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Season 7 represented something of a weak point within The X-Files, despite some very good episodes and a redeeming finale that left us with a good few shocks. Now I’m on to Season 8, which from what I’ve read is not exactly most well liked season of the show as newer characters are introduced but absences are felt in what was at the time the penultimate season of the original run. With David Duchovny in a reduced capacity, some of Season 8 flounders as it misses some of the snap it had before. Yet, there is still some good to be found, despite the mounting flaws. This season is very much one of two halves. Warning, spoilers will be following in my review of the penultimate season.

We pick up with a pregnant Scully(Gillian Anderson) as she searches tenaciously to find Mulder(David Duchovny), who was abducted by aliens at the end of Season 7. She has to work with Agent John Doggett(Robert Patrick), who leads a FBI task force in search of Mulder, despite Scully’s reservations about him and preference to work with loyal Skinner(Mitch Pileggi). X-Files Season 8 PosterThe search takes significant twists and turns due to the shape shifting Alien Bounty Hunter and interference from superiors, but somehow no one can find Mulder. Meanwhile, Mulder is alive but not well at all, as aliens perform gruesome experiments on him. Doggett is eventually assigned to The X-Files and slowly strikes up a comfortable enough relationship with Scully. By this point, Scully is now a somewhat reluctant believer in the paranormal, in stark comparison with the rational and straight arrow Doggett, who is similar to what Scully was in the beginning of her work. As they delve into the paranormal and unexplained, strangeness is never far from view. An old friend of Doggett’s and fellow agent Monica Reyes(Annabeth Gish) appears and begins to assist them both. Mysteriously, Mulder returns deceased before being strangely brought back to life, which surprises everyone. While Mulder returns against orders not to, he is then fired as pressure from the head director gets personal and he ends up helping Scully secretly with the cases. Scully’s unexpected pregnancy begins to play an important part of the story, as it becomes apparent through sources such as devious Krycek(Nicholas Lea) that the child is a special one that is to be in great danger once born. The prospect of more alien invasion and long-buried government conspiracy become a lot more prominent and looming as the season reaches its climax. What lies ahead for all involved?

The biggest criticism I can aim at this season is the up and down quality of episodes. Whereas past seasons were filled with some really stellar moments, Season 8 is a bit of a let down. Scully and DoggettGranted there are moments of quality, none quite measure up with some of the iconic and very memorable work that the show has produced in the past. There are some episodes that recycle old ideas in an unsuccessful way and this is really a shame as the show is often one of innovation. The past two seasons showed signs of slowing down, but here there are points when it borders on lethargic. The fact that Mulder is absent for large chunks of the season is a negative, as the relationship between him and Scully is the driving force behind the show. Once Mulder is back in the picture, things pick up. Also, the absence of Cigarette Smoking Man is felt as he always brings the villainy to the table no matter how long he’s on screen for. I just get the feeling that the writers and producers were running a bit low on ideas here and it definitely shows in many instances.

On the positive side, some themes explored are very well observed and as I previously mentioned, the latter half of the season really picks up. Death and resurrection play a big part of this season, adding a bit more dimension to this at times underwhelming season. The arc of Scully’s pregnancy and that her child could be special but in great danger was very well executed and brought an emotional pull to this season, which some of the other episodes lacked. Scully Baby BirthThe moment when the baby is born at the very end of the season is a really heart tugger and filled with a real joy, plus we get a passionate and warm kiss shared between Mulder and Scully. And once Mulder comes back into the story, a lot of things start to go right as his absence has caused a void. That being said John Doggett is a good enough character to watch. Sure he’s no Mulder(as there can only be one) but he is still a good addition to the show.

There are still great episodes and moments to be found, despite the overriding feeling of running out of ideas and sometimes lack of coherence. Mulder TorturedOne of the creepiest parts of the season is found in ‘Without’ as Mulder is subjected to horrific experiments from aliens that will have you squirming in your seats due to how unsettling they are and the way they are shot. Stomach-churning contents continue in the unnerving ‘Roadrunners’, in which Scully investigates a murder that leads her to a seemingly amiable town. Yet the people in the place don’t want her to leave as they are part of a cult that worships a parasitic form that they infect strangers with; Scully it would appear is their next chosen victim. Lets just say things get nasty very quickly. ‘The Gift’, featuring a creature that takes disease from the sick but is exploited for it has a definite tragic quality that strikes you. A real highlight of Season 8 is ‘This Is Not Happening’, in which former abductees are returned to Earth, with Mulder being one of them, albeit seemingly diseased. Scully’s reaction to seeing Mulder’s body is a real gut punch and you really just want to comfort her. The following episode ‘Deadalive’ is a tense fight against the clock to save Mulder as it becomes apparent that he’s alive again, there are still dangers posing. Luckily, Mulder is restored to fine health and the fans rejoice. And I loved the throwback to old X-Files with government conspiracy becoming prominent again, after an absence of too long. And the last two episodes of the season in ‘Essence’ and ‘Existence’ are gripping and nail-biting television, complete with memorable scenes of Krycek being terminated and Scully giving birth.

It must be said that the acting from the main principles is typically great. Major kudos to Gillian Anderson for showing Scully’s emergence as a reluctant believer, keeping the faith in the unknown burning.Scully Season 8 With her delivery of emotion and strength, Anderson is remarkably effective this season. It truly is great seeing Scully firmly in believer territory, as there is no other explanation. Her growth over the years has been so well-played by Gillian Anderson who has infused the part with a deep memorability. I’m guessing the introduction of John Doggett was more than met with a bit of contention, but Robert Patrick does a credible job. Essentially an honest, determined former cop and marine, Patrick makes Doggett reminiscent of how skeptical Scully used to be and shows us how his mettle is tested by his brushes with the paranormal. Combining a toughness, discipline and haunted look due to demons of his past, I liked that Robert Patrick didn’t try to just play another Mulder, as that wouldn’t have worked. When he does appear, David Duchovny is also excellent as Mulder. Mulder Season 8Despite the wrangles with the plots when he isn’t there, Duchovny makes his present felt as everyone’s favourite Mulder. And it’s great whenever he’s on screen as it adds to the emotion of the show, viewing his bond with Scully and then their baby boy. His absence is deeply felt when he isn’t on the screen, but when he is there everything starts to click. Stalwart star Mitch Pileggi is on cracking form as loyal and dependable Skinner, who begins to take things into his own hands, despite the hazards that could befall him. Skinner is featured heavily in this season and I am thankful for that as he has emerged as one of my favourite characters. Krycek DeathNicholas Lea is as slimy as ever as Krycek, who at times becomes a reluctant ally to Mulder and Scully but is really in it for himself as he always has been. When he gets whats coming to him, it’s a cathartic moment considering all the damage he’s done to everyone over the years. Annabeth Gish appears a handful of times as Monica Reyes, and while some of her character isn’t well-developed enough yet, Gish brings a kooky charm to the character.

  1. Within – B+
  2. Without – A
  3. Patience – D
  4. Roadrunners – A
  5. Invocation – E
  6. Redrum – D-
  7. Via Negativa – B
  8. Surekill – C-
  9. Salvage – D-
  10. Badlaa – C+
  11. The Gift – A
  12. Medusa – C-
  13. Per Manum – B
  14. This Is Not Happening – A+
  15. Deadalive – A+
  16. Three Words – A
  17. Empedocles – B
  18. Vienen – B+
  19. Alone – B
  20. Essence – A
  21. Existence – A+

A significantly weaker season than most in The X-Files, Season 8 manages to just stay interesting and gripping enough thanks to some really great stand alone episodes, the excellence of the last half and performances, especially from Gillian Anderson.