An introduction to the X-Files

I just finished listening to The Incomparable #284: She Scullys Herself, where Jason Snell, Erika Ensign, John Siracusa and David J. Loehr talks about the original X-files TV series. Great discussion about a show that I love very much.

I watched some of The X-files during its original tv run, even though I was probably too young and easily spooked for it, and it scared the s**t out of me from time to time. In fact yesterday when I took a shower after having listened to about half of the Incomparable episode, I started thinking about the episode Squeeze and got reminded of how much I feared Eugene Tooms. For a moment I almost expected him to crawl out of a hole in the wall and start eating my liver.

I didn’t watch the show all the way to the end when it first aired but almost ten years ago I bought the entire series on dvd and have watched it all the way through at least twice, and most of the episodes I’ve seen three or four times (or even more).

In the Incomparable episodes they talk about the show in aggregate but also focuses of four episodes that they rewatched for the podcast and while I agree that it’s four great episodes, they are all episodes that rely on you being intimately familiar with the X-files to appreciate. So it got me thinking, if I wanted to introduce the X-files to someone who has no previous relation to the show, which episodes would I pick and why.

I decided to limit myself to five episodes.

Which X-files episodes should I watch to get a taste of the show (and in what order)?

  1. The Pilot
  2. Squeeze
  3. E.B.E.
  4. War of the Coprophages
  5. Duane Barry

Why?

If you haven’t watched the X-files, or if you’ve just watched an episode or two a long time ago, and you’re curious about the show you should stop reading here and instead watch the episodes that I suggested, in the order I suggested. What follows now is my motivation for picking the episodes I did pick, so the rest of this post is mostly for those of you who are already fans of the show.

For starters, I wanted to limit this list to episodes from the earliest seasons. Remember, the list is not meant to summarize the X-files in its entirety, it’s a teaser for someone who hopefully will want more.

The Pilot

Well this one is sort of a given. The pilot establishes the characters, the setting and the tone of the show. It is far from the best episode but I think all X-files newcomers should start here.

Squeeze

For a list like this it’s hard to decide whether to focus on ”mythology” episodes, or ”Monster of the Week” episodes. Some people will get hooked by the former, some by the latter.

So the list needs at least one great Monster of the Week and this episode is really a perfect monster episode. To me there is no better monster than Tooms. He scared me in the nineties, and he still scares me now. The character is super creepy and the actor does a great job. It also showcases the arguments between Scully and Mulder and their different points of view.

E.B.E.

This is a ”mythology” episode, but that’s not why I choose it. Instead it’s because it’s the introduction to The Lone Gunmen, the perfect side-kicks to our heroes. They’re also great as an example of how much worse Mulders paranoia and irrational believes could be.

The episodes also features Jerry Hardin as Deep Throat, one of the most important of the more minor characters during the first season. It will give the viewer a hint of the complicated relationship between Mulder and his source and it shows how hard it is to really trust Deep Throat.

And then there’s the biggest reason I choose this episode, the scene where Scully and Mulder realizes, after Scully has accused the Lone Gunmen of being paranoid, that they are in fact being monitored by someone.

War of the Coprophages

One of the great things about the X-files was its ability to play with its own premise and to tell genuinely comedic episodes, while still considering them canon and staying true to itself. Many of those episodes require that the viewer is well familiar with the show and its characters.

This one does not. It is funny and unexpected, especially if all you’ve seen this far is the other episodes on my list.

Duane Barry

And finally, Duane Barry. Maybe it’s cheating to put the first episode of a two-parter on the list but this is one truly great episode. It’s a tense one that keeps you on the edge of your seat and it features Krycek.

It is easy to get sucked into Duane Barry’s paranoia, but just as easy to listen to Scully and believing that it simply is paranoia. And then comes the great scenes near the end where Scully finds more and more evidens that suggests that Barry might actually be telling the truth, or some form of it.

Perhaps I should feature its sequel Ascension on the list as well, maybe on the expanse of War of the Coprophages, but I think that it makes sense to leave it off. Because if you show Ascension as well, you’ll also need to show One Breath since that is where this arc really ends. And One Breath is great and would be worthy of this list as well, but if I would put it on the list that would make three episodes that focuses heavily on the mythology.

So I find it best to just recommend Ascension. If the one watching finds it thrilling and gets sucked into the show she/he will eventually watch this arc in full as well.

(Also the reason to show War of the Coprophages before this one is to at least plant a small seed of doubt in the person that maybe something terrible happens to Scully, thereby hopefully making the person more eager to keep watching the show.)

So what do you think of my list? Let me know via e-mail or twitter.

Originally posted on my blog at http://ift.tt/1Kh19xm
 January 30, 2016 at 10:42AM