Comic Book Curious

Starter Guide: The X Files

August 24, 2021

Look, we get it, scrolling through an infinite number of shows seems overwhelming; even when someone tells us, “Oh, you should check out such and such” there’s a feeling of dread because who knows if it’s worth the time or hassle. Some TV shows have countless episodes or have been running for decades and not all of those episodes are going to be good; there are going to be some clunkers.

This series is here to help you decide if a show is the right show for you by featuring a few highlights for you to check out and see if you want to watch more. These aren’t the best episodes, they’re accessible and ones you can just jump into.

The X Files, where to start?

David Duchovny as Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully

Credit: 20th Century Television

The X Files follows the ongoing adventures of FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully as they investigate possible paranormal incidents across the country. Mulder is a believer and Scully is a skeptic and there’s so much sexual tension between these two that you’ll start sweating just watching it. The story has an ongoing plot about the government trying to hide the existence of aliens and always putting a stop to their investigations, but that is very complicated and gets more and more convoluted as the series reaches its later seasons. With that in mind, I have chosen 5 episodes that stand on their own and give examples of the varied tones the show encompasses.

Mulder inside a ski lift car in an episode of X Files

Credit: 20th Century Television

"Duane Barry/Ascension" (Season 2, Episodes 5 & 6)

The X Files often had big events go down in their two parters and this is the one that starts that trend. Part one starts with Mulder trying to talk down an FBI agent who claims to have been abducted by aliens and now has taken hostages. This eventually leads to him kidnapping Scully and sending Mulder on a chase to get her back. This episode shows how intense the series can be with huge character moments, exciting action scenes, and some seriously big twists.

Mulder and Scully stand in front of a lab table with other characters

Credit: 20th Century Television

"Ice" (Season 1, Episode 8)

Season 1 has its ups and downs, like any show it’s trying to find its voice. This episode is a huge high point of the season, a fun riff on the John Carpenter movie The Thing. Mulder & Scully are dispatched to investigate the disappearance of scientists in Alaska where they soon discover an alien parasite that takes over the mind of its victims. Soon the agents are forced to contend with the alien controlled scientists and figure out if they are even themselves anymore. This is a tense and confined paranoia thriller with a great guest cast and some very creepy effects.

Mulder and Scully driving with Clyde Bruckman

Credit: 20th Century Television

"Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose" (Season 3, Episode 4)

While The X Files has plenty of intense and scary episodes it’s often underrated for how funny it can be. This is one of the most charming episodes of the series as legendary character actor Peter Boyle guest stars as a crotchety old man with psychic abilities who helps Mulder & Scully hunt a serial killer targeting psychics. This episode is filled with plenty of excellent jokes, offbeat moments and a strong amount of heart. It also shows off the main characters in a different light than normal as we see them each react to this strange man who has entered their lives.

Mulder at the wheel with Bryan Cranston in the back

Credit: 20th Century Television

"Drive" (Season 6, Episode 2)

There are countless amazing guest stars throughout the series but this season 6 episode is a tour de force from the great Bryan Cranston, that also happens to be written by future Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan. Cranston plays a man with a painful high pitched noise in his head that forces Mulder to drive him west so his head won’t explode. The episode is a breakneck race against time as Mulder speeds across the country and Scully searches for answers to what is behind this.

Mulder and Scully captured by Nazis in the X Files

Credit: 20th Century Television

"Triangle" (Season 6, Episode 3)

A sheer coincidence this episode is right after the last one. In one of the most ambitious episodes of the series, Mulder boards a WW2 era vessel in the Bermuda Triangle. He ends up transported back to 1944 while Scully tries desperately to save him. This is not only a fantastically fun time travel story but nearly the entire episode is filmed in one continuous shot. We also get alternate 1940s versions of the main cast and watch Mulder figure out his way through an old timey mystery.

Honorable Mentions:

  • "Squeeze" (Season 1, Episode 3): A super creepy episode about a serial killer who can squeeze into tight spaces.
  • "Home" (Season 4, Episode 2): An unsettling episode about an inbred family of killers
  • "The Post Modern Prometheus" (Season 5, Episode 5): A fun and offbeat take on the Frankenstein story
  • "Humbug" (Season 2, Episode 20): Mulder & Scully investigate a murder in a community of circus freaks
  • "Bad Blood" (Season 5, Episode 12): Mulder & Scully each give different accounts of an investigation into a vampire

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