Investigating The X-Files: Season 3, Part 2

Season 3 contains enough myth and mystery to choke a chupacabra, but it still has opportunities for less cerebral entertainment. In addition to probably my single favorite episode of “The X-Files” ever, you can indulge in rich Guests Who Later Got Big spotting with the extra bonus of some Guests Who Were Already Pretty Big. High profile guests appeared more frequently in later seasons, but in season 3 we get R. Lee Ermey (best known as the drill sergeant in “Full Metal Jacket”) playing a reverend in “Revelations.” A bit later, you might recognize prolific actor Kurtwood Smith, who played everyone from bad guy Clarence Boddicker in “RoboCop” to Eric Forman’s dad on “That ’70s Show,” as an F.B.I. agent with a dark secret in “Grotesque.”

You’ll find the most notable Guests Who Later Got Big in the form of an apparently un-aged Giovanni Ribisi and a placid Jack Black. They appear as a slacker who kills by controlling electricity and his best friend in “D.P.O.” Later, look for Jewel Staite, the actress who played Kaylee on Firefly, as the kidnapped girl in “Oubliette,” Tyler Labine, a.k.a. Sock from Reaper, in “Quagmire” and “War of the Coprophages,” and both
B.D. Wong and Lucy Liu in “Hell Money.” However, by far my favorite
GWLGB of the season was a nearly unrecognizable Ryan Reynolds as
uber-jock Jay ‘Boom’ DeBoom in “Syzygy.” Seriously, I couldn’t believe
how much hotter he’s gotten since 1996.

Given the awesome but exhausting density of the core plot in Season 3, I found myself relying more on the respite of the monster of the week episodes just to stay sane. I particularly enjoyed “Syzygy,” and not just because it amused me to see Ryan Reynolds pre-muscles. The actual mystery of the ep, two teenage girls with the same birthday who take advantage of the powers bestowed on them by rare astrological event to kill off a swath of their small town and blame it on Satan, holds its own.

However, I like crackling dialogue, comedy and character insight even better. The odd alignment of stars affects everyone’s behavior; Mulder becomes loose-limbed and flirtatious while Scully reveals her cranky, insecure side. She gets awfully jealous when Mulder expresses an interest in investigating “the horny beast” with a local detective. The ep had me quite giggly and nicely highlights the ever-growing intimacy between the characters. “Quagmire,” where Mulder and Scully search for a Nessie-style lake monster, and "Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose" also have some great funny and sweet moments.

Equally touching but much more tense is Mulder’s choice to look for a missing Scully rather than catch the bad guys in “Wetwired.” Darin Morgan-penned “War of the Coprophages,” provides worthwhile, if seriously squicky, diversion. You’ll enjoy it more if you aren’t as grossed out by roaches as me and thus don’t have to spend most of the episode with one eye closed and your fingers jammed in your ears. “Grotesque,” with its schizophrenic/demonic mind games, and “Pusher” should not be missed. The climactic Russian roulette scene when Mulder and Scully confront the mind-controlling criminal left me needing to catch my breath.

But in my view, the title of best episode not just of season 3 but of “The X-Files” as a whole must go to “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space.” If Darin Morgan ever has an existential crisis and wonders, “Why am I here?” I can tell him. His purpose in life was to write this killer episode. We get to see a bog standard Mulder and Scully small-town abduction investigation through the eyes of colorful Capote-esque writer Jose Chung, played by Charles Nelson Reilly. The episode portrays the same events from a variety of untrustworthy perspectives. It gleefully mocks nerds and G-men, rationalists and conspiracy theorists alike, and knocks the show’s own ego down a delightful couple of pegs. I’ve seen it 25 times if I’ve seen it once, and I still hoot my head off.

Now that I’ve girded my loins and stretched my funny bone with Jose Chung, it’s time to descend back into the myth episodes from the second half of Season 3. In “Piper Maru,” Skinner tells Scully that the agency has suspended the investigation into her sister’s death. She’s upset, but as per usual, gets to drown her sorrows in some hardcore clue searching. A French salvage ship sends a diver down to inspect a sunken World War II plane. While he’s on the bottom, the audience gets their first look at the now infamous black oil. It infects him and makes his eyes go all cloudy. After he surfaces, all the ship’s crew but him get horrible radiation burns. Plus, he doesn’t seem quite like himself. Back on land, the only explanation Scully can find for the event is that the plane on the sea floor was carrying an atomic bomb when it sank.

Mulder suspects that the real secret on the sea floor is a downed UFO. The fact that the surviving French diver spreads the black oil to his wife seems to confirm his theory. Mulder wants to know how the salvage team knew to look at that particular portion of ocean in the first place. He follows the trail of a suspicious employee to Hong Kong, where he learns she and Krycek have been selling information from the digital tape from way back in “Anasazi.”

Mulder confronts them, and Krycek says he hid the tape back in D.C.; Mulder plans to take him there at gunpoint to retrieve it. Before they board the plane, Krycek encounters the infected salvage man’s wife and goes all oily-eyed, but Mulder doesn’t know it. While Mulder’s busy jet-setting, Skinner gets shot because he won’t stop trying to solve Melissa Scully’s death.

In “Apocrypha,” oily Krycek escapes and disappears while Skinner and Scully figure out that the same mercenary shot both the Assistant director and Melissa. Both Mulder and the shadowy cadre the Cigarette Smoking Man works for search desperately for Krycek, but nobody really has a clue. Tests show that the black oil is petroleum that was exposed to radiation. Mulder suspects that it’s a medium some force uses to body jump, but what, he wonders, does it want? It seems the black oil is a remarkably sentient sort of sludge, and it’s hopping from body to body in an attempt to get back to the UFO now that it’s finally been removed from the ocean floor.

Scully stops the mercenary in another attempt to kill Skinner, and in exchange for his life, he tells them where to find Krycek. On his information they travel to a supposedly abandoned missile silo in North Dakota. The agents get to poking around and see some dead guys with radiation burns. Before they find Krycek or anything else of note, CSM and his goons show up.

We get a peek behind door 1013 where Rat Boy barfs up black oil all over the spaceship. The oil soaks into the ship and Krycek comes back to himself, only to discover that they’ve locked him in eight stories underground. He screams and beats on the door, and the audience assumes (as they will over and over again during the series) that this is the end of Krycek.

The season concludes with "Talitha Cumi." A restaurant shooting occurs after which a man who calls himself Jeremiah Smith miraculously heals the victims and then disappears. Cigarette Smoking Man hunts down and imprisons the seeming miracle worker. They discuss "the project" and talk obliquely about a date set. Smith is one of the shape-shifting aliens who we’re accustomed to seeing with the Commie-face. Unlike his cohorts, he seems to have compassion for the human race and is rebelling against the project.

We also get some more revelations about Mulder’s parents and their involvement with the conspiracy. CSM meets with Mrs. Mulder, they fight, and she has a stroke. In a brief moment of consciousness, she directs Mulder to a pneumatic alien-stabber hidden in her vacation home. Convinced he’ll be killed for it, X wants Mulder to turn it over, but Mulder doesn’t want to because he’s figured out that it’s the only weapon that can kill the aliens. Mulder guesses that the goal is colonization but doesn’t get much confirmation.

The FBI questions a different Jeremiah Smith. He claims to know nothing, but now they’ve tipped him off to the fact that one of his brothers has gone rogue. Scully does some research, and finds records of a bunch of identical Smiths while the rebel escapes CSM’s clutches. He contacts Scully, claiming to have information on an elaborate plan involving Mulder’s sister. Before he can spill the beans, the other Smith, now wearing his angry Russian face, shows up to kill him. And once again, we’re plunged into yet another season-ending cliffhanger; we might as well get used to it. Chris Carter has a seemingly endless supply.

Posted in Professional, The X-Files
One comment on “Investigating The X-Files: Season 3, Part 2
  1. G-Man says:

    ohmygawd! I love Jose Chung!

Leave a Reply