Tuesday, 02 November 2010
The X-Files remains one of the most popular TV shows ever made. Airing between 1993 and 2002, the show became a phenomenon. Additionally, the X-Files was also the very first television series to be released in season sets on DVD-- it started the TV-to-DVD trend that we all enjoy today.
Of course, none of this means that the series was flawless... far from it. I personally think that the X-Files suffers from a lack of careful planning-- the creators invented the show as they went. About 75% of the whole show was nothing but a tease… constantly leading viewers on until they were foaming at the mouth from anticipation.
Despite this, I’m a fan of the series and shelled out the big bucks for the mega-awesome series box set.
Now there are certain rules about this post: this is a highly opinionated list of the 30 best X-Files episodes FROM ALL NINE SEASONS (Seasons 8 & 9 included). It will be posted in 2 parts, the first covering episodes 25 to 16 and part 2 covering 15 to number 1. Also, some episodes will be counted as one due to the belief that they collective comprise a larger whole (two-parters and such). Finally, some of the series’ most popular episodes may be nixed from my list altogether… simply because this is MY list, and I feel that some of the episodes are overrated. As such, this list will be different from similar lists by other fans… but that’s only because mine is better.
25. Arcadia (Season 6):
Fear can be a lot of things, from the fear of the dark to the simply anxiety of moving. I’ve moved countless times, and had to get rid of my cat because the apartment code forbade animals. That is fear-- whenever laws become so strict and indifferent that they lose all compassion. This episode is about a community where the home owners’ codes are so strict that violation is punishable by death. It touches on the fear of strict adherence to a set of legalistic laws which defy all logic… the fear of being in a situation that cannot be reasoned out of. That, or else it’s just the writers’ cheap mockery of the American dream. Either way, "Arcadia" starts off my list of the best X-Files episodes.
24. 4-D (Season 9):
Seasons 8 & 9 are widely reviled by fans—David Duchovny left the show and John Doggett (played by Robert Patrick) replaced him as lead investigator on the x-files. One of the best things about seasons 8 & 9 is also one of the worst: Mulder and Scully are pushed into the background so that some different but equally talented actors can establish their own characters. 4-D is about John Doggett and Monica Reyes… and they play their roles wonderfully. The two are not replacements for the series’ main characters—Doggett is no Fox and Reyes is no Diana—and this is why they shine. "4-D" follows a killer who can jump between parallel universes. Doggett is found shot and permanently paralyzed by a bullet from Reyes' own gun. Even more shocking is the ending… someone important dies.
23. Medusa (Season 8):
Many of the stand-alone episodes in seasons 8 & 9 retained the same level of excellence… and Medusa is a perfect example of this. For this episode, Scully and Doggett investigate a death in a Boston subway tunnel where the victim’s face has been burned away by a phosphorus compound. The tension is high as Doggett leads a team deeper into the tunnel and Scully races to solve the mystery before the system is brought back online by a senseless bureaucrat. Even without Mulder, this is classic X-Files at its best… although purely platonic, the relationship between Scully and Doggett has more chemistry than fans give it credit for.
22. X-Cops (Season 7):
Some see this episode as a gimmick… but the effect on the first-time viewer is superb. "X-Cops" is filmed like an episode of the TV show “Cops”, where Mulder and Scully are investigating a case while a film crew covers the events. It doesn’t even feel like the X-Files... the episode is shot with handheld camcorders and the dirty slum-like locales have a decidedly life-like feel. You’ll start out wondering if you are watching the wrong show. Oddly enough, though… this episode really isn’t funny, even though it’s listed as a comedy-themed episode by fans. Rather, it stands as as example of how the series’ creators were not afraid to try an idea that was wildly different.
21. Sein Und Zeit/ Closure (Season 7):
I dislike the manner in which the series-long arc of Mulder’s sister was concluded. Samantha's abduction is the central event around which the show's mythology revolves. Every season, the writers would cruelly spit out another clone of Samantha, teasing Mulder only to have the copy murdered or just vanish outright. How cruel the writers were to wrap up this whole plotline with a simple “she’s dead”. Despite this, one must give them credit. As Frank Spotnitz put it “what we wanted to do was finally deal with the story of Samantha and give people an answer to that… and we didn’t want it to be an easy answer.” The poignant way in which the episodes work through Mulder’s reactions is agonizing. When he finally sees the spirit of his sister, you can see the dismayed hesitancy to embrace her... but then all the pain that has collected within him over the series just dissipates.
20. Squeeze/Tooms (Season 1):
As the first real “monster-of-the-week” episode in the series, “Squeeze” manages to make the viewer's skin crawl. Mulder and Scully track a mutant capable of sneaking into otherwise secure buildings through tiny vents and cracks and feast on a victim's liver. The man’s eyes alone are creepy enough to make these two episodes stand out. He looks human enough… but he is still an unnerving villain. Then there is how he builds his nest out of newspaper and… well, you’ll see.
19. Mind’s Eye (Season 5):
The guest character in this episode is played well-- a blind girl with an attitude. Even though it’s obvious she didn’t commit the murders in question, her ego won’t let her plead innocent and admit that she is helpless. As long as everyone thinks she killed the victims, she can draw attention away from her disability and pretend that she is fully adept. In addition to this, the episode explores the concept of her ability burdening her with guilt due to her semi-telepathic association to the killer. It’s very rare we get to see a non-recurring character fleshed out so well… we get such a great view into what makes her tick. When the episode finally leaves her alone in an empty cell, we can understand that the imprisonment means nothing to her… blindness is its own “cell”.
18. Humbug (Season 2):
The second season of the X-Files was better than the first, but it wasn’t until this episode came that viewers got a glimpse of how brilliant the series’ writers could be. A man has been murdered… but in a town full of sideshow mutants and circus freaks. What really makes this episode such a treat is how out of their element Mulder and Scully are. Having been trained to notice anything unusual, the agents must now adapt themselves to an environment where everything and everyone seems out of place in the traditional sense. From deformed innkeepers and bearded women to midgets and men with scales instead of skin-- how do you find the paranormal in a place where everything is abnormal? The culprit and the whole ending comes out of left field. The first of the infamous X-Files’ “comedy” episodes is probably the best episode to that point.
17. E.B.E. (Season 1):
This episode is classic X-Files... a big tease without a payoff. It’s also, in my opinion, the first true mythology episode of the series. Mulder and Scully are chasing an unmarked and unassuming semi truck across the country. Mulder is under the conviction that it is secretly transporting a U.F.O while average people pass by it on the road… completely unaware of its world-changing significance. The buildup in this episode is phenomenal, and the fact that we never get a glimpse of a little green man proves how effective the series can be through the power of allusion. The X-Files as a series can well be described as being more about the journey than the payoff at the end… and this episode IS the X-Files.
16. Field Trip (Season 6):
This is an odd episode where Mulder and Scully investigate a pair of skeletons discovered in the mountains of North Carolina, apparently stripped of their flesh by digestive acid. Before long, the two are intoxicated with a natural occurring hallucinogen and must escape from a shared dream before they are digested. The difference between dreams and reality are tricky for the viewer to distinguish from, and sometimes the story will lead you on for several minutes before it reveals they are still within a dream. The show keeps you guessing from beginning to end, and it gives you the feeling that the agents are truly lost… trapped in a dream within a nightmare they can’t wake up from.
--Continued in Part 2--