The latest episode underscores some of what's best, and most aggravating, about this second-year series, as FBI agent Dana Sculley (Anderson) mysteriously turns up comatose in a hospital after her abduction by aliens or shadowy government operatives (take your pick) a few weeks ago.

The latest episode underscores some of what’s best, and most aggravating, about this second-year series, as FBI agent Dana Sculley (Anderson) mysteriously turns up comatose in a hospital after her abduction by aliens or shadowy government operatives (take your pick) a few weeks ago.

Told that Sculley will likely die, her partner, Fox Mulder (David Duchovy), searches to find out what’s happened to her, calling on his new “Deep Throat” (Steven Williams) — who, in the episode’s best moment, demonstrates to Mulder the depths to which he has to sink to take on the faceless enemy he’s fighting.

Meanwhile, in a “Twin Peaks”-esque flourish, the viewer is privy to what’s going on inside Sculley’s head, as she floats in a rowboat tethered just off the shore.

There’s a certain pretentiousness in the script by co-exec producers James Wong and Glen Morgan, and while still fascinating, the show has lost some steam this year, a problem it will apparently address with Mulder and Sculley’s reunion and the X-Files unit’s reactivation.

That said, the series remains one of the most slickly produced hours on television, notable for its cryptic endings (there’s another one here) and sharp , intelligent writing. Duchovny’s mix of paranormal-obsessed geek and dispassionate investigator of the unknown also continues to impress, providing a moral center to the odd goings on. Mitch Pileggi is also strong as his stern boss.

Even so, “The X-Files’ ” highlights remain in its macabre and sometimes grisly approach to the latenight monster genre — providing creepy-good scares.

With Anderson back on her feet and the files reopening, let’s hope new bouts of queasiness are just over the horizon.

After a bizarre arc of early-season episodes — designed in part to work around star Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy — one looks forward to “The X-Files” getting back to the A-B-C’s of monster-chasing. Still intriguing, the show has shifted this season to a mix of paranoia and cloak-and-dagger espionage that strays too far from its roots as a latter-day “The Nightstalker.”

The X-Files One Breath

(Fri. (11), 9-10 p.m., Fox)

Production

Filmed in British Columbia, Canada by Ten Thirteen Prods. in association with Twentieth TV. Executive producer, Chris Carter; co-exec producers, James Wong, Glen Morgan, R.W. Goodwin; supervising producer, Howard Gordon; producers, Joseph Patrick Finn, Paul Brown, David Nutter; co-producer, Paul Rabwin; associate producer, Crawford Hawkins; director, Goodwin; writers, Morgan, Wong.

Crew

Camera, John S. Bartley; editor, James Coblentz; art director, Graeme Murray; sound, Michael Williamson; music, Mark Snow.

Cast

Cast: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Sheila Larken, Melinda McGraw, Mitch Pileggi, Steven Williams, William B. Davis, Don Davis, Jay Brazeau, Nicola Cavendish, Lorena Gale.
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