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With the original conspiracy plot arc having fallen into a muddle of loose ends, once-hungry lead actors on the verge of big-screen careers and making demands for more time off or shots at writing and directing, and the initial wish list of monsters-of-the-week long exhausted, it's a miracle that by its seventh season The X-Files was still making its airdates, let alone managing something pretty good every other show and something outstanding at least once every four episodes. The season opens with a dreary two-parter ("Sixth Extinction" and "Amor Fati") and winds up with the traditional incomprehensible cliffhanger ("Requiem"), but along the way includes a clutch of episodes that may not match the originality of earlier seasons but still effortlessly equal any other fantasy-horror sci-fi on television. The highlights: "Hungry," a brain-eating mutant story told from the point of view of a monster who tries to control his appetite by going to eating disorder self-help groups; "The Goldberg Variation," a crime comedy about a weasely little man who has the gift of incredible good luck, which means Wile E. Coyote-style doom for anyone who crosses him; "The Amazing Maleeni," guest-starring Ricky Jay in a rare nonfantastic crime story about a feud between stage magicians that turns out to be a cover for a heist; "X-Cops," a brilliant skit on the TV docusoap Cops with Mulder and Scully caught on camera as they track an apparent werewolf in Los Angeles (season-best acting from David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson); "Theef," a complex revenge drama with gaunt Billy Drago as a hillbilly medicine man stalking a slick doctor; "Brand X," a horror-comic tale of corruption in the tobacco industry; "Hollywood AD" (written and directed by Duchovny), in which Tea Leoni (Duchovny's wife) and Garry Shandling are cast as Scully and Mulder in a crass movie version of a real-life X-file; and "Je Souhaite," a deadpan comedy about a wry, cynical genie at the mercy of trailer-trash masters who haven't an idea what to wish for.

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FX2258401 X Files Season 7 DVD (1999) $39.98 $35.99