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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 1/30/01

The X-Files: The Complete Second Season
1994-95 (2000) - Ten Thirteen Productions/20th Century Fox (Fox)

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

The X-Files: The Complete Second Season Program Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/A

Specs and Features
Approx. 1,200 mins (25 episodes at 48 mins each), NR, full frame (1.33:1), 7 single-sided, dual-layered discs (6 discs contain 4 episodes each, the 7th contains 1 episode plus bonus features), custom gatefold packaging, 4 deleted scenes accessible using multi-angle feature (from the episodes Sleepless, 3, Humbug and Anasazi), 3 "behind-the-scenes" clips (from the episodes End Game, Humbug and Anasazi), 20 "international" clips from the episodes Duane Barry, One Breath, Irresistible, Humbug and Anasazi (in dubbed Japanese, German, Spanish and Italian), 49 TV spots (10 and 20 second spots for 24 episodes and a 20 second spot for the 25th), 9 Behind the Truth segments (as seen on FX), 12 interview clips with Chris Carter about the episodes, The Truth About Season Two featurette, collectible booklet, PC Friendly DVD-ROM features (including an interactive game - Unholy Alliances, weblinks and access to online events), animated program-themed menu screens with music, scene access (12 chapters per episode), languages: English and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Scully: "Did you find what you were looking for?"

Mulder: "No. But I found something I thought I'd lost... faith to keep looking."

When you're talking about The X-Files, if the first season is where it all began, the second season is where things really took shape and began to pick up steam. It's during this period that we see Cancer Man (aka "the Cigarette Smoking Man") coming into his own for the first time as one of the most evil villains ever to appear on TV. We're introduced to a spate of new characters that will become an important part of the series' mythology, including X (Mulder's new informant), Alex Krycek (I like to think of him as "that rat-bastard Krycek"), the infamous Alien Bounty Hunter (aka "the Mighty Morphin Bounty Hunter"), Margaret Scully (Agent Scully's mother), William and Teena Mulder (Mulder's cold-hearted parents, who are somehow involved with Cancer Man) and, of course, Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mulder and Scully's boss and chief ally at the FBI). The second season is also important for really kick-starting the "Conspiracy" between a mysterious shadow government and extraterrestrials (who are always up to no good). It's also the first time viewers get a glimpse of an alien on the series... even if it's only a glimpse. It's enough to let people know that maybe Mulder isn't crazy after all.

More importantly, it's during the second season that the characters of Mulder and Scully are more thoroughly explored. During the course of these 25 episodes, Mulder finally finds his long-missing (and presumed abducted) sister, Samantha... or does he? Mulder and Scully, who lost the X-Files at the end of the first season, see the branch reopened, and their investigations renewed. We learn that Mulder is fan of Chris Carter... as in the wide receiver of the Minnesota Vikings (that Mulder's my kinda guy). The season's last episode, Anasazi, features a truly nail-biting cliff-hanger, which energizes the show even further going into season three. And in a three-part story arc beginning with the 5th episode, Duane Barry, Mulder faces his worst nightmare - the apparent abduction of Agent Scully by extraterrestrials. This single storyline, which came about almost by accident as a way to deal with actress Gillian Anderson's unexpected pregnancy, is perhaps the best thing that ever happened to this series. It not only raised the stakes in terms of just how bad the bad guys could be, it also peeled back the layers of Mulder's character to reveal just how much he relies upon, and even loves, his partner. His decent into quiet desperation during her disappearance gave the series a raw, edgy feel. And, once reunited, the dynamic between these two characters had undergone a seismic shift that continues to fuel the series even in its current, eighth season.

Following the pattern established by the successful release of the show's first season on DVD, Fox has now given us The X-Files: The Complete Second Season. The season's 25 episodes are arranged 4 to a disc, on 6 dual-layered DVDs (the 7th disc contains 1 episode and most of the set's bonus materials). Here's a rundown of the episodes, along with the episode number and a brief synopsis of each:

Disc One

Little Green Men (2x01) - The X-Files division has been mothballed by the Bureau brass, and Mulder and Scully have been relegated to more mundane work (Mulder's tapping wires, while Scully teaches the finer points of forensic pathology at Quantico). But just when things look most desperate for Mulder's cause, his longtime sponsor, Senator Matheson, comes through with a tip - extraterrestrial contact's been made at a shutdown SETI research facility in Puerto Rico. The proof Mulder seeks may very well be waiting for him there... if he can beat an elite military team that's on its way to cover-up the evidence.

The Host (2x02) - People begin dying mysteriously in Newark, New Jersey, and Agent Mulder is assigned to the case. But what he thinks is a meaningless homicide investigation turns into a X-File, when the killer seems to be a strange creature living in the sewers.

Blood (2x03) - When a series of violent killings breaks out in Franklyn, Pennsylvania, the local P.D. is left scratching their heads at the lack of motive. And when Mulder's brought in to try to make sense of it all, what he discovers makes even less sense - machines that command people to "Kill 'Em All".

Sleepless (2x04) - The death of a researcher specializing in sleep disorders leads Agent Mulder and his brash new partner, Alex Krycek, to uncover a secret military project from the Vietnam War. They soon encounter the result of that effort - a soldier who'd literally kill for a good night's sleep.

Disc Two

Duane Barry (2x05) - Mulder and Krycek are called in to assist on a hostage negotiation, when it turns out that the perpetrator - an escaped mental patient named Duane Barry - believes himself to be the victim of alien abduction. Mulder initially believes his story, but doubts when Scully discovers that Barry's medical condition means he's probably lying. Unfortunately, Mulder learns he may have been right after all, when a piece of very unusual evidence leads Barry to his next victim - Agent Scully.

Ascension (2x06) - Duane Barry's on the run and he's got Scully with him. Now, it's up to Mulder and Krycek to find him before it's too late. But Barry's goal is to deliver Scully to his alien abductors, hoping they'll take her instead of him. And Krycek - along with the mysterious "Cancer Man" - may actually be helping him do it.

3 (2x07) - Scully's missing and the traitorous Krycek has disappeared as well. After weeks of searching, Mulder still has no leads. Fighting ever-increasing despair, Mulder's got only one thing going for him - the newly re-opened X-Files. But his first case alone, an investigation into a series of vampire-like killings in Los Angeles, only heightens his sense of isolation.

One Breath (2x08) - Without warning, some three months after her disappearance, Agent Scully mysteriously reappears in a local hospital. But she's in a coma, and her body shows signs of extremely unusual medical experimentation. As her condition deteriorates and her family struggles to cope with her impending death, Mulder's given an opportunity for revenge. But will he choose to take it... or remain at Scully's side?

Disc Three

Firewalker (2x09) - In their first case after being reunited, Mulder and Scully investigate a series of deaths among volcano researchers working in the field - deaths caused by an unknown (and possibly silicon-based) life form.

Red Museum (2x10) - When a number of Wisconsin teens are abducted and drugged in a small town, the locals believe a religious cult is to blame. But Mulder and Scully discover that unusual medical research is being conducted on the teens... possibly involving alien DNA.

Excelsius Dei (2x11) - When a nurse at a retirement home is raped by a seemingly invisible force, Mulder and Scully learn that the attacks may linked to angry spirits from beyond the grave... and that one of the elderly patients may be the focus of it all.

Aubrey (2x12) - In the town of Aubrey, Missouri, Mulder and Scully investigate a police detective who seems to be solving decades old murders by experiencing visions of the killings in her mind.

Disc Four

Irresistible (2x13) - Mulder drags Scully halfway across the country to investigate the mutilation of buried corpses at a graveyard in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The local Bureau guy thinks UFOs might be involved, but Mulder (who, it turns out, has tickets for he and Scully to take in a Vikings/Skins football game) decides it's just your garden variety escalating death fetishist. Unfortunately, the case hits a little too close to home when Scully becomes the fetishist's next target.

Die Hand Die Verletzt (2x14) - The agents look into the death of a New Hampshire teenager, who seems to be the victim of witchcraft. What they discover is that the local PTA's doing a lot more than just planning the next school fund-raiser. Nothing like that old Black Magic to keep the kids in line...

Fresh Bones (2x15) - When a pair of Marines dies mysteriously at a government processing center for Haitian refugees, Mulder and Scully investigate and discover that the evidence tells a strange tale of abuse, revenge and some seriously funky voodoo.

Colony (2x16) - When a UFO crashes into the ocean above the Arctic Circle, the pilot is rescued and promptly disappears. He soon begins killing doctors at abortion clinics across the United States - doctors who are identical but unrelated. Mulder and Scully realize that the men are clones, and Scully arranges protection for those that are left alive. Then, Mulder's long-lost sister Samantha suddenly appears with word that the pilot is really an alien bounty hunter, and that the clones are part of a colonization project. But the clones aren't the only thing the bounty hunter is after - he wants Samantha, and he takes Scully hostage to get her.

Disc Five

End Game (2x17) - Mulder asks Skinner's help in the exchange with the bounty hunter, hoping to get both Scully and his sister out alive. But things go bad, and both Samantha and the bounty hunter disappear, falling into an ice cold river. Samantha's body is pulled out the next day, but it looks like she wasn't what she claimed to be. Desperate to find some answers, Mulder pressures his informant, X, for the alien bounty hunter's location. Before long, Mulder finds himself trekking across the Arctic wilderness, in a race to reach the bounty hunter before the government can destroy him.

Fearful Symmetry (2x18) - Escaped animals from a zoo in Idaho are suspected of killing several people, but the evidence leads Mulder and Scully to believe that the real killer is a mysterious - and invisible - force.

Død Kalm (2x19) - Mulder leans that a Navy ship has mysteriously disappeared in the Atlantic, and the only survivor, a 28-year-old crewmen, appears to have aged a lifetime. Suspecting a connection to a rumored time-travel experiment, Mulder and Scully set out to find the ship and become trapped on it as their bodies age dramatically.

Humbug (2x20) - Mulder and Scully investigate a murder spree that seems connected to the residents of a town full of side-show circus performers. They soon discover that the killer has an unusual connection of his own.

Disc Six

The Calusari (2x21) - The agents investigate the death of a young boy, whose family is plagued by mysterious accidents - accidents which might be connected to an angry poltergeist.

F. Emasculata (2x22) - Mulder and Scully help in the hunt for a pair of prison escapees, only to discover that they're suffering from the effects of a deadly contagion. They soon learn that the prisoners are being used as human guinea pigs in secret government experiments to test a new biological weapon.

Soft Light (2x23) - The agents are called in to explain a series of unusual deaths, where the victims seem to have been vaporized. What they finds leads them to a nearby research company called Polarity Magnetics, where one of the physicists is literally afraid of his own shadow.

Our Town (2x24) - When people mysteriously disappear in a small Arkansas town, the investigation leads Mulder and Scully to a local meat processing plant and evidence of cannibalism.

Disc Seven

Anasazi (2x25) - In the season's cliffhanger finale, a hacker delivers Mulder a data tape containing his Holy Grail - secret Defense Department files on UFO activity. But the files are encrypted in Navaho, and Cancer Man will stop at nothing to get them back. It seems Mulder's father was involved in the Conspiracy, but just before he can confess to his son, he's killed by Alex Krycek. Meanwhile, Mulder's becoming more and more irrational, and Scully risks her career to keep him out of trouble. The trail leads them both to New Mexico, where a former Navaho code-talker named Albert Hosteen agrees to translate the files. But Albert reveals that the desert is hiding an even more shocking secret. Just as Mulder appears on the brink of blowing the lid of the Conspiracy, Cancer Man and his men arrive to destroy the evidence... and Mulder along with it.

So there you have the episodes - intrigued yet? In terms of quality, these DVDs deliver terrific looking full frame video, that I think may even be a slight improvement over the Season One discs. The picture is crisp and clear, with accurate, if occasionally muted, color (a stylistic choice - not a color-timing problem), excellent contrast and very good detail. There's still grain visible, but that's the way this show is supposed to look - dark and gritty, and it has a lot to do with the film stocks and lighting choices made during production. The video also still retains a slightly digital look, but it's nothing you don't see in the network TV broadcasts. More importantly, if you've only ever seen these episodes on TV, you simply don't know what you're missing. Trust me - they look WAY better on DVD.

The sound is also much improved over what you experience in TV broadcasts, if only because the Dolby Digital 2.0 surround audio seems to be more somewhat encompassing. This isn't terribly active surround sound, but it works very well to convey all that spooky ambience and it's a perfect match for the visuals. Dialogue is clear and clean, there's solid bass and composer Mark Snow's eerie soundtrack really gets under your skin.

Once again, though, it's the extras that you might find surprising. There's a lot of good material here, and there's definitely more than what was included on The Complete First Season. Most of the material is found on Disc Seven, but a few things are spread over the other discs in the set, most notably clips from various episodes in multiple languages. There are some 20 international clips in all, in dubbed Japanese, German, Spanish and Italian. You also get 4 deleted scenes, which you can watch separately or using a "Follow the White Rabbit" style multi-angle feature in the context of the episodes they came from. Did you know that the character of X was originally played by a woman? Well, now you do. You get 3 "behind-the-scenes" clips, including one in which we see the production crew building that cool submarine conning tower from End Game. There are also some 49 brief TV spots for the season's various episodes, which appeared on Fox and the FX Network. And we're just now getting to the good stuff!

You also get 9 Behind the Truth segments for various second season episodes, which are little looks at various aspects of the production as seen on FX. Then there's a 14-minute featurette, The Truth Behind Season Two, which includes cool interviews with series creator Chris Carter, producer/director Rob Bowman, producer/writer Frank Spotnitz and various supporting cast members (but sadly not David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson). They talk about the developing storylines and characters, and relate funny production anecdotes from the season. Best of all, you get 12 insightful interview clips with Carter, in which he discusses various aspects of his particular favorite episodes from the season - very cool. Finally, Disc Seven also includes another DVD-ROM interactive trivia game (this one called Unholy Alliances), along with the usual studio weblinks. If I were going to pick nits, I'd say that I still want to see more of Duchovny and Anderson on the bonus side, since particularly David Duchovny appears unlikely to return to the show for a ninth season (so if you producers are gonna get him talking about the series on camera, now's the time to do it). And I'd LOVE to see things like Easter Eggs - bloopers anyone? But I have to say that I really dig the deleted scenes and the Carter interviews that we've gotten so far. Hey Fox - please keep 'em coming!

Once again, Fox has really delivered a package to please even the most fervent X-Files fan. The studio is really writing the book on how to do TV product on DVD with these sets. And since the ninth season of The X-Files is likely to be mostly Mulder and Scully-less, I'm savoring these early episodes all the more. Thankfully, The X-Files: The Complete Third Season is tentatively slated for DVD release in May. So right about the time Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are replaced by Agents John Doggett and Monica Reyes (gasp!), we'll have at least another 24 episodes of the good stuff to drown our sorrows in. And we can always hope that Fox dangles some major bank under Duchovny's nose to get him back one last year... right?

Bill Hunt
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