The X-Files (1994) – Duane Barry, and Ascension

In its second season, The X-Files really got to show us what it could do, and the first two episodes up this week form a pair of my favourites, in a season packed with standout episodes (and a couple of clunkers).

Agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Krycek (Nicholas Lea) are called in on a hostage situation in Duane Barry. Written and directed by series creator Chris Carter, this one first aired on 14 October, 1994.

Duane Barry (Steve Railsback) is a former FBI agent, who has been sequestered in a mental health care facility due to his belief that aliens have abducted him in the past. He grabs his doctor, Hakkie (Frank C. Turner) and the employees and customers at a travel agency, holding them hostage; he’s intent on offering them someone else.

Pulled in on the crisis, Mulder has some friction with the tactical leader, Agent Lucy Kazdin (CCH Pounder), who keeps information from him, and also doesn’t subscribe to Barry’s claims.

Mulder offers himself up as a hostage, with Scully (Gillian Anderson) watching from the sidelines (they still haven’t been officially reunited). She is hunting down information on Barry, and comes to a terrifying realisation – Duane Barry may not be who Mulder thinks he is.

But the physical trace evidence recovered from Barry’s body after the crisis is settled suggests something unusual… but before that can be followed up on… Barry grabs Scully, and delivers us a To Be Continued tag!

It’s a fantastically scripted episode, brushing up against the mythology arc, while also telling a terrifying alien abduction story (or is it?) and at different points puts both of our lead characters in some serious jeopardy.

Ascension was written by Paul Brown and aired on 21 October, 1994 and continues the Scully abduction arc.

Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy pays off for her character in this episode, when, towards the end, we get a glimpse (?) of what may have been done to her.

But first, Mulder and Krycek have to track down Duane Barry and discover where he is taking Scully in his attempt to offer up someone else to the ‘aliens’ (?).

And for the second time, the opening titles end with something other than ‘The Truth Is Out There.’ This time we are told to ‘Deny Everything.’ The episode also brings in all the mythology players that have been introduced so far including Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), CSM (William B. Davis) and X (Steven Williams).

It serves as a great follow-up to the previous episode, and continues its suggestion that there are other forces involved in the conspiracy, not just the ‘aliens.’

I keep using quotes for aliens because we can’t be sure thats what they are. We are only shown so much, and despite wanting to believe, we can’t take it for granted that what the shows gives us is the truth.

I also love that the hunt wears down a lot on both Scully and Mulder, by episode’s end, they have both been through the wringer. And of course, we know there will be the betrayal by Krycek… which is too bad because they work well together, and if they hadn’t given the reveal already it would have been a real shock when it happened in this episode.

But Skinner realises the best option to drag the dark forces into the light is to reopen the X-files, so even as the episode closes, with Scully missing, Mulder is reinstated in his work.

Still the truth is out there, and Mulder is determined to find it and Scully… But first he’ll have to get through one of the worst episodes of the second season.

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