So we actually got some answers. I'm sure they're all made pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but Paper Clip to me worked best as a heavy barrage of revelations. It's also a successful action episode, full of memorable moments like Skinner's smack-down of The CSM and Mulder witnessing the UFO overhead. Crazy epic.
In terms of the show's mythology, Paper Clip is a doozy. We not only have the show's conspiracies firmly rooted in real-life events, but we're also made aware of a terrifying Sophie's Choice-style abduction dictated by Mulder's father, in which he had to choose whether Fox or Samantha should remain with their family. The drama has always been personal for Mulder, but these revelations only help in making that fact even more obvious. He's now a key player in the show as a whole, not merely a bystander pursuing people who he may be tangently connected with.
Greater evolution is given to The Cigarette Smoking Man. For two seasons he was explicitly presented as the big bad behind everything, the mysterious cancer man in the shadows operating alone and the master behind the elaborate conspiracies and cover-ups Mulder and Scully were investigating. But, in Paper Clip, he's exposed as, well... kind of a loser. I don't know if it's William B. Davis' increasingly shrill performance (I'm probably the only one, but is there something a little annoyingly transparent about his acting of late?), but he's suddenly such a pathetic character, seen as unreliable by his fellow Syndicate members and desperately clinging on to whatever power he once had. Ugh. Go away, little man.
While Krycek continues to be used in a frustratingly obtuse way, and scenes involving Skinner getting physically attacked are becoming a dime a dozen, Paper Clip is an elegantly scripted thriller and a great conclusion to the three-parter. The X-Files itself feels different, as if it’s about to embark on a whole new league of storytelling with a greater confidence and greater belief in its characters. Rating A-
Guest stars Mitch Pileggi (A.D. Walter Skinner); Walter Gotell (Victor Klemper); Melinda McGraw (Melissa Scully); Sheila Larken (Margaret Scully); Nicholas Lea (Alex Krycek); William B. Davis (The Cigarette Smoking Man); John Neville (The Well Manicured Man); Tom Braidwood (Melvin Frohike); Dean Haglund (Ringo Langley); Bruce Harwood (John Fitzgerald Byers); Floyd Red Crow Westerman (Albert Hosteen)
Writer Chris Carter Director Rob Bowman