Season 3 is one of the most beloved seasons of The X-Files, for many reasons. For one thing, it was during Season 3 that the show really became a hit. Secondly, it was the era of Darin Morgan, and that’s amazing on its own. And of course we had other outstanding non-Darin Morgan episodes, like “Pusher,” “Revelations,” and “Wetwired.”
But for me, Season 3 is the season that’s still getting there – though it’s really getting there. Let’s take a look at different aspects of Season 3, shall we?
This is the aspect of Season 3 that many fans considered to be the show’s biggest and most notable improvement, and there’s really no doubt about that. Not only were we graced with Darin Morgan, we had stunning contributions from Vince Gilligan and Kim Newton (who wrote “Revelations”).
But it is of course Darin Morgan that really rules this Season. He did what very, very few writers are able to do, give an entire TV show a sophistication and personality in four episodes (though his first episode was in Season 2). The cleverness of his writing, the philosophy imbedded into humor, just the stunning originality of his work left a mark on the The X-Files that lasted in the minds of the audience and the creators long after he left the show. The other writers, particularly Vince Gilligan, stepped up to the plate after Darin Morgan left to keep the show’s quirky humor and personality going, which they did wonderfully. But none were quite like Darin Morgan.
It’s interesting to speculate whether or not Darin Morgan should have stayed longer than he did. Of course I would have welcomed another episode with open arms – to quote The Fault in Our Stars, I’d read his grocery lists – but it’s difficult to see where Darin Morgan would have taken the show after “Jose Chung.” Once you put the show into a philosophical and humorous perspective like that, what else can you do?
I’m not saying it’s a good thing Darin Morgan left when he did, but it might not have been a bad thing, either. Darin Morgan did, after all, give us plenty to talk about and laugh about and write about with just four episodes. Honestly, if he’d written another one I might actually have to write a novel.
David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are amazing in their roles, as always, but this is the season Gillian really began to show off her chops, and she had some tough material to conquer. From Scully’s spiritual exploration in “Revelations” to her anger over her sister’s death in “Piper Maru” to her casual home life in “War of the Coprophages” to her badass G-woman persona in “Jose Chung” to going crazy in “Wetwired,” Scully’s character has been all over the map and Gillian Anderson proved herself more than worthy of the job.
But the acting that really stands out in Season 3, for me, are its guest stars. Peter Boyle won an Emmy for his performance in “Clyde Bruckman,” Robert Wisden gave a brilliant performance as Robert Patrick Modell in “Pusher,” and of course, the entire cast of “Jose Chung” was simply amazing. Season 3’s guest stars have been on fire.
I didn’t talk about it that much in my reviews, but the overall production quality of the show is rapidly rising in quality. The cinematography alone is such a gargantuan improvement from Seasons 1 and 2 that it’s honestly incredible. The scene in “War of the Coprophages” where the roach crawls across the screen is brilliant, “Revelations” is beautifully shot, the scene where Robert Patrick Modell grabs Mulder’s headset in “Pusher” never fails to make me flinch, the lighting and atmosphere of “The List” are great (even though the episode itself sucks), “Jose Chung” has camera work as comedic as its writing. Just like the show itself, the production quality is getting better all the time.
The music, too, is great this season. My favorite Mark Snow work was always in the later seasons – with a few exceptions, like Season 1’s “Roland” – but after giving these episodes another watch I discovered that he matches certain moods and scenes perfectly, and damn does he know how to end an episode. The ending music for “Jose Chung” is a great part of why that last scene is so effective.
Scully is really the one who goes into major development mode this season. Just as Season 2 was really Mulder’s time to change and face challenges with Scully’s abduction and whatnot, this season Scully is the one facing her inner demons, which take many forms. I’ve already talked at length about Scully’s growth and change in my reviews.
The question is, of course, where do we go from here? It’s nice to put all the development focus on Scully for a while, but soon we have to bring Mulder back into the forefront, and one of Season 3’s major flaws is that, honestly, there isn’t enough Mulder. Oh, he’s there, but his demons, temporarily, at least, have left. Season 3 doesn’t even have a Samantha episode. The closest we get is “Oubliette.”
Skinner also gets his chance to shine, especially in “Paper Clip” and “Avatar,” but the way the other characters respond to him, particularly Mulder and Scully, is still, in my humble opinion, not fair. Poor Skinner. He does a lot for them this season and ends up getting kicked in the face in one episode and nearly convicted for murder in the other. And yet we’ve still got Scully pointing a gun at him and shouting “son of a bitch.” 😦
The writers are eventually going to have to bring back balance to the force, if you will, and Season 4 will mark a notable shift in character focus – and, along with that, the inevitable topic of our next section:
Don’t act surprised. You knew I was getting to this.
Season 3, for all its outstanding qualities, is majorly lacking in one area, more so than I think people realize. To be frank: Mulder and Scully aren’t really that close this season.
Compare and contrast. In Season 2 we had Scully’s abduction, which brought along with it lots of turmoil for Mulder and Scully, Mulder in particular. In Season 2, we had the “Irresistible” hug, Mulder crying, post-rescue hair brushes, Scully putting a sick Mulder to bed, etc. In Season 3 we have Mulder and Scully fighting, Mulder making snide comments at Scully’s expense, and honestly nothing terribly intimate until the ever-famous Conversation on the Rock, which is so famous it got its own acronym: COTR.
If there’s one thing about COTR that frustrates me, it’s that Shippers take this one little moment and turn it into a “milestone” in the development of the Ship, which may be so but still isn’t enough to excuse the rest of the season. And, since I’ve already discussed it in my “Quagmire” review, I’m not going to dwell on it any longer. Just be aware, my fellow Shippers, that Season 3 is, at least in terms of the ship, barely off the dock (just like Mulder and Scully in “Quagmire,” come to think of it). In other words: the best is yet to come.
Well, you know what time it is. Let’s bid a fond farewell to Season 3 with the…
Oh yeah, Jack Black was in that: “D.P.O.”
Underrated: “Hell Money”/”Wetwired”
You Know You Laughed: “Syzygy”
Best Character Exploration: “Revelations”
Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series: “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”
Funniest: “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space'”
Saddest: “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space'”
The Fact that I Am Able to Call and Episode Funny and Sad is Brilliant:
“Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space'”
The Plot Thickens: “Piper Maru”/”Apocrypha”
The Dud: “Teso Dos Bichos”
Just Damn Good Television: “Pusher”
This Is Gross: “War of the Coprophages”
Too Adorable: “Quagmire”
Best Standalone (that Darin Morgan didn’t write): “Pusher”
Best Mythology: “Piper Maru”/”Apocrypha”
Best Overall: “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”
Final Score for Season 3
See you all in Season 4!