Ranking the Episodes of The X-Files Season 3 – #17-20

It’s been nearly three months since my last episode ranking. While the reason is mostly related to my inherent laziness, I’d rather play it off as me being in a state of perpetual awe at just how awesome Season 3 of The X-Files really is. Here are episodes #17-20.

#20 2Shy

2Shy is a Squeeze wannabe that isn’t quite as good as those episodes with Eugene Victor Tooms but still manages to be effective in its own right. Virgil Incanto is a surprisingly memorable monster, mostly due to his tendency to emotionally manipulate his victims. Tooms was a murderer and all but Incanto makes you feel icky in a way that’s truly horrible.

That’s one hell of a mind game.

This coupled with the direction by David Nutter (particularly that scene with the blind girl in Incanto’s apartment), a really strong score, good guest performances and a level of competence intrinsic to Season 3 make this an enjoyable episode.

So why #20? It’s just a bit slower than most of the episodes this season. Mulder and Scully aren’t completely relegated to the background but they aren’t the drivers of this episode. Not a problem per se and, like I said, Incanto is a great villain. But the episode does this slow burn that, while it works, keeps it less memorable than other episodes from the season.

#19 Hell Money

Hey I basically can write what I wrote above about 2Shy for Hell Money (even though they are completely different episodes): interesting and effective, focused on guest characters more than the leads, with some pacing issues. (Seeing as it took me roughly two months to write this damn post since the last one, I’ll take every possible shortcut there is.)

Actually, nahhh, no shortcuts. Hell Money deserves it’s own write-up. While it’s too slow to match up with the best of the season, there are parts that I truly love. The look at a different culture is not something The X-Files does great but I think its handled fairly gracefully here. The supporting characters of Kim and her father are well acted and get me invested in their plight. The game itself at the heart of the episode is a fascinating example of how to create dramatic tension with barely any (understandable) dialogue. You immediately know these poor people are being lied to and manipulated and the slow-burn to tragedy is very well executed. And BD Wong is great as the troubled Detective Chow who is complicit on this game that exploits the poor and suffering but still comes off as sympathetic.

If only Jurassic World had handled his character arc with more care.

Any other season, this would probably be safely in the top half. But in Season 3, the crop of episodes is so damn strong so the flaws stand out. In this case, it’s purely a pacing thing. This episode is not all that re-watchable because, despite it’s interesting content, it moves very slowly. The game is expertly directed during it’s first run-through in the episode…but by the time we get to it again, it really starts to drag. And as sympathetic as the side characters are, their scenes are also very leisurely paced.

Still, this is a really good episode. It’s not the most dynamic or kinetic episode but its one of the more interesting episodes of the season.

#18 Revelations

Quality wise, Revelations makes it up to #18 on the strength of Gillian Anderson’s performance. It’s a performance that, in a vacuum, would generally result in a top 10 episode. But in terms of being an enjoyable 45 minutes–I’d say Revelations lacks something that the other episodes on this list have.

Gillian Anderson carries this episode. Scully’s empathy and protectiveness for Kevin Kreider is very well played even if the drama surrounding it doesn’t work so well (the episode deals with Armageddon in a very “meh…shit happens” kind of way). When Scully starts noticing things that seem to be pointing towards actual religious phenomena, Gillian Anderson does a good job of portraying Scully’s conflict between her faith and Mulder’s dismissive attitude. In the scene during Owen Jarvis’ autopsy, Scully is very uncomfortable bringing up what she’s experiencing with Mulder because, not only is Mulder not open to it, he’s downright rude about it (him saying “Saint Owen” as he leaves that scene seems unnecessarily cruel of him). By the time we get to the hotel room, Scully has gathered her thoughts and is now able to call Mulder out on his behavior a bit. And finally, her confessional at the end is phenomenal and I love the last line of “God is speaking…but no one is listening.”

But outside of Scully, there are too many flaws to the episode for it to really register with me. The way Mulder claims he’s been tracking a series of international murders implies that he’s a bit invested in the case. Then in the next scene, after they interview Kevin’s mom, he’s basically ready to call it quits. Ummmm, Mulder, you’re the one who dragged Scully out there! (mighty urgently as well, seeing as they just happen to be on the scene of the first murder victim). Meanwhile, the final climax at the recycling plant is so ineptly directed (which is surprising from a David Nutter episode). And what the hell kind of half-assed clue is “you must come full circle to find the truth?”. Who the hell would connect this to the recycling logo??

This case would have been solved much quicker if he just said “you must recycle to find the truth”.

#17 D.P.O.

The X-Files was adept at pumping out a variety of fantastic episodes. You want heady meditations on the meaning behind life and death, head to Darin Morgan’s episodes. You want visceral, tense, fast-paced thrillers, check out some of Vince Gilligan’s works. You want globe-trotting adventures with byzantine webs of intrigue, check out the mythology episodes.

But sometimes, you just want a fun, solid episode to sit back and watch. Nothing too complicated or ambitious–just a quintessential X-Files episode. Well D.P.O. may just “strike” your fancy then.

Darren is awe”struck” by that pun.

D.P.O. doesn’t do anything particularly special. It just does everything very competently while being very accessible. There’s one hell of a hook, both in terms of concept (who doesn’t want to watch someone kill people with lightning) and in terms of a creepy teaser. We’ve got some great guest stars–Giovanni Ribisi gets a ton of well-deserved credit in playing the angst-ridden and hot-headed Darren Peter Oswald but how ’bout Jack Black’s emoting during his death scene?? Mulder and Scully have some solid and amusing back-and-forth which is always a plus.

More than anything, this is just fun and doesn’t get over-complicated. The plot is “teen controls lightning” and it never goes beyond that which is actually a pro for D.P.O. This is an episode that doesn’t aim too high but also isn’t waylaid by structural flaws, something that even the best episodes get mired in. That alone brings it in at #17 on this list.

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