The X-Files

Season 4 Episode 21

Zero Sum

Aired Monday 9:00 PM Apr 27, 1997 on FOX

Episode Fan Reviews (8)

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out of 10
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  • Zero Sum

    Zero Sum was a superbly entertaining episode of The X-Files and I really enjoyed watching because there was action, intrigue and suspense as Skinner is forced to do the dirty work of the Cigarette Smoking Man. It was great watching Mulder investigate the crimes Skinner committed and how the characters and their roles in what was happening all intertwined. The Bee scene was scary and it was sad to see what happened to the kids and the teacher. Skinner makes a point to the Cigarette Smoking Man who, it is revealed, in cahoots with one of Mulder's information sources.
  • Skinner tries to find a cure for Scully

    I think it was pretty brave of the show to throw an episode near the end of the season with no Scully, no Mulder for the first fifteen minutes or so and not much of a plot for quite a long time. Instead, we get Skinner doing something very out of character for him: destroying evidence. It's clear he's up to something mysterious, but I like how the show doesn't let us know right away.

    As a result, the episode turns into a stand-alone episode while being somewhat connected to a mini-arc that began back in Season 2 with Scully's abduction. We soon learn that Skinner is working for the Cigarette Man, something that was hinted at earlier in the season in "Memento Mori." However, we see soon enough what it is Skinner is involved in, and soon, Mulder figures it out.

    I really liked that characters that aren't used as well throughout the show or are used inconsistently/ in stupid ways were used to great effect here. Laurie Holden's character, who I don't even know the name of, didn't have much to do here, but at least I got the sense that she would be important in the upcoming episodes. I hope she comes to have as much importance as "X" or "Deep Throat," some of Mulder's help in the past.

    We also get a sideplot that has to do with bees infected with smallpox killing people and the C.S.M killing people who could get in their way. I liked the fact that this group of government agents were creating something involved with smallpox... that scene where the school was attacked was horrifying, and I hope that the writers keep focusing on these plots over the next few episodes.. or even over next season.
  • The Birds As Bees

    There is a fair amount revealed and confirmed here but it takes a while getting there. The first third moves at a glacial pace as we watch Skinner methodically scrub the bathroom grout, clean the mirrors and walls, ditch the body in a furnace (ever notice how many times a furnace is used in the episodes?) and then get dressed. It gets a bit tedious. I also didn't need to see Skinner in his tidy whities. Eek!

    Things do pick up a bit, but it is all a bit predictable, especially if one recalls Skinner's Faustian bargain struck with CSM earlier in "Herrenvolk." Are we surprised when CSM ups the ante by killing the detective, causing Skinner to want out? Or that CSM implicates Skinner in the murder as insurance for his continued cooperation?

    And yes, the schoolyard scene references "The Birds" but not nearly as well. In fact, the schoolyard scene struck me as a bit mean-spirited and over-the-top, especially with the depiction of the teacher thrashing wildly about on the ground like a ragdoll.

    All in all, a decent episode that furthers the Myth arc in a significant way, albeit somewhat slowly.
  • Walter Skinner helps The Cigarette Man to save Scully's life

    Well, my first review... And I chose this episode because I saw it today. It is a good episode. First, we see Skinner deleting some files in Mulder's computer and we think he's not who we thought he was... But as the episode goes on we see Skinner as a sensitive man who was covering a murder in order to save Scully's life. He was helping the cigarette man because the bad guy told him he could save agent Scully. This episode also shows us the conspiracy about the bees and what they were doing in the fields when Samantha's clones were find by Mulder.

    Not one of the best episodes but a nice one though.
  • Hahah, I pick random episodes to review :D

    Ohhkayyy so ! Hahah, this episode was pretty freakin good, I love Skinner, so a Skinner / Mytharc / CSM episode had to be freaking amazing ! The whole time I was like what the hell are yu doing Skinner ? Until of course CSM was like if you want a cure for Scully then shut up and do what your told. Yea, so this is pretty much me rambling but whatever, the episode was good, what else do I need to say ? I could rant at you about how wonderful Chris Carter's writing is, but I'm not gonna, so.. yea.. Watch the episode.. it was good :D
  • Skinner scum

    Mulder launches a crimainal investigation into a bizare death in which the cheif suspect appears to be his own superior- Skinner. This is a brilliant episode. At first we have death by killer bees and then we have 10 minutes of Skinner covering up what happened, followed by cancer man messing things up.
    Again we have some brilliant acting from the x-files cast as usuall. We can also see some character development from Skinner as we see he only wants the best for Skullys health.
    This was one of the first X-files i saw as a kid and when i saw it again it was as good as i remebered.
  • The one where Skinner works for Cancer Man

    ‘Zero Sum’ is yet another very impressive episode even though it begins rather slowly.

    A chick gets killed by a lot of bees in the bathroom but then Skinner tries to erase all the evidence, firstly he burns her body and destroys everything else. Then an investigator that send everything to Mulder gets murdered with Skinner’s gun.

    Skinner was working for Cancer Man because that would have been the way that CSM would cure Scully who is lying in the hospital.

    Skinner gets upset about the guy being dead and wants nothing to do with it but CSM says that if he tries to stop, he will get the blame.
    Skinner then tries to find out more about the bees, he finds out that they bring small pocks and are made to kill.

    Meanwhile Mulder finds out about Skinner working for CSM and confronts him. But when Skinner tells him the truth he trusts him and doesn’t question his boss. Skinner also tries to get a hold of Marita and they meet, she tells him that he has to tell her if he knows who is behind this all.

    The most impressive scene of the episode was on the playground where the bees attack some children and murder a teacher. Also Skinner confronting CSM and threatening to kill him and even shot him three times just past his head.
    I also love Marita who is a very interesting and mysterious character that turns out to be working with CSM.
    This was another brilliant episode with loads of character development.
  • An exercice in Hitchcock

    If any episode ever came close to matching true Hitchcockian suspense, it's "Zero Sum". This is an exhilarating little gem, a totally unlikely winner. Imagine an episode where Scully doesn't appear and where Mulder is the antagonist. Imagine Skinner helping to destroy evidence in an X-File.

    Sounds like it could never happen, but there you go: We have a winner!

    A most inventive script puts Skinner in a position to do the Cigarette Smoking Man's dirty work in order to obtain a cure for Scully - as alluded to at the end of "Memento Mori". What follows is exciting, revealing, shocking every step of the way. For as the AD slides deeper and deeper into his predicament, he also learns more about one mytharc mystery we haven't heard from since "Herrenvolk": What purpose do the bee colonies serve in the masterplan of colonization? The answer: Distribute smallpox (or another copntagious agent) to a large population, the test run of which is shown in one of the most shocking scenes in The X Files run (and a great hommage to "The Birds"), as a group of school children is attacked by a swarm of bees, and their teacher killed.

    Aside from the mytharc revelations (including an absolute stunner in the end when we learn that Marita Covarrubias is working with CSM), "Zero Sum" succeeds in all departments that make great X-Files: character depth as we see Skinner put his career and life on the line out of compassion for Scully, thrills and surprises a go-go, including one well-done moment towards the end when it briefly appears that Skinner has shot CSM, and some spooky paranormal goings-on with bees carrying smallpox and attacking people.

    No complaints can be issued about this episode. Highest recommendation.
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