The X-Files

Season 2 Episode 6

Ascension (2)

Aired Monday 9:00 PM Oct 21, 1994 on FOX

Episode Fan Reviews (16)

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  • "Duane Barry"/"Ascension" features many defining moments and characterize"The X-Files" more sharply than anything else that has appeared in the series so far


    While I was never convinced of Duane Barry's story, he struck me as a deranged man, whose story was wholly untrustworthy, I was convinced by Steve Railsback's performance. When dealing with someone so divorced from reality as a brain damaged psychotic, even direct evidence in the form of scars and assorted implants does not "prove" his story. We still have to rely on his testimony, and what he thought he saw may not have been what was really happening.

    Steve Railsback gives a fantastic performance, probably the best guest starring role to date. In a few scenes he showed a shy geniality and an almost childlike bafflement.

    While Railsback gives an amazing performance, I am a bit reluctant to criticize David Duchovny's performance in this two parter; he is carrying a hell of a load in Gillian Anderson's virtual absence. In "Little Green Men" and "Ice", he has shown us that Mulder can show strong emotion believably. Parts of "Duane Barry" show his intensity, his command of nuance and implication, his sharp grasp of understatement and control. Having said all that, however, I have to say he disappointed me in this story. I know Fox Mulder is not given to hysterics, but there comes a point when you have to pull out some stops. Like Sam Spade says in "The Maltese Falcon":

    "When a man's partner has been killed, he's supposed to do something about it. It doesn't make any difference what you thought of him, he's your partner and you're supposed to do something about it."

    When Mulder found Scully's necklace, when Duane Barry (the only witness to her whereabouts) died, I needed to see some reaction from him. Consider the resonances of this story for Fox Mulder: the only person in the world whom he trusts has been snatched away from him, while he is powerless to do anything about it--just like his sister. A normal man would be driven half mad with guilt and anger and fear. Mulder either looks sleepy or puzzled. Duchovny neither raises nor lowers the temperature, right up to the last scene. Is he looking for Dana Scully in the stars, or figuring his income tax? From his face, you could never tell.

    Despite this, overall I absolutely loved this two part story arc. I cheered when Deputy Director Skinner re-opened the X- Files. How typical that he did it in a fit of pique, rather than as an administrator who saw, finally, the value of those extreme possibilities. I must give writer Paul Brown credit, however, for not making Walter Skinner a hopelessly evil bad guy. This scene was one of the best of the entire story, showing Skinner as a frustrated, hard-nosed cop who cannot seem to get a grip either on the slippery characters he's up against or the obsessed agent before him. In fact, this time around he was more human than Mulder.

    But the highlight of this two part story arc, aside from Railsback's perfomance, was the introduction of Krychek: Rat Boy. Everyones favorite double crossing double agent. He's my third favorite character of all time, after Scully and Mulder of course. Although I can't help but feel the scene where he double crosses Mulder could have been so much more effective if it had not already been revealed to us who he was really working for. That information shouldn't have been revealed until the end. Aside from that minor detail, I still give this story arc a 9.5 out of ten. IF revealing Krychek as a spy had been handled better, I'd be giving this a perfect 10.

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