homage to Frankenstein, and it does a fine job in the process. It’s artsy, it has a decent story, and it served as a good break from the ongoing main arc. Interestingly, Cher was offered the chance to appear in the episode as her music plays quite a big role, but she turned it down as she didn’t want to come in and just be herself. After watching the finished episode, she regretted not agreeing to appear.
08) & 07) Patient X (Episode 13) and The Red and the Black (Episode 14) – ‘Scully forms a bond with Cassandra Spender, a woman who claims to have been abducted by aliens. While Mulder’s disbelief in the alien conspiracy is now questioned, he finds himself with more personal threats at the FBI. With Cassandra Spender missing, and her son Jeffrey angrily attempting to push his way up in the FBI, Mulder has Scully put under hypnosis to learn the truth. The Syndicate, meanwhile, quicken their tests for the alien vaccine, sacrificing their own to do so.’
A two-part tour de force to advance the alien conspiracy storyline. This one gave us some insight into the Syndicate, gave us a Krycek appearance, and pushed the link between Agent Spender and The Smoking Man. Great stuff.
06) The Pine Bluff Variant (Episode 18) – ‘Scully begins to grow suspicious of Mulder, whose increasingly strange behaviour suggests he may be serving another agenda.’
Coming across as more like a straight-up thriller for the most part, and featuring some decent special effects, this one was a great little departure for the series. And even then, it manages to bring it all full circle again and tie into the main mythos right at the end. Well written, well-acted, and thoroughly entertaining.
05) Unusual Suspects (Episode 3) – ‘The origins of the Lone Gunmen are explored. In 1989, two salesmen and a federal employee join forces when they meet Susanne Modeski, a woman who claims that she is being pursued by her violent ex-boyfriend, an FBI agent named Fox Mulder. We learn how agent Mulder came to meet three friendly and familiar faces.’
It’s silly, it’s based around paranoia, and it’s fun. This was a welcome change of pace after the double-episode season opener. It helps if you have a soft spot for the Lone Gunmen though.
04) Kitsunegari (Episode 8) – ‘When ‘Pusher’ Modell escapes from prison, Mulder and Scully race to catch him before he can take revenge against his favourite target – Agent Mulder.’
Okay, so this episode had a mixed reception when it released. The thing is though, I really liked Pusher. The episode and the character were fantastic, and to see him return here made it compulsive viewing for me. It took the story to a natural conclusion, and that was all I could really ask for for the character. For that reason, it hits the top ten for me.
03) The End (Episode 20) – ‘Investigating the murder of a chess player, Mulder and Scully meet a boy who may be the embodiment of everything in the X-Files. This episode marks the first appearance of Diana Fowley.’
An effective set up for the next season, this was a really nice introduction for child telepath Gibson Praise. There was a lot to take in too, with both the reveal about Smoking Man being Spender’s father, and the burning of the X-Files office. An exciting end tot eh season
02) & 01) Redux I & II (Episode 1 & 2) – ‘Scully helps Mulder fake his death, but comes under intense scrutiny; Skinner is suspected as the traitor inside the FBI; and Mulder breaks into the Department of Defence in a desperate bid to save Scully, but while doing so he finds himself facing the truth about the aliens he has been chasing. While Scully lies on her deathbed; Cigarette Smoking Man makes an important decision in helping Mulder. But even as events come to a climax, Mulder finds his belief in his crusade has all but collapsed.’
The two-part season opener really set the season up superbly. From Mulder’s doubts and his meeting with his sister to the beginning of Scully’s recovery and the hints that the whole conspiracy was a hoax, this got the run off to a great start. I’m glad that it was spread across two episodes too, as squeezing it into one would have really made it feel rushed, I think.
And there we have it. What did you all think of season five though? Did you have a favourite or least favourite episode? Let me know in the comments below.