The X Files Revisited: 2.01 Little Green Men
The X Files ran for nine seasons and two movies, charting the efforts of Agents Mulder and Scully in their search for the unexplained. Now eight years after the second movie The X Files: I Want To Believe, the show is returning for six new episodes in 2016. Here at The Digital Fix, we are going to work our way through each season, reviewing some of the big episodes – and both movies – across the years in the build up to season ten. With 202 episodes, there is simply too much to cover every episode; instead we'll pick the story highlights of each year. Our on-going review continues with the opening to the show's best season
I didn't remember much about Little Green Men and rewatching it now, I can see why. Given how many great stories were coming up this season, it starts off rather slowly with an exposition-heavy, slightly muddled opening that doesn't really have much of a central story. But what it does do is successfully show the audience exactly how Mulder and Scully's world has changed.
Secret meetings at the underground car park at the Watergate hotel, a senator sympathetic to Mulder's cause who plays the music loudly in his office because "they may be listening", men in black surveilling Mulder's apartment, the words spoken by Deep Throat in his dying breath have never been more true. 'Trust No One'. Even Skinner - in what is due to become a much more significant role - still has the Cigarette Smoking Room hanging around his office while he argues it out with Mulder.
Though, even his second appearance, we begin to see the kind of ally the assistant director will become. When Mulder finds himself marched before Skinner at the episode's end, the CSM is at the most sinister we have seen him. "Your time is over and you leave with nothing." he snarls at a defeated Mulder after his ill-fated trip to Puerto Rico failed to give the evidence of alien life he was so desperately searching for. When Skinner growls "Get out" everyone - Mulder, the CSM and the audience naturally assume he is talking to the FBI agent. His howl of "I said get the hell out!" directly to the CSM is brilliantly played and shows that he isn't quite under the thumb of this shadowy figure.
While Mulder languishes in a cell of mindless surveillance work, Scully finds herself teaching medical students at Quantico. Her observations are noted as 'spooky' suggesting that her former partner's influence really has rubbed off on her - though personally I found this moment a little too on the nose. Scully, for much of the first part of season two is relegated to limited screen time; Gillian Anderson's unexpected pregnancy was part of the driving force for this narrative change, leading to her abduction several episodes down the line but it feels fairly natural too and while David Duchovny is a stronger presence, there are still moments where Anderson can shine too.
If there is any central narrative here, it is the alien message recorded at an abandoned SETI observatory in Puerto Rico. With no Deep Throat, Mulder finds himself invited to the office of Richard Matheson (Raymond J. Barry), a senator sympathetic to his cause who sets him on his mission. You probably won't remember Matheson - he did return for an episode in season three and again in season six but he is a poor substitute for Mulder's previous informant. I wonder if the show was trying out potential replacements. Stephen Williams' Mr X would appear in the next episode and prove to make far more of an impact.
Mulder's secret trip is the furthest we have seen him go at this point and speaks to the broadening scope of The X Files. He encounters a raving Puerto Rican amid the dusty archives of the observatory, who later falls foul to some alien encounter that leaves him petrified in the jungle. But we also see how close his bond with Scully is. His dictaphone recordings are all addressed to her while back in Washington DC she uncovers his plan and tracks him down to South America, deftly losing her tails at the airport. That cunning cross-US plane hopping in last season's E.B.E obviously paid off.
The interesting thing about this episode is that it is more overt in its mythology. Mulder does find evidence and even - perhaps - witnesses alien life, but he loses the evidence as he and Scully reunited, in Puerto Rico, escape mysterious government forces who have come to capture the alien recordings at the observatory. The final car chase under a hail of bullets is a thrilling end to a somewhat lacklustre episode.
And I say lacklustre because so much of the episode is exposition and scene setting. We get the flashback to his sister Samantha's abduction, which doesn't quite hold up to modern viewing, thanks partly to the somewhat bad acting by the kids, though the image of Samantha floating towards the window is another of the show's iconic images. But at the same time, it gives an audience a glimpse of the defining moment that drove Mulder to where he is today.
Little Green Men establishes all the set pieces for season two and is a decent episode for The X Files (which means it is a good episode) but it seems to lack that punch that The Erlenmeyer Flask delivered. Fortunately great things were just around the corner.