Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The X-Files Season Nine

Nothing Important Happened Today written by Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz and directed by Kim Manners

What’s it about: Mulder has vanished, Scully is unusually passive, Doggett is finding his investigation of Kersh harder to pull off than he imagine and a new flame of Reyes' is in town...

Brains’n’Beauty: Gillian Anderson is far too passive in this episode, behaving as if she is here on sufferance rather than still investing in the programme that made her famous. This would alter as we wind our way through the better episodes of the season but it is hardly a screaming defence of the Mulderless show that the previous female lead seems neutered as a result.

Closed Mind: I've said it before and I'll say it again but whenever Robert Patrick is on screen this show comes alive. It might have been naive of Doggett to think that he would get away with bringing down the Deputy Director of the Bureau but he has always been portrayed as a seeker of the truth. He's just saying what he saw but now evidence has been fabricated to make him question that. After everything he did to protect her last season, it is a real slap in the face for Scully to ask him walk out of her life and not come back. I know she is only trying to protect the two men in her life (Mulder and William) but Doggett is one of her few allies left. The look of hurt on his face made me want to reach out and give him a hug.

Oddball: Making Monica and Brad ex-lovers is a nice development and gives her a bit more of a cloudy back story to draw upon. Given that he is clearly in the pocket of the government trying to cover up the super soldier programme, I can foresee sparks flying between them before the season is out. What is clear from this episode is that there is still and attraction between them. Monica hands her loyalty to Doggett when everybody else has backed out of his investigation of Kersh. The X-Files was her dream assignment because it is where her interests lie and she is afraid that if the investigation is dropped, so will the department.

Trust No-1: What was the point of the shot of Mulder in the shower and his bags packed? By offering a tantalising glimpse of him at the beginning of the season only serves to dish out disappointment to those who wished he was back full time. I would have written him off at the end of season eight and forged on ahead with a series that only occasionally (and not at the offset of this era) mentioned him. We've already covered the 'Mulder is missing' angle in every conceivable way in the eighth season and unfortunately 'Mulder has run away' doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

Sinister AD: Doggett meeting Kersh in the lift is a glorious moment. An awkward crossing of paths on a Monday morning. Weirdly, although he seems pissed with the fact that he is being investigated by one of his workers, he also seems complicit.

The Good: I was relived to see the Lone Gunmen show up as they always bring with them a sense of humour and that is something this episode sorely needs. There is a cheeky dig at the fact that their own show has been recently cancelled ('like we've got anything better to be doing these days') and it hits you how lucky they are to be able to slip back into the show that made their name as if they had never been away. There is a sudden burst of energy at the climax as Doggett and Skinner are chased through the water reclamation plant by Follmer and his stooges. I wish this had been the pace of the piece throughout. The cliff-hanger is great, a really clever piece of camerawork that reveals Doggett holding his breath beneath the water and Shannon dragging him further into the depths. And there's more terrific Mark Snow music too.

The Bad: I can understand the production team wanting to make their mark on the revised version of the series by altering the titles but the shift is not really in their favour. Whilst there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the new title music, it isn't a patch on the original (it sounds tinny and synthetic rather than wistful and moody) and the new effects are brought bang up to date but I rather liked the original, somewhat dated feel of the credits for the past eight years. It gave the show the feel of something much creakier and old fashioned. 

Pre Titles Sequence: Approaching the ninth season, easily the most derided of the show, with a different frame of mind is essential with a re-watch because if you were to go in with all those negative opinions buzzing around in your head then you aren't going to get any enjoyment from this at all. So let's play 'let's pretend this isn't The X-Files' and imagine for a moment that this is a spanking new anthology series that is on the market. On the strength of the pre-titles sequence alone this is clearly a stylish and surprising production. It features a stunning stunt (the car being forced into the water and shooting from the bridge), some excellent underwater photography and a great shock moment where the guy manages to get his seatbelt free but is held below the surface by the femme fatale that has staged all this. In every way it is quality television. What are the naysayers talking about? If this was a new show on the market, I would be mightily impressed and eager to see what this is all about.

Moment to Watch Out For: My favourite scene of this extremely quiet episode comes at a moment of extreme inactivity. Scully is sleeping and William is in his cot beside her and his mobile is spinning seemingly of its own volition. It is only when she gets up and makes it stop that she realises that somehow her son is controlling the pacifier. A wonderfully eerie moment, told without any dialogue and a lovely piece of music from Mark Snow.

Fashion Statement: Robert Patrick naked in bed. Yes please. Cary Elwes might be the ultimate smarm as Brad Follmer but at least he is attractive smarm and very easy on the eye. Loving Scully's hairdo this season, absolute class.

Orchestra: Snow's music during the teaser is superb, an unearthly scream sounding as the victim desperately scrambles to release himself from his underwater prison.

Mythology: 'This old military buddy of mine...he told me your pregnancy was the result of a government cloning experiment to try and create what he called a super soldier.'

Result: Too much focus on Mulder, a character that has walked out on the series and not enough attempt is made to forge ahead with its own new identity makes Nothing Important Happened Today something of an anomaly at the beginning of the season. There is nothing terrible about this episode; it has some great performances, reasonable set pieces and a continues the super soldier plotline with some interest but in all respects it feels like a hanger on from season eight rather than a bold new direction for season nine. I would have jettisoned all mention of Mulder and kicked started the shows ninth year with a bad ass monster of the week tale, something to chill the blood and show the series is back with a vengeance. Instead you get scenes of incredibly inactive characters talking quietly in official settings and a plot that ambles along quite slowly because it has another 45 minutes to wrap itself up with. Not so much a bang a as a whimper. It is the characters of Doggett and Reyes that are holding this episode together and whenever Patrick and Gish are on screen my interest levels raised, the two actors glad to be given the chance to front such a popular show. In comparison Anderson looks as though she has had enough and new character Brad Follmer is hardly given an introduction that is worth talking about. I like the idea of Lucy Lawless' super soldier femme fatale far more than its execution. Look at what they did with her in Battlestar Galactica and you can see what a missed opportunity this was. Far too quiet for its own good, let's hope the second episode gets its engine revving a little more: 5/10

Nothing Important Happened Today Part II written by Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz and directed by Tony Wharmby

What’s it about: All roads lead to the Baltimore docks where experiments are taking place on a boat...

Brains’n’Beauty: I've heard plenty of people say that they would have preferred it had Scully vanished into the ether along with Mulder in season nine and allowed the show to flourish with Doggett and Reyes at the helm. I don't think that was ever really an option. There comes a point where all of your regulars have been replaced when you have to wonder if it is still the same show anymore. With Scully comes the Skinner and the Gunmen too and all those years of relationships built up to draw on. I think for the most part they get the mix just about right with Doggett and Reyes taking the lead and falling back on Scully when people need reminding that this is still The X-Files. Besides I think that Anderson, Patrick and Gish share excellent chemistry and look terrific when they are all on screen together. The last half of Nothing Important Happened Today gets a real shot in the arm when the three of them start working together. Scully has had her fair share of outrageous conspiracy theories. Shannon's isn't exactly a revelation to her. There's a lovely moment of doubt between Scully and Doggett where they discuss Shannon and the implications of her story. She hopes that Shannon's story turns out to be true for Doggett's sake because it could be the key to everything that has been happening with The X-Files in past year (Billy Miles, etc) but for her sakes she wants her to be a fraud spreading lies (because it casts serious doubt of the origins of William and what he will grow up to be).

Closed Mind: 'Paranoia must go with the job. You're starting to sound just like Fox Mulder, Mr Doggett...' He's trying his best to make sense of everything that is going on around him but that isn't an easy job when he has the Bureau (headed by Follmer) breathing down his neck, Scully pushing herself away from him and Monica forcing him to face the facts. Follmer is a devious little bugger and arranges a job suspension to try and stop his investigation into AD Kersh. He's been watching Doggett closely and jumps on his first indiscretion to discredit him. When he thinks he has got nothing left to lose he tells Kersh that he is filthy dirty and involved in all this right up to his neck. You have to love this guy, especially how he never holds back.

Oddball: Just as she gave her loyalty to Doggett in the last episode, Monica deliberately distances herself from Follmer in this one and his political games. Even if she does lose her job because of this decision, she will at least be thrown out on her ear with her dignity intact. 'You're making a big mistake here' 'I seem to make one every time I walk through your door.'

Assistant Director: Skinner has become a clone of Dr Evil from the Austin Powers series, informing Agent Reyes to 'zip it' wherever possible. Turns out it was Mulder and Scully that have asked Skinner to leave his disappearance be because they were frightened for his safety and that of the baby. Why weren't we privy to this conversation? It would certainly make a lot more sense of his behaviour in the previous episode.

Ugh: A nice moment of decapitation when things are getting a bit quiet.

The Good: The super soldiers all have a standard mutation which is a growth at the back of their necks. That's quite a nice conceit so the camera can discreetly inform from behind of who is a subject whilst concealing it from our heroes. At least there is a reason that the first episode had scenes set in a water reclamation plant, it is tied into the plot. I thought they chose that location simply because it looked cool (I've heard of worse reasons). Once again The Lone Gunmen show up and bring a touch of personality with them and I love how the scene suddenly races ahead when the phone starts ringing and they become more involved in the plot than they planned to. When the pace finally picks up the action comes thick and fast and the sequence featuring Doggett trying to bring down Knowle Rohrer and nearing having his head caved in had me on the edge of my seat. Doggett, Scully and Reyes look fabulous exploring the deck of the ship together - finally it feels like this show has a decent ensemble behind it. The pyrotechnic boys go nuts during the finale and the results are spectacular on screen. One thing you can always rely on with The X-Files, they sure can blow up stuff real good. The climax comes almost a full ten minutes before the end of the episode showing just how many subplots there are to tie up before the credits. Fortunately it is a roll call of one satisfying moment after another with Doggett and Kersh dropping their differences and gaining a new understanding of each other, Doggett and Follmer squaring off in a lift and making their dislike of each other very clear and Scully pondering the future of her child. That last minute squeak is chilling. The reason behind this episode's title is very nicely explained. Even King's can miss important events if they are not looking in the right direction.

The Bad: I certainly don't object to Knowle Rohrer turning up halfway through the episode (he is a hottie, after all) and making a surprise appearance but unless you followed the show religiously last year it really wont have much of an impact. The idea of effectively poisoning the population and dosing them up to create a race of super soldiers is a strong science fiction idea. The number one rule of drama is to show and not tell. I know I am usually of the reverse opinion on The X-Files (because it can be obscure to the point of leaving you completely in the dark) but in this case the information is just sort of dumped in your lap without anything to back it up. We've seen Shannon perform tricks underwater which is proof that she is a super soldier but we haven't seen any evidence that this is taking place on a larger scale. The one emotive connection to this is Scully's baby, who is apparently caught up in the works of this master plan but since Scully walks through the first half of this episode looking mildly disdainful at having to listen to yet another mad conspiracy theory it hardly hits home in the way it is supposed to. Perhaps this story would have been better told through a member of the public, somebody who is pregnant and has been contaminated. At least it would have the personal touch. I never felt personally involved in the story of the Ship's Captain whose command is being superseded by the super soldier programme. I understand why we keep cutting back to him to set up the location for the climax but we have seen a hundred characters like this on the show before who were similarly faceless. It isn't the actors fault, he just isn't given any character quirks to define him. He is a cog in the plot, nothing more.

Pre Titles Sequence: I had absolutely no idea what was happening but it is directed so well that it didn't really matter. It would seen that obscene government experiments have transferred from train box cars to ships and the reveal of this is handled particularly well. Bravo for Mark Snow's percussive score which this feel far more exciting than it actually is (given we're told nothing of relevance).

Moment to Watch Out For: What a fantastic scene Kersh gets at the end of this episode. We realise with some surprise that he is as much a puppet as anybody else. He warned Mulder to leave because his life was in danger. His life has been threatened should he fail to do as he is told. He is discreetly trying to help The X-Files team to uncover this plot whilst publicly appearing to work against them. I always thought there was more to this guy than meets the eye. I hope they run with this.

Fashion Statement: I've heard of some interesting ways to oxygenate somebody who is out of breath but snogging them underwater is a new one on me. I suppose that is what you get when you hire a hot woman to play the part of a super soldier. I wonder if this scene would have played out along the same lines had it been some beefy bloke in the role tonguing Doggett? Annabeth Gish is a gorgeous new talent for the show to exploit and she smoulders her way through this episode. A shame that there isn't some fresh, sexy storytelling to show her off with.

Mythology: Shannon and Knowle Rohrer are bio engineered combat units. They have no weaknesses, they don't sleep and they can breathe underwater. They were Adam and Eve, the programmes first successes. They are alike in almost every way, the only difference being that Shannon hates what she is. Chloramine is being added to the water supply - if you want to deliver something to every citizen in America then what better way than to administer it through the one thing that everybody needs to survive. They are priming a population to breed a generation of super soldiers, by adding something to the water that promotes the mutation of offspring and fertilisation. They have no successfully given birth to a super soldier from a mutated egg - William Scully.

Result: Better, but still remarkably inert for the most part. One massive improvement from the first instalment is inclusion of Scully in the investigation and how with her taking an active role in the plot remaining regulars (Doggett, Reyes, The Lone Gunmen, Skinner) gel together very nicely. And whilst I can think of a million better ways of dramatising the docked water plotline than simply dumping the information in our laps and expecting us to buy it, the plot does come together in the last twenty minutes as everybody is drawn to the boat and the experiments that are taking place there. I did take some nice things away from Nothing Important Happened Today; the pleasing Doggett and Reyes pairing, clarification of the super soldier programme and confirmation that Scully's baby isn't everything he seems to be. These are all elements that can be taken and giving some more development in the shows final season. The thing that worries is me is the general lack of pace and oomph to the production, Within/Without was bursting with energy and enthusiasm like a show that has something to prove. In comparison this is a generally ponderous hour an a half with only the odd burst of energy. If the show is going to go out with some dignity it is going to have to inject some razzmatazz. As mentioned, the last half of the second episode does generate some excitement but it comes a little too late. It's like having a particularly ponderous wank and finishing off with a satisfying orgasm. More foreplay next time and the climax might be a screamer: 7/10

Daemonicus written and directed by Frank Spotnitz

What’s it about: Essentially one long distraction so the FBI chase their tails looking for the devil whilst a serial killer walks free...

Closed Mind: Doggett refuses to believe that this case is an X-Files and tells Monica to stop and think before she starts spouting off that this is the work of the Devil. There is a much gentler chemistry between Doggett and Reyes than there was between Doggett and Scully last year, there is a mutual respect between them from the outset despite the fact that they are having very similar discussions (Doggett the sceptic to Reyes/Scully's theories). But then I think these two might have the hots for each other too and that was never an option with Doggett and Scully. He gently mocks her throughout but it is never malicious. Kobold likes playing mind games and he tries to get inside Doggett's head by inquiring into his current assignment, looking into paranormal crimes when it is a field of work that he doesn't really believe in. He suggests that there must be some underlying reason for his persistence. The tragedy of his sons death is brought up again and the suggestion that he is chasing ghosts to answer the questions that damn him. Robert Patrick gets the chance to really lose his cool when Kobold compares Doggett to Mulder and he gets a suit covered in vomit for his troubles. Lovely. Is Doggett afraid to face up to the paranormal as a reality? We'll see...

Oddball: Finally we get a chance to see Reyes at work in a non-conspiracy episode and I'm pleased to report that she works out rather well. You can tell from her haunted reaction to walking in on the murder scene that her senses are tingling, those vibrations she was so keen to mention last season assaulting her with the sheer revulsion of the crime. There's another good reason for the department to be involved, with Monica previously being touted as one of the Bureau's experts on ritualistic crime. Of all the cases of suspected satanic activity that she has investigated she has never felt anything like what she does about this case. It looks like we have another one like Mulder, Reyes stating the facts as she sees them regardless of whether she faces the scorn of disbelievers.

Brains'n'Beauty: I rather like the idea of seeing Scully in a different role. She has always been something of an authoritative figure so it isn't such a stretch to imagine her as a lecturer at the FBI Academy. It would seem that news of the X-Files has reached even the freshmen, who titter when she mentions her affiliation to the department. Scully empathises with Monica who is taking her first steps in The X-Files and admits that she felt things that she couldn't understand also and experienced things that she couldn't comprehend. She learnt not to ignore those feelings and to trust her instincts. 

Sparkling Dialogue: 'You can't compete with the long lost Agent Mulder. His easy good looks, his Oxford education. Mulder has what you can't have but you stumble forward, the flat footed cop thinking you can put handcuffs on demons.'
'So what are we talking about now - The Ghostbusters?'

Ugh: Creepy masks during the initial attack. The couple staged before the scrabble board with blood running down their faces. Snakes bursting from a mans chest and writhing free. The man hanging from a tree, bleeding. Approaching a corpse from behind and not knowing what state it is going to be in until you turn it around is the oldest trick in the book but I honestly wasn't expecting Dr Sampson's face to be full of needles. It's pretty grim. Lots and lots bloody vomit. Or possibly ectoplasm.

The Good: I think that Frank Spotnitz knew that this episode was never going to win any awards for originality in the writing department, being stitched together out of various horror movie and X-Files clichés and so to compensate he directs the hell out of it and ensures that there is always something interesting to look at. Visually, this is one of the most imaginatively realised X-Files. It is packed to the gills with scary images, cleverly framed shots, strange scene transitions, some stunning lighting and a real sense of movement and fluidity. Maybe he should have gotten behind the camera a lot sooner than he did. I love the chess pattern floor that fades slowly into the murder scene. The pistol that is aimed right at the audience made me jump. Having watched (and thoroughly enjoyed) all eight seasons of Dexter I am so used to seeing James Remar in the imagined role of Harry Morgan, Dexter's father. To see him in such a markedly different role as the calm but calculating serial killer Josef Kobold is quite a leap but Remar embodies the role completely and delivers one of the most chilling killers in the shows nine years. When fighting against direction this attention grabbing it is quite an effort to make your performance stand out but Remar injects a powerful intensity into this character and my eyes couldn't shift from him. There's a day to night transition in the prison that is greeted with a flash of lightning that runs through the building that is very stylishly achieved.

The Bad: The whole angle of Kobold being able to point the FBI in the direction of the killer was handled much more engagingly in season one's Beyond the Sea and season four's Paper Hearts. It is clear early on that Kobold has masterminded this whole operation and that he is leading the FBI on a wild goose chase. Mind you that is part of the fun, watching them being led like lambs to the slaughter. It might not have been the best approach to have the spanking new team of Doggett and Reyes proving themselves as worthy successors of Mulder and Scully by inadvertently releasing a serial killer back into the public on their first case. I wonder why there was no consequences to this unfortunate conclusion to events.

Pre Titles Sequence: It feels nice to be back in the standalone territory and this teaser has a fair amount of atmosphere to it. I remember watching it late at night in the dark the first time it was aired in the UK and it gave the creeps, especially the loud whispering that led into the credits. There is nothing innovative going on here and it is the sort of scene you have seen a hundred times over in horror movies but scares are scares in the end of the day and this little vignette of a man and his wife being attacked in their home at night is very effectively handled. The idea of a husband being tricked into murdering his wife, the killers making him believe that she is one of them, is obscene.

Moment to Watch Out For: I enjoyed the final wrap up that explained the Kobold's method. Remember in season one when every episode seemed to end on an ambiguous note with you wondering what the hell that was all about? It seems at least the show has learnt from its mistakes in that respect.

Orchestra: Quite a standard Mark Snow score, the sort of which I haven't complained about for some time now. I did like his persistent stab at the piano during the creepier moments though. I would have thought that Spotnitz would have asked for something as attention grabbing as his direction. 

Result: There are several things that I really like about Daemonicus so let's get my issues out of the way first. Originality seems to be in short supply this season since we are three episodes in and we haven't seen anything that the show hasn't done before...and probably better too. I also felt that the episode was so methodically plotted that Kobold was clearly the mastermind behind the whole escapade all along. I still enjoyed Daemonicus a great deal and it had all the freshness that comes with a standalone adventure after the stuffy drama of the latest conspiracy tale. Frank Spotnitz has written a clichéd script but has afforded himself the chance to put some suitably scary images on screen and there are moments in here that genuinely made my flesh creep. It's the first standalone with Doggett and Reyes in charge and whatever Mulder/Scully lobby might say I still think that they are a highly engaging team and exactly what the show needs if it is going to proceed into a ninth season. Can you imagine another year of Mulder and Scully? Season seven was proof that that relationship had been all but exhausted. I also like how this is effectively a very simple story of a man who wants to break out of prison but goes to extraordinary lengths to do so. It is pleasingly explained as it goes along, not always a strength of this series and concludes with a satisfying wrap up with our heroes summing up just how they have been duped. James Remar gives a memorable performance as the antagonist, not an easy task given the amount of serial killers this show has produced. Add to this some really eye catching direction and some horrific imagery and you have a piece which isn't going to win any awards for innovation but kept me entertained (and spooked) throughout: 7/10

4-D written by Steven Maeda and directed by Tony Wharmby

What’s it about: Cutting out women's tongues for pleasure...

Closed Mind: Doggett and Reyes are making eyes for each other the second he walks into her apartment with his housewarming present. They have the easy banter of old friends and when she wiped mustard from his mouth I swear we were one second away from this turning into a very different kind of episode. One where you have to send the kids out of the room. It's a very welcome sexual chemistry that they dip in and out of this season and it sets up their strength of feeling for each other very quickly for the episode ahead. Somehow Doggett manages to keep his spirits up even when he is consigned to a hospital bed, perhaps for the rest of his life, and unable to speak. Even disabled he is able to make crackpot jokes about Monica watching too much Star Trek when it comes to her (apparently) absurd theories.

Oddball: It's lovely to see Monica moving into her new place in DC, its the sort of personal detail they can often forget on this show. I love how Reyes never tries to bend the facts to fit a theory but to find a theory that fits the facts, no matter how impossible they might be to reconcile.

Brains’n’Beauty: There is a gentle moment between Scully and Reyes were she tries to comfort her and offer an explanation to her confusion about Doggett by recounting the visitation of her father in Beyond the Sea. It was so long ago now you almost forget that it is part of the shows mythology. Scully is quite protective of Reyes when it appears that there is a case to be built against her. You might see this as a forced connection given that they have only just started working together but this is the woman who helped deliver and protect her baby. That has got to mean something. 

Sparkling Dialogue: '1st time ever hope for a little prick' 'You kiss your mother with that mouth?'
'God, I enjoyed you. You bled just like a pig...' might be one of the most repulsive lines delivered on The X-Files.

Ugh: Don't approach this episode if you are sitting down to dinner. The moment you realise Lukesh is making tongue sandwiches for his mother might turn you off your food.

The Good: At first I thought we were going to be dealing with one of those episodes that shows the outcome of events and then go back to explain how we got there. It was the only way I could reconcile both Doggett and Reyes being terminally injured one minute and perfectly normal the next. 4-D is playing much more interesting games than that. The episode seems to suggest that only one version of each character can exist in each reality. Hence when the version of John Doggett that is shot enters, the other one (who was happily chomping down on his Polish sausage) vanishes into the ether. The news is that if he pulls through, Doggett will be paralysed for life. Dramatically that is a great place to start given how essential he has become to the series. The mystery of the disappearing Doggett in Reyes' apartment means there is a fascinating mystery to solve too. It's good to see Follmer back (I thought he would be relegated to the conspiracy episodes) and the awkward look on his face when his ex-girlfriend takes another mans hand speaks volumes. Follmer seems to say everything with a smirk on his face, even when he is quietly warning Skinner about his insubordination. Our glimpses into Lukesh's appalling life looking after his needy, paranoid mother allows us some insight into why he feels the need to express himself the way he does. It does allow for any degree of sympathy, he is hacking out women's tongues after all, but it does explain why he might be frustrated enough to act out. He sleeps in the same bed as his mother waits until she is asleep and then slips out to commit his repulsive deed. But here's the clever part...Lukesh has found access to another reality. One that closely resembles our own where he can unleash his disgusting habits on the female population and return to ours where he has done nothing wrong. He's such a disturbed man that as soon as he realises that between them the FBI and his mother will be able to piece together evidence that he is a serial killer he takes what in his twisted mind seems like the only way out. To murder the woman that gave birth to him. We know precisely what Lukesh is capable of so the climax where he holds a razor to Monica's throat is nail biting, and superbly acted

Pre-Titles Sequence: Just brilliant. Conceptually, dramatically and stylistically this is the best teaser the show has seen since Empedocles last year. It introduces all the ideas that are in play without explaining any of them. We don't realise for some time that the episode opens in an alternative reality because the usual markers (outrageous versions of the characters in particular) aren't there. It means that Reyes can suffer the horrific act of having her tongue cut out and Doggett can be shot in the face. The direction is top notch, cutting away from Reyes as she lets out an ear piercing scream and disconcertingly realising Doggett's confusion as Lukesh steps into our reality. You'll be left with a big question mark hanging over your head the first time you see the teaser which makes subsequent re-watches very rewarding.

Moment to Watch Out For: The really dramatic set piece in 4-D is exquisitely foreshadowed throughout the episode with the FBI quietly accusing Monica of trying to kill Doggett. Ultimately that is what she has to do set things back on the right track. You never know if Doggett genuinely believes her theory of alternative universes or whether he is just exploiting that to get her to commit euthanasia on his part. It adds an extra layer of tension to the moment. Even Monica doesn't know if she is reaching or not and has to put a great deal of faith in the fact that her Doggett will be returned if the version from the other reality expires. She could just be killing him for good. It is a great dilemma, making full use of the premise to force the characters to make some tough choices. Monica turning off the life support machine and holding Doggett's hand as he expires is played without any dialogue and is all the more effective for it.

Result: Marrying a great premise with some excellent character work and chucking in one of the most repulsive serial killers yet, 4-D races ahead of the other episodes of season nine to date and bewitches throughout. Whereas Daemonicus was a standard X-File that was enlivened by their involvement, this is the first sterling opportunity for Doggett and Reyes to have an episode built around their relationship. And it works startlingly well, giving both Patrick and Gish a chance to prove what they are capable of. Erwin Lukesh walks away from the last three years of The X-Files as one of the most nauseating bad guys, a sick little boy of a man who cuts out women's tongues just so he can escape his lifeless existence looking after his mother. Steven Maeda continues to be one of the shining talents of the series latter half, not content with going over old ground but dealing with imaginative concepts such as time running backwards and parallel universes. You might think that The X-Files wouldn't stretch to such ideas as it likes to keep one foot planted squarely in reality but quality episodes such as Redrum, 4-D and Audrey Pauley prove otherwise. Ultimately this is the story of two relationships; Doggett and Reyes and Lukesh and his mother and the premise of the week is just there to allow us some insight into both. It is quite a quiet piece but don't mistake that for a lack of drama, 4-D proves to be surprising, poignant and disturbing: 9/10

Lord of the Flies written by Thomas Schnauz and directed by Kim Manners

What’s it about: Love, and how your nature can prevent you from finding it...

Closed Mind: Everybody is playing the episode a little looser this week and it is nice to see the camaraderie between Scully, Doggett and Reyes feature in a gentler episode. Apparently Doggett glances at the adverts at the back of men's magazines for amusement, particularly the ones that are selling products that can help men attract women. Whilst he is criticising the kids extreme levels of brainlessness, Doggett can't help but smile sneakily at their antics.  Robert Patrick plays this entire episode with one eyebrow arched, as though he is highly amused but not entirely engaged with what is playing out around him. 

Sparkling Dialogue: 'I think I just solved this case. This kid had crap for brains, the flies couldn't resist.'
'This isn't just stupid, it's the glorification of stupid. These kids take enormous pride in being sub mental.'

Ugh: I can handle pretty much any creepy crawlies. I think spiders are rather cute. Moths dancing around flames are rather beautiful. Centipedes are a marvel of nature. My one Achilles Heel when it comes to the insect world is flies. They're dirty, their noisy and they spread germs around your home as though that is their reason for existence. These things eat your food, vomit it up, stamp it back into the food and then eat it again. They're repulsive. I cannot be held responsible for my actions when a fly is buzzing around me at a picnic. So the sight of an army of them pouring from somebody's face is enough to make my stomach heave. Dylan's face and body being covered in flies made me reached for the Gaviscon. What are they trying to do to me?

The Good: A stereotypical American family blaming all the wrong people for the murder of their son. You can point the blame at the Council for steep roads or the manufacturers of the trolley but at the end of the day it is their dumbass son that decided to get inside a shopping cart an take a trip down the hill. This is all played for comic effect but it does demonstrate the lack of awareness of some parents who are unwilling to except that children do the most retarded things. It's nice to Jane Lynch in something pre-Glee although after watching her play the anarchist Sue Sylvester it is hard to take her seriously as a school headmistress cum insect. Rocky Bronzino is precisely the sort of OTT character that Darin Morgan used to write into the show and whilst he is nowhere near as intelligently written as Dr Bambi or the Incredible Yappi, his penchant for turning everything into an insect innuendo did make me chuckle ('So many flowers, so little time...'). Pairing him off with Scully was a great idea because gives Gillian Anderson the chance to play some comedy for the first time in over a season. Whilst I'm pleased that season eight took a more serious route and gave the series its dignity back, Anderson does delight when she gets the chance to let her hair down.

The Bad: My biggest problem with Lord of the Flies is that none of the child characters are especially likable. I didn't care what happened to any of them. The X-Files has possibly the worst hit rate at producing recognisable teenage characters, usually realising them as sullen, socially awkward and insufferably self absorbed. Dylan embodies those characteristics even more than most and I really couldn't find it in myself to care for such a depressing nomad. Natalie is a little too whiny for her own good and in reality somebody that pretty would never look twice at a guy like Dylan. And as for Winky? This guy tries to sell the footage of his best friend to all the networks to make a profit out of his death! His remorse extends to how much money he can make out of his best friends demise. I'm not entirely sure if it is how the characters are played or how they are written but I didn't make a connection with any of them. I couldn't keep up with Natalie and her ever changing loyalties. One second she is having a go at her boyfriend, the next she is lamenting him. One scene she is mooning over Dylan, the next she is calling him a freak. One scene she is accusing of Winky of being a asshole, later she fears for his life. I know they say that teenage hormones run rife and led to all kinds of inconsistencies but this is ridiculous. The climax is a mess. Because we already know what Dylan is, there is no great revelation to be discovered and the writer throws in some false jeopardy in the form of Reyes and Rocky being spun into webs. It looks as bad as it sounds. The twist that Anne murdered her husband would have made for a better climax but that is tossed into Scully's poetic wrap up as though it isn't important. And why is Natalie smiling at the message left for her by Dylan in fireflies? Hasn't he just tried to kidnap her? This script needed one more rewrite before being put before the cameras.

Pre Titles Sequence: I can't pretend to have seen any episodes of Jackass in my life...my television schedule is already too full of reality excrement to make room for any more but I have caught the odd moment when channel hopping and was forced to endure ten minutes of one of the movies by a friend whose intellectual ability I started to question after forcing him to turn it off. Needless to say this kind of spectacular and dangerous prat-antics was never going to appeal to me. Kim Manners pulls of a nice little teaser here that authentically replicates the sort of idiotic stunts that kids try and pull off in order to make their names a cautionary tale for everybody else. The shaky, handheld camcorder footage is pleasingly different from the norm and the make up job for the caved in skull is just obscene. I wonder if this entire episode should have been shot in this way as it really takes you out of the usual X-Files zone but it might stray a little too close into X-Cops territory. I wouldn't want a whole episode of these kinds of unspectacular acts but for a couple of minutes at the start of a comedy episode it works well enough.

Moment to Watch Out For: The one scene that does work between Natalie and Dylan is the one that takes place in his bedroom. He has probably played that scene out in his head a hundred times and never thought it would come to pass. He is in something of a fugue when she comes to recognise that he is something of a misunderstood guy and reaches in to kiss him...only to be let down by his nature, almost cutting her tongue to ribbons. It plays out like a clichéd Dawson's Creek scene but it's the subversion at the end that makes it work.

Orchestra: This episode has a score like no other. I swear Mark Snow thought he was writing the soundtrack for a b-movie because he swings from overdone melodrama to a fluting, comedy style and back at an alarming rate. It's the most schizophrenic score the show has ever presented but it is quite attention grabbing because of it.

Result: 'Now that's a dumbass!' A story about a teenage boy who happens to be a bug falling in love? Have we tripped over into Smallville territory? Those that tell you that Lord of the Flies is irredeemable are overstating their case slightly as this is an episode that weighs up good and bad in equal measure. We've gone in the opposite direction where the show was in season eight. Back then I was praising the show for heading back in a dark direction after two years of what felt like non-stop comedy. After the almost entirely serious season eight it is quite a refreshing change of pace to enjoy something a bit lighter and amusing. There are some lovely lines in here and the insect effects are fantastic and any scene featuring Doggett, Reyes and Scully amuses because the actors are playing the piece with a wink at the audience. Where this episode stumbles is its characterisation and performances of the teenage characters, none of which I could identify with and in each case (loner, emotional wreck, exploitative best friend) they are overwritten and overplayed. What should be a very sweet romance about an insect boy and a teenage girl turns into a bit of a yuck fest, both emotionally and in terms of the nasty bugs that keep assaulting people. Without that connection to the characters this is just a loose collection of set pieces, none of which are particularly spectacular. It is nice to have some fun, but this isn't one of the stronger X-File pieces of fluff. Improbable takes that crown this year: 5/10

Trust No 1 written by Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz and directed by Tony Wharmby

What’s it about: Scully writes love letters to Mulder and tries to keep him safe...

Closed Mind: Doggett is sick to death of Scully not trusting him...or anybody and finally has the balls to tell her so. Even so he is still her lapdog, doing pretty much everything he can to support her. I would have given up on the ungrateful wench months ago.

Oddball: I couldn't help but feel sorry for Gish and Patrick, having to pretend to be as obsessed with getting Mulder back when I am sure they wish that their characters could just forget about him and run with this show.

Brains’n’Beauty: This is the episode that convinced me that perhaps Carter and Spotnitz had run out of interesting things to do with Scully. Turning her into a lovesick puppy pining after Mulder isn't exactly the sort development I was looking for after his return last year and Anderson looks uncomfortable having to portray it. It is nice to see her spending more time with William and behaving like a mother, she's been ducking in and out of X-Files so much lately I was starting to wonder if the birth of William had been a dream. One lonely night Scully invited Mulder into her bed. That's the first I've heard of it. I thought William was conceived by IV?

Dreadful Dialogue: 'How do you know they aren't being used by this Shadow Man to lure Mulder out?' - in what universe is that considered acceptable dialogue?
'The forces against us are unrelenting. But so is my resolve.'

The Good: Hurrah for Kathryn Joosten who turns up in a bit part and turns out to be the best part of the whole damn episode.

The Bad: The absence of Mulder in season eight had a purpose and was rife with dramatic possibilities. It had never been done before, the creators found a fascinating replacement in John Doggett and it gave Scully centre stage of a show that she had been a part of for seven years. It was a thrilling experiment and the year long arc to find him was expertly plotted and brought some surprisingly good character work to the surface. However repeating the experiment a year later because Duchovny has abandoned the show for good was a cardinal error. It makes the show feel doubly tired in its ninth year, having just played out this scenario and exposed a creative team that was too obsessed with the past to invest the right amount of energy in the future. It is Gillian Anderson's final year on contract that is the problem. They are trying to give her material that justifies her continued existence on the show when what it really needs is to forget all about Mulder and Scully and focus entirely on Doggett and Reyes. Episodes that are dealing with Mulder's absence in season nine (Nothing Important Happened Today, Trust No 1, Provenance, William) are pretty much running on empty because he will back in the series finale as if he was never away having spent the year hiding out in the desert with Gibson Praise. All of Scully's moaning and moping will have been for nothing. We keep cutting back to the rendezvous at the train station as though it is going to be the setting of something very important...and yet it turns out to be anything but. It is typical of Carter and Spotnitz in season nine, promising something spectacular and somehow failing to deliver. Trust No 1 seems to enjoy teasing the audience with the possibility that Mulder might return...only to snatch that promise away at every turn (check out the man in a black jacket rattling on Scully's door handle who could be Mulder...but isn't). I don't see how (especially or that portion of the audience that desperately seek his return) this can be anything but disappointing. For those who us who don't give a damn where Mulder is hiding or what he is up to the whole endeavour is a waste of time. If Terry O'Quinn is a familiar face to fans of The X-Files it is because he has appeared in the series once before (Aubrey) and the movie and has a semi-regular role on Carter's other success story, Millennium. He's a strong performer but only when he is given something of significance to do. For to haul in an actor who has appeared in the series twice before should be for a good reason, not to just stand in shadows and look menacing. It's a waste of O'Quinn's talents.

Pre Titles Sequence: I haven't witnessed a teaser quite this tedious for some time, packed with some of the most god awful Carter/Spotnitz purple prose (dialogue pretending to have great significance but saying nothing at all) and playing out like the title sequence of Angel, a depressing montage of images. It's the sort of sequence that makes you want to run away and hide from it, to venture no further into the episode. After their terrific run of mythology episodes last year has Carter and Spotnitz's luck run out?

Moment to Watch Out For: The slow motion sequence on the train station platform does generate some kind of reaction. Disbelief, mostly. Tony Wharmby is directing the hell out of this scene, marketing it as something truly meaningful when all it hands the audience is disappointment. No Mulder, no point. Syrupy music, stunts and Anderson acting her heart out cannot disguise that fact.

Orchestra: Mark Snow has been bewitched by the romance and has composed a superb piano piece that suggests Scully's aching loneliness far more effectively than Carter and Spotnitz's dialogue. 

Result: A Mills and Boon melodrama featuring Scully pining after Mulder. Is this all they could think to do with the character? Trust No 1 is so bad I skipped this episode and only forced myself to watch it at the end of the run. This might be the ultimate example of a shaggy dog story in The X-Files mould, a string of irrelevant incidents leading up to an anti-climax of monumental proportions. Scully is led around on a wild goose chase by an unknown assailant and the only way this episode could have possibly ended satisfactorily would have been to see her reunited with Mulder. Since that was never going to happen from the outset the whole journey is simply a waste of time, an exercise of reminding the audience that he is no longer a part of the show. The script is so devoid of meaning that it resorts to romantic sludge to try and say something new about the characters but it served only to alienate me because Mulder and Scully simply never behaved like this. I don't know what else to say about Trust No 1, easily one of the most pointless hours of the shows entire run and another example of season nine failing to move on: 3/10

John Doe written by Vince Gilligan and directed by Michelle MacClaren

What’s it about: Doggett wakes up in Mexico with no knowledge of how he got there... and no memory whatsoever.

Closed Mind: This is the show making use of its new cast to tell the kind of story they couldn't in the previous seven years. John Doe wouldn't work with Mulder in the role of the amnesiac because as much as he tried to dabble (Tunguska was one example when he was especially thuggish), Mulder was simply too bookish and gentle to be taken seriously as a thug. Patrick on he other hand has a look that burns right through you and convincingly roughed up he fits the bill perfectly as a desperate man making money and trying to hang onto his principles. I wouldn't trust to give this kind of episode to a lesser actor than Robert Patrick as it dumps pretty much everything that you come to expect from the show and requires a man of considerable charisma and screen presence to keep you fixated. Fortunately Patrick is a complex actor and more than up to the challenge and we join Doggett when he first wakes up in Mexico and go on an incredible journey of discovery with him. The glimpses we get into Doggett's past with Luke jumping on the bed and a loving wife by his side are very revealing. Suddenly that haunted look on his face takes on a brand new meaning. The look of death that Doggett throws when he is pushed around is enough to make me physically recoil. It's painful to watch Doggett being convinced that the FBI are after him and that he is a killer, Domingo twisting the police enquiries after him into a hunt for a wanted fugitive. It is interesting that the most powerful memories that break through his block are happy times with his family. Doggett standing up to the man who took away his life is another strong scene, thanks to some intense performances. I can't think of any other time in the shows history when the characterisation and treatment of a character is so brutal (maybe Krychek at some points is the closest we have come before this) but what Doggett goes through in Joe Doe is physically and emotionally torturous and he departs the episode an even more dignified character as a result of surviving it.

Oddball: A great episode for Reyes and another chance to see how close she and Doggett have become in a relatively short space of time. Monica was brought up in Mexico so this is her home turf and she knows exactly how to treat people who are being evasive and hampering her investigation. I like this steel in her and I hope we get see more of it in the remaining episodes. She knows how to prey on peoples sympathies, pretending that Doggett is her husband and he walked on her and her kids. The moment when she lifts up the shroud fearing that it is Doggett's corpse underneath is a powerful one because the last we saw of him he was being beaten to a pulp. It could be him. Monica has to deliver the news that Doggett's son is dead but she also has snap him out of despondence long enough for them to escape the lock up with their lives.

Brains’n’Beauty: Nice to see Scully and Skinner disobeying orders in order to help with the hunt for Doggett. 

Sparkling Dialogue: 'Pillar of the community? Does anybody actually use that phrase except mob lawyers?'
'Why would you want to remember? You can't tell me that you are happier now that you remember your life. I saw it all. So much pain. Why would you want to struggle so long and so hard to get that pain back?' 'Because it's mine.'

Ugh: The car landing on Nestor's foot leaves an awful bloody mess.

The Good: In production terms there has never been another episode quite like this one and that is what makes it so unique. Mexico is recreated with an astonishing eye for detail and the searing heat of the state is brought home with some bleached out lighting for the exterior scenes and extreme darkness for the interiors. Going from one to the other makes you wince which was precisely the idea. The grainy, washed out colour of the exteriors is striking and it feels like the series has cinematic aspirations again. It is precisely the sort of trickery the big screen would use to suggest a searing hot location. It is a good fifteen minutes before we cut back to the FBI and find out where Reyes and Scully are and what they are doing about trying to find Doggett. There are authentic, political reasons for the Bureau not to stamp all over Mexico and demanding the return of their Agent and that gives Monica the perfect chance to front the investigation discreetly across the border. The skull, the Cartel, the memory vampire. The plot progresses from one clue to the next so that by the time Doggett is handed his memory back we have pieced together the story of how he came to lose his memory. Just as it looks as though Doggett is going to have his life handed back to him by Reyes, he attacks her and holds a gun on her. There's no doubt in my mind that if she hadn't have recognised him that he might have killed her. My heart was racing during the siege on the lock up. What an concentrated attack. I couldn't see a way out for the two FBI Agents and then my brain clicked into a gear and I realised their means of conveyance has been pointed at several times throughout the episode. The bus taking a dive is shot from various angles to give it maximum exposure once again you have to wonder if this is curtains for Doggett and Reyes as the corrupt Mexican police force approach. 

Pre Titles Sequence: The visual style that freshman (or she that be freshwoman?) MacClaren adopts for John Doe makes our first steps into the episode quite a shocking one. After two substandard episodes it feels like the show is trying to jolt us awake again. The mystery of Doggett waking up in Mexico without his memory is a great starting point.

Moment to Watch Out For: I wanted to say the set piece with the bus, which is a stunning action scene to climax the episode on. But far more impressive than that is Robert Patrick's performance as Doggett when he goes through the heartbreak of remembering that his son has been killed all over again. It's heartbreaking to watch him reclaim his old life and all the wounds that come with it. For a couple of weeks his son was alive again in his mind and now that has been snatched away. Patrick reduced me to tears.

Fashion Statement: How hot is Robert Patrick when you take him out of the suit, dirty him up and put him in a pair of jeans? The glaring sunshine gives him a gorgeous tan as well.

Orchestra: Improbable aside, this is the finest score of the final season and one that takes full advantage of its exotic setting. Snow is a dab hand at this by now (he has scored over 200 episodes at this point) and you might think that he would be resting on his laurels but he is still finding new ways of bringing these episodes alive with his impressive soundtracks.

Result: 'I'll take the bad as long as I can remember the good.' John Doe is a huge return to form for the show after a shaky start to season nine. Both visually and emotionally this is a powerful episode and as a showcase for the amazing acting talent that Robert Patrick has at his disposal it is second to none. It might be his finest performance of his tenure because it is asking him to go on an incredible emotional journey in a short space of time but Patrick makes it look effortless. The striking lighting utilized to effect the blistering temperature of Mexico really helps to distinguish this story, you can pretty much pause this episode at any point and you will have a striking image on your screen. It is a thrilling puzzle to be unravelled (how did Doggett lose his memory and wind up stranded and alone in Mexico?) with a really emotional sting in the tale (when he regains his memory and his life, the loss of his son will come flooding back like everything else). I love the fact that this is an X-File that has practically no supernatural elements in whatsoever, for the first half an hour this is simply a piece of drama that relies on a good mystery and strong performances to keep you interested. How the episode drops clues throughout to build a larger picture of how Doggett came to be in this situation is very skilfully handled. And the conclusion delivers a double whammy of both an emotional slap and a terrific action set piece unlike anything seen in the show before. Like Redrum last year, this is almost so different from your average X-File that it feels like it is part of another, anthology series but that doesn't stop it from being a stunning piece of drama and a palpable hit in the first half of season nine: 9/10

Hellbound written by David Amann and directed by Kim Manners

What’s it about: Bodies are being discovered, people who have been skinned alive and left to bleed to death...

Closed Mind: There's an interesting thread running through Hellbound that asks the question of whether people genuinely think that criminals deserve redemption and forgiveness. Doggett's reaction to an ex-con being skinned alive is to shrug it off and suggest that the man must have made some enemies that were capable of killing him in such a violent way. Given that he used to be a police officer and have to mop up after criminals like this, it is perhaps not surprising that he doesn't have a great deal of remorse. I don't endorse that kind of thinking (and Reyes counteracts it by offering oodles of compassion) but I do understand it. There is a pleasant difference between how Doggett reacts to Monica's insane theories in season nine to how Scully used to react to Mulder pulling the same trick way back in series one and two. Scully could barely hide her contempt and would battle to her core to put a scientific alternative across, despite the fact that she was proven wrong week after week. Doggett in comparison has already learnt that things aren't what they seem when dealing with X-File cases and has enough respect for Monica to listen to her theories and consider them, even if making an imaginative leap isn't his first instinct. I can only imagine what Scully would have said in the first couple of years of the show if Mulder had suggested re-incarnation of souls causing a repeated spread of murders.

Oddball: The focus is on Reyes this week and her connection to a crime that cannot be explained at first. It feels like this is another of those episodes where she is drawn to it for some unknown preternatural reason but that is just a smokescreen for what turns out to be a very personal piece for the character, one which uses the premise to delve into her past lives. When there is resistance from local law enforcement into the death of a man who committed terrible crimes, Doggett suggests that opinion would be shared by many. That gives Monica a chance to be different without going to the lengths of singing whale song and having unearthly senses. She stands out because she cares. Reyes is genuinely repulsed by the murders, but whether that is because of the obscene method or the pattern that is emerging that she is clearly a part of remains unclear. I love the moment when she shocks Doggett into believing her theory of reincarnation by revealing there is a sooty rag stuffed in the victims mouth. She knows the details because she has lived this series of murders before, in a previous life. Gish is superb at the climax, angry at her failure to save the skinned victims despite being given another chance.

Brains’n’Beauty: The tired look between Scully and Doggett at being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night at Reyes' behest made me chuckle. It almost says 'whose idea was it to assign her to the X-Files?' This isn't a season nine episode where Scully feels dropped in because of a contractual obligation, she is fully involved with the investigation and brings her own contributions to the solution.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'You can't stop it. You never do, You always fail.'

Ugh: An episode full of sick, tasteless images. Just what the Doctor ordered after a relatively gore-free first half of season nine. Reading about how long it took to achieve the make up for the skinned bodies shows the attention to detail on those show from all members of the production team and the finished result is both horribly gruesome and startlingly authentic (I say that, but I haven't seen any skinless corpses recently). As if it isn't bad enough that Terry is strung up like a pig and flayed alive, he actually wakes up just before it happens and screams bloody screams as the slicing begins. I couldn't have been happier for the scene to fade to black, such were the levels of my discomfort. The scene where he snaps awake, hanging there like bloody meat, is a great shock. Imagine having to live your life like this? The piece de resistance are the bloody skins that are left hanging in the mineshaft for Reyes to discover. Don't watch this one on a full stomach.

The Good: As early as eight minutes in the hints are dropped with Detective Van Allen recognising Reyes despite the fact that they have never met before. There are a number of impressive red herrings leading you up the garden path in regards to the killers identity too with several of the members of the rehabilitation group working at a local pig flaying plant. They have access to the tools to skin a man alive and the bottled up anger contained inside of them waiting to burst free. I almost always enjoy stories of past crimes returning to haunt the present and after Scully discovers a similar spate of killings in the 1960s it looks like this might be a copycat case. But Amann has something much more imaginative up his sleeve. The episode looks to be pointing at Ed as the killer but it soon becomes clear that he is not running away from his crime but rather running away because he thinks he will be next. The leader of the counselling group is also a decent suspect, I wondered if she could really be as altruistic as she claimed to be. It's nice that with the reveal at the climax she turns out to be a genuinely nice person trying to make a difference to troubled souls. Reyes furiously grapples with Van Allen, determined to find out what he means when he says she always fails. It means the cycle will begin again. The killer will be born into a different soul and the killings will start again in 30 years time. The final shot that creeps in on Van Allen's eyes as he dies and pulls out of a newborn baby that is born is a very clever way of showing how the killers soul has been reborn. It is the equivalent of those old X-Files endings that always used to suggest that the danger is still out there (very popular in seasons one and two) but this time the idea of horror continuing has been built into the script from the word go. The idea that the fate of a newborn is written in blood is an uncomfortable way to end this piece.

The Bad: You could complain that the serial killer angle has been done to death on this show and that past lives have been covered too. Hellbound manages to put a fresh spin on both by combining the two and by making the murders as horrific as possible. There is an awful lot of plot squeezed into this 42 minutes, so much so that it moves along a furious pace. Hellbound could probably do with another 15 minutes to allow the story to breathe and to set up the twist about Van Allen more effectively by giving him some more screen time.

Pre Titles Sequence: An interesting teaser with a very nasty shock before the credits kick in, Hellbound isn't setting up a premise of the week like most of the X-Files pre-titles sequences but instead wants to introduce you to its characters and its theme of redemption. There are an awful lot of people who would refuse to give convicted criminals a second chance and so within this fictional setting it is pleasing to see a group of ex-cons that have found each other and are trying to support their rehabilitation. More dangerous than the world outside that refuses to believe that a leopard can change its spots is somebody like Ed's friend, someone who is close to you who is poisoning your mind and repeating a mantra of you are who you are and seeking help to try and change that is pointless. So many of us fill our lives with people who drag us down and this is a particularly underhanded example.

Moment to Watch Out For: A killer born again and again to avenge the injustice of a murder that went unpunished. And Van Allen is the killer. That's two great twists to fuel the climax. The killer is always the law enforcement officer which is why the murders never get solved. After killing the four men, the murderer takes his own life and starts the process all over again.

Orchestra: I love the screaming sting every time a skinned body is revealed. It pretty much summed up my reaction to such a gruesome sight. 

Result: Another winner, albeit not quite as strong as John Doe because it takes it's inspiration from The X-Files for its ideas, if not its structure. The norm with the X-Files is to kick start with a teaser that flaunts the premise of the week (be it a genetic mutant, alien abductions, homicidal weather or what have you) and proceeds to explore the notion for the next 40 minutes. Hellbound takes a refreshingly different approach, the first half an hour or so playing out as an entirely unsupernatural (if grisly) murder mystery case but seeding clues throughout so that by the time the twist is dropped it all falls into place beautifully. It might be the only episode of the show where the premise is only revealed in full in the final scene but it works extremely well because of that, leaving the sting until the very last minute. Before then you can enjoy (if that is the right term) some spectacularly nasty set pieces the likes of which the show hasn't flaunted since Deadalive last year, David Amann's hard hitting script which explores the idea of redemption with some tough as nails dialogue, equal action spread amongst Scully, Doggett and Reyes with all of them bringing something valuable to the investigation. The latter is the focus though, and Annabeth Gish seizes the opportunity to play a disturbed Monica Reyes in this dark and uncompromising horror. Hellbound takes some risks with it's gory material but what I took from this was that the show was reclaiming its ability to tell terrific standalone tales again. Season eight poured a lot of its energy into making its arc material as strong as possible and the standalones felt a little underwhelming in comparison. In season nine the reverse is taking place. The conspiracy episodes are lacking something that made them so good last year but the movie of the week tales (Daemonicus, 4-D, John Doe, Hellbound) are compensating very nicely, and will continue to do so: 8/10

Provenance written by Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz and directed by Kim Manners

What’s it about: A man tries to cross the US border with a number of rubbings taken from an alien spaceship...

Closed Mind: The barely disguised tension between Doggett and Follmer is a lot of fun to watch. I hope they get a chance to have a good scrap before the season is out.

Oddball: Watch how Gish and Anderson choose to the play the scene where Reyes questions Scully's previous interpretations of the rubbings. The dialogue is a hint of a whisper and their chemistry is electric, it feels as if this is a sensual moment between the two characters.

Brains’n’Beauty: 'If this is an X-File then why don't you ask somebody whose working on the X-Files?' It seems we only get Gillian Anderson's full attention these days when the episodes are entirely about her character, which seems to be the lifeless conspiracy tales of season nine. Fortunately this is one of the better examples this year and Anderson delivers something rather different from the norm. She's clearly energised by the script and is taking full opportunity of the dramatic instinct inherent within of a mother trying to protect her baby. When Scully first discovered that there might be a link between alien life and the beginnings of civilisation on Earth she refused to believe it but now she thinks that there might be answers there, answers to do with her son. There is a beautiful moment between Scully and her mother where she attempts to dump her son on her in the middle of the night to go off chasing answers about him. Margaret (one of the few characters in this show that always talks reason) questions why she feels the need to question why she was handed and miracle and that she should just get on with loving him. Listen to your mother, Scully! Scully's answer of 'I need to know if it is God that I have to thank' is fantastic because it exposes the huge question that this episode is posing in a very personal way.

Trust No-1: The way the script tries to pull in Mulder's name to generate some interest seems is pitiful. We covered this ground last year and the most detestable moments of season nine have been trying to repeat its success and failing. Who cares about Mulder anymore? Shouldn't the show be forging ahead with Doggett and Reyes rather than trying to appease those people who can't accept the change? 

Assistant Director: Last year Skinner became part of the ensemble just like Doggett and Reyes did. His loyalty was never in question and to do so would make a mockery of how much it had been and how many times they have covered that ground in the past. Season nine needs to be looking to the future and carving a new niche out of the X-Files and playing out the 'can we trust Walter Skinner?' card for the umpteenth time is the very essence of a show that is starting to feel as though it is out of ideas. I preferred him on the side of the good guys, actively and publicly aiding them. 'I know things that you don't know' is his answer for being so evasive this time around. That kind of indirectness simply wont cut it anymore. He was saying lines like that in season two.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'It would mean that everything that mankind believes in is in question.'

Dreadful Dialogue: 'Company guy. Straight as a ruler.' 

The Good: I wondered if we would ever get any follow through on the rubbings from the alien spacecraft from the opening episodes of season seven. It seems that Carter & Spotnitz have chosen to pay off that debt here, two and a half seasons later. There was a strong suggestion made that aliens created the world, or at least were the catalyst for the major religions and the inscriptions on their craft are powerful words that determine our existence. The image of blood saturated in the carpet of a child's nursery feels wrong in every way. There are massive questions to be answered when a piece of the spaceship shoots through Scully's flat and winds up hovering above William's head. It's impressively realised and makes a direct link between the aliens and Scully's child. What a shame that the idea of the Lone Gunmen taking care of William is dropped so quickly because we could have had a lot of fun with the idea in the second episode. Three Men and a Baby, X-Files style? I'd take that over the second episode that we actually get.

The Bad: Men meeting in dark smoky rooms in the depths of the FBI building has almost become something of a joke recurrence on this show now. When Scully walked into Skinner's office and everybody is standing there looking so desperately serious I wanted her to crack up just to break the tension. I think Alan Dale has shown up in just about every cult TV show known to mankind. Maybe even every single TV show known to mankind. He's such a charismatic performer so why would the producers decide to shove him in the role of a silent observer chewing on a tooth pick?

Pre Titles Sequence: Wouldn't the reveal of the markings on the alien spaceship only mean something to the audience if they had been watching the show religiously over the past couple of years? Which, thanks to dwindling audience figures, a fair amount have not. I suppose you shouldn't have to make allowances for people who haven't given the show their full attention. Regardless, this is quite a dynamic action sequence featuring a motorcycle attempting to cross the US border from Canada. As you can imagine the stunts are incredible and the explosion even more so. I expect these from The X-Files now. It would have been nice to have delivered something unexpected. Like they did in 4-D and John Doe.

Moment to Watch Out For: The attack on William comes as a complete surprise. I never thought the creators of this show would go as far as having somebody attempting to smother him. After twenty minutes of whispering reverence about the rubbings Scully's hysterical dash into action is like a slap around the face and much welcome. Suddenly we are seeing a very different side to her character, one which has never been explored before. Scully has been attacked and had to defend herself time and again but to be powerless to save her son...that's a new kind of fury and Anderson unleashes it without apology. What's really interesting is that Margaret, a devout Christian, drops all of her principles and hands Scully her gun to deal with the assassin that is attempt to murder William. Under pressure and protecting our loved ones, we can't afford values.

Mythology: 'Are you saying this kid's an alien or something?' 'The man who tried to kill Scully's baby believed it. So must this cult that he got involved with.' 

Result: The best conspiracy instalment of the final season because it makes the storyline personal and asks big questions about humanity that really got me thinking. By having members of this cult come after William there is a very real sense of danger to events, especially when Scully only just returns home in time to save him from being smothered. Anderson gives her strongest performance of the year in a script that affords her some fresh opportunities. When you think about that for a moment that is something of a miracle after nine seasons of playing the same character but we have never seen anything quite like the desperate, almost feral mother that is willing to let a man bleed to death unless he gives her some answers about her son. The clever trick that Carter and Spotnitz pull with Provenance is that is starts off as quiet and as lifeless as Nothing Important Happened Today and it looks like we are in for another hour of hushed conversations. Around the halfway mark the episode jolts into life and from that point it continues to improve with some impressive set pieces right up to the conclusion. The plotting is clean and efficient too, with the mystery of the border crossing and the rubbings tying together two plot threads that both lead to William and his eventual kidnapping. I'm not suggesting that this is up there with the best of the conspiracy episodes (Tempus Fugit/Max, Two Fathers/One Son, Within/Without, Essence/Existence) because it is too drowned in X-Files clichés for its own good. However it is pulling the mythology in an interesting direction and it is worth following up just to discover the fate of William. This is the one episode of season nine where Scully being a mother has serious dramatic possibilities: 8/10

Providence written by Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz and directed by Chris Carter

What’s it about: William is the son of God. Possibly a prophet. Or a saviour. He's definitely somebody important. In the future. I think.

Closed Mind: Spare me the thought of Doggett being contact by God to warn Scully about Comer. I thought he was the one character that would left out of the spiritual experience loop, standing in the background with one eyebrow arched. Instead he's standing behind the altar like everybody else at the climax. It doesn't sit right.

Oddball: 'Maybe when you're lost you knock on the door with the porch light on?' When all hopes seems lost for Agent Doggett, Monica is not above getting down on her knees and praying for his survival. Follmer thinks it is a little to traditional for her. He seems to like playing games with Monica, using Doggett's condition as an excuse to get close to her again before busting her ass for taking part in Scully's rogue operation. Can you say mixed signals?

Brains’n’Beauty: Scully is understandably more than a little pissed about being dragged in to a case which has resulted in the kidnapping of her flesh and blood. She has it out with Skinner for the umpteenth time, suggesting that the FBI are trying to exonerate themselves from this tragic outcome and systematically close the X-Files down. Skinner informs her bluntly that if she goes after Follmer and Kersh then his name will be dragged through the mud as well...and the look on her face suggests that his fate isn't even a consideration. She starts her own covert operation, dragging in the Gunmen and Reyes. I figure it is the only way she sees that she is going to get straight answers. Provenance and Providence goes to show that for all those years that she was a thorn in the FBI's side by joining Mulder on his rebellious search for the truth she has actually been quite a by the book kind of gal. I rather like this unpredictable, dangerous Scully, one who is willing to smother a man to death unless he tells her the whereabouts of her son. It almost justifies her existence in the final season alone, giving her character a whole new angle to plough. The look on her face as she chokes Comer suggests that she would do anything to get William back unharmed. Every mother assumes that their child is the centre of the Earth which all others revolve around...Scully is in the unfortunate position of that being true. It is about time Scully shed some tears for Doggett after everything he went through to prove himself to her last year.

Assistant Director: Everything I said about Skinner in the last episode. That again. 

Sparkling Dialogue: 'If you want to see your boy then you'll bring me the head of Fox Mulder.' 

The Good: The idea of cult members having access to an alien spacecraft and all the technology within is terrifying and during the sequence where it starts opening and I figured that was the path this episode was going to take. Then it swallowed up several of the members never to be seen again in a very tightly directed sequence. Once William is exposed to the ship it decides to unlock its secrets, including the burnt remains of the consumed cult members.

The Bad: What was the point of the cult if they were just going to be killed off? What was the point of the ship if it was just going fly off? We don't learn anything about either of them beyond Josepho's insane prophecies which he could have made up for all we know. Why do Carter and Spotnitz dangles these carrots in front of us and then snatch them away? What was the point of kidnapping William if he was just going to be left unharmed at the UFO take off site? All that tension for nothing. It's a bizarre anti-climax where none of the elements of this plot are paid of satisfactorily. Scully and Reyes being left standing in a gaping hole in the Earth is a good metaphor for the missing climax of this story that ties everything up nicely. Or at all. Who is Alan Dale's character? He is revealed at the climax to be a super soldier but what were his motivations throughout this episode. Who is he working for? Why did he kill Comer? Whose side is Kersh on? I'm starting to think it doesn't matter anymore.

Pre Titles Sequence: I don't care how disillusioned you might be with The X-Files at this point, there is no denying that by any stretch of the imagination this teaser is a fantastic piece of television. A staggeringly well staged trip to the war in Iraq with the action coming thick and fast and hard. It brings home the ugliness of war in two minutes of footage. It also provides Josepho with a good motivation for starting his cult and why he might think that Scully's child, long suggested to be linked to the super soldiers that saved his life during combat. Whereas I found the archaeological dig showing glimpses of the alien spacecraft a little unconvincing, the Ariel shot of Josepho standing on top of it now it has been exposed is extraordinary. The X-Files commanded impressive visuals right up to the bitter end.

Mythology: 'The FBI sent me undercover on a man named Josepho. To get inside his cult whose followers believe an alien race will rule the world. One day God told Josepho to lead us a thousand miles north to find a ship buried in the ground. Josepho believes that the ship is a temple which houses the physical manifestation of God. Josepho said God spoke to him of a miracle child, a future saviour. Josepho believes your son is this child. He wants to protect him. Josepho believes your son will follow in his fathers path and try and stop the aliens from returning. Unless his father is to be killed. That is the prophecy.' Umm, where has all this come from? I'm not on board with any of this cod religious prophecy bollocks that seems to taint so many cult TV shows. Babylon 5, Deep Space Nine, Battlestar Galactica, The X-Files - they all seem to think by adding a spiritual forecast to the show that it automatically adds a layer of depth and worthiness to the proceedings. When in most cases it just leads to disappointment, with the holy fireworks that are promised turning out to be anything but. William was a terrific innovation for the show, a chance to shine a whole new light on Scully and to give her a chance to appear on the show occasionally but have an excuse to not take centre stage each week. The pregnancy plot line that ran through season eight was delicate and generated some great character drama, climaxing in an unforgettable finale documenting the birth. But to now suggest that William is some kind of miracle saviour of the Earth who will protect us from another alien attack is pushing things a little too far. What was wrong with him just being an ordinary little boy? Can't we have characters with a normal life outside of the X-Files madness? If Doggett's son's death turns out to be part of a huge alien conspiracy tied into the origins of the universe I will be spitting blood. Did Carter think he would ever have the chance to tie up this William/saviour plotline?

Result: 'Are you saying that God asked you to kill me child?' Providence is a frustrating experience because it contains many fine scenes within but it hasn't been assembled with any energy or drive. I desperately wanted this to be as good as the first part so I could stick one in the eye to all those who say that the show was running on empty, mythology wise, in the last season but the truth is despite the sincerity of the writing and the performances, Providence is a bit of a chore to watch. Lots of people talking in hushed tones. Check. Cod religious symbolism. Check. One of the regulars laid up in a hospital bed with the others fearing they might die. Check. Lots of tears from Gillian Anderson which is pouring her heart and soul into a script that is recycling so many elements that the show has exhausted. Check. Was there a decree along the line that said that the mythology episodes cannot be any fun? Providence is spending so much time trying to remind how important and meaningful this series is that it forgets to dish out any entertainment. If they wanted to tie together the super soldier and alien deity plots there were a million more entertaining ways of doing it. Some of the chutzpah that is currently fuelling the standalone episodes would do these mythology episodes the world of good. It is a shame because buried in all this wallowing are some gorgeous moments such as Scully threatening to kill man who threatened her son, Reyes turning to God when she has no one else to look to or the astonishing sequence where the ship comes alive and flies off into the great unknown. This is what happens when you believe that your show is more than just an hours entertainment but a quasi religion of its own. You can feed your followers any old nonsense and expect them to lap it up. That might have been acceptable around the Redux (the pain...) mark but faith has been on the wane for some time: 4/10

Audrey Pauley written by Steven Maeda and directed by Kim Manners

What’s it about: Monica is in critical condition after being hit by a car and the Doctor's are ready to carve her open in accordance with her donor card...

Closed Mind: The first scene is loaded with sexual tension between Doggett and Reyes in a very forthright way that the writers never dared to suggest with Mulder and Scully. With the formative agents it was all long glances, dead relatives, tears and end of the world horror before they could even suggest that they might have a thing for each other. Doggett and Reyes have barely been working together a few months and have quickly discovered that they are an awkward pause away from ripping each others clothes off. Doggett is thinking about getting a cat because they are low maintenance but Monica insists that he is a dog person. She cites that they share similar traits, being faithful, dependable, being without guile and very comfortable to be around. In the screaming silence that follows Doggett misses and opportunity to lean in and kiss her. Unfortunately Monica spoils the moment by suggesting that he would never disappoint anyone, which clearly brings back memories of his dead son. What this is leading to, of course, is another episode in a similar vein to 4-D (also written by Maeda) where an opening scene that exposes how close these two have become leads into an piece about how much they are willing to fight for each other. What is wonderful about Audrey Pauley is that it shows that if he is desperate and cares enough, he will believe in the paranormal to try and get results. Despite the fact that this is precisely the sort of BS he scoffs at, the scant evidence that Audrey gives him that she is communicating with Monica is the only sliver of hope he can hold onto. And boy does he hold on. In a very telling moment he plays out their flirting game in the car in his head with a very different outcome, one where he reached in and kissed her. We've never seen Doggett quite this vulnerable before, shedding tears because he is afraid to lose his partner and the woman that he could very well see himself building a future with.

Oddball: I love her gentle 'John, John, John...' as she drives away from Doggett's house in the teaser. Clearly she was ready to take their relationship to the next level but he is frustratingly holding back. Annabeth Gish is really in her stride now, holding up her end if the episode with ease. Mind you with off kilter imagery like that to back her up I am not surprised. Monica has signed an organ donor card and it looks as if she is going to be brain damaged for the rest of her life. By turning off her life support and slicing her open the Doctors are only obeying her wishes which makes Doggett's struggle to keep her alive even more difficult. Monica has to make a massive leap of faith at the climax in what Annabeth Gish calls the stunt of her career.

Brains’n’Beauty: Whilst concerned for both Doggett and Reyes, she has to remain detached when she is reviewing this case as a Doctor. She fights to find some kind of evidence to prove there is some activity in Monica's brain but it is clear that she doesn't expect to find anything. 

Sparkling Dialogue: 'Have you ever been dead before?' 'No' 'The how do you know you're not?'

The Good: This is an episode that rewards repeated viewings because the various elements of Audrey's condition can be spotted all around the hospital in hindsight. The twisted mirrors reflecting back a broken person. The jumbled up letters expressing her dyslexia. The ghost hospital is a fantastic setting and a great mystery to unravel. Kim Manners ensures that at no point during the episode does the atmosphere feel right in the hospital, there is a sense of empty spaces not being filled, of souls long forgotten lingering the halls. The eerie, pale green lighting helps but Manners also uses a number of imaginative camera angles to shoot these scenes that we wouldn't normally experience in your average episode (the pan out of the main doors right out into the void is an excellent example). It feels like The X-Files has abandoned its supernatural roots for one week and has gone for something pure Twilight Zone. The sinister Dr Prejiers is slipped into the episode in the teaser and there is no hint that he is up to no good until at least halfway through the episode, except the collection of souls trapped in the ghost hospital who are waiting to be murdered by him. It is not until we realise that they are all patients of his that the connection is made. When he asks if Doggett is trying to build a malpractice case against the hospital, that is the first real clue as to his involvement in his patients deaths. The transitions between the ghost hospital and the real one are excellent, one very often bleeding into the other. People vanishing through walls, patients melting into nothing...what the hell is going on? Whitney's sudden murder proves that we are dealing with a real Dr Death sort, a man who enjoys holding his patients lives in his hands and then letting them go. That's chilling. Considering we learn very little about him as a person, Steven's death in Monica's arms manages to be a surprisingly poignant moment. I think it is the way he has a smile of contentment on his face as he finally fade away. I love the moment when we realise that this is Audrey's hospital, the world the way that she sees it. It suddenly makes sense of all the weirdness and adds another layer of tragedy to this character. What  shame that Audrey should have to die just when she has finally achieved her wish to save lives. Doggett's anger towards Dr Death mirrors my own

Pre Titles Sequence: This is precisely what The X-Files should be doing in season nine and at this level of excellence too. Focussing on the interesting, well played characters of Doggett and Reyes, great stunts and a truly haunting mystery to solve. I have discussed the flirtation of the two agents elsewhere but needless to say I usually find scenes like this cringeworthy in the extreme but their interplay is superbly written and acted. Doggett will spend the next day wishing he had let her in after all. The car crash comes out of nowhere and really made me jolt and the sequence ends on the truly bizarre image of Monica standing at the entrance of a ghost hospital floating through a green void. The show feels like it has shifted a massive gear from Providence. Is Monica dead? Is this the afterlife?

Moment to Watch Out For: Any scene featuring Tracey Ellis who gives a wonderful performance as Audrey. She manages to make Audrey's plight both heartbreaking (her frustration at not being able to comprehend things like other people) and uplifting (her delight at being able to tell Doggett about her secret world of souls). It has been a while since we have had a standout guest performance of such quality. The moment when Ellis and Patrick come together in the climax brings me to tears every time. That's some fantastic acting on display as Doggett begs Audrey to save Monica because he is afraid to let her go. Watch as Audrey tries to reach out and comfort him but cannot quite bring herself to do so.

Orchestra: Like the episode itself, Snow's score is restrained and all the better for it. Listen out for the haunting lullaby he plays as Audrey enters the model and we slip in through the window with her. 

Result: Along with Release, this is my favourite episode of the final season because Audrey Pauley delivers everything that I want from The X-Files post Mulder and Scully. A focus on Doggett and Reyes and their ever-deepening relationship, a strong premise, startling imagery, great twists and turns and moments that bring to point of tears thanks to the sincerity of the writing and the performances. Apparently Robert Patrick was in quite a raw place emotionally when he came to make this episode and it shows and the amount of restraint he shows during Doggett's near breakdown is astonishing. People might see him more as an action hero sort of actor but he has proven that if you given strong character material to work with he can deliver extraordinary work. Whilst the Dr Death and ghost hospital elements are both superbly handled (especially with the execution of the latter), it is the finely balanced emotion that runs through Audrey Pauley that impressed me the most. Whether it is the causal flirting between Doggett and Monica, his refusal to let her life support be cut off, her understated reaction to Steven's death, Audrey's delight at sharing her secret world to Doggett and his heartbreaking plea to her to convince Monica to stay alive or the tragic loss of Audrey at the climax, this is an episode that hits every emotional beat at exactly the right point. It's a delicate piece but it is quite, quite beautiful: 10/10

Underneath written and directed by John Shiban

What’s it about: A case from Doggett's past returns to haunt him...

Closed Mind: Doggett's righteous anger in the face of Fassl's release gives Robert Patrick another chance to show how good he is, although Shiban occasionally pushes the dialogue too far (any actor would trip up on 'I can still remember the sound of the blood squishing under my shoes!'). Underneath doesn't so much deal with John Doggett the FBI Agent but instead dips its toes into John Doggett the beat cop; a tough, unforgiving, no-nonsense sort of guy. I rather like him. However if Fassl is innocent then he has an awful lot of questions to answer about misinterpreting the evidence. It's not as though Doggett isn't willing t admit that he makes mistakes but he genuinely doesn't believe that this is one of them. He explains to Scully that he isn't trying to cover his ass but get to the truth. That's something that I can believe because that is precisely what the character has been about ever since we first met him. He tries to resist Monica turning this case into an X-File. Sometimes you shouldn't probe too deeply into your past because you might find something disturbing that you didn't spot the first time around and that you have been living your life in blissful ignorance of. Doggett discovering that Duke planted evidence to point the finger at Fassl destroys the respect that he has for his superior and seriously damages his case (again the dialogue pushes too hard  - 'I don't know how I can forgive you for this! You break my heart!').

Oddball: Her appearance in Underneath is pretty awkward, not showing up until somebody is needed to promote the paranormal theory of the week. There must have been an easier way of achieving this than wheeling her out just because she is the 'believer' on the series now.

Brains’n’Beauty: What is Scully's official role at the moment? Is she still assigned to the X-Files? I'm guessing not given she stated so unambiguously in Provenance. Is she still teaching at the Academy and being constantly pulled into investigations on an ad hoc basis? Is she allowed to do that? She seems to walk in and out of investigations as she pleases at the moment, part time mother, part time expert without any kind of official status.  

Sparkling Dialogue: 'So what? We've moved from Casper the Friendly Ghost to Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde?'

Ugh: Mrs Dowdy sure makes an awful bloody mess when she is killed. I am pleased that the camera stayed in the next room whilst Fassl chops her up with a meat cleaver. I don't think I could take that whilst eating my breakfast.

The Good: Perhaps Shiban should have slipped behind the camera sooner since he is clearly rather accomplished at putting a piece of drama together. This is his one opportunity to both write and direct and so he ensures that he utilizes as many tricks as possible to make Underneath shine. Look at the chilling POV shot of Fassl spotting his alter ego across the street with the crowds rushing by. Underneath is juggling the theme of redemption as Hellbound did so effectively just a few episodes earlier and whilst it doesn't quite have the same impact (because at least half of Fassl is guilty of committing these crimes) the premise of splitting a man into two separate identities (the religious victim and the murdering fiend) allows Shiban to explore the idea of guilt in an creative way. How can you not feel sorry for a man who is constantly having to clean up after murders that he technically hasn't committed? I'm not sure if psychologically the idea of a man incapable of admitting that he can commit a sin would result in the realisation of a second, murderous personality but it is certainly an interesting idea all the same. I'm not sure that Shiban employs it for its complete dramatic potential but I appreciate the effort all the same. Given that Shiban was hoping to film in the real Los Angeles sewer system (they were prevented due to the events of September 11th) the mock up that is created in the studios is pretty accomplished and more than does the job.

The Bad: I think it would have been much more effective to have employed an actor who could play both aspects of Fassl's personality rather than manifesting his darker alter ego being played by a different performer. I'm not saying that you should talk down to the audience but this is a deliberately confusing visual tactic that makes it looks as though there are two killers at work, one complicit and the other mopping up his handiwork. It would have really pushed the psychological angle to have a character who can change into a different person at the drop of the hat and much more frightening too. Underneath doesn't have enough time to deal with the dramatic implications of Doggett discovering that his ex-partner is a fraud, wasting a dramatic opportunity. There are some that might say that a defence attorney for a convicted criminal being discovered decapitated in a sewer system is poetic justice. A shame then that she is the only one to survive this bloody carnage. Another missed opportunity comes at the conclusion which features Doggett and Reyes wading about in the sewers in an attempt to bring Fassl down. This should have been far more powerful, a psychological battle rather than a physical one. Why flaunt these fascinating ideas if you aren't going to do anything with them?

Pre Titles Sequence: It's a shame about the melodramatic punchline because otherwise this is a rather creepy (and bloody) teaser that could have skipped from the beginning of a decent horror film. It is not made explicit whether Fassl was committing the murders himself or if it is the work of the phantom criminal that seems to be stalking him. His shocked reaction to the blood thrown over his work papers seems to suggest the latter. It's lovely to see John Doggett in police uniform too, we've heard mention of his days as a beat cop and it is nice to finally have a sneak peek into that period of his life. All in all, promising.

Moment to Watch Out For: The mausoleum that Doggett and Reyes discover in the sewers is suitably nasty, with bloody corpses and decaying skeletons littered about. That's about the nicest thing you can say about the climax.

Orchestra: One of the dullest scores Mark Snow ever produced. There is nothing innovative or original about it. 

Result: 'How does someone go about catching a killer than hides inside an innocent man?' Given its deathly serious tone and the focus on Doggett and Scully, Underneath could slip quite easily into season eight. There were reportedly many problems with the making of this episode, so much so that Fox almost pulled it from transmission but besides some creaky dialogue none of those troubles made it to the screen, at least in production terms. Underneath is not a standout effort but it is an proficient one, with an interesting premise and plenty of grisly incident but there is no real pizazz to pull it all together into something truly memorable. Beyond the pleasingly distracting direction that keeps things ticking over you have Robert Patrick holding the piece together, delivering another terrific performance that reveals another side to Doggett's personality. The odd thing about Underneath is how with a few more drafts it has the potential to be something much better than it is. There doesn't seem to be any investigation involved - Reyes turns up to supply the kooky theory of the week because that is what she does, Doggett's ex-partner reveals his duplicity with very little prodding and the climax only occurs because Doggett and Reyes spot Fassl's alter ego fleeing from a crime scene. It doesn't feel as though the episode has been plotted but constructed out of set pieces that Shiban thought would be rather cool. Given the chilling psychological possibilities inherent with the split personality premise, it feels like a terrible waste. With an extra fifteen minutes and the hand of Vince Gilligan to bring the best out of the ideas and supplying some superior dialogue this might have been great. And yet the episode doesn't fail completely. It passes an hour easily enough but at a stage where the show really needs to prove itself that really isn't enough: 5/10

Improbable written and directed by Chris Carter

What’s it about: You better watch out because God is among us...

Closed Mind: Doggett is at a loss at what Monica is going on about in Improbable but as far as he is concerned she is gifted with an understanding that has helped solved several unexplained murders and that deserves some credit. He only gains an insight into her method when a massive number six is staring him right in the face from a map of locations of the victims.

Oddball: Monica has already had a number of whacko theories since being assigned to the X-Files that have been argued and dissected by Doggett and Scully. This time she is going for broke, trying to tie a murder case together by using numerology. Using Pythagoras as your influence for using numerology might not be the strongest case to make especially since she is essentially using a child's game to solve a murder. I bet the parties that Reyes goes to are a real winner where she uses numerology as an ice breaker to get to know and impress people. When Reyes is asked for her special insight into the case I was almost begging her not to bang on about karmic numbers and instead simply point out that she found the ring mark on each other victims autopsy photographs. Alas that was not the case and the awkward silence after she has finished her nonsensical explanation is priceless. The very definition of a serial killer is tied up with numbers so in that respect at least she is right on target.

Brains’n’Beauty: I love the way that Scully's eyebrow is arched even higher than usual when discussing Monica's kooky suggestion that she has linked three cases when she spots a connection between them herself. Stick that one in your pipe and smoke it. Maybe it is because she is working with Chris Carter so closely or maybe it is her natural reaction to a script that is unlike anything she has participated in on this show before but Gillian Anderson is genuinely invigorated during Improbable. Her chemistry with Reyes is at an all time high and the scenes between Scully and God ('what are you looking at?') had me howling. The final scene between the two female agents where Scully asks Reyes about her numerology is a delight and proves how well these characters have come together it this point. There is something gentle and warm between Scully and Reyes (don't be dirty) that the show should have tapped into far more often than it did. This female-centric X-Files is rather a delightful show to watch. 

Sparkling Dialogue: 'You can think. Cards can't. You've got to make them work for you.'
'So in other words you haven't actually solved any of these cases?' 'Maybe cracked would be a better word.'
'There's a secret to this game and I'm going to tell you what that secret is. Choose better.'
'I give valuable insights to the living. The dead pretty much already know their future.'
'Go to Hell' 'Are their reservations in your name?'
'Have you noticed that all babies look like Winston Churchill?'
'Sir, does it look like we're here to play chequers?'
'Don't get me wrong, I love all music but I prefer the stuff that lasts.'
'Are the numbers helping you catch him or are they helping him not get caught.' 

The Good: Considering this show has been running for nine seasons it is amazing that Carter finds an imaginative ways to shoot this episode that nobody else has tried before. I love the vertiginous angle he chooses shooting from the ceiling tracking people along corridors, as though we are literally watching through the eyes of God at the events of this episode playing out. I'm much more of a words man than a numbers man (give me a crossword over Sudoku any day) and so much of the discussion of numerology in Improbable goes right over my head. Monica talks about it with such confidence that I assume it all makes some kind of logical sense. After all, numbers don't lie right? Or is it all down to the way we mere mortals interpret them where the problem lies? Can something as complex as the entire universe be boiled down to a number? The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy certainly thought so. Our gorgeous view of the world through God's eyes is an unexpected delight, the number three playing out like a pattern in the behaviour of lovers, birds, babies, waitresses, bakers, window wipers, shoe shines, sweepers, cards and triplets. Seeing the patterns of the universe for just a moment is a remarkable experience and a peek into the mind of a man who can see order in apparent chaos. Writing the part of God for Burt Reynolds was a smashing idea because he brings a real sense of joi de vivre and world weariness to the role that only an experienced and respected performer can bring to the party. Some might see this as an actor past his prime playing a kooky part in  show long past its prime but the idea of bringing the two together re-invigorates both for the time of their union. Carter adopts the split screen method to keep the episode looking fresh and interesting. Fordyke is essentially a detective straight out of an episode of The Simpsons but he is not so far removed from the tone of the episode to feel out of place. God arranging dominoes in a rally got me thinking about the domino effect and how one event directly affects another and so on and so forth. How our lives are one long domino effect of events from birth until death. Imagine being able to see that one pattern through a myriad of similar patterns. 'The numbers led us to the killer, the killer led us to the garage and now all we've done is recognise the killers real serial pattern' - a domino effect of events given a little push by God. This is the episode of television where God tells a serial killer that he loves him in spite of what terrible acts he has committed. For that moment alone it is worth celebrating. You cannot give a species free will and then condemn them for acting upon it. In any other episode the idea of Scully stating that they have no idea where to start looking for the killer and a second later the lift opens and he is inside would seem like a hugely improbable co-incidence. Check out that title. In an episode about fate and patterns that we are not privy to...why not? God knows that if he can encourage Scully and Reyes to play chequers with him then one of them will spot the real connection between the victims - the colour of their hair - and that they are next because of it. Doggett pumps three bullets into the killer. Figures. The shot of the detectives looking at the number 6 upside down is pure farce and gives us a hilarious insight into Doggett's 'breakthrough' revelation.

The Bad: You're telling me that three sets of murders could not be linked by a clearly visible ring scar on the victims faces until Scully spotted them? Monica gets an awful lot of kudos for what is essentially a standout connection between these victims. I do enjoy the final musical number (always end on a song) but I have no idea what it brings to the episode and why it goes on for so long. That exquisite last shot could have been reached far more economically.

Pre Titles Sequence: Quirky, cheerful and disturbing, now that's a tricky combination to pull off! I love the idea of God sitting at a bar playing cards with himself whilst watching over one of his trouble souls, willing him to make better choices in life without actually giving him any options because he has to make that choice himself. The distress on God's face when Mad Wayne heads into the toilets to kill Vicky despite every opportunity he has had to walk away reveals a momentary disappointment in the species he created. The fact that a man heads to the machine that Vicky was playing on and scores a jackpot just as she is murdered goes to prove what a bitch fate can be.

Moment to Watch Out For: 'What did Einstein say? God does not play dice with the universe' 'Nor does he play chequers...' Just when you think that this episode cannot get any more eccentric it takes a mad turn and Scully and Reyes wind up trapped in an underground car park with God and wind up playing chequers with him. I kid you not. The sudden cut to Scully trying to shoot her way out of their cage might be the funniest moment in The X-Files' entire run.

Orchestra: Possibly my favourite score for the entire series and the one that is so far out of kilter with the rest of the series. I wonder what that says about traditional music on this show? Snow's interpretation of Karl Zero's perky, bubbly music made me seek out the musician and discover more. It's the sort of synthy, sunny music that plants a smile on your face no matter where you are or what you going through. What it has t do with the machinations of God is beyond me but it does generate that feeling of a continental party that Carter summons for Improbable and it gets my foot tapping every time. Consider it a massive win and another reason why I adore the episode so much. 

Result: 'There's something else that's bothering me' 'What's that?' 'Who was that man?' 'God knows...' 42 minutes of pure sunshine. Depending on your disposition you are either going to love this or hate this. Fortunately I am a slightly insane, cheerful sort of person so you can definitely place me in the former category. I think this is the sort of frothy yet uneasy tone that Carter was aiming for when he wrote and directed Fight Club but he is on much firmer ground this time around and appears to have learnt from every mistake he made in the season seven disaster. This might be his most sparkling script, packed as it is with real gems of lines and pushing the audience to think about the patterns in the universe in an imaginative way. He also gets the balance of using Scully, Doggett and Reyes better than just about any other episode in the shows final year and gives the ladies plenty of time together which generates a very fresh dynamic. The fact that Carter dared to place God at the heart of an episode is worthy of considerable praise but what I especially love about Improbable is that he staunchly refuses to allocate any kind of religious connotations. He is everybody's God and he isn't walking among us to condemn or interfere but to help us see the patterns that bind the universe together. If this sounds preachy then fear not as Improbable is giddily filmed with an insanely catchy score and features a quirky serial murder tale where we are afforded the luxury of seeing through God's eyes, highlighting the killer and those who are trying to catch him. If it pushes the humour a little too hard at times that is forgivable because it is trying something extraordinarily uncharacteristic of this show and the fact that it slapped a smile on my face throughout is a considerable success.  Isn't it strange how the episodes that feel less like The X-Files (John Doe, Audrey Pauley, Improbable, Release) are the most satisfying in the final season? It's proof that the show did have legs beyond series nine but it pretty much needed to jettison the old approach and start afresh. The show clinging onto its old formula is what held back the Doggett and Reyes years but these peeks into what the show could have been are a delight. Kudos to Burt Reynolds: 9/10

Scary Monsters written by Thomas Schnauz and directed by Dwight H. Little

What’s it about: Monsters under the bed are coming alive and killing...

Closed Mind: Doggett really doesn't have anything to prove anymore when it comes to filling Mulder's shoes and yet a sly dig from Leyla Harrison seems to spur him on to investigate a case he never would have touched otherwise. Doggett can sniff a rat at twenty paces and can quickly see that there is something strange going on as soon as he meets Tommy and his guarded father. Doggett gets on the Harrison bandwagon and start mentioning similar cases that Mulder and Scully have come against and then abruptly shuts up, embarrassed. Doggett s smart enough to recognise that the very thing that they need to be aware of in this case is that nothing about it makes any sense. Which leads to the one suspect that logic could apply to - Tommy. There is a delightful thread running through Scary Monsters that seems to suggest that Doggett and Reyes don't quite compare to their predecessors. It is something that shippers might agree with but something I would contest strongly. They bring something different to the show, that's all. And I'm pleased to say that Schnauz agrees because this unfair contrast is leading to a conclusion that proves as much where Doggett saves the day in a way that Mulder never could have. Because he has absolutely no imagination whatsoever. It's both intelligent and very funny.  The very nature of Doggett's character is built upon the fact that he doesn't believe in the paranormal as a matter of course and he needs things to make sense in order to buy into them. He is the only person who can combat Tommy's twisted imagination because he is a natural born sceptic to this sort of weirdness. It can't hurt him because he doesn't believe in it.

Brains’n’Beauty: We see Scully in the Academy teaching once again for the first time since Daemonicus. I guess that answers my question from Underneath, although not how she can pick and choose what cases she is involved in. Scully learns the hard way that Leyla Harrison is quite literal minded and when she states in jest that unless she can perform an autopsy on a dead cat the investigation can proceed no further... When Gabe turns up on her doorstep with the rotting feline I was laughing my head, Gillian Anderson's reaction is a scream. Scully performing an autopsy on her kitchen table wearing an apron that screams SOMETHING SMELLS GOOOOOOD! is laugh out loud funny, especially when she tells Gabe off for talking so loudly and almost waking up William. Yes, this is typical behaviour in the house of any mother I'm sure. 

Sparkling Dialogue: 'Agent's Mulder and Scully aren't in this situation. Agent's Doggett and Reyes are. And I don't know about Agent Reyes, but Agent Doggett is going to sit his tired ass down.'
'Anything?' 'Yeah, a salad spoon nobody's ever going to use again.'
'This is where the magic happened' 'Still happens. I'm happy it's in good hands.'
'Your lack of imagination saved our lives!' 'Gee thanks.'

Ugh: Kudos for the gruesome moment where the possum explodes in Doggett's engine, spraying blood all over him and Reyes. My friend told me a story of how she fell asleep before this episode even began and woke up briefly at the point where Doggett was consumed by the twitching scorpion creatures and they gave her nightmares for days. The scuttling noises are frightening enough to give you the heebie jeebies but I especially love the way they reform into two more of the creatures when Doggett shoots one in half. They're nasty.  When I first saw this I wondered how they would justify the disgusting moment when Doggett literally puts his fist through a man and pulls it out covered in blood and guts. But somehow they manage it. The creature trying to rip its way free of Reyes' stomach is properly eye-watering. It would seem that every time Harrison appears on The X-Files she has to lose her sight...and this time it is because there is blood weeping from them. That kid needs to be sectioned, he has one sick imagination. I always considered this to be one of the lighter episodes of the ninth season but this is the longest this section has been for over a year (Hellbound excepted).

The Good: It is really lovely to welcome back Jolie Jenkins as the perky and effervescent Leyla Harrison, one of the more successful characters to be introduced in the shows final couple of seasons. Unlike other reviewers I don't think it would have been a smart move to bring her in full time because I would never want to get to the stage where her enthusiasm for the X-Files gets wearying. Besides it means her occasional appearances are something of a treat. She clearly has no idea about boundaries (placing a picture of a bloody corpse on Scully's lunch) or how inappropriate it is to mislead people into danger (tricking Doggett and Reyes into investigating an X-File). She behaves in a wholly unsuitable way throughout, breaking all the rules of a good investigator but sometimes you have to cut your way through all the red tape to get to the truth. Ultimately I can see why Agent Harrison belongs in Accounts rather than on the frontline but I cannot deny that she was right about the nature of this case and that lives were in danger. Just not the lives that she thought were in danger. Harrison constantly mentioning over X-Files cases that this one reminds us of is a sly nod that sometimes this show can be derivative (indeed the final scene of Scary Monsters is reminiscent of DPO which is mentioned). Fortunately for Scary Monsters it is superior to any of the episodes brought up by the X-Files groupie proving that things aren't so bad in its twilight years. The location chosen this week (a house tucked away in the snowy woods) is wonderfully atmospheric. Along with sun drenched heat of Mexico in John Doe and the eerie hospital in Audrey Pauley it is my favourite setting in the final year. Schnauz cleverly makes the audience think that Jeffrey Conlon is trying to protect himself at his sons expense and that is the case but the important information that is missing is that Tommy is knowingly causing the manifestations in the first place. The way in which we discover that is the case (using the shows post-credits phrase 'I made this...') really made me smile. A round of applause to the effects team who make the house inferno at the climax as visually impressive as possible. It might be quite a glib response to the terrific premise of the week but the idea of suppressing Tommy's imagination with a glut of television really made me laugh. That's exactly what I would prescribe too.

The Bad: It's a shame it takes so long to reach the point where Tommy's involvement in the murders is revealed because it is at that point where Scary Monsters really takes off.

Pre Titles Sequence: A clever teaser in the classic X-Files mould that gives us so much information and plays a double double bluff. A little boy thinks that there is something scuttling around under the bed as he tries to get to sleep in the dark. Given what is revealed later the simple line 'it's just your imagination' from his father is very cleverly used. Since we can clearly see that his dad spots whatever it is that is scampering about it looks as though he is deliberately trying to frighten his son, locking him in with the nasty. That is far from the case as we would later discover. Smart stuff and very creepy.

Moment to Watch Out For: With the of Tommy's overactive imagination unveiled the show takes a delightfully spooky lurch into the surreal with Doggett chasing the kid through the house and falling through a door into an endless black void. Once he eventually lands creatures scuttle out of the darkness towards him and smother his body completely. Who said the show was running on empty in its final year? This is vintage X-Files. Doggett's solution is fantastic too, dousing the house with water but making Tommy believe it is petrol and letting his imagination do the rest. 

Result: 'Scared yet?' Besides the shows most reliable pair of hands (Vince Gilligan) and the odd gem from the shows ever unpredictable creator, the best of the last season seems to have come from relatively late newcomers to the show (Steven Maeda, David Amann). After a shaky debut with Lord of the Flies (which was trying to do something new but didn't quite reach its goal), Thomas Schnauz can join that list after producing Scary Monsters. It's proof that what the show really needed was fresh blood and plenty of it because untested writers/director had a new spin on the show that was well worth watching. I would have loved to have seen a third season for Doggett, Scully and Skinner free, full of episodes written entirely by new talent. Given the best of season nine, it might have been wonderful. This is another terrific standalone episode in what is turning out to be a good spread in the shows final season with Schnauz judging the levels of comedy and horror just about perfectly. Trapped out in the woods because of the snow fall at the mercy of an unknown danger, Scary Monsters has a tense atmosphere unique in season nine. The nature of the threat is revealed slowly and cleverly and when the truth is out Doggett, Reyes and Harrison are in more danger than ever. And yet this piece is leavened by some wonderful moments of comedy, mostly involving Scully being dragged into this case by Leyla Harrison and her dopey boyfriend. With the return of an engaging semi regular, emphasis on why the Doggett and Reyes pairing is so effective and some eye wateringly nasty moments, Scary Monsters is firing on all cylinders. Atmospheric, imaginative, frightening and amusing, chalk up another winner for the most maligned season of The X-Files: 9/10

Jump the Shark written by Vince Gilligan, John Shiban & Frank Spotnitz and directed by Cliff Bole

What’s it about: Time for the Lone Gunmen to make a curtain call...

The Three Stooges: The trouble with giving the Gunmen a whole episode to wrap up their series with has the adverse effect of their final appearance (a ridiculous cameo in the finale aside) having a whiff of failure about it. It is also the first of two back to back episodes that sees the producers attempting to wrap up elements of the series in a wholly negative way, gifting the audience with a slap in the face. What should have been a piece that celebrated these characters and saw them embarking on their next adventure (a bit like School Reunion did in Doctor Who with Sarah Jane), Jump the Shark decides that the world would be much better off without the Lone Gunmen and brings in the remaining characters from their failed TV series to watch them be executed. There is a fatalistic tone to the whole piece, like putting a dog down that hasn't lived up to scratch which rubs uncomfortably against the sunny locales and lowbrow comedy. I couldn't help but agree with Fletcher when he told Langley to cut his hair and grow up, he always had had an air of a sulky teen about him. He thinks he is some kind of romantic hero in the Joey Ramone mould but I can't see it. Perhaps if the performance had been a little more sympathetic it might have worked out that way. Even the notion that the Gunmen have lost all their money and are too broke to publish lacks the poignancy that it should. Rather than feeling sorry for these guys I just thought they came across as rather pathetically clinging onto a life that they could no longer afford. Putting them down feels like a kind act. Looking back on their time of The X-Files I think there was a time when these characters did provide something unique but as supporting characters and they should have remained that way. Clinging on to once popular characters past their prime is not a sin that only The X-Files is guilty of. It is another symptom of what went wrong in the final season. Instead of wasting an hour of characters that are no longer relevant they should have handed another story to those that are (Doggett and Reyes).

Closed Mind: One thing that really shone through in Jump the Shark is that both Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish are much more comfortable waltzing through a less than serious episode that doesn't really concern them than they were in Lord of the Flies. Given this was the first episode to be filmed from scratch since the shows cancellation was leaked to them there is a real feeling of having nothing to lose anymore. Although you have to ask what the point of them being involved is when they are unceremoniously dropped from the action halfway through to give the cast of The Lone Gunmen the lead in the climax. Given their half hearted appearance it makes the episode an uncomfortable hybrid of what the X-Files is trying to be and what it never was.

Brains’n’Beauty: It is only the scene at Arlington that has any kind of resonance to it and that is because Scully has history with the Gunmen. It is for that reason alone that Jump the Shark doesn't score lower.

Trust No-1: Mulder never bothered to attend the Gunmen's funeral? I know his appearance here would have screwed up the surprise at the heart of the next episode but somehow his absence just doesn't ring true after all they have been through together. 

The Good: I can't say I was overwhelmed by Fletcher's master plan but I certainly didn't figure that his fall from grace was planned as intricately as it was.

The Bad: I honestly do not know what to make of the first scene featuring Morris Fletcher and his torched speedboat. On the way hand is a very nicely executed and the location is stunning. However it feels as if the show has given up taken itself seriously and has tipped over the edge into a parody of itself. The performances are heightened, the dialogue is inane and the tone is one of a show that has all but given up trying to convince you it is a serious drama. This is what the foolish tone that infected much of season seven and it is a shame to see it creep back in just as the series is about to scarper. Let's hope it is a one episode aberration. I'm not sure why highlighting the Lone Gunmen automatically leads to farce. Can't they be treated as serious characters? When Fletcher states that he was a 'Man in Black' it was impossible to take anything he said seriously. Jimmy's reunion with the Gunmen should be a triumphant moment but instead falls lifeless at their feet, as if commenting on the tone of the episode. Stephen Snedden is quite easy on the eye but he is the most emotive of performers and looks quite uncomfortable stepping back into the role for a send off. Just when you think things can't get any worse...that loathsome piece of slime Kimmy turns up. Given that their parting is supposed to have some significance and he has been searching for her endlessly you might think there would be some chemistry between Jimmy and Yves but I couldn't detect anything but mild disdain. Seriously, why are we supposed to care for these guys? I couldn't sense a pulse in any of them.

Pre Titles Sequence: The teaser might just be the best thing about this episode. It is edited together so snappily that you might just be convinced that the Lone Gunmen were a genius creation and that their TV series was a smash hit. Yeah, it's that flashy. It helps to get the audience up to speed with what the Lone Gunmen have been up to since they acquired their own show and explains who Jimmy and Yves are before they turn up in a show they had nothing to do with. Yeah, I enjoyed the pre-titles sequence a lot. I wish the episode at large had this kind of energy to it. I might have gone the whole hog and stuck the Lone Gunmen credits on this too, just to screw the nail in that Carter had managed to sneak one final episode of the series past Ten Thirteen.

Moment to Watch Out For: The anti-climax. The death of The Lone Gunmen doesn't spring from performing a courageous act of self sacrifice (which I think is what the writers were looking to achieve) but instead feels like they are putting themselves out of their misery. There is no heroic flourish, no witty riposte, just three desperately uncharismatic men deciding to give up. No tension, no emotion, no interest. Unbelievable. I can think of several ways they could have extracted themselves from this situation if they were as smart as we were always led to believe..

Result: What is it about The X-Files having to pick up the slack and provide a finish to the rest of Carter's failed TV experiments. Would we have had an episode of Harsh Realm inserted somewhere had his success story continued for another few years? To be fair the Gunmen began their career as a part of this show and they have stuck around long enough to deserve some kind of a send off. Reports suggest that the studio hated the characters after their aborted TV series and it was a real fight to convince them to make this piece. What Gilligan, Shiban and Spotnitz needed to do was convince them (and us) that it was a mistake to cancel the show and wow us with the possibility of what might have been. Instead it feels like we are witnessing the slow demise of three men who have already been sentenced to death. The stench of failure clings to Jump the Shark in that respect. Given the three writers credited to this episode (the title is a not-so sly dig at the state of The X-Files too) you might have thought that this would be a fitting conclusion to the Gunmen's exploits but for once it results in an episode that can't decide if it is an X-File, the final episode of The Lone Gunmen or just a piece of random fluff. The result is something that is oddly unmemorable and dull. A bit like TLG if I'm honest. The plot involving poisonous organs that are being used as terror weapons is complete nonsense and never gets going, lost in the dreary reunion between The Lone Gunmen regulars. Instead of going out in a blaze of glory, the Gunmen barely seem to avoid stifling a yawn as they save the world and lose their lives. Remember the season nine rule: if the show is focussing on Doggett and Reyes it usually leads to something rather special but if it is trading on elements of X-Files past, it flatlines. And this last hurrah for The Lone Gunmen is terminal: 3/10

William written by Chris Carter and directed by David Duchovny

What’s it about: Who is this mysterious man worming his way into Scully's life?

Closed Mind: So that's how Doggett manages to stay in tip top shape? He reads his reports whilst doing push ups, exaggerating his numbers to make him feel better. Doesn't stop him having his head kicked in when Spender comes knocking though. Doggett trust the DNA report, living up to his reputation of believing in proof over speculation. The rage that Doggett unleashes on Spender after he has injected William is quite terrifying. I would not want to get on the wrong side of this man.

Oddball: There are some lovely moments between Scully, Reyes and Doggett in her apartment as they try and unravel the mystery of the disfigured man. It made me realise just how close these three have become in such a short space of time. In another world they would have made a great X-Files team without all this obsession over Mulder.

Brains’n’Beauty: Scully scoffs at the very idea that the disfigured man could be her lover and the mother of her child. The one thing she should have pointed out was that this man is several inches shorter than Mulder. As she examines him she tries to get as close as she can, to really look into his eyes and see if she can see the man that she loves behind them. Whilst she is never entirely convinced that this is Mulder, ultimately Scully is quite seduced by the mystery of who he is and why he has tried to gain access to the X-Files office. It is when it is clear that her child is in danger that she turns dangerous again, that primal rage that we saw earlier in the season returning to protect her son. There's a terrific scene where Scully is put in her place in the hospital, being told that as a medical Doctor she should stand back and let them get on with their work. The line that Scully is given when she confronts Spender after his attack on William might be overwritten (from Carter, really?) but Anderson delivers it with real passion.

Trust No-1: I knew immediately that the disfigured man wasn't Mulder because for all his animosity towards Doggett in the previous season he would never treat him as violently as this. 

Sparkling Dialogue: 'You know a person in so many ways. Ways that a test can't even begin to know.'
'You are as false as your face.'

Ugh: The make up job on Chris Owens is exemplary, both subtle and quite grotesque. It looks how it should, as though he has been the victim of obscene experiments. The glimpses into the torture that he has been put through goes some way to expressing the horror of all of the victims of this alien conspiracy. It is a shame that the men who were compliant in this torment are never brought to justice. 

The Good: If the final series is going to obsess over Mulder then at least William does something interesting with theme instead of leading us up the garden path with false hope (Trust No 1) or building a story around the fear for his life knowing full well that he is perfectly safe (Provenance). William suggests that the man that walked into the X-Files office with brutal disfigurement is Agent Mulder and the first half of the story delves intimately into the heart of that mystery. Chris Owens gives a remarkable performance as the scarred Agent Spender, never once claiming that he is Mulder but carrying himself with a certain dignity that he could be. The moment where my disbelief was suspended was when the disfigured man holds William and tear falls down the babies face. Who else could get this emotional about the baby except for Mulder? I started thinking for a moment that this might be the best thing that the producers could do if they aren't willing to let the character go. Maybe recasting him and disfiguring the character is the only way they can effectively bring him back without Duchovny's involvement. It's not the craziest notion this show has put on the table be a long chalk. The revelation that Spender is Mulder's half brother makes perfect sense given what we have been told so far (Two Fathers/One Son spelt it out pretty clearly) and means that the evidence provided (Mulder's DNA) isn't a cheat. I never saw Spender's corpse after his father shot him either, I just assumed that he was dead (given the Smoking Man's miraculous resurrection in the finale I am starting to believe that nobody on this show actually dies). It's great to catch up with the character and for his identity to be successfully held back for so long. This is one mystery with a satisfactory conclusion when all odds suggested that it would play out otherwise.

The Bad: She just wouldn't. As well as Anderson plays it, as sincere as the writing is, as beautiful as Duchovny's direction is...I am simply unconvinced that Scully would give up William. It's not the ending I wanted for the baby. Besides Spender admitted that they will never stop looking for him. Surely he is better protected by his own mother, a trained FBI Agent than a farm couple living out in the sticks? Come on...didn't you want the baby mobile to spin at the conclusion jut for old times sakes?

Pre Titles Sequence: I was hoping and praying that the whole time the teaser played out that the baby that this loving family were so eagerly waiting for wouldn't turn out to be William. I guess the title rather spoilt that for me. When I first watched this I was hoping that there would be some kind of dramatic turn around at the climax and that William would be back in his mothers arms again Surely we didn't go through the pregnancy plotline in season eight and the miracle child plotline in series nine just to jettison the kid at the last minute? In it's favour this pre credits sequence is beautifully filmed and scored.

Moment to Watch Out For: I don't think I have held my breath longer than the moment where the scarred man brandishes a syringe and sticks it into William. I really thought for a moment that the writers were going to go through with killing the child. It is one of tensest moments of the final year.

Orchestra: If there is one good thing about the climax it is the choice of music played as Scully gives William up for adoption. Don't get me wrong this is undoubtedly a moving scene and beautifully realised. I just don't like it.

Mythology: 'Having failed as a conspirator to control alien colonisation my father wanted nothing more than to see the world fail too' 'So what you've prevented it now? You've prevented alien colonisation by injecting this metal into my son?' 'Your son is the one thing that the aliens need. I took revenge on my father by taking William away from them' 'So he's alright now? Just like that?'

Foreboding: I wish there was some way to get William back in Scully and Mulder's arms in The Truth. I like to think that eventually they would go looking for him.

Result: The ending of William is a crying shame because it ruins what could have been a top notch mythology episode in season nine. Try hard as I might (and the creators have gone to some lengths to put William in danger) I cannot believe for one moment that Scully would give up her child for whatever reason, not after the struggle that she went through to conceive him. David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and John Shiban all hated the ending too. Given their lack of success in so many other areas in season nine it is really starting to feel as though Carter and Spotnitz have really gone off the boil this year. Perhaps they should have handed over the reins to somebody else to see how the show fared in different creative hands. If they were going for a poignant close then they have succeeded but it is equally frustrating and unnecessary. With the Gunmen dead and now William adopted off is nobody going to get a happy ending on The X-Files? As I said it is a shame to kick off this summary on such a negative note because there are some major pluses in William. David Duchovny's direction is second to none and he captures every frame of this mystery tale with real sensitivity and imagination. Chris Owens gives a terrific performance, for a moment actually convincing me that he is Mulder and turning out to be even more sympathetic when the truth comes out. The make up, as ever on this show, is exceptional. There's plenty of gorgeous moments for Doggett and Reyes too whilst Scully takes centre stage and Gillian Anderson reminds us why it has been a joy to watch her emote her way through nine seasons of this show. It's a slow story but the character work is terrific, a superb antidote to Trust No 1 earlier in the season. Had Scully decided to hide away with William somewhere and abandon her life I would have given this tale much higher marks. I agree that he does need protecting but dumping him in somebody's else's lap is not the way to go about it. There's nothing to say that he wouldn't be discovered there just as easily. A fine character tale that deals with Mulder's absence better than anywhere else in season nine, with a detestable climax: 7/10 (I knocked two points off for the ending)

Release written by David Amann and directed by Kim Manners

What’s it about: Is Doggett about to learn the truth about his sons murder?

Closed Mind: 'In his mind he can never do enough, suffer enough for what happened...' The sudden connection between this murder case and that of Doggett's son is so unexpected it made me sit up and gasp. There isn't a hint of a relationship between the two until we see both pinned to Mims' wall. There is am astonishing  silent scene where Doggett pulls his sons ashes from his closet and sits them down in front of him in the dead of night, reminding the audience that he hasn't been able to put his murder to rest and move on with his life. I really admire the amount of emotion that Patrick is willing to display at Doggett's weaker points in this episode, he manages to make the man vulnerable without ever losing that tough veneer that serves him so well. Watch as Doggett recounts the murder of his son, tears welling in his eyes, to Mims but refusing to look away. The show has never obsessed over the murder of Luke Doggett in the same way that it did with the disappearance of Samantha Mulder and as such it has been a skilful and emotive back story to return to. It was first introduced in Invocation near the start of season nine and with the advent of Monica Reyes' introduction in This Is Not Happening we learn that is how they first met. We were then afforded brooding flashbacks to the discovery of the body later in the season and a rare glimpse into how the loss still haunts Doggett before dexterously re-introducing the storyline in John Doe in season nine by having that character lose his memory and therefore go through the shock of discovery all over again. It has been very adroitly handled, and you can hardly say that about many of the running character storylines in The X-Files (look at Scully's cancer which was inexplicably cured when the writers got bored with it). With the show coming to a close it is time to give Doggett and this delicately written storyline some closure. Doggett's affiliation with The X-Files could even be seen as a last ditch effort to try and find some kind of explanation for what happened to Luke, although he has already admitted that if there is a paranormal rationalization he wouldn't be able to live with himself because he didn't explore every avenue post mortem. For him to turn to Mims isn't a leap of faith but another potential avenue to explore, to finally find some answers however difficult they might be. Scenes between Doggett and his ex-wife are very affecting because you can see that Barbara is trying to move on with her life whilst Doggett is like a fly trapped in amber. Turning up with new wild theories unexpectedly opens up the wounds that Barbara is trying to heal. There's a palpable chemistry between these two characters and there should be, Barbara is played by the real-life wife of Robert Patrick. Doggett has a made to measure suspect in Mims and yet with his time with him something about him being revealed as the killer of his son doesn't sit right and he still goes after Regali. The finale scene is a very cathartic moment for the character, releasing his sons ashes, walking away from his wife and embracing Monica. Finally life can move on for John Doggett.

Oddball: Like John Doe and Hellbound, Reyes shows a surprising amount of steel when she is forced to confront those who play loose with the law. He quiet confrontation with Regali is loaded with tension and she lets him know in no uncertain terms that she knows what he is capable of and that she is going to stop him. And you believe her. Just as the show used to do with Mulder and Scully every now and again to keep things interesting, they reverse the roles of Doggett and Reyes in Release so that he is the believer and she is the sceptic. Doggett desperately wants to believe that there is a link between this case and Luke's but Reyes has bluntly point out that the connections are tenuous at best. Even Doggett's wife admits that he and Monica could have something together but he wont let her in because he is scared to commit to any relationship that might hurt him. We saw a little of that in Audrey Pauley where he is clearly in love with her but when it comes to the moment to reach in and kiss her he still resists. It's fascinating to learn why Monica broke off her relationship with Follmer in New York, because she saw him being paid off by mobsters to keep his mouth shut. She cared about him and didn't want to sabotage his career but she didn't want to be associated with a man as unscrupulous as he had turned out to be.

Smarmy AD: Follmer has to be considered something of a failed experiment despite some attempt to make him a different kind of Assistant Director than we have seen previously. His previous relationship with Reyes gives him an edge and Cary Elwes is a charismatic enough performer to give the man a smarmy edge that makes you want to punch him every time he is on screen. He has all the qualities to make him a genuinely compelling character but he needs something to do for that to come to fruition and Carter and Spotnitz (responsible for the mostly dreary mythology episodes this of which Follmer barely features outside of) tie him to his office for the most part, and force him into the same ambiguous model as all the others. Sometimes helping the cause but mostly seeming to fight against it. A shame because it might have been nice to have had a character who was actively working against the X-Files for a change, someone who we could truly hiss at. Frankly he's been a little too quiet and ineffective for his own good. So it is nice that in his final appearance in the show that the writers (not Carter or Spotnitz tellingly) find something genuinely interesting to say about the man and put a light up to his less than dignified past. He made the unfortunate decision to accept a silence money from Doggett's sons killer back in their New York days, a decision that clearly has him breaking out into a cold sweat when Doggett starts asking questions about the case again. The trouble with Follmer he is ultimately a good man who want Doggett to learn the truth about Luke but he knows that in doing so his part in the hush up will come to light. What a nightmarish situation to be in. The moment when Reyes steps into his office to accuse him of accepting hush money, Doggett is standing over his shoulder like a hunting dog waiting to be let of the leash. Ultimately Follmer makes the right choice, shooting Regali and saving Doggett the indignity of having to do so and flush his career down the toilet to avenge his sons death.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'Kind of annoying, isn't he?'
'What do you do with them?' 'I sit with them. For a long time. They tell me things.'
'Cadet, you should know there's a real good chance you're nuts.'
'Would you have listened to me otherwise? A mental patient with insight into your sons death?'

Ugh: Blood dripping from a wall, maggot ridden body parts, crime photos as a piece of art.

The Good: How can you ever forget Jared Poe's performance in Release? My eyes were drawn to him instantly and whenever he is on screen no other actor, not even the likes of Anderson and Patrick, had a chance. Mims is such a compelling character from the off, a man who is far too involved in the machination of killers to be healthy, seemingly lost in the details of the crime. He is far and away the brightest of Scully's students but also the most remote and socially awkward. It is as though he lives and breathes criminal activity, which turns out to be the case when we visit him at home only to confronted with his macabre wall of murder victims. Poe plays the character as though he is mildly autistic, unaware that he overstepping boundaries or behaving in a bizarre way. If the idea was to create a Sherlock Holmes style character then Shiban, Amann and Poe have succeeded in creating a compelling detector of minute detail in crimes but any similarity between the two characters is superficial. Mims is uniquely awkward and bizarre, a powerful character in his own right. The first shots of his wall of nasties really sells the freakish obsession that Mims has with murder and those that commit it. Sal Landi deserves a great deal of credit for refusing to sensationalise his character of Regali in the way a great many actors who are asked to play killers do (as compelling as he might have been, there is something deliriously heightened about James Remar's performance in Daemonicus). He's a most uncharismatic man, boring almost. And that's what makes him so credible and so terrifying. You could imagine this man slipping into any crowd and sniffing out his next victim. 

Pre Titles Sequence: Immediately this episode feels like a great deal of effort has gone into making it as much of an event as possible without pushing too hard. The music and cinematography of the teaser are both stylish and the conceit of Doggett scratching away at the plaster board only for the wall to start bleeding is a memorable visual. There's no real indication of what this is going to be about, only that it is going to be rather special.

Moment to Watch Out For: The slow motion arrest of Mims and Doggett's reaction to the blank wall where the crime photos once were is very powerful. But even more so is very quiet, underplayed scene in the bar where to the truth about Luke is spilled. As I approached the end of this episode I desperately wanted Doggett to get the answers that he had been searching for. After being through so much and still being such a dignified and thoroughly likable man he deserved to know the truth so he can move on with his life. The truth isn't glamorous and only satisfaction comes from finally knowing what happened. Bob Harvey has a thing for little boys and spots Luke riding his bike around the block. He takes a chance and smuggles the boy back home. There he spots another criminal and in doing so signs his death warrant. The fact that his murder might have spared him unspeakable cruelty at Harvey's hands, that is might be the preferable option, is quite repulsive. The X-Files has always had one foot firmly in reality and for one episode it plants the over squarely in it as well. This is unpleasantly plausible and in no way sensationalised. It's actually quite horrible in its simplicity compared to alien clones and walk-in spirits. A little boy murdered for seeing something that he shouldn't. Patrick is sublime in this scene, showing remarkable restraint where I thought Doggett would be pummelling this man to death.

Orchestra: Mark Snow's emotive score for Release is one of the aspects that really stands out. I think his work on season nine is generally very good (especially in shows like John Doe, Audrey Pauley and Improbable) but the haunting piano motifs that play throughout this episode are something very special. It reminds you that at his best, Snow's music really cannot be beaten.

Result: Kim Manners has brought to life countless X-Files episodes up to this point and has become far and away the most prolific director on the show. He's a reliable pair of hands, a man who understands how to push the boundaries of television visually and can always be counted on to bring something interesting to the screen. His work on Release might be his finest direction on the show; each shot expertly crafted, the lighting atmospherically judged, the camera moving in skilful and unexpected ways and the actors always given his attention. It isn't just polished, this is a exquisitely crafted piece of drama that is a pleasure to watch unfold. When you start adding in other elements such as Mark Snow's delicate and emotional music, Robert Patrick's standout performance on the show, a script that starts of as a standard murder case but blossoms into something with tragic consequences for Doggett and the unflinching dialogue and characterisation you are looking at an episode which stands tall in the top ten listing of the shows all time greats. What really pushes this to new heights is the creation of Mims, Scully's savant student who obsesses of murder and can make outstanding deductions based on his intimate understanding of the crimes. Jared Poe gives a compelling turn and the script is constantly finding new ways to look at the character from genius to failed FBI Agent to probable killer to obsessed victim. He is as enthralling as he is sinister. Release is such a cut above the episodes that surround it because it is one of the few instalments of the final run that isn't obsessed with Mulder and doesn't make ill judged decisions with regards to wrapping up its storyline (like both Jump the Shark and William did). It gives Doggett the closure he needed from his sons death in a very moving fashion and allows him to move on with his life, his work on the X-Files and potentially a relationship with Reyes. It is a deeply satisfying drama in that respect. It is astonishing how the season nine rule works, as soon as the focus is on Doggett and Reyes again it is delivering powerhouse work. The trinity of 4-D, John Doe, Audrey Pauley and Release are enough to justify the seasons existence alone but I cannot help but wish that there could have been even more in this vein and less of an obsession with a stagnant character that isn't even around anymore. Those people that think the show never captured the glory of the first four seasons in its final year need to watch Release, it is one of the finest dramas that The X-Files ever put out: 10/10

Sunshine Days written and directed by Vince Gilligan

What’s it about: There's a man out there living in a recreated version of The Brady Bunch house...

Closed Mind: 'I've got to tell you I think I'm finally getting the hang of this job...' There is a huge shift in Sunshine Days that suddenly sees Agents Doggett and Reyes thoroughly enjoying their time together investigating the X-Files. Whether it was Doggett's powerful epiphany in the previous episode or simply something as mundane as the pair of them adjusting to working together over time I don't know, but there is a palpable sense of joy from both characters. I like to think that it is Patrick and Gish seizing one last opportunity to have some fun with this show. Gilligan shows you how things could have been all season and how things could have been and had the writing been as effervescent and giddily joyful as this (instead of those interminable Mulder-focussed mythology episodes that kept breaking up the party) we might be looking at another Doggett and Reyes season commissioned. Gilligan figures a great for Doggett to be able to make some awesome leaps that show that his time on The X-Files has changed his method of investigation but staying entirely in character - the A to B to C approach. Following a very logical train of thought from a series of events to an apparently inexplicable crime. Doggett is sensible enough to know that Anthony has a very weak grasp on reality and that his powers could be dangerous if he was put under any stress. Catching a tiger by the tail. Isn't it gorgeous that it is Doggett who figures out why Oliver is so obsessed with The Brady Bunch? One of the last deductive leaps that we see this tough as nails ex cop make is that a lonely man is desperately seeking the same feelings of comfort that he used to have when watching an old TV show with his Doctor. It's judged just right and I was smiling inside.

Brains’n’Beauty: Even Gillian Anderson is allowed to have fun this week, breaking Scully's mostly depressing streak of dour interpretations throughout season nine. It is astonishing how engaging this trio can be when the pretence of something earth shattering occurring to them is dropped and they are simply allowed to embrace and enjoy their work. Scully's embarrassed confession that she is a bit of a Brady Bunch fanatic is a scream. Now we know how she whiles away those long, lonely nights. Scully's final admission that she might not have proof of the paranormal but of more important things would have been a marvellous way to leave her character. It is a beautiful sentiment.

Assistant Director: Skinner's delight at having some incontrovertible proof to hand to Kersh is palpable. Once he has his feet back on the ground again.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'Who'd have thought this could happen at The Brady Bunch house?'
'I want vindication. For Mulder...and for all of us.'
'I think you are getting the hang of this job.'

The Good: Vince Gilligan has hardly ever been the sort of writer to conform to a particular style of tone and the two episodes he penned in season nine prove that perfectly. Where John Doe was raw, brutal and deadly serious, Sunshine Days opts for quirky, bright and sweet. The early scenes of this instalment are key to the much more important latter half of the piece, setting up the insane premise of a man who c can create anything with the power of his mind. The Brady Bunch obsession is a smart way of revealing this, a show that pretty anybody in the audience has heard of an one that is such a world away from that of the X-Files it leaves you scratching your heads wondering how the two can successfully come together. The stunts of characters flying through the air and bursting through the roof are effortlessly handled and the image of Mike squished into the turf always makes me giggle. Gilligan seems to have access to a light and fluffy side of the X-Files without having to push he show into extreme areas of comedy like Improbable. This is just close enough to a 'serious' episode to pass muster and yet has an elegant humour all of its own. You have a pair of wonderful performances from Michael Emerson John Aylward as Oliver Martin and John Rietz, just gentle enough to make your heart melt but never too cute to make you want to vomit. It's especially nice to see a warmer side to Rietz who I had recently seen play the epitome of an evil son of a bitch in Stargate SG-1. We can all buy into the idea of a lonely little boy that wants to belong and the smile that crosses Anthony's face when he gets to be a part of the warmest family of all is just lovely. Scully is absolutely right when she states that they are due for some incontrovertible proof of the paranormal after so many cases that have wielded none. The episode shifts in tone suddenly and it becomes far more personal for Scully, Doggett and Reyes. It is a chance to tell the world that the work they have been doing is valid. It is Scully's amazed reaction to the living room transforming into a sunny hillock overlooking the sea that gave me goosebumps. It is nice to see that there are still things that can surprise her and it genuinely feels as though she is going to get the proof she has sought for nine long seasons. Skinner flying through the air being shown through the reactions of everybody in his office is one of the best pieces of comedy on this show in years. I really like at this stage when the show has been cancelled that Gilligan is stating that with this kind of proof that the X-Files could go on forever. It is a nice thought. The ending is both bittersweet (Scully will have to keep searching for her evidence because exploiting Anthony will kill him) and like enjoying a warm embrace (Anthony and Reitz heading off together, like father and son). It should be so syrupy that you want to throw up but Gilligan handles the material delicately and the concluding five minutes are some of the loveliest in the shows run. Not bad for its last gasp of standaloneness.

Pre Titles Sequence: Really weird...but the good kind of weird that makes you sit up and wonder how on Earth the writer is going to explain all this. The recreation of The Brady Bunch house is extraordinary and it is terrific how sinister it can be made to look when the lights come down and it is shot like movie. In some peoples minds this is not what The X-Files should be covering in its penultimate episode but that is what I have always loved about this show...you never quite know what is coming next. I especially love the parallel between Mike throwing his empty can onto the road and being tossed out of the house in a similar fashion. Take this as a precautionary tale not to drop litter, folks.

Moment to Watch Out For: 'He wanted me out of his house and the way I went it was as involuntary as a sneeze!' The joy of watching poor John Doggett defying gravity and being sent through the roof. He is always saying that he wants proof of the paranormal rather than wild theories and waking up on the ceiling and walking upside down along the beams fits the bill beautifully. Strong effects help to sell this magical moment (the vertiginous shot looking down at the room as Doggett tries to uneasily walk across it is excellent) but it is Doggett having his eyes opened that makes it count. 

Result: Would you look at that - the barest mention of Mulder, an investigation that gives Doggett and Reyes some really fun stuff to do, no mythology in sight...and it works a charm. I'm not saying that as a template the show should be honouring old American sitcoms week in/week out but Gilligan has tapped into something warm and engaging here, the sort of effortlessly enjoyable piece that would should have seen far more of in the final season. Some of you might think that the show was crazy to waste one of its precious few hours left to something as throwaway as this but I would counter that with an argument that Sunshine Days exhibits more of what made The X-Files special than Jump the Shark, William and The Truth. It's creative and thoughtful, well characterised and full of memorable set pieces. It has something important to say about the show as well in Scully's search for vindication of her work. Impressively it manages to give Doggett and Reyes far more closure than the next episode does with Mulder and Scully, the former starting to lighten up and enjoy his work on The X-Files and the latter taking his hand at the climax and suggesting a close future together. They never really had a chance to blossom as they should have but all the strongest moments of the season are theirs and without them it would have been a much sorrier place. At the risk of repeating myself ad nauseum I would have loved to have seen a Doggett and Reyes led tenth season made entirely of standalone episodes written by new writers. I bet it would have rocked. Patrick and Gish are having a ball here, their last chance to own an X-File. In all honesty I would have happily have left the show on this positive note (both in terms of the episode and the charming final scene) but alas it was not meant to be. Like Anthony himself, Sunshine Days is misunderstood, sweet and rather special: 8/10

The Truth written by Chris Carter and directed by Kim Manners

What’s it about: The shadow government are finally trying to bring Mulder down for good...

Trust No-1: I wont lie there was a temporary moment of joy when I first spotted Mulder because he has been away from the series for long enough now for it to be considered a treat to see him again. It's not long before Carter is torturing David Duchovny again for abandoning the show that made him famous, locking him in a barren cell and having him beaten at regular intervals. When Mulder talks about his son it genuinely took me aback. He's in for a shock if Scully hasn't already informed him of the adoption.  Mulder is a crusader and a lot of people do not like the crusade and he's playing a game with those who want to incriminate him. Duchovny seems quite uncomfortable with the mushy material, awkwardly saying the lines that Carter has given him but not putting any real meaning into them (compared to Anderson who is acting her heart out). It turns out Mulder has been hanging out with Gibson Praise in the desert for the past year. I bet that was thrill a minute. Fox could have leapt on that for their next sitcom: A Prodigy and a Rebel in Mexico. Having Mulder sit in a motel room and declare that he has failed in pretty much every respect is a really downbeat way to end the series. Given his crusade has cost him so much it would have been nice to have seen him exit with something to show for all of his efforts. Instead he is a wanted fugitive, a man with a suspended death sentence and he has lost everything (including his son) because of his pursuit of the truth. The ultimate question is was it worth it? The definitive answer is no. God I'm depressed.

Brains’n’Beauty: The reunion between Mulder and Scully is oddly muted, thanks to the fact that he has been beaten into admitting his a criminal and he keeps calling her 'Dana.' That just feels wrong. All of this kissing that goes on between them now also doesn't ring true (especially with Skinner watching in the background). Gillian Anderson is doing her best to sell the doting lover material but I miss that cold steel that she was wielding last season. She's so drippy whenever the subject of Mulder comes up and that's all she is concerned with in The Truth. She was afraid that he would never forgive her for giving up their son but he understands that it was for his own safety. I hate to say it but Scully does sound like she has completely fallen under Mulder's spell in he courtroom. She is publicly stating exactly the same sort of science fiction nonsense that she used to criticize Mulder for expressing. When the prosecution consul points out that Mulder and Scully have fallen in love and had a baby I couldn't help but agree that it appears that she has been bewitched by him and his lifestyle. And that is coming from somebody who has been on this journey with them and knows it to be the truth. Not giving up is what Scully saw in him when they first met. It's what made her follow him and why she would do it all over again.

Closed Mind & Oddball: It is a tough one to judge who should get the lions share of the finale considering this is not just the end of season nine but the end of the entire show. Doggett and Reyes have been instrumental in ensuring the longevity of the show beyond Mulder's absence but at the same time an X-Files finale was always going to favour Mulder and Carter would seize the opportunity if he could. It means that the Doggett and Reyes finale is really Sunshine Days (a much superior episode ironically) and they are shunted into The Truth awkwardly and shunted out of it at the climax just as uncomfortably. It feels like with Mulder and Scully back at the reins, their substitutes are no longer necessary. It's symptomatic of why the show was never going to succeed with Doggett and Reyes at the helm when the creator is still obsessing over his tired and departed former lead. As characters they worked a charm, and Patrick and Gish make a winning pair, but the series needed to get over Mulder and Scully in order to forge a new path and that was never going to happen with Carter in charge. He's too obsessed with maintaining the status quo, hoping to re-capture glories path rather than forging new glories ahead. They are treated to two scenes in the first half of The Truth, about 4 minutes of screen time. Whenever the story cuts back to them my interest perked up immediately, anything fresh with Doggett and Reyes is more exciting the raking up plot details from the past with Mulder and Scully. The way Doggett looks at it calling something paranormal is a way of avoiding a real explanation. It is that same scepticism that the prosecution consul uses to debunk the theory of an alien invasion that Mulder's defence rests on, knowing that Doggett would never believe in such a wild story. Because their departure from the series is so throwaway I like to make up my own ending. That Doggett and Reyes are still working on The X-Files unencumbered by Mulder and Scully and their hideously complicated back story. At least that would have been my dream scenario had the show secured a tenth season.

Assistant Director: The entire basis of Skinner's defence seems to be to prove the existence of a government conspiracy to prove that Mulder's actions were excusable. What will he pull out of his hat for his next case? The existence of the Loch Ness Monster to explain why oil prices need to rocket in Scotland? Walter Skinner, Attorney: Paranormal Defence. I have to give Mitch Pileggi his due, he jumps into the role of defence lawyer with some gusto. He's the only performer in this whole sorry affair that is really giving his all.

Sinister AD: I don't think Carter has ever really had much of a handle on Kersh. This was a chance for him to step out of the shadows and pledge his allegiance to Mulder and the X-Files but instead he remains very much on the fence, as usual. Had Carter not made up his mind what side that Kersh is on? Publicly he seems to be ready to tear the department down but quiet moments in certain episodes have proven that he is also a friend to the X-Files, working in the shadows to protect them. He spends the entirety of the courtroom farrago condemning Mulder but when it comes to executing the man he aids in his escape. Like most of Carter's authority figures, it isn't a case of bring morally ambiguous but doing whatever the plot requires of you. 

Sparkling Dialogue: 'A bullet between the eyes would have been preferable to this charade!' - you have to be damn sure you are producing something decent before daring to have a character utter a line this damning. 

Dreadful Dialogue: 'What is the point of all of this? To destroy a man who seeks the truth or to destroy the truth so that no man can seek it?' - Poor Annabeth Gish, given scant screen time and forced to chow down on tongue twisters like this. A shame as she's wonderfully passionate when delivering this line.

The Good: A spark of interest ignited when we returned to Washington with Doggett and Reyes and the X-Files office had been packed up. I was far more concerned with what was going to happen to them than following Mulder and Scully on the run. I cannot fault the direction or effects work of the helicopters decimating the Anasazi ruins with missiles. If there is one thin you can always count on with this show it is the blockbuster action sequences. I did appreciate the scene in he motel room lashed with rain. It is a nostalgic reminder of the pilot episode. I wish the rest of the episode had been this subtle.

The Bad:

*  Hold up...we wait an entire 90 minutes to discover something that Mulder reads off a screen in the pre-credits sequence?
*  Carter really wants to have his cake and eat it, doesn't he? In dramatic terms killing off your characters (like Krychek and The Lone Gunmen) and having them return for an unearthly appearance in the finale is like giving your audience a slap around the face with a wet herring. It makes no logical sense, only serves to prove early on how indulgent this whole thing is going to be. How does Krychek open doors? How does Mr X hand Mulder an address? Aren't they supposed to be dead? Is the suggestion that they have faked their own deaths and smuggled into this facility to help him out? Or is it divine intervention? The scene of the Lone Gunmen watching Mulder having a piss defies description.
*  You can't just dump something like Mount Weather on an audience and expect the audience not to ask questions. It is apparently the underground facility where the shadow government is hatching its plans from. Since when? In nine years we have never heard of such a complex - the real reason it exists is because Carter wanted his impressive pre-titles sequence. It is indicative of how he seems to be making this up as he goes along, right until the end.
*  A good trial is a staple of modern drama and can be a genuinely gripping experience...but the case needs to be discussing riveting issues in the hands of some wily and fascinating attorneys. Why Carter chose the court case approach for his finale baffles me because it is essentially lots of people standing around discussing the overwhelming amount of plot that the show has regurgitated in the past nine years. It's possibly the least dynamic approach to a finale I have ever witnessed. It feels like a stab in the gut to the audience, as though Carter is suggesting that they haven't been paying attention and need to have the whole arc explained to them in great detail. Instead it is Carter who has been at fault, failing to express his unwieldy arc plot in an articulate fashion, going up several dramatic dead ends (the Samantha clone, Emily), chopping it off in its prime (Two Fathers/One Son), closing off some individual stories on an anti climax (Closure) and attempting to kick start a whole new arc plot in the shows final years. Reminding the audience that they have been sold a turkey and what should have been a relatively simple alien invasion plot being over complicated to the nth degree is not my idea of celebrating this show effectively. I know Carter was waiting to stage the invasion in a blockbuster but I would have gone ahead and tried to achieve it on a TV budget to ensure that the climax of the show was important. That it had all been leading somewhere spectacular. As it stands nine seasons of The X-Files has been building up to the extraordinary revelation of...the date of the invasion. In ten years time. Are you fucking kidding me?
*  If you want an example of why Carter should be kept away from the typewriter when thinking of writing a rousing speech check out Mulder's tirade after he has been declared guilty. It is an affront to the English language, appallingly structured and almost impossible for Duchovny to say without stumbling.
*  This show has done everything that can be done with the Smoking Man. From villain to victim, we witnessed his fall from grace and eventual murder at the hands of Alex Krychek. So why did Carter feel the need to wheel him out once again for another final showdown? He's come back from the dead twice now - he really is Lazarus. His final appearance; weathered by the elements, sporting ridiculously snowy locks and smoking from his throat is the ultimate indignity. Despite the fact that he is seen to be enveloped in the flames of a missile in The Truth I am sure he would have continued to turn up like a bad smell had the show continued. Apparently the Smoking Man protected Mulder all of these years so he could see the look on his face when he discovered the date of the invasion or some such bollocks. I refuse to believe that Spender protected Mulder for all those years just so he could destroy his spirit himself. Carter has decided that he is going to be the ultimate villain on this show whether Davis wants it or not. He just comes across as a crazy old has been who is still trying to feel important.

Pre Titles Sequence: Whilst the location that Carter has chosen is rather impressive (it feels as though he has genuinely stumbled across the secret lair of a Bond villain), the action that takes place in the first five minutes isn't particularly dynamic or imaginative. Mulder going through high tech doors. Mulder running along gantries. Mulder being thrown through glass. We've done this sort of thing time and again, the only refreshing thing about it being the participant who hasn't been seen for 18 episodes. Mark Snow tries to compensate by suggesting something much more epic is occurring. Throwing Knowle Rohrer from a gantry in slow motion onto electric cables feels like it has leaked from a cartoon. Little did we know that this was the only action that we were going to experience until the climax of the story.

Moment to Watch Out For: Mulder and Scully having a cuddle at the end. It's kind of cute.

Mythology: Prepare yourselves...
* 'I came to believe in the existence of extra terrestrial life and a conspiracy inside the government to keep their existence a secret. I believe, as do many respected scientists, that life came to Earth millions of years ago from a meteor or a rock from Mars' ' So a meteor crashed to Earth but along with the biological building blocks on it there was something else. An alien virus' 'I believe there was a virus that thrived her pre-historically. I believe that virus infected early man and transformed his physiology. Into an alien life form himself' 'What happened to these aliens?' 'They died in the last Ice Age 35,000 years ago' 'And the aliens?' 'They laid dormant, underground. The government learnt of this virus in 1947 when a UFO crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. The virus thrived underground in petroleum deposits. In black oil. It has sentience. It can think. It has the ability to communicate and it communicated with the UFOS.'
'In Roswell they captured aliens from the spacecraft wreckage. They salvaged various alien technology from them and from their databanks they learnt of the alien plan to re-colonise the Earth.
'By the military working with the government conspirators. To develop a breed of human/alien hybrids that the aliens would use as a slave race.' 
'Mulder's father lived his life in shame. Not for the conspiracy but for a terrible decision he made' 'Involving Agent Mulder's sister?' 'The aliens distrusted their human collaborators. Members o the conspiracy were made to surrender family members as human collateral. Mulder witnessed his sister being abducted by aliens. It haunted him no end. That's why he pursued the X-Files ' 'What became of her? Samantha?' 'She was returned. She was sent to California where we were raised together. She was taken many more times and suffered horrible tests. Samantha was part of the cloning experiment done by the conspiracy. She herself died in 1987.'
'To further the interests of a group of men who called themselves the Syndicate. Developing an alien virus vaccine before the Russians developed one' 'How did they go about that?' 'By testing innocent civilians from across the world. Test subjects were tracked through DNA identifiers via smallpox vaccination scars.'
'They were pretending to work with the aliens. To infect the entire population with an alien virus. But the conspirators were trying to save themselves by secretly and selfishly developing a vaccine. The conspirators believed that all life in the universe had been infected with the virus including a race of shape-shifting alien bounty hunters who policed the conspiracy for the aliens. But they were wrong, and it led to the destruction of the conspiracy' 'And who destroyed it?' 'A group of renegade aliens who had avoided infection of the virus through self disfigurement'
'Shot. Drowned. Even ground up in a garbage truck. And they just come right back to life. The best I can figure they're some kind of secret military project, ordinary men made invincible. The way I understand it the only way to kill a super soldier is some form of rare metal.'
'We came to understand that her son was some kind of miracle child. Its birth was all important to these people. These so called super soldiers, who I believe are humans replaced by aliens. We came to learn that Scully was one of a number of random women who had miraculous child births and these women had all been abducted in a government programme to manipulate their biology. Operating off shore on a Navy ship. Using these women as surrogates for alien babies' 'To create a slave race?' 'Yes'

Foreboding: 'My story has scared every President since Truman. Ten centuries ago the Mayans were so afraid that their calendars stopped on the exact date that my story begins. December 22nd. The year 2012. The date of the final alien invasion. Where our own secret government will be hiding when it all comes down.'

Result: Such is the disappointment that The Truth invites I skipped ahead and watched it just after Jump the Shark so I had a couple of corkers to end my marathon review run of this show with. However you can only do that with the benefit of hindsight. Those poor innocent fools who were expecting a rousing finale walked into this two part disaster unknowing and unprepared. Let's be honest this is less an episode of television drama and more a document recounting the previous nine years worth of plot. What is fascinating about having the plot of the X-Files elucidated in such a fashion is that it does hold together rather well, some questionable decisions aside. So why does it take an episode of this dreary magnitude to spell it all out for us? Why wasn't it this clear all along? Why didn't Carter and Spotnitz chose to explain themselves adequately as they guided us through the past nine years? Shouldn't we know all this already? Trust me I understand the motive behind keeping some plot details a mystery to keep the viewer interested. Indeed, I sometimes boggle at some shows that constantly repeat plot details to keep the casual viewer up to speed. This show continually complicated a plot arc without explaining any of the elements already in play and did so year after year until they were holding up a plot juggernaut that was jumbled and fused with unfathomable elements...to a point where they now have to spend the final episode explaining what it has all been about. That's just insane. Clarifying the journey rather than expressing a conclusion. It is an appalling creative choice, and the courtroom scenes are monotonous in their endless exposition. There's a roll call of old faces - Mr X, Krychek, The Lone Gunmen, Jeffrey Spender, Gibson Praise, Maria Covarrrubias, the Smoking Man - that I think are supposed to thrill the long term fan but only served to test my patience. Most of these characters have already been bumped off so their appearance is the ultimate indulgence. Duchovny is there in body but not in spirit, playing the episode as though contractually obliged rather than genuinely wanting to see this experience through. Doggett and Reyes, the best thing to have come from the shows final two years, are all but ignored. None of the things that made this show such a joy to watch seem to be present, it is just a roll call of tired clichés that lead to an empty conclusion. The invasion is coming in a decade...well that's useful to know. The real truth of the matter is that the show has already had two much better endings in Requiem and Existence. The Truth is nothing but a way for the series to pause before it continues on in a series of movies. Carter should have seen that interest was waning in this series and given it the ending it deserved here. Instead The X-Files goes out on an almighty stumble in what I consider to be the worst episode of its final year: 2/10


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