Season Four

4x01 Herrenvolk 10/04/1994

While Mulder follows Jeremiah Smith to a mysterious farm in Alberta—where he sees several clones of his sister at the age when she disappeared—Scully uncovers evidence that smallpox vaccinations are being used to genetically tag US citizens. This episode is a real mess: Chris Carter’s script demonstrates that he is either unwilling or unable to provide any sort of resolution to the Mythology Arc. Instead, he persists in asking ever more confusing questions. And can anyone explain how the Alien Bounty Hunter survives being stabbed in the neck by Mulder? This episode introduces the bees that will play an important role in the unfolding conspiracy. This is also where X pays the ultimate price for trying to work for both sides at the same time. Before his death, he is able to direct Mulder to Marita Covarrubias, the latest in a series of enigmatic informants with hidden agendas.

4x03 Home 10/11/1996

The discovery of the body of a newborn baby with severe genetic defects who was buried alive brings Mulder and Scully to the idyllic Pennsylvania town of Home. There, they encounter the Peacocks, an incestuous, inbred family of three brothers who will do whatever is necessary to protect their mother and ensure the survival of their lineage. This is easily the most controversial episode of the entire series. Fox went so far as to ban it, announcing that it would never be repeated on the network in prime time following its initial airing. It certainly does invoke extreme reactions. On the one hand, it’s a stylish combination of lush cinematography and evocative music. On the other, the subject matter is repulsive, and the brutality of the violence it portrays is way over the top. If this one doesn’t separate the true X-Files fans from the poseurs, then nothing will.

4x04 Teliko 10/18/1996

The disappearance of four young black males in Philadelphia—all of whom later turn up dead with their bodies lacking all pigmentation—leads Mulder and Scully to Samuel Aboah, a recent immigrant from West Africa who survives by draining hormones from the pituitary glands of his victims. This is yet another rehash of Season One’s superior ‘Tooms’. Within those narrow boundaries, there’s nothing really wrong with ‘Teliko’, except for the fact that it commits the cardinal sin of being boring to watch. Still, any episode in which Mulder gets to make a joke at Michael Jackson’s expense is worth watching at least once.

4x02 Unruhe 10/27/1996

Mulder and Scully track Gerry Schnauz, a kidnapper who possesses the ability to affect unexposed film with his mind, leaving images of the fates of his victims. The case becomes personal when Scully is kidnapped, and Mulder has to race against time to rescue her before Schnauz can cure her of the ‘growlers’ in her head by performing a lobotomy. This is a well-written episode with a number of effective scenes, including the one where Scully suddenly realizes that the man standing in front of her on stilts is the man that Mulder is describing from one of Schnauz’s psychic photographs. There’s also a chilling piece of foreshadowing here. When Schnauz is discussing Scully’s ‘growlers’, he touches her between the eyes in the exact spot where she will discover a tumor later in the season in ‘Memento Mori’.

4x05 The Field Where I Died 11/03/1996

An FBI raid on a religious cult brings Mulder and Scully into contact with Melissa, one of the six wives of cult leader Vernon Ephesian. While Scully believes that Melissa suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder, Mulder is convinced that she is actually reliving past lives. Soon, he comes to believe that he himself is the reincarnation of a soldier who died in the Civil War, and that Melissa was his fiancée. This would all be a lot more convincing if the photo that Scully finds of the soldier actually looked like Mulder. In any case, actress Kristen Cloke deserves praise for her portrayal of Melissa et al. Her ability to shift effortlessly from one character—and voice—to another is almost eerie. There are some particularly emotional exchanges between Mulder and Scully in this episode. Mulder even calls his partner ‘Dana’ for the first time since Season One.

4x06 Sanguinarium 11/10/1996

The gruesome death of a liposuction patient brings Mulder and Scully into contact with a plastic surgeon with satanic powers. The script succeeds in misdirecting everyone by suggesting that the real villain is one of the OR nurses, before revealing that she’s actually a witch who’s using her powers in an attempt to protect the victims. ‘Sanguinarium’ is definitely not for the squeamish: there’s more blood per square inch here than in just about any other episode of the series. Guest star Richard Beymer (Twin Peaks’ Benjamin Horne) is creepily effective as Dr. Franklin. Despite all that, the episode is ultimately a disappointment: most of the victims are little more than nameless patients, and Mulder and Scully fail in apprehending Franklin. There are some good laughs, though, as Mulder keeps checking himself in the mirror, trying to imagine how he’d look with a nose job.

4x07 Musings Of A Cigarette Smoking Man 11/17/1996

The real story of the Cigarette-Smoking Man—or is it?—as pieced together by Frohike from clues he discovered in a pseudonymously published work of fiction. Mulder and Scully are present in voice-over only (the clips we see of Scully are actually from the pilot) as the story of Cancer Man’s life unfolds in flashback. It’s impossible to tell whether these are CSM’s actual memories, or merely Frohike’s speculations. It should be noted that some of the things we see here conflict with Deep Throat’s account in Season One’s ‘E.B.E.’, as well as with events depicted in the opening to Season Three’s ‘Apocrypha’. The young CSM is played by actor Chris Owens, an interesting bit of casting which will take on a whole new meaning in Season Five’s ‘The Red And The Black’.

4x09 Tunguska 11/24/1996

Mulder and Scully form an uneasy alliance with Alex Krycek—last seen trapped in a missile silo at the end of Season Three’s ‘Apocrypha’—as the three team up to combat their common enemy: the Cigarette-Smoking Man. Ultimately, Scully and Skinner end up before a Congressional sub-committee while Mulder and Krycek find themselves in a Siberian gulag, on the trail of a rock which contains a sample of the Black Oil. This is another terrific looking episode that nonetheless manages to make the Mythology Arc even murkier than it was before. ‘Tunguska’ has appearances by a higher-than-average number of recurring characters as well. Along with Skinner and CSM, we also see Marita Covarrubias, who provides Mulder with some very timely travel assistance, and the Well-Manicured Man, whose patience with the Smoking Man’s methods seems to be wearing thinner by the minute.

4x10 Terma 12/01/1996

Mulder escapes from the gulag and somehow makes his way back to the US. Along the way, he learns that the Russians are trying to develop an inoculation against what they call the ‘Black Cancer’. The members of the Syndicate are attempting the same thing, but their efforts suffer a setback when a Russian spy kills the doctor in charge of the project. That synopsis only scratches the surface of this episode. The whole thing is a largely incoherent mess of locations, characters and events with very little to tie them together. By this point in The X-Files, the ongoing story had become so confusing that the only way to enjoy the Mythology Arc episodes was to accept them at face value and not even try to figure out where they fit into the bigger picture. Unfortunately, even by that standard, ‘Terma’ leaves something to be desired.

4x08 Paper Hearts 12/15/1996

A dream leads Mulder to the remains of a young girl who was kidnapped two decades earlier, and puts him back into contact with convicted serial killer John Lee Roche. The case turns personal when Mulder comes to believe that his sister Samantha may be one of Roche’s missing victims. Mulder theorizes that he and Roche may have formed some sort of mental ‘nexus’, but Scully has a more mundane explanation: Roche is playing mind games with information about Mulder that he gleaned from the Internet. This is an amazing episode on several levels. Vince Gilligan’s script is a model of efficient storytelling; containing generous amounts of plot and character development without once feeling rushed or forced. Mulder goes through an emotional wringer here, and David Duchovny is up to the challenge, delivering an impressive performance. Along with ‘Small Potatoes’, this is one of the best episodes of Season Four.

4x11 El Mundo Gira 01/12/1997

Mulder and Scully investigate the death of a woman named Maria in a camp for migrant Mexican farm workers, a death that has been attributed to El Chupacabra (the ‘goatsucker’), a mythic creature from folklore. The real explanation is only slightly less bizarre, involving an enzyme which may be of alien origin, and which acts as a catalyst for the rapid growth of a fungus. This episode has more of a social conscience than most, but it makes its points about the invisibility of ‘aliens’ within a foreign society with a fairly heavy hand, and most of the characters introduced in the camp are painted in rather broad strokes. When at first it looks like the death of Maria was the result of a dispute between two jealous brothers, Scully refers to the situation as a ‘Mexican soap opera’, an accurate description for the episode as a whole.

4x14 Leonard Betts 01/26/1997

This is where we learn that Scully has cancer, in a final scene that is as chilling as anything in the entire series. That fact tends to overshadow the rest of the episode, which is actually quite an enjoyable Monster-of-the-Week tale of the title character, a paramedic who can re-generate missing body parts, and who feeds on cancerous tissue to survive. Originally broadcast following the 1997 Super Bowl to the show’s largest audience yet, one can only imagine the reaction of all those new viewers who tuned in to see what the fuss was about, only to be greeted with a decapitation in the first few minutes. It should be noted that ‘Leonard Betts’ was shown out of sequence, replacing ‘Never Again’ in the post-Super Bowl timeslot because of Duchovny’s limited presence in that episode. It’s an unfortunate situation that greatly defused the effectiveness of this episode’s shocking ending.

4x13 Never Again 02/02/1997

Scully takes a brief walk on the wild side after she meets Ed Jerse, a recent divorcé with a really strange tattoo. ‘Never Again’ is all about Scully’s life or, to be more accurate, the fact that she doesn’t seem to have one. Just as David Duchovny did with ‘Paper Hearts’, Gillian Anderson really rises to the opportunities presented by the script. Check out the emotions that play across Scully’s face when she gets her tattoo, in what is easily the most erotic scene of the entire series. Also distinguishing himself is director Rob Bowman with his swooping camera work. His tracking-backwards-down-a-staircase shots are an obvious—and appropriate—homage to Alfred Hitchcock. And what series besides The X-Files could cast two-time Oscar winner Jodie Foster as the voice of Betty, the talking tattoo? This is an unsettling episode that sheds new light on Scully and her place in Mulder’s world.

4x15 Momento Mori 02/09/1997

Picking up where ‘Leonard Betts’ left off, Scully’s diagnosis takes her and Mulder back to Allentown Pennsylvania, where they learn that all but one of the abductees she met in ‘Nisei’ have died of their cancer. While Scully checks into the hospital, Mulder’s investigation leads him to a research facility where he discovers human ova harvested from the abductees, including Scully. This is quite a good Mythology Arc episode, but only if you can ignore the central question: why did Scully wait so long to question the MUFON members in Allentown? Why wasn’t she back there immediately after the events of ‘Nisei’ and ’731’? You’re also advised to ignore the incredibly pretentious, pseudo-poetic voice-over narration that Scully delivers here. On the other hand, it’s nice to see The Lone Gunmen put to such good use, even if their role does seem like a parody of Mission: Impossible at times.

4x12 Kaddish 02/16/1997

When the Jewish victim of a racially motivated murder seemingly returns from the grave to seek revenge, Mulder and Scully are called in to find out what's really going on. Not surprisingly, the initial assumptions are correct: the killings are the work of a golem created by Ariel Luria, the victim's fiancée, so she'd have a chance to say good-bye to her husband-to-be on what would have been their wedding day. This is one of those low-key episodes that seems disappointing initially, but that lingers in the memory and improves with each viewing. There's a quiet rage just under the surface of Howard Gordon's script that makes the delivery of its anti-racism message both more effective and less blatant than the preachy dispensation in 'El Mundo Gira'. Special mention should be made of actress Justine Miceli, who brings a real sense of dignity and strength to her portrayal of Ariel.

4x16 Unrequited 02/23/1997

Mulder and Scully have less than 12 hours to track down Nathaniel Treager, a veteran intent on assassinating the high-ranking military officials he blames for leaving him behind in Vietnam. Things are complicated by Treager’s ability—learned from his Viet Cong captors—to cause blind spots in people looking directly at him, rendering himself invisible. This is really just an inferior remake of Season Three’s ‘The Walk’. For some reason, the pre-credits teaser is a scene lifted intact from the end of the episode, which means that most of ‘Unrequited’ is a flashback leading to an event that the audience has already seen. At one point, Mulder consults with Marita Covarrubias, who informs him that Treager is actually part of a government conspiracy meant to eliminate certain military officials and discredit the FBI. Unfortunately, this bit of useless information does nothing to make the episode any more entertaining.

4x17 Tempis Fugit 03/16/1997

Mulder and Scully become involved in the investigation of a airliner crash in upstate New York when they learn that one of the passengers was multiple-abductee Max Fenig, last seen in Season One’s ‘Fallen Angel’. This episode and its sequel have bigger and better production values than many motion pictures. Combine that with a well-written script and a noteworthy performance by guest star Joe Spano as the chief crash investigator, and the result is a superior Mythology Arc episode. The cliffhanger ending—Mulder finds the remains of a crashed UFO at the bottom of a lake—isn’t as strong as it should be. The real shock occurs in the preceding scene, when an assassin attempts to eliminate Corporal Frish, a military air traffic controller with information about what really happened to Flight 549. In a classic case of ‘wrong place, wrong time’, the bullet is intercepted by Agent Pendrell instead.

4x18 Max 03/23/1997

As a result of their continuing investigation, Mulder and Scully determine that Max Fenig was in possession of a power source reverse-engineered from alien technology when his flight was intercepted by a UFO. The UFO in turn was shot down by a military fighter jet. As always, the physical evidence remains elusive. This is a fairly satisfying conclusion to the two-parter, although it does leave some plot lines unresolved. What, for instance, ever happened to Corporal Frish? Scully informs Mulder that Agent Pendrell died of the wound he received at the end of the previous episode, and her manner indicates that maybe she was aware of his feelings toward her after all. The one major flaw in ‘Max’ is the monolog delivered by Scully in response to Mulder’s birthday gift to her: an Apollo 11 keychain. It’s not quite as awful as the narration in ‘Momento Mori’, but it’s close.

4x19 Synchrony 04/06/1997

In this convoluted episode, Mulder and Scully work to unravel a case involving a scientist who has come back from the future to prevent his younger self from making the discoveries which will lead to the development of time travel. Or something like that. Time travel stories are hard to do well: they seldom make sense if you think about them too much. ‘Synchrony’ is no exception. Even so, there are some nice visual effects on display here—especially in the scene where Dr. Yonechi’s body temperature rises until he bursts into flames. Ultimately, despite their best efforts, and a lot of scientific doubletalk, the partners accomplish little in this episode. Mulder does manage to quote from Scully’s thesis on Einstein, and makes the remark that she was a lot more open-minded when she wrote it than she is now.

4x20 Small Potatoes 04/20/1997

Vince Gilligan, the genius responsible for ‘Paper Hearts’, is also the author of this hilarious episode. ‘Small Potatoes’ is all about self-proclaimed loser Eddie Van Blundht, who was born with (a) a tail—since removed—and (b) the ability to alter the appearance of his face, allowing him to impersonate anyone he wants. Van Blundht is played quite effectively by Darin Morgan. On the basis of his work here, he is just as talented an actor as he is a writer. This episode contains some of the funniest moments of the entire series, especially when Van Blundht, impersonating Mulder, arrives at Scully’s apartment with a bottle of wine, and one thing almost leads to another. David Duchovny delivers one of his best performances playing Van Blundht-as-Mulder, and Gillian Anderson proves once again that she is the series’ master of the deadpan reaction shot. An all-around classic.

4x21 Zero Sum 04/27/1997

Skinner is called upon to fulfill his end of the deal he made with the Cigarette-Smoking Man in ‘Momento Mori’ to save Scully’s life. In this direct sequel to ‘Herrenvolk’, he’s forced to destroy the evidence of a death caused by killer bees infected with a strain of smallpox; part of a test being conducted by the Syndicate. In this episode, we learn that Marita Covarrubias is also working for CSM—just like X—although we don’t know where her true allegiances lie. Mitch Pileggi carries the episode virtually single-handed. Mulder’s appearances are limited, and Scully isn’t seen at all. Her absence is explained by the fact that she’s in hospital for some tests—one of the first mentions of her cancer since it was diagnosed. This is the second X-Files episode to be filmed without Gillian Anderson; the first was Season Two’s ‘3’.

4x22 Elegy 05/04/1997

Scully comes face to face with her own mortality when she and Mulder investigate the latest in a series of reported sightings of apparitions of murder victims just before they die. A skeptical Scully becomes a believer when she too sees one such apparition, and Mulder speculates that the persons seeing the ghosts have all been close to death themselves. The two agents have an emotional confrontation over Scully’s reluctance to tell Mulder what she’s seen. This scene and a couple of others give Gillian Anderson a chance to really turn up the intensity of her performance, causing one to wonder why the implications of Scully’s cancer haven’t been explored more extensively this season. Special mention should be made of Mark Snow’s musical score, which contains echoes of Bernard Hermann’s Psycho theme in the scene where Scully confronts the episode’s real killer.

4x23 Demons 05/11/1997

An attempt by Mulder to recover lost childhood memories leads to his waking up in a motel room in Rhode Island, with no recollection of how he got there, and with someone else’s blood on his clothes. In some highly stylized flashbacks, we see that the memories he’s recovering are of an argument between his parents and a young Cigarette-Smoking Man—played once again by Chris Owens—which takes place sometime before the disappearance of his sister Samantha. Mulder confronts his mother about her relationship with CSM, and questions the identity of his biological father for the first time. There are some very intense scenes in ‘Demons’, and Scully’s concern for her partner’s mental wellbeing leads nicely into events in the upcoming season finale.

4x24 Gethsemane 05/18/1997

Mulder’s belief in the existence of extraterrestrial life is shaken by two separate but related events. One is the discovery of what appears to be the body of an alien, frozen into a mountain in the Yukon. The second is Scully’s encounter with Michael Kritschgau, a Department of Defense employee who has worked for years on a disinformation campaign about the existence of aliens designed to hide even bigger secrets. This is where we meet Scully’s brother Bill, a naval officer like their father, and get our first hint of his dislike for Mulder, as Scully’s medical condition once again becomes a major part of the story. This is an outstanding, highly repeatable mythology arc episode that manages to set up what may be the best cliffhanger ending in the entire series, as everyone assumes the worst about the body identified by Scully in Mulder’s apartment.

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