Fox just released the first few seconds of footage from the upcoming season of The X-Files and I am SUPER JAZZED! The X-Files is one of my favorite shows of all time (I joke that my favorite genre of TV is Paranormal Procedural), and it always amazes me when people let me know that they haven’t seen any episodes. I imagine that it’s similar to Doctor Who, where newcomers are just overwhelmed by the sheer volume of episodes. With that in mind, I present my “must-see” episodes of The X-Files.
Before we get started, it’s important to know that X-Files episodes generally fall into two categories referred to as mythology (dealing with the larger series storyline) and monster-of-the-week (standalone episodes that deal with the investigation of one paranormal creature/happening). I tend to prefer the monster-of-the-week type episodes. The episodes I’ve picked are what I feel give you a pretty good feel of the series and Mulder and Scully’s dynamics. I think if you start with my suggestions, you’ll be in a pretty good place to decide if you want to make it through all 200+ episodes.
These are my recommendations for starting with The X-Files – leave yours in the comments!
Pilot (Season 1, Episode 1)
Pilot episodes aren’t always very good, but The X-Files starts off better than most series. You can skip this if you want, but it does help define the relationship that drives the show forward: that of Scully and Mulder. Mulder’s paranormal obsessions and Scully’s devotion to both the church and science often butt heads to create a relationship that is believable and possesses enough know-how across all disciplines to help create a dynamic crime fighting duo.
Squeeze (Season 1, Episode 3)
One of the earliest monsters-of-the-week, Squeeze revolves around a series of crimes where the perpetrator leaves no traces of entering or exiting, and manages to get into some pretty tight spaces. I’m putting Squeeze on the list because it starts to show of Mulder and Scully’s investigative prowess, but also because it’s got pretty great 90’s special effects.
Die Hand Die Verletzt (Season 2, Episode 14)
Die Hand Die Verletzt (the hand that wounds) features many of my favorite horror movie tropes wrapped up into one one-hour episode: Cults, Witchcraft, Satanic Rituals and Teens being moody. Scully and Mulder may or may not do the devil’s work. It’s a fun episode.
DPO (Season 3 Episode 3)
DPO is one of my favorite episodes, due in large part to some great guest stars (Giovanni Ribisi as Darin and Jack Black as his dumb friend) and an opening scene in an arcade that has enough Sega background noises to make any fangirl happy. The episode centers around Darin, who is able to control lightning with his mind and just so happens to be a bit of a loose canon with his emotions. The X-Files also started to get a bit more budget in season three, and the lightning effects are pretty great considering the episode is from 1995.
Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose (Season 3, Episode 4)
Clyde Bruckman is meant to be the monster-of-the week, but comes off as anything but. Clyde is blessed/cursed with the ability to see how everyone dies. It’s hard to face your own mortality, but would it be worse or better to know how you’d go? Clyde Bruckman is an excellent character – despite being in only one episode, it’s easy to feel a deep emotional connection to him. He’s funny, morose, kind and depressed all at the same time, and has amazing chemistry with Scully.
Pusher (Season 3, Episode 17)
Pusher is an excellent example of how well The X-Files can do psychological thrills. Our monster-of-the-week has the ability to seemingly push his ideas into the minds of those he’s speaking with. He’s wanted for murder-for-hire and Scully and Mulder are tasked with tracking him down and capturing him without giving in to his psychic will.
Home (Season 4, Episode 2)
One of only two X-Files episodes to warrant a viewer discretion warning, Home is not a great starting episode for everyone. It centers around the discovery of dead, horribly deformed child and three inbred brothers who are harboring a secret about the mother of the child. You also get to hear Scully crack a Babe joke.
Never Again (Season 4, Episode 13)
Never Again makes my list of episodes not only because it deals with tattoos, but also because it really highlights a different side of Scully than what you see week to week. The plot revolves around Ed, who gets the above tattoo after he gets dumped, and the tattoo starts to talk to Ed. Scully becomes romantically involved with Ed before realizing what his tattoo has made him do.
Post-Modern Prometheus (Season 5, Episode 5)
Post-Modern Prometheus is arguably one of the most fun episodes of the series. After seeing reports that a woman has been impregnated by a “monster,” Scully and Mulder pack it up and head to the small town that is home to The Great Mutato.