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X-Files Episode Guide: Little Green Men

Back to Work with a Bang
Back to Work with a Bang

X-Files Season 2, Episode 1


Written by Glen Morgan & James Wong
Directed by David Nutter

This is the only season opener in the show's entire run that wouldn't be penned by Chris Carter. Perhaps not coincidentally, it is also the best, not only serving as an episode that could just as easily serve as a pilot for the many just joining the show now, but one full of all the meaning of Mulder's quest with none of the pretension and purple prose that we typically get with Carter.
The second season begins with our heroes split--- Mulder, the most brilliant of investigators reduced to wiretapping; Scully back at Quantico, teaching again, and disturbed that Mulder has essentially cut her off. Mulder spends the majority of the episode looking spiritually beaten---- the X-Files have been taken away from, his source is dead as a direct result of his work, his only friend deliberately isolated. It's small wonder that he has begun to doubt himself, and everything he thought to be true. It's also fitting that for this new beginning, we finally see what Samantha's abduction looked like (or might have looked like, this will be another one of the series elements that is constantly opened to reinterpretation.)
Rather than turn inward, Mulder's motivation comes from one of the few friends he has left--- Senator Matheson, one of those allies on the hill he mentioned in the Pilot. It's also fitting that we look at the extraterrestrial from the terms of scientific fact for once, going to world of Voyager, and our countries ever shrinking ways of watching the skies. Mulder's determination seems to have slipped away, and as soon as he gets to Areciebo, the more frenetic he becomes, until by the time Scully shows up, he seems to be just a little removed from a raving lunatic
Duchovny gives the first in a series of brilliant performance this season. It's as if he used the hiatus to realize just what potential the character and the show might actually have. He is helped immensely by having Morgan & Wong pen the episode instead of Carter. The monologues that he engages in--- first during the teaser, then the extended ones he records to Scully--- don't smack of the unspeakable dialogue that will become prevalent in the mythology, but show a man who has been pushed to the breaking point so far, and seems driven there the more he sees. We actually hear Mulder's desperation and how he seems unable to even trust what the truth even is. He has the vaguest idea of what the truth might be, but what happens if he were ever to come face to face with it? The answer is--- and it's as much a shock to him as it is the audience--- is to pull a gun to start shooting. That's assuming that it happened just as we see it, of course--- Mulder does spend the majority of the episode in sheer terror and exhaustion.
Even now, with their partnership effectively shattered, Scully is still trying to find a way to help her friend. This is the first in a long series of episodes that will end up with our heroes on opposites parts of the country/ Mulder is generally given the exposition part of the episode, Scully has to do the investigation--- indeed that's how the first third of the season is going to proceed, mainly because of the outside element of Gillian Anderson's pregnancy. But the way she puts things altogether, how she uses her cleverness to outmaneuver the cronies who are trying to bring her and Mulder to heel demonstrates that she may be the skeptic in this relationship, but her cold logic works nearly as well (if not better) than Mulder's lack of impulse control.
It doesn't add up to much in the end, of course. Mulder and Scully are cornered by the authorities minutes after being reunited, forcing Mulder to leave whatever evidence he had behind, and what was left being useless. But for the first time, that doesn't seem so much like a zero sum gain, mainly because we are also getting a little bit of insight into the fringe characters that are hanging around. Skinner, who seemed no different then any of the authority figure we met in Season 1, is given room to actually seem like a person. He seems uncomfortable being pushed by the powers that be, and when the walls start to close in against Mulder, he proves that he can push back as well. The Smoking Man is also starting to seem like someone who might be more than a shadowy figure. It's the first time he and Mulder are in the same room, and he seems to view the agent with little more than contempt. But when Skinner doesn't take his side, he doesn't seem inclined to argue the point, even though he's clearly the Skinner's superior. Unfortunately, he knows which one of them has more power behind the scenes, and he'll start demonstrate it very soon.
Little Green Men isn't a perfect episode, but that may be more due to expectations rather than overall effect. But it's well written, superbly acted, and seems to have a touch of realism that many of X-Files episodes don't have, and when they do, they don't use it properly. Perhaps fans are just frustrated that we couldn't go back to business as usual, just like with most series. But at this point, no one knew that The X-Files was actually far more clever than that.
My score: 4.5 stars.