20 Essential “The X-Files” Episodes

“The Post-Modern Prometheus” (S5:E5)

With “The Post-Modern Prometheus”, the series’ creator Chris Carter (who wrote and directed this episode) sought to make an X-Files story in the vein of Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein. To achieve the desired Pre-Code effect, it was shot entirely in black and white, and featured some familiar motifs associated with Shelley’s novel, such as a terrifying monster created by an experiment gone wrong, an angry mob, and the extensive use of roaring thunder. Although the majority of the episode is certainly spooky, light humor is sprinkled throughout, especially during Mulder’s diner scenes and the monster’s obsession with Cher. It’s expected if some viewers saw “Prometheus” to be pretty cheesy, because at times, that was the point; it’s all a well-made, refreshing slice of cheese.

“Bad Blood” (S5:E12)

I’ll admit, near the end of this episode my chest started to hurt from laughing so much. It’s pretty easy to assume many viewers felt similarly, as the Vince Gilligan-penned “Bad Blood” may quite be the series’ funniest episode. The story begins with Mulder and Scully pursuing a vampire murder suspect, whom Mulder ends up excessively murdering. This leads the agents to ponder what lie they should conjure up to use in their report to their boss, A.D. Skinner. Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny swap out their typically serious, stern acting for more goofy and foolish performances, with exceptional results. Between all the comedic mischief and conflicting storytelling, the two showcase their stellar chemistry, the main reason why The X-Files has been going strong for as long as it has up to this point. For anyone wanting to get into the show, this would be a fantastic, and humorous, place to start.

“Monday” (S6:E14)

Fate versus free will is a topic many scholars have debated over for centuries, and it’s a topic The X-Files dives into head first in “Monday”. The episode begins with Mulder bleeding out on a bank floor, with Scully pleading his shooter to walk away and prevent any other damages, only leading him to blow up the entire building. The scene then flashes to Mulder waking up on his waterbed (which has sprung a leak), causing a series of events that lead to his eventual death at the bank. When Mulder awakens again on his waterbed, he feels slight suspicions that the day’s events have happened to him before; it is later revealed the world is caught in a time loop, and one woman, named Pam (played by Carried Hamilton), knows this. Every time the day repeats itself, the same events the agents experience differ slightly, shot with different camera angles each time; due to this, the cast had to shoot the same scenes several times. Each minute of “Monday” is as exhilarating as the last, leading to an unforgettable conclusion. While the concept of a time loop is nothing new to television, The X-Files uses this concept to their advantage in a refreshing, unique way.

“X-Cops” (S7:E12)

“X-Cops” is exactly what the title suggests  — it’s a crossover between The X-Files and the documentary/reality TV show COPS. And don’t worry, the idea isn’t as cringeworthy as it sounds. Using the found-footage techniques and real time cinematography of COPS, the episode provides for a chillingly scary entry to the series. When a seemingly large, inhumane monster attacks a deputy whilst being filmed for COPS, Mulder and Scully are called to the scene to investigate. After further shocking attacks occur, it becomes clear to the two agents that the culprit isn’t actually a monster, but rather an entity that changes its form to match the victim’s worst mortal fears. Despite the dark nature of the story, the episode isn’t without its humor; Mulder seems unfazed with the cameramen following the investigation, in contrast with Scully, who willingly hides her face and repeatedly declares her annoyance with the crew. The idea for an X-Files/COPS crossover episode came from the always-brilliant mind of Vince Gilligan. Although the show’s staff was initially unsure about the concept, they green-lit the crossover because of their curiosity in Gilligan’s ideas. And sure enough, “X-Cops” was a success, cementing Gilligan’s place among the best TV writers in history.

“Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” (S10:E3)

After two dry seasons and one mediocre film, it was great to see The X-Files get back into their old swing with “Were-Monster”. Written by Darin Morgan (who hasn’t penned an X-Files story since season 3), the episode contains many easter eggs, jokes, and references for old fans of the show to dig into and fanboy/girl over. Some of these references include the infamous red speedo, Scully’s alleged immortality, and Scully’s dog Queequeg, among others. After a man is found with his throat ripped open, Mulder and Scully are assigned to investigate the bizarre case. The attacker is at first thought to be a person who could shape shift into a monster, but later on the two find out the culprit was actually the opposite: a monster who, after being bitten by a human, gained the ability to transform into a person, reversing the expected stereotype. The monster-turned human (played by Rhys Darby), a very unreliable narrator, leads Mulder on a wild tale full of plot holes and imaginary events, akin to another Morgan-written episode, “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” (see page 3). In a 6-episode event that was surely hit-or-miss, “Were-Monster” is a fantastic X-Files story sure to recall old nostalgia with in a modern setting. (Side note: The gravestone Mulder and the monster talk by has the name Kim Manners, referring to the late director that oversaw 52 episodes of the series.)

What’s next?

After this week’s episode, “My Struggle, Pt. 2”, The X-Files is done… indefinitely. Recently, FOX executives have stated that they “love to do more” episodes of The X-Files. When talks of a brand new X-Files season arose, Gillian Anderson said she was unsure about doing further episodes; but when she was told it would be a short 6-episode event, she agreed. As of late, Anderson hasn’t ruled out the possibility of more episodes: “We might all bite, for the right compensation, and move our worlds around to make it happen.”

Right now, it’s unclear what the future of the show entails. At this point, however, I won’t mind if Chris Carter and the gang decide to put the show to bed. The X-Files has been a wonderful viewing experience spanning several years, and I’m glad it all exists. It brought us lovable characters, terrifying monsters, and enthralling story arcs that will stand the test of time. The X-Files wasn’t just a TV show —  it was a program that transcended science-fiction. It ushered in a whole new era of television, inspiring countless other great TV shows, such as LostSupernatural, and many others. Even if there aren’t any more new episodes of the show to come, it’s still comforting to know how many fantastic tales it brought us, and I think that’s good enough.

Honorable Mentions

“The Erlenmeyer Flask” (S1:E24)

“The Host” (S2:E2)

“One Breath” (S2:E8)

“Revelations” (S3:E11)

“Quagmire” (S3: E22)

“Small “Potatoes” (S4:E20)

“Redux” (S5:E1,2)

“Triangle” (S6:E3)

“Founder’s Mutation” (S10:E2)

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