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X-Files Episode Guide: End Game

X-Files: Season 2, Episode Guide

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Written by Frank Spotnitz
Directed by Rob Bowman

Of the three writers whose work was vital to the success and longevity of The X-Files that made their debuts this season, Frank Spotnitz is the one whose value is the hardest to quantify. The vast majority of Spotnitz's work would be, like this episode, stories related to the mytharc, and while those scripts helped secure the series success, the majority of them would come to feel more and more dated the longer The X-Files stayed on the air. And while one can't blame that entirely on him, one can see certain signs of it in End Game, too.
Like so many of the first time writers for the series, Spotnitz seems to be trying too hard to jump into the X-Files. It doesn't help matters that, much like Paul Brown did when he wrote Ascension, he's coming in with something of a large act to follow. This is an episode, after all, where having just been reunited with his sister after twenty-two years, Mulder finds that he has to make a trade with the Alien Bounty Hunter for the life of his partner. Some have made the argument that this was too big a confrontation to be made at this point in the series. One can't blame Spotnitz for that---- at this point, the series had only been granted life to Season 3.
But the series of ordeals that Mulder must go through in the course of the episode would be a lot for Job to endure. He loses the woman he thinks is his sister, has to tell his father that, follows up a lead on her last movements, learns that she was just a clone, is beaten to a pulp by the Bounty Hunter who (for some reason) lets him live, confronts X and travels up towards Alaska to find where the Pilot's UFO has crashed, has another fight with the Bounty Hunter, and nearly dies from hypothermia and exposure to the alien virus. Yet somehow, he emerges at the end of the episode telling Scully that he's found the faith to keep looking. Even at this point in the series, you have to wonder: "Why?" He's just been fed a town of stories, he has no evidence that his sister is alive or was even there, and somehow is taking the word of an alien who was going to leave him for dead (They asked what reason would he have to lie. I would put forth, what reason he would have to tell the truth?)
What makes this episode a lot easier to like, and in a way, find it more entertaining than Colony is, not the vast array of 'truth' that we get to take in, but rather the personal details that make it much better. For whatever reason (and this will be true for at least the first five seasons of the series) the mytharc will constant divide our heroes: Mulder will traditionally get all the action sequences; Scully will have to do all the scientific work, which inevitably ends up saving Mulder's ass. It's pretty much the story here, too, but this time, its a lot more direct than that. Scully has been ditched by her partner more than a few times (hell, it happened in the last episode), but she takes a far more active role in getting things done. In doing so, she introduces one part of Mulder's world to the rest of it---- she's summons and meets a very unwilling X, whose tongue is only loosened when he engages Skinner in an epic elevator brawl that's one of the high points of the episode. Scully then ends up chasing Mulder into Alaska, and manages to save him from death at the hands of the doctors. Scully seems to cross a lot of borders with this episode, which is why it will be frustrating when she heads back to skeptic mode in later ones. This is a fundamental flaw in the story that won't become much more evident until the series starts getting older.
It's hard to measure how successful End Game is, but one gets the feeling that the parts are greater than the whole. It depends, however, one what you consider the whole to be. The whole of the two-parter lands to what is a very satisfactory couple of episode. There's suspense, intrigue, scary bits, and pretty good acting, and it makes the abduction conspiracy seem a little more human than it has so far. And it's given us the first real look at what the aliens X-Files might be chasing. But whether or not it adds up to a lot in the series as a whole--- that depends on how successful you want to consider the mythology. Right now, it seems to work, and I guess that's enough for me.