While I had originally planned to do a review this week, a bit of news had changed that. Just recently, Fox Media had confirmed rumors and speculation about a new X-Files series. While Carter had both planned to make another movie after the lackluster 2008 film, “I Want to Believe”, there hadn’t been much news outside of fan speculation. Fast Forward a couple years and the series was officially continued through the limited-series of comic books aptly named “Season 10”. But even then, this was more so a gift to the fans rather than continuing the ongoing series. That said, we have at least 6 new episodes of the television show to look forward to. However, I’m not here to focus on the upcoming series so much as look back at the classic series. Or rather, I’m here to look at ten of my favorite episodes! Some are amazing, some have been panned by critics, and some are just wonderfully weird. As you’d expect, there is probably an amount of overlap with what other fans have said. But hey, there’s plenty of episodes worth remembering by a large group of people. One more thing! While I tried to avoid a lot of spoilers, there are still quite a few ahead, so take heed if you haven’t finished the series yet. More after the jump.
Honorable Mention: Existence – Season 8, Episode 21
This episode pays off a lot of anxieties Scully has dealt with over the past couple years involving baring and raising a child. Plus, this episode marks the end of an era for the two, even though Mulder returned after a terrifying and gruesome abduction just a couple episodes prior. Also, the episode has a fair share of interesting nasties that agents Scully and Reyes put up with before the baby is welcomed into the world. While the episode goes on about the mysterious Baby William, we get closure at the end with Mulder’s statement of “The Truth, we both know.” Sadly, this would be the last time Duchovny would appear on the X-Files until the series finale. For the most part, this episode made a decent departure for his character.
Other Honorable Mention: Die Hand Die Verletzt – Season 2, Episode 14
There are few episodes in the series that are as atmospheric as this one, in my opinion at least. While the topic of religion in the series has tended to be handled with straw-men, boring stereotypes, and borderline offensive cliches, this one feels truly different to me. The story revolves around two groups of characters, students who jokingly performed a demonic rite (only for it to go… well, “horribly right”) and a PTA staff that tried to give up their Satanic faith in order to live a “normal life” and raise a family. The kids are just innocent hooligans, while the PTA are just trying to protect themselves from an ignorant community and a wrathful master. While the Devil looks to make their unfaithful pay, Scully and Mulder try to get past what looks like waves of zealous paranoia and finger pointing. The cinematography and lighting make this a particularly creepy episode, the characters are great, and it’s one certainly worth watching just fun (on Devil’s Night, no less!) And even without those things, it does a religious horror episode right. Plus, if a lot of the troperiffic scenes are any indicator (complete with toads dubbed with typical sound effects), the episode doesn’t take itself too seriously.
10. Bad Blood – Season 5, Episode 12
Like something out of Rashomon (or Jose Chung’s), we get a story from multiple perspectives involving “vampire attacks” in Texas. While previous attempts at an episode with vampires (I’m looking at you, “3”) have been mediocre at best, this one uses a bit of humor to turn it into something amazing. Mulder’s obsessions and Scully’s skepticism are played up to wonderful levels, similar to other humorous episodes (like War of the Coprophages). This wild goose chase takes countless twists and turns as certain aspects of the story are exaggerated due to (at times hilarious) biases. Combine this with Luke Wilson’s police officer character and Mulder pretending to be Isaac Hayes and you have a fun episode on your hands.
9. X-Cops – Season 7, Episode 12
I’m one to only accept metahumor in small doses, but this is a wonderful episode. The premise is the Cops television show tracks down agents Scully and Mulder during one of their investigations. Sure, plenty of people hate this episode, find it annoying or what have you. I can almost see their case, hence why I didn’t put this episode any higher. That said, we get some great insight into the relationship with Scully and Mulder. And while Mulder often gets to the evidence too late and Scully remains skeptical (as the show’s formula often goes), this time Mulder is proven to be right and Scully is wrong. While some could argue other episodes handled it better (such as Quagmire, among some voices), we gain insight through an outsider perspective… or in this case, the crossover with Cops. Plus, the horror aspect of this could have fallen flat, but holds up surprisingly well. And for someone who loathes found footage style films, that’s quite the compliment. X-Cops should have been horrible, it is considerably one of the most experimental and creative to make up for the downright silly concept behind it. While opinions are divided on it, I’ve found it to be a magnificent episode that totally blew my (admittedly lower) expectations
8. The Host – Season 2, Episode 2
If you ever needed more evidence that New Jersey sucks and deserves to be the butt of the United States’ jokes, watch this episode. The episode starts with our agents downgraded after the X-Files itself goes busto! As a result, the agents are sent to look at some disgusting reports coming from Newark’s sewage system. Despite this embarrassing task, the situation proves to very much be an X-File of its own! Something really unusual is dwelling within the pipes and attacking civilians. What is it? I’m still not sure what it is! Sure, the episode tells you, but all I see is one of the most disgusting things to ever come from the series.
7. Piper Maru – Season 3, Episode 15
This mythology episode introduced one of my favorite menaces to the series, the disgusting ZALGO-esque ooze known as “Black Oil”. This alien life form is a parasite that travels through an oil like and hijacks its hosts throughout the series. As for this episode itself, it revolves around a multi generational conspiracy revolving military men sent to retrieve a sunk plane from the ocean, only for the soldiers to be exposed to extreme radiation and some sort of madness. Majority of the crew died immediately or not too long after, save for one soldier in Scully’s family. What horror lurked within that plane? If you see a weird black and murky look in some of the characters’ eyes, I think you’ll get a good idea. Overall, a nice multi part story filled with action, as well as a solid introduction to a mainstay antagonist. Plus, you get a look at the early years of everyone’s favorite Cancer Man.
6. The End – Season 5, Episode 20
Sure, it’s a tie-in to the movie, but it’s a damn fine one at that! Like in previous lead ups to the season finale, shit gets real! Now, the series is no stranger to having the files as a whole be threatened! Whether it’s having the section closed after a major murder, having a fellow agent being abducted by a former agent, or going too far into government business; the show knows how to keep us on the edge. The central plot around this revolves the recent assassination of a chess grandmaster champion. After countless searching, as well as some well placed traps, the real target is unveiled. But in the process, the agents discover that the puppet masters have been buying time in order to put some of their plans into action. The most dramatic of these actions being the whole basement archive being destroyed at the hands of the Cigarette Smoking Man. It’s a fantastic conclusion to what was intended to be a transition from television to cinema. In a sense, it’s like the end of Season 5 of Supernatural… which also was intended to be the closing of the series.
5.Clyde Bruckman’s Last Repose – Season 3, Episode 4
An episode about a serial killer who targets psychics is ripe as an episode premise of its own, but what makes it all the more fascinating is the titular character. Unlike other people with psychic gifts, he is able to see how people die. Ironically, he’s a life insurance salesman with an appropriate dour outlook on life itself, given the circumstances. As you’d expect, it’s a harrowing and existentially draining experience. After all he’s been through, he just wants his death to be a peaceful one, as his vision imagines his rotting upon a tranquil meadow. With his help and an eccentric psychic called “The Stupendous Yappi”, they try to track the serial killer before he claims more victims and leaves morbid displays with their remains. Bruckman’s prediction about Mulder possibly dying leads to a thrilling conclusion with the serial killer. The (sadly late) actor, Peter Boyle, who played Bruckman was the recipient of Emmy for outstanding guest actor for his excellent role. This is also the episode that introduced the short lived little doggie, Queequeg, for better or worse.
4. Humbug – Season 2, Episode 20
While the intent wasn’t the carry the atmosphere of the above, it still does a good job being a pretty creepy episode. However, what makes this episode particularly joyful is the agents are the joke of the episode. The locals don’t care for them and continuously belittle or pull one over on them. The scenes that really make the episode for me is how the explanation behind the Fiji Mermaid pretty much sums up the episode; total subversion of your expectations, because you’re too busy making assumptions. To me, what makes this theme is three themes: the antagonist’s review, the passive-aggressive hotel owner and my favorite scene in the episode! More or less, Scully investigates a sideshow museum. After paying a couple bucks to check out some “disturbing evidence” the curator own, it turns out it’s just an empty box with a laugh track to mock her for falling for an old carnival trick, complete with the exit sign lighting up as the door opens. To top it off, the Conundrum is revealed to be far more socially aware than what was let on earlier by delivering one hell of a finishing punchline for the episode.
3. Home – Season 4, Episode 2
Remember how I said #5 was one of the scariest? Quite frankly, it has NOTHING on this episode. Home is an infamous entry in the series, as it’s the only episode to receive a TV-MA rating. Sure, television nearly 20 years later could probably push this to have a TV-14 rating. Also consider that newer series like American Horror Story get away with worse, but it was still a terrifying product of its time. As for the episode itself, it takes the tropes of the backwoods mutated inbred psychopath and deconstructs it for the X-Files universe. The result is as disgusting and gruesome as it is horrifying. The main antagonists are the Peacock Family, who haven’t changed since they moved into the residence well over 100 or so years ago. This all changes when an infant somehow born from a household supposedly filled with all men is buried and later discovered by children playing baseball. Local law enforcement warn Scully and Mulder about leaving the household alone. After the family catches onto the team’s investigation, they begin to go “all caveman” on anyone trying disrupt their family secret. Thrilling from start to finish, filled with gripping suspense, pouring with horror that most movies in the mid-90s couldn’t dream of capturing, and grotesque without being excessive or schlocky; this episode remains the most notorious for all of the right reasons. To be honest, the only other episode to come close in terms of sheer terror is “Irresistable” with disturbing death-fetishist/implied necrophiliac “Donnie Pfaster” as the villain. On an unrelated note, this is really one of the first episodes to go into Scully really pondering over children and the possibility of even having one herself.
2. Pilot – Season 1, Episode 1
The humble beginning of the series all started here. Scully, initially uninterested in Mulder’s whacky ideas, is sent to crack down on the insane conspiracies and general embarrassment of the FBI. At first Mulder is critical, accusing Scully as being just another pawn to screw him over. While Scully doesn’t believe any of his ideas, she’s put to the test while investigating disappearances of a group of friends who all graduated from the same grade, in addition to a comatose patient reportedly taking his peers into the woods. While the menace isn’t exactly shown, you know cosmic forces are at work and defying the impossible. The two work together as best as they can to try to get past local authorities and other roadblocks to keep them from unveiling the truth behind an extraterrestrial conspiracy. Unlike many other pilots, this tells you exactly what you need to know and will expect out of the series. You have strange cases with the unexplained in addition to an overarching plot involving an alien menace. You have corrupt factions within the government and various corporations trying to prevent the spread of knowledge. And you have two characters trying to push back the relentless pressure and force against them.
1. Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’ – Season 3, Episode 20
Remember how I said in the beginning I wasn’t big on metahumor? Well, I sort of lied. But not entirely, you see. I like it done in a way that really plays with the mythology (see what I did there?) and central ideas of a series… and that’s exactly what this episode does! More or less, the episode is a dialogue with a famed author who wants to create a “non-fiction science fiction” book about survivors of alien encounters. Almost everyone who “encountered” the same sight has banal, contradictory, downright silly stories involving Men In Black who look like famous stars, inconclusive connections between aliens, military men (and the cigarette smoking man perhaps?), and the doctor speaking with the abductees during their interviews with the agents, and we can’t forget about the mighty power of LORD KINBOTE! What strikes me as wonderful is how reluctant Mulder is to talk with a man who wants to write about their experiences, only for the ever skeptical Scully to show up in his place and tell about the possibly false cases. While the stereotypical sci-fi nerd who learned “courage” from “playing Dungeons & Dragons” should have read as a mean jab at the fans, it only added to the meta strangeness that fuels this magnificent episode. Not to mention, the amount of in-universe shout outs are too wonderful to spoil here. All the ridiculous stories throughout the episode are wrapped up as Chung informs the audience what’s really going on. This brilliant deconstruction of the show demonstrates just how absurd both the premise is and how absurd the show can go (especially with its less than wonderful episodes.) And in a sense, this episode is the show, what makes it great, and sometimes what the show has to deal with and what we as fans have to accept/look past. Combine this with how the scenes play out like what you’d expect from both golden era sci-fi and Lucas/Spielberg movies (especially in the introduction) and it plays out as a meta commentary on science fiction as a whole! What should have ended up as pretentious rubbish has become my favorite episode of the series. “They found your bleeping UFO!”
So there you have it! That’s my list of favorite episodes, along with some runners up that almost made the list. So, while you’re waiting for the new episodes to air, why not check out some of these classics in the meantime! Also, I’d like to extend this post to all of you reading this. What were your favorite episodes and why?