Rewatching the X Files: Top Five and Bottom Five Episodes of the First Season

Posted: June 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

I haven’t really watched any films this week, because I’ve been thinking too much about writing, promotions and the recent launch of my new book, but while doing this work and during my downtime, my girlfriend and I have been rewatching the X Files on Netflix streaming. When I was in middle school, for my good friend Joshua Doty and I, this show was life. This was not a show to miss. My mother also was an X Files fanatic, she had been a Marine and was being trained in counterintelligence. This show and forensics dramas I think represented to her a life that could have been. If there are parallel universes or if in Heaven in fact one gets to live out their biggest, wildest craziest dream, somewhere out there my mother is tracking down serial killers and uncovering/hiding government secrets. So, watching this show has been very sentimental. Certain episodes jarred things in me, reminded me of the week I saw them or discussions I had about them. Here are my top five and bottom five episodes of the first season.

Top five season 1

5. Eve

Evil little girls are scary. The thought that the government could be making evil little girls is even scarier. This episode gives you the kind of chills you expect from evil child fare and has a pretty cringy ending. Unpleasant and very memorable with some really good performances.

4.The Erlenmeyer Flask

I’m going to sound like an idiot for saying this, but a lot of the conspiracy episodes bore me when compared to the monster of the week episodes. There are, however some notable exceptions. Like The Erlenmeyer Flask. This is the first episode to really establish the stakes, to get the truth in Mulder and Scully’s hands and to make them examine the human cost of uncovering the truth. This episode carries a lot of weight dramatically.

3.Squeeze

Plasticity is a stupid superpower. Sure, it’s versatile and can come in handy for Reed Richards and Plastic Man, but if you ask a child what superpower they would want out of all the superpowers in the world, they probably won’t say plasticity. But Eugene Toombs, the first monster of the week manages to make it threatening, in fact downright scary. It’s a fun but creepy 45 minute monster movie with a good ick factor. Don’t fuck with Mister Fantastic. Especially if he starts eating livers.

2.Fire

This is an episode that’s made by characterization. Mulder’s old flame Phoebe Green is sexy and fun, Cecil L’ively is a charming, but clearly a textbook psychopath and Mulder is afraid of fire due to a childhood trauma. Pyrokinesis might not be all that interesting but Cecil L’ively and Phoebe Green are and that’s more than enough to make it work. In my opinion not just one of the best of the first season, but one of the best of the first three.

1.Beyond the Sea

As I lost a parent a few weeks ago, this episode hurt like hell. It was nice to see that the writers felt that even someone as self assured as Dana Scully would have the same doubts and questions in her heart as I had. If it were just a great commentary on how we deal with death in our lives, it wouldn’t be my number one, though. So much more is happening than that. Brad Dourif as serial killer Luther Boggs is at his best. Dourif is and always has been an exceptional actor, but this character oozes madness and substance at the same time. He might be evil and he might be manipulative, but somehow he is out of his depth. This episode also stands out as the first to reverse the believer/skeptic dynamic between Mulder and Scully. It shows that Scully is not all cynicism and that Mulder is not all blind faith. Not only one of the show’s greatest moments, but maybe one of television’s.

 

Bottom five

5.Ice

I liked this better when it was called The Thing. Not a whole lot to latch onto on this one. Not the season’s worst, but so derivative that I could not in good conscience leave it off the bottom five episodes of the season.

4.Lazarus

This felt like filler. An FBI agent possessed by Woody Harrelson from Natural Born Killers seeking out his duplicitous Juliette Lewis? I couldn’t get into it. There are right ways and wrong ways to deal with the supernatural and this is the wrong way. This not only felt like the X Files at its worst, it felt like a rejected Kolchak the Night Stalker script.

3. The Jersey Devil

Exposing my main qualm about this episode would spoil it, but I will say this: if you are a cryptozoology nerd, you will be annoyed. I had forgotten the resolution and went into this episode hoping Mulder would find something akin to the Jersey Devil, which is one of my favorite weirdass cryptids, but got nothing of the sort. The element of surprise is one thing, this reveal was another. Maybe if the words “Jersey Devil” had not been used, I would have liked it better.

2. Space

A great premise poorly executed. While a space shuttle going down because the guy at mission control is possibly possessed is high stakes, Mulder and Scully don’t get to be proactive enough in this episode and I don’t think the investigation has enough to discover. Slow paced and inefficiently told. I like the idea of space intelligences possessing someone, but the setting was too sterile and dull for me. I almost nodded of.

1.The Ghost in the Machine

What happens when you take a derivative plot, crappy pseudoscience, pretty uninteresting supporting cast and hilarious 90s “computer hacking” and put them all together? Disapppointment, that’s what. Not just bad, but bad and predictable. Made me wonder why I kept watching it in the first place. When I first saw it, I’m sure I thought it was a really cool premise, but since I’m more genre literate now, I’m just not impressed. There were other disappointing episodes this season since the show was just discovering what it was, but this one took the cake for me.

It’s been a fun and nostalgic experience rediscovering this show and if you’re interested in hearing more of my observations, I could keep with it. Eventually, I hope to rewatch most of the show.

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