Pros:quality shows, excellent acting, good special features
Cons:trying to view the deleted scenes within the episodes themselves
The Bottom Line: The season that brought this show ratings success and gave the Fox Network its first huge hit.
Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
By the fourth season of the Fox television show, The X-Files, the show was one of the major bright spots for the Fox Network. It was the first show aired on this network to really achieve mainstream success, cracking the Neilsen ratings top-25. Although it doesn't seem so now, Fox had been a punchline for many years and always thought of as a place where lesser shows aired, despite having some decent comedies such as Married With Children and The Tracey Ullman Show in their lineup.
The X-Files changed all that. It's surprising to think that a show about two FBI agents investigating a variety of strange phenomena could bring the network to respectability alongside the three major networks which had been the only source of original television shows for so long.
The fourth season of the show marked a turning point as the show was moved from the Friday night time-slot to Sundays. Fans howled with protest, but their fears of the show being shifted to this time-slot in anticipation of its cancellation were unfounded. The X-Files ratings increased both this season and the next. The show was almost always in the top-20 rated shows and often broke the top 10.
The underlying story-arc of the series is that of aliens and government conspiracies. Over the years, there has been an ongoing story of the abduction of the sister of Agent Fox Mulder (portrayed by David Duchovny) when the two were young. This motivated Fox to take on these cases that were often pushed to the side in terms of serious investigation. Agent Dana Scully (portrayed by Gillian Anderson) was assigned to work with him to de-bunk many of his claims. Back in season two, Scully herself was abducted for a period of time. This story, created due to Anderson's pregnancy, was built on for years to come. It became known as “The X-Files Mythology” and episodes which dealt this were said to be “a part of the mythology.”
When I viewed the fourth season again on DVD, it seemed to be the one of the last seasons where the mythology didn't completely dominate the storylines. There were still plenty of great stand-alone episodes, while the mythology was added to and moved along nicely. The main event in the mythology this season was the revelation that Scully had contracted cancer. Both she and Mulder believed it was as a result of the abduction and/or as punishment for the investigating they'd been doing getting too close to the truth. The cancer gave those involved in the conspiracy leverage over both Mulder and their boss, Assistant Director Skinner (portrayed by Mitch Pileggi).
The season opens right where the third left off, with Mulder and Scully trying to uncover the conspiracy and those behind it. The first episode of the season resolves the cliff-hanger from the third season and builds a little on the mythology as Mulder's mother is dying and he wants to bring his sister to her before that happens.
The mythology continues through the season, with Mulder going to Russia in pursuit of the rogue agent, Krycek (portrayed by Nicolas Lea) where they inadvertently discover a prison camp where there are experiments going on with the alien black oil, then must escape the same gulag. As the season wound down, Mulder found what he thought was conclusive proof of the existence of aliens, only to be thwarted by revelations that everything he's discovered through the years might be a scam. He's nearly on his own at this point as Scully is affected by her cancer and the attempts at treatment. The season concludes with her testifying to Congress about their work while notifying them that Mulder killed himself the night before.
What I loved about the series, though, were the stand-alone episodes and some of the best ones of the series are this season. Home was a great show and one that I would put in my top episodes of the series. It's an episode that was banned by the network after its initial showing and not seen again in its entirety for quite some time. Small Potatoes was another great stand-alone episode and one that has been honored by being placed on the TV Guide top 100 television episodes list.
The Field Where I Died has Mulder and Scully investigating a Waco-like cult where the possibility of past lives comes into play. It's not just one of the cult leader's wives, but Mulder as well who have a common thread in what is apparently a past life. Paper Hearts is a stand-alone episode that feeds nicely into the mythology as well as a serial killer's memories force Mulder to question all that he remembers about his sister's abduction.
The acting throughout the series is stellar. All of the regular actors are comfortable in the roles and manage to convince the viewer that they are seeing things that seem far out in the imagination. It's a true testament tot he abilities of these actors that the series has the degree of believability that it has as some of the storylines could be enough on paper to make one turn it off in disbelief. Between Duchovny, Anderson, Pileggi, and the excellent guest cast that is often used in addition to a series of recurring characters, it works largely due to their efforts.
The special effects this season are excellent as always. The scenes are so true to life it's hard to believe what they managed to achieve. Whether it's as simple as creating a human who has been affected by the alien black oil to creating strange mutant creatures, it looks real. The staging is excellent too as it will occasionally disturb viewers with how realistic things appear to be. This is the case of Tempus Fugit where an airplane crashes and the crash location looks incredibly sobering.
The discs feature a variety of special features, although I'm not crazy about the format. Each episode has some deleted scenes, but to view them within the context of the episode, you have to watch the entire episode looking for an X in the corner to cut away to the deleted scene. I prefer to be able to access this footage on its own just after watching the episode. The scenes are also presented on the Special Features disc with commentary by series creator Chris Carter, but by then many of the episodes aren't in the forefront of the memory as when I've just watched it.
I do like the special features here. There is a featurette about the entire season along with short interviews with various members of the cast and crew about select episodes. There's also thirteen Behind the Truth segments that went along with this season when it became syndicated. It was interesting to learn how they did some of the more difficult scenes. In particular, the scenes with bees were the hardest to film. The bees were stinging all of the actors and CGI was used to augment what they were working with live.
There's still enough here that works without the mythology that I felt the season was well-balanced. That wouldn't be true in the future of the series. The overall story-arc of the series does move along nicely, though. At the same time, there are plenty of quality episodes that don't have anything to do with that story-arc. This season made the most of its new time slot and drew in fans the way it did for a reason. It's a fine show and one that people should check out again.
The Field Where I Died
Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man
El Mundo Gira
Disc Seven - Special Features:
• Documentary: The Truth About Season 4
• Interview Clips
--- Herrenvolk: Interview with Frank Spotnitz
--- Unruhe: Interview with Vince Gilligan
--- Home: Interview with James Wong
--- Paper Hearts: Interview with Vince Gilligan
--- Tunguska: Interview with Chris Carter
• FX Behind the Truth Spots
• Television Spots
• Special Effects with commentary by Paul Rabwin
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Chris Carter
© 2010 Patti Aliventi
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