When season two of The X-Files debuted at the end of the summer of 1995 on BBC 2, I was beyond excited that the series was returning and I would finally get to see what would happen next following the cataclysmic events of The Erlenmeyer Flask. Suffice to say, eleven year old me was a little disappointed and I much preferred the sewer dwelling monster tale that we got the following week. As I’ve gotten older, however, I have developed much love and respect for Morgan and Wong’s brilliantly crafted season two premiere (the only time a premiere episode would not be written by Chris Carter). As for Chris Carter’s The Host, well, you never get tired of sewer dwelling monsters.
The season two premiere of The X-Files sister series, Millennium, which was also scripted by Morgan and Wong, opens with a beautiful voice over from star Lance Henriksen and a montage set in the confines of space. This would not be the first time that the writers would use such an opening from the talented pair of writers as Little Green Men would do it first.
At the time I felt that Little Green Men was too low-key an opening, especially following on the heels of the drastic course of events that took place in the latter stages of the season one finale, but upon re-watching the episode a few years later I was actually taken by how the episode manages to mix both introspective character development and thrills. For such a “low-key” episode, it ends with a thrilling car chase and plethora of extras shooting guns in army uniform.
What is most remarkable about the episode, and the thing I have come to love about it the older I’ve gotten is how it deals with Mulder. David Duchovny’s portrayal is fantastic and this is the season where I feel as if Duchovny not only grows as Mulder but even grows as a performer, bringing more even more layers and complexities that were only hinted at last season (especially in Tooms). The little hint at the end of the first season finale is taken by Morgan and Wong and they run with it. This is a more sedate and defeated Mulder than we’ve ever seen before, walking past Scully in the FBI hallway in an oblivious manner as she says hello to him.
Following that amazing teaser and our first glimpse of the credit sequence, the episode begins by catching us up with our heroes; Mulder assigned to the world’s worst wiretap assignment and Scully teaching at the FBI Academy, having her own little “spooky” moment. The whole opening sequence is brilliantly done and scored to perfection by Mark Snow, all topped with a brilliantly distant lost look conveyed by Duchovny as he sits as his desk.
There is a wonderfully melancholic air to proceedings that was completely lost on my eleven year old self at the time, I think mainly because I wanted another intense thriller in the vain of The Erlenmeyer Flask, but time has allowed Little Green Men to age like a fine wine. We get a visual recreation of Samantha’s abduction, albeit portrayed differently than how it was told by Mulder in the Pilot, an introduction to Senator Richard Matheson, Mulder’s connection in Congress who was mentioned in the same episode (same scene actually) and a trip to Puerto Rico, aka a heavily forested area in Vancouver.
It’s Mulder’s trip to Puerto Rico that takes up the second half of the episode and even though he briefly shares these scenes with another character, Jorge, it’s really an excuse to have Mulder isolated and alone. His monologue to Scully through taped recordings of his thoughts and feelings and investigation there, potentially gaining proof of contact with alien life, is mesmerising stuff. Compare this Mulder to the charmer who reclined on two airline seats at the start of season one to this bitter man who rails against life, his lack of victories, his lack of proof and the difficulties of having to “trust no one” is brilliantly done. The words from Morgan and Wong are beautifully written and they’re delivered with great aplomb by Duchovny.
Even with Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy, she still gets a fair share of screen time, her dedication to Mulder and her attempts to settle him with her words of wisdom show once again that Morgan and Wong were always the best at writing the more heartfelt one-on-one scenes between our heroes. I believe that Carter was fantastic at the more thematic, philosophical conversations between our heroes, incredible even, but Morgan and Wong always knew how to make our heroes feel more real and grounded in heir interactions with one another. They may be talking about aliens, elves and George Hale, but the words ring true, they feel raw and plausible and add so much in the way of dimensions to our intrepid investigators.
Amazingly for the show, separating its characters from working together had given The X-Files a unique way to approach its story telling and character interaction. The Host features Mulder mostly working the case on his own, but calling back to Scully throughout. Whilst it could be seen as a roundabout way for them to share screen time, the series actually turns it into an emotional asset, showing the strength of the characters, their working relationship and developing friendship that is pretty damn sweet.
One moment where the characters laugh because Mulder’s insane theory on how big the Flukeworm get reminds Scully of old times is gorgeously played. It’s sweet and is giddy, wonderful fodder for shippers.
It is the only part of The Host that is sweet because it’s pretty damn disgusting. It’s also brilliant.
Portrayed by Darin Morgan, who would of course go on to be one of the show’s most important voices, the Flukeworm is undoubtedly the best monster on the show since Tooms. Disgusting yet imaginative, like Tooms at the end of season one, the episode will make you look twice before sitting down on a toilet seat.
However, it’s most elaborate and memorable set piece is saved for the shower as the sanitation worker who is attacked earlier in the episode succumbs to the Flukeworm’s bite but vomiting a baby equivalent during his shower along with some of his guts it seems. Of course Fox wanted the scene cut, but Carter, rightly, argued that to cut it would be to ruin the episode. It marks a type of gory horror that the show would develop a lot of during its second year on the air, following its more spine tingling chiller angle the first year, with the now infamous shower scene the first of many a bloody moment that the show would give us, but in a way that was actually genuinely scary and imaginatively staged.
What is also becoming apparent at this stage of the show is its development of its supporting players. The series is relying a lot more on Mitch Pillegi and both he and Duchovny’s scenes have a real antagonistic charge. Little Green Men hinted at a more friendlier ground for Mulder’s superior in its final scenes, but here we’re mostly back to some intense antagonism, including what must have been the most awkward meeting in FBI history, before we get another potentially friendly moment from The Skin Man. It’s all very well-played and with Anderson still around but clearly only able to appear in scenes where she’s either sitting down or doing an autopsy (the latter of which was pretty damn detailed back in 1994, or 1995 when I first watched it) its smart of the show to start filling out its cast. We’ll see more of The Lone Gunmen in the next episode, whilst Sleepless…well…we’ll get to that.
After the intense character drama of Little Green Men, The Host was a lovely reminder of the flexibility of The X-Files once again, that it can go from an intense hour of television devoted to its characters and mythology to something as fun, pacey and imaginative as this. Together they get the second season of The X-Files off to a great start and amazingly things can only get better.