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Late to the Party: The X-Files

Contributed by
May 14, 2018

As the associate editor of a site dedicated to the love of genre, as well as a true adorer of so much the world of sci-fi, fantasy, horror and all manner of SYFY-related geekdom has given us, please know that what I'm about to say is truly difficult to admit.

I've never seen The X-Files.

OK, look, yes, I AM FAMILIAR WITH THE PROGRAM. I have the cursory knowledge of the story and of Mulder and Scully. I am to understand that the Smoking Man is involved and there's some manner of problematic baby thing. Hell, my first professional writing gig was actually a Rifftrax on the movie X-Files: Fight the Future, but that film is my only start-to-finish experience of the show, and for that, I'm sorry. Beyond that, I seek to rectify, especially now that we've received word the show officially has no plans to continue beyond Season 11. 

To correct this egregious personal error, I enlisted my friend and SYFY FANGRRLS contributing editor Tricia Ennis to select five episodes of The X-Files, a show in which she is exceptionally well versed, that I might at long last earn my title of FANGRRL. 

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Season 1, Episode 1: "Pilot"

In this episode, Mulder and Scully meet when she is sent by the FBI to work with and report on "Spooky Mulder" (honestly the laziest nickname of all time). It's astonishing how quickly the series' entire premise is laid in—literally under 10 minutes—and the presence of their chemistry right off the bat. The main story involves a rash of murders that befall a group of people who all graduated in the class of 1989, all carrying two marks on their backs, and a town whose powers that be seem intent on willful ignorance and concealing whatever is really going on. SPOILER: IT'S ALIENS, GUYS. IT'S ALIENS. THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE AND I WANT TO BELIEVE.

My impression:

This is a great pilot, truly setting the stage for the entire series as we know it, at least at its basest cultural zeitgeist level. Duchovny is a perfect charming delight, but what caught me is how Scully is skeptical but not shut off. I love that she smiles at Mulder and is happy to see him. I don't know that I grasped how common the trope is of the cold skeptic woman, giving us hateful female seriousness to chill fun male counterpart, and I think I assumed it started with The X-Files but that's not what this is at all. There’s a warmth we don’t get a lot of in other series—a friendly warmth, not merely sexual tension. There's an understanding and patience that I don't know that I've seen in other shows featuring a partnership like this. 

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Season 1, Episode 3: "Squeeze"

Someone (or some-THING) is killing people by getting into places via very tiny vents. More by-the-book FBI agent Colton (baby Donal Logue!) brings in Scully, hoping to give her a break from what he assumes is a miserable joke of a job with Spooky Mulder (still eye-rolling that nickname). Admittedly, Mulder's theory is pretty hard to buy—the same crime has happened for 90 years or so and has been committed by someone with stretchy fingerprints. But Mulder is right because of course he is. Sweaty oily white guys are always the killers. Why don’t people get that?

My impression:

This episode admittedly didn't hold my attention like the others did but neatly sets up the show's monster of the week format, as well as establishing that while Scully thinks Mulder is a weirdo, he's her weirdo.

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Season 3, Episode 4: "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose"

Mulder and Scully are working with this fakey TV psychic on a case—someone is killing fortune tellers—and along the way run into a real psychic in insurance agent Clyde Bruckman. Well, his psychic abilities are actually pretty limited—he can't win the lotto, but he can see people's deaths. Bruckman isn't wild about this cursed condition, at times loathing it, denying it or barely even noticing it, like it's a natural afterthought. The one death he can't see? Scully's. When she asks how she dies, he responds simply, "You don't."

My impression:

For a show I'm only just now watching, and an episode three seasons in with only my base-level knowledge of the series, this is one of the best episodes of TV I've ever watched. Boyle is superb, but the writing of his character is so perfectly understated and wonderful. There's this absolute heart here, and it feels so earned and unmanufactured. It's genuine, it's real, and "Clyde Bruckman" hits every note perfectly.

Guys this X-Files show is really good, I don’t know why you all slept on it so long.

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Season 4, Episode 13: "Never Again"

This episode is toxic masculinity but spooky, though. After a bitter divorce, Ed gets a tattoo that starts talking to him and calling him a loser, leading him to lash out at his female co-workers and attack his neighbor. Meanwhile, Mulder is in Graceland and still managing to find new interesting ways to Muldsplain Scully even from afar, and she is in a rough place, displeased with her life and her job alike. Frustration with every area of life can make a woman make bad decisions though, so Scully ends up on a date with Ed and gets a lower-back tattoo, which, girl, I GET IT. We've all been there. 

My impression:

This episode depicts a part of the female experience I've not seen so accurately portrayed on TV before. It's this state of discontent, where every area of life is just off and you feel stuck in it. So you try to date your way out of it or tattoo your way out of it, but you end up regretting those choices while remaining trapped in the original set of circumstances, which are now compounded by attempts to change things. Add in Mulder showing up at the end to make a joke out of all of it, and Scully's entire state of being is so relatable and palpable I could feel it in my throat. 

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Season 5, Episode 12: "Bad Blood"

Mulder kills a man he believes to be a vampire (like full-on hammering a stake into his heart) but when Scully checks the fangs, they're fake. The two then have to get their stories straight, leading to both Mulder and Scully's versions of events. In Scully's, Mulder is a tool, with wacky incidental music in the background. In Mulder's, Scully is a bored human eye-roll (also, Luke Wilson as a southern sheriff is a buck-toothed, slack-jawed yokel while in Scully's he's pretty dreamy). Turns out, the fake vampire is an actual vampire—and so is Luke Wilson. 

My impression:

I don't think Tricia knew my penchant for Rashomon-style narratives but this was honestly a perfect episode for me and I'm thrilled she picked it. Add Ham Porter from The Sandlot (he plays the non-vampire actual-vampire) to the picture and this episode might be my Venn diagram. It's funny, it's fun and it gives Duchovny and Anderson the chance to go full comedy. 

Overall impression: Starting the whole series as we speak. Your girl is an official fan now.