X-Files: Cure for Mid-Winter Blahs

I am a fan of good sci-fi that the pop-culture embraces. I am all over shows and movies like Star Trek, Star Wars, and the Terminator. I do not obsess over them at low level, but I enjoy good story lines that flow well and strong interaction between characters.

When X-Files first came on the air, all my work colleagues were religiously watching the program week in, week out. I never watched a single episode. When the first movie was released in 1998, I figured I would see why the show was so popular, and, well, I did not get it. The movie was too linked in with the story line which required you to watch the show to fully appreciate.

Fast forward to last year. In 2015, Fox announced a revival of the show. I get why they did that. It was the longest running sci-fi show ever (9 seasons, 203 episodes), it is the only show written since 1993 that is still in active syndication, and fans were screaming for some potential unanswered questions to be resolved.

Since X-Files is available on Netflix, I started to embark slowly on the journey to watch the shows last year. It was a futile attempt, there are just too many episodes. I got through the first two seasons after six months of watching. Then,  wifey found the following link:

How to Catch up on 9-Seasons of The X-Files (Plus the Movies) in Just 4 Days

The 4 days reduced the 200 plus episodes to around 70. Still ambitious, but much more manageable (and yes, impossible to do in four days!)

I embarked on this journey, skipping most of Day 1 as I had already watched the first two seasons.

What I Would recommend

If you are like me and never watched the x-Files, note there are two types of stories: standalone (these were the weekly monster/paranormal features) and what they call “mythology”.

The mythology is the ongoing storyline. To best appreciate it, one would need to watch all the mythology episodes in sequence.

The list does not necessarily contain the “greatest hits”.  In fact, some of the mythology episodes are weaker than the standalone episodes.  Even the standalone episodes in this list are not necessarily the best, but they represent something that may be of interest (for example, David Duchovny’s episode he wrote, comedic Christmas episode featuring Lily Tomlin and Ed Asner, an all black and white episode, etc).

My approach, doing it again, is to watch Day 1 in its entirety (as the first year did not have much mythology), but I would include the second episode “Deep Throat” as it introduces a key character. Day 1 will give you a taste of the standalone episodes.

After, if you want to save some time, watch the episodes labelled “mythology” in this list onward.  It will have a flow worthy of typical modern binge watching and the storylines will keep fresh as they can get complicated.  That said, most of this list relates to the mythology, so watching the episodes as listed does not break the flow.

You don’t have to watch seasons 7 – 9, but there are some plot lines that may be of interest if you enjoyed the show.  Seasons 7 -9 were  no way near as good as the previous ones.

I am going to revisit IMDB  to see the highest rated episodes that may be of interest not on the list. I have a strong appreciation now of the X-Files, so I am now interested in seeing some more monster of the week episodes. I will list my favorite standalones at the end of the blog that I watched from the list.

If the mythology does not interest you, just watch the last episode of season 9. It summarizes it well, but you will miss the fun nuances of the show.

What I Liked about the X-Files.

  • Seasons 1-6. Most fans agree. Season 6 should have been the end of the show.  Season 1 is slow filled mostly with standalone episodes, but the last episode is the first strong mythology episode.  Season 2 starts to ramp up the mythology, and once in Season 3, there is a very good rhythm to the show that hooks you.  The show was contracted to end at Season 5, but it was too popular to cancel (so I read), and Season 6 does end the main story line half way through the season.
  • Duchovny and Anderson are very good TV actors. They are both very expressive, despite playing stoic FBI agents. They have good dry and sarcastic humour. They have a lot of screen chemistry. In the show, Duchovny is the “believer” in UFOs, the supernatural, and the unexplained. Anderson is the scientist and skeptic. In real life, it is the reverse. Further, the two were known to not get along during the filming of the show and were bickering constantly. Ironically, they are best friends since the show ended.
  • Mulder and Scully’s characters are well represented when they are working together on a case. They challenge each other. They build each other. As the show continues, they learn to respect each other, and a solid friendship is formed. The actors really deliver the care for one another well, while maintaining “professional boundaries”. It sets up a very good question as to what are those boundaries between care for a colleague, friend, and someone you love.  It creates a great tension between the characters, and the show writes that very well.  One thing I noted,  Duchovny played a perfect gentleman, despite some of Mulder’s character aspects.
  • Chris Carter fought hard for the casting of the show. The show’s key characters were very well casted across the board and I liked that they were not the usual “Brad and Angelina”, as Fox network wanted.
  • I liked the fact they used Canadian actors. It may have saved them some coin, but it helped them support the stars of the show much more while giving exposure to some unknowns in the States. There are some nice guest appearances too, like Alex Trebek, and Callum Keith Rennie (who turned down the recurring role of Alex Krycek, too bad, he would have been perfect for it…btw the one who played him was Canadian too), Bruce Harwood, and the Cigarette Smoking man.
  • Despite the weaker seasons 7 – 9, it was nice to see the professional chemistry restored at the last episode of the series.
  • I did not mind the movie “I Want to Believe of 2008”. It was a stand alone and was not a typical X-Files feel to it, but it had a nice flow to it despite poor IMDB reviews. You don’t have to have watched the X-Files show to watch this movie, though there is one “mythology” spoiler that is subtle and it is helpful to know what the X-Files is about, though not essential.

Don’t Likes

  • The series was winding down to a conclusion in Season 5.  Chris Carter was set to do a series of X-Files movies, and the first bridged Season 5 to Season 6.  The filming schedules did have heavy demands on the actors, as we start to see in Season 6 more “solo” shows for Mulder and Scully, giving the actors time to rest. The chemistry between the two made the show work for me, separating the two made the show weaker.
  • The first X-Files movie should not have been a feature film. It should have been a two part episode. In fact, that is what it really was.
  • I liked the chemistry and some of the romantic tensions between Mulder and Scully, As the plot got resolved in season’s 5 – 6, so did some of those tensions. Once the tensions were lost, the actors had less challenge and direction, and it reflected in their performances (hard to elaborate without spoilers!).
  • One thing that surprised me about the show is that despite being a story around Mulder and his desire to find his sister (who he witnessed being abducted by aliens as a child), it had more emphasis on Scully as a result of her experience working with him. Her character goes through a lot, which had a physical and emotional price. That said, a stoic FBI agent evolving to a character that cries in just about every episode since season 6 became a little bit too much to watch. Not sure if Anderson had a special gift to cry on demand or not, but looked like it. It was a little over the top, surprising to me, and was really getting annoying to watch. It became too predictable a pattern.
  • Once Season 7 started, the actors looked bored with the roles. It really looked like they were going through the motions.  As mentioned, the show was more or less resolved, and the writing looked like it was clutching at straws to keep the plot going.
  • Duchovny pretty much left the show in Season 8. The Scully and Mulder relationship is what made the show tick. The writers introduced new characters, perhaps to set up the X-Files for the next nine years. Very difficult to do when the show was built around “Mulder’s mythology”. The actors were unfairly criticized as being poorly cast. I would argue that an actor is only as good as the script.
  • So many solid Canadian actors were killed off. Ryan Reynolds, Megan Follows, and Corner Gassers Brent Butt and Gabrielle Miller became the equivalent of the Star Trek men in red.

Favorite Standalones From the List

“Ice” (1×8): Mulder, Scully and a team of scientists try to figure out why an Arctic team wiped each other out–until the new team turns on each other, too.  This was the episode that really drew me in to the show and was the best monster feature to that point.

“Humbug” (2×20): Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate the death of a sideshow performer.  An episode that succeeded in creeping me out.

“Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4): Mulder and Scully enlist a reluctant psychic, Clyde Bruckman (Peter Boyle), to help them catch a killer who may be able to see the future. The hour won an Emmy for Boyle’s guest role and for Darin Morgan’s script.  He was exceptional.

“Syzygy” (3×13): A rare planetary alignment causes people to act out of sorts…including Mulder and Scully. First episode I recall seeing the two act beyond stoicism and I was surprised to see their behaviour. Some satire in here too as there are some “horror movie” cliches in here..

“Pusher” (3×17): A man is seemingly able to take away people’s free will. The Pusher is a very strong character.

“Home” (4×2): The hour was so disturbing that Fox opted to not re-air it after its initial broadcast. Rightfully so, not for the weak of heart.

Small Potatoes” (4×20): After multiple babies are born with tails, Mulder and Scully struggle to find the cause.  There was a nice touch of humour here as well as the first time we concretly see any romance potential between Scully and Mulder.

“The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×5): The black-and-white hour has Mulder and Scully investigating a small town with a Frankenstein’s monster-esque creature.  Nice to see the show not take itself too seriously.

“Bad Blood” (5×12): When Mulder stakes a “vampire,” he and Scully have very different recollections about what really went down. The he said/she said delivery of this episode was very funny. The acting to deliver the stories was well done.

“The Rain King” (6×8): A man claims to be able to control the weather. Victoria Jackson was awesome, blending in some nice humour.

=========================================

Now that I watched this list, time to start watching the Revival!

Do you agree disagree with my observations? Do you have a favorite episode that was either on or off this list?

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2 thoughts on “X-Files: Cure for Mid-Winter Blahs”

  1. Great review! I’d say you’re pretty spot on. As for episodes that didn’t make the list, but should have.

    Two of my favorites are:
    Deep Throat (1×4) – Introduces the Deep Throat character. Mulder gets to see his “Area 51.” Famous closing scene between Mulder and Deep Throat at running track.

    Fallen Angel (1×11) – Mulder is captured while doing reconnoissance on downed UFO that government claims is a derailed train with toxic waste. Mulder finishes the show with one of my favorite rants of the series.

    Mulder: Then what can I say? How can I disprove lies that are stamped with an official seal?
    Section Chief McGrath: That will be all, Mr. Mulder.
    Mulder: You can deny all the things I’ve seen, all the things I’ve discovered, but not for much longer because too many others know what’s happening out there. And no one, no government agency, has jurisdiction over the truth.

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