Top 5 'X-Files' Episodes: 20th Birthday Edition
The X-Files has turned twenty!
Yep. That feeling in your gut? That's age. Toying with your innards. Don't feel bad, though. We're all feeling old today. Which is ironic, as 20 is actually pretty young.
The show ran for nine seasons, with two films tacked on, and is now living on in the form of 'Season Ten', the comic book series produced and canonised (meaning it's official lore, not that it's been named a saint by The Pope) by Chris Carter, creator of the series. The X-Files blew minds, and pants, all over the world, and has an ardent following. Including myself. What's that, Fox? You want me to snuggle with you?
Here's the thing, though: nine seasons is a lot to trawl through. And whilst I pretty much demand that The X-Files deserves nothing less than a complete viewing, front to back, here are my five favourite episodes. This was an incredibly hard list to compile. By which I mean whilst compiling it, I was continually distracted by pictures of David Duchovny.
Note: These are standalone episodes, commonly referring to as 'monster of the week' episodes. Pretty much everything from the overarching mythos - the black ooze, the conspiracies, the super soldiers - is pure gold, and you're not going to enjoy the show unless you inhale it all in one big, guttural breath. But these are my five personal favourites in terms of monster of the week stories. I think. Even as I write this, about fifty are jostling for contention in my head, but screw it. Here we go.
5. John Doe (Season 9, Episode 7)
This episode is going to be a controversial choice, but to hell with it. I love John Doggett. Swathes of fans bailed on the show when Mulder left (though to be fair, he left for a while, then came back, then left again, then came back); Duchovny had other stuff to shoot, so a new agent was introduced to fill the gaps. John Doggett, played by Robert Patrick, is amazing. Craggy, husky, dry and totally devoid of belief (at least initially). And this episode is arguably his finest; he wakes up in Mexico with no memory of who he is or how he got there. This is the episode that made me fall in love with Doggett.
…For, like, the fifth time since he was introduced. What can I say, I love the guy.
4. Bad Blood (Season 5, Episode 12)
Bad Blood is one of the funniest episodes of the X-Files, which is saying something; the show was littered with terrific comic moments. Bad Blood, however, is brilliantly conceived; the episode is the same series of events recounted by Mulder and Scully, with constant cuts back to the storytelling session itself. They use the story to take swipes at one another, to flirt, and generally to make the episode ridiculously re-watchable. Also, Luke Wilson plays… this guy.
UGH. I LOVE THIS EPISODE SO MUCH. Here's another scene, where Scully finds Fox on the floor, drugged out of his gourd.
3. Humbug (Season 2, Episode 20)
By this point in The X-Files, the dynamic between Mulder and Scully was rolling along beautifully, the major story arc had rumbled into motion, and much of the chaff from season one had been shaken off. The show was moving, and it was moving fast. Humbug is arguably the best classic standalone episode in The X-Files: Mulder and Scully head to an oddball location, investigate a murder, get into some scrapes. It's funny, it's touching, and the writing is top notch. Here's the only scene I could find that wasn't an idiotic trailer from Fox promoting the episode.
2. Drive (Season 6, Episode 2)
Written by Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad), and starring Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) as the lead villain… well, a conflicted guy, part hero, part villain (again, Breaking Bad), this episode is largely credited with setting into motion the creation of Breaking Bad. For various reasons.
It's also a superb X-Files episode; Cranston plays Patrick Crump, a guy who cannot stop his car. It's a heartbreaking, terrifying story told with incredible style, filled with brilliant performances, and it did what the best X-Files episodes do: humanised the bad guy.
Apologies for the trailer. Fox… Fox really do suck. Did suck. No, they still suck.
1. Clyde Bruckmans' Final Repose (Season 3, Episode 4)
Peter Boyle plays Clyde Bruckman. That's pretty much all you need to know about this episode. Clyde is one of the most wonderfully fleshed-out, compelling characters in the entirety of The X-Files, and he's only in a single episode. This story contains humor, sure, but it's also perfectly written and executed, and it's one I re-watch every so often. Magical stuff.
This episode also set into motion a little discussed story arc, closed loosely by the season 6 episode 'Tithonous', that Scully is immortal. I know, right? The writers have confirmed this, too, they just never had a chance to follow it up.
…Oh, god. Those trailers.
So there you have it! My five favourite standalone episodes. There are so many others that I regularly revisit - Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man, The Unnatural, Paper Hearts...but that's the thing that sucks about making lists when you're dealing with such a stunning body of work. Happy 20th birthday, X-Files. How about you? Which episodes are your favourites? And do you occasionally wake up in the night, sweating, thinking about Mulder and Scully feeding you ice-cream?
No? Just me? Fine then.
Nine seasons, two movies, and a tenth ongoing season in comic book form (three issues in, and i'm loving it so far). The X-Files lives on. And, if it were a human being, next year it could legally purchase and drink alcohol in the US.
…Oh, and allow me to leave you with something that you totally don't need to watch unless you're a gibbering wreck of a fan like myself: a tribute video to Mulder and Scully made by a fan that will not stop doing the rounds today. Warning: it's cheesy as hell, and is about three minutes too long.