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BEST X-FILES EPSODES: SEASONS 5 – 9

Okay, so the demands of doing a weekly X-Files podcast on top of a full-time job and dabbling in various other projects has meant I couldn’t keep up with this arbitrarily lists of my personal favorite episodes from each season of the show. But with the revival airing tomorrow (seriously, where did the time go?) I figured I’d better get my ass in gear and play catch up.

Since this post will unintentionally serve as some sort of master list, I’m going to restate here my favorite episodes from the first four seasons too, but

BEST X-FILES SEASON ONE EPISODES

  1. Beyond The Sea
  2. The Erlenmeyer Flask
  3. Ice

Honorable mentions not originally included: Shapes, Squeeze, Fallen Angel, E.B.E.

BEST X-FILES SEASON TWO EPISODES

  1. One Breath
  2. Red Museum
  3. Colony

Honorable mentions not originally included: Our Town, Duane Barry, Ascension, The Calusari, Anasazi

BEST X-FILES SEASON THREE EPISODES

  1. Jose Chung’s From Outer Space
  2. Grotesque
  3. 731

Honorable mentions not originally included: Pusher, Revelations, Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose, Avatar, Piper Maru, Apocrypha, Quagmire

BEST X-FILES SEASON FOUR EPISODES

  1. Tunguska
  2. Home
  3. Small Potatoes

Honorable mentions not originally included: Zero Sum, The Field Where I Died, Gethsemane, Paper Hearts, Synchrony, Sanguinarium

And here starts the main content for this post (my lists with reasons):

BEST X-FILES SEASON FIVE EPISODES

Bad Blood

As I’ve said several times over the course of the retrospective episodes of my podcast, Bad Blood is perhaps my favorite episode of the entire show. I’ve always loved how Vince Gilligan crafted such a hilariously funny episode from a relatively simple tale by having us be told the same story twice – from Scully’s perspective, and then from Mulder’s. The fact that the humor comes entirely from seeing how both leads see themselves and each other not only rewarded die hard fans but demonstrated Gilligan’s genius. Best episode ever.

The Post-Modern Prometheus

I think I’m on sure footing to say that this episode remains a favorite about most fans. Yes, it is often overshadowed by some seriously poor judgement by having the central character, The Great Mutato, be a serial rapist whose crimes are rewarded by front row tickets at a Cher concert… But if you ignore all that (and I urge you to try) it’s a classic episode with just the right balance of humor and whimsy that can’t help but make you smile. And let’s not forget the final image of Mulder and Scully dancing in glorious black and white – David Duchovny often said the final shot of the series could never the final shot of this episode. He was absolutely right.

Kill Switch

For fans of the show that eagerly devoured every interview with the show’s cast and crew, it quickly became a cliché to hear Chris Carter say that making The X-Files was like making a movie every week. The thing is, Kill Switch is a legitimate movie. It’s a blockbuster episode with an sky high concept, explosions, and is perhaps the slickest overall episode that the show ever produced. I just love this episode. It’s fantastic all around. Edge of your seat stuff on a canvas much bigger than you’d have any right to expect from a TV show in the late 90’s.

Honorable mentions: Christmas Carol, The Pine Bluff Variant, Detour

BEST X-FILES SEASON SIX EPISODES

Drive

Drive was an instant favorite of mine even more I realized just how sickly sweet the rest of season six was. In retrospect, it stands alone as a solitary island of dusty drama in an ocean of eye-rolling comedy. Today, the video is most often referenced due to the fact it was the one that introduced future Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan to future Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston – but the episode deserves much more credit than that. It’s both a tense and intense episode that sees Mulder stuck in a car with an angry redneck as he speeds across the country in an effort to save his life from some unknown force. VG kills it yet again.

Triangle

Even after several months of chatting with the girls from Xfiles.news I am still not a shipper, but let’s not forget – this episode has so much more than that kiss to appreciate! A bizarre non-canonical novelty that, like Monday later in the season, is perhaps a precursor of latter seasons’ more fantastical episodes **cough**Aubrey Pauley**cough**. But let’s not tarnish Triangle with the show’s future mistakes. This was an incredibly ambitious episode which, let’s not forget, was only the third produced by the LA crew. Say what you like about Chris Carter written/directed standalones, this was an example of one where the huge risks paid off and then some.

How The Ghosts Stole Christmas

Like many philes, it was a tradition for me too watch this episode every Christmas Eve. And let’s face it, it is the perfect Christmas story you’d want from The X-Files: Mulder and Scully, a haunted house, ghosts picking holes in their psyches… What’s not to love? Twice this season, Chris hit for the fences and succeeded. It’s the perfect balance of touching humor and melancholy that really captures the spirit of what Christmas should be in The X-Files’ world. Plus it has the word “paramastubatory.”

Honorable mentions: Monday, Dreamland II

BEST X-FILES SEASON SEVEN EPISODES

X-Cops

I can totally see how this could be a love it or hate it episode, but if you’re anything like me and loved Vince Gilligan’s previous comedic masterpiece, Bad Blood, then you’re more than likely going to love this one too. Once again, VG plays on our idea of who Mulder and Scully are, this time by transposing them to more of a real-world milieu courtesy of a crossover with reality show, Cops. Mulder channels a bit more of David Duchovny’s persona than we’d previously seen (particularly in the scene following Steve and Edy’s domestic spat) while Scully is immediately antagonistic to the idea of being on national television.

The Amazing Maleeni

Just as season six had a dominant “sunshine and lollipops” vibe running through many of its episodes, so season seven had a sort of down-to-earth fantastical sort of tone. The Amazing Maleeni walked that narrow line particularly well, giving us a mash up of The Prestige and Ocean’s Eleven resulting in something we’d never seen before on The X-Files, well, two things actually: a magic story, and a heist story. Also: Ricky Jay!

Chimera

Time for some controversy! This was never an episode I would consider that great, let alone a favorite… Let’s be honest, it got overshadowed by some of the more in-your-face zany episodes this season – but doing the rewatch I found I really enjoyed it – like really, really enjoyed it. Okay, so it might not be the greatest episode, but it definitely surprised me just how good it is and I think that other philes should go back and revisit it. There’s a lot of nice mirroring going on here (no pun intended) and it’s just altogether a very well-written episode.

Honorable mentions: Signs & Wonders, En Ami, Rush, The Goldberg Variation

BEST X-FILES SEASON EIGHT EPISODES

Roadrunners

Season eight was always destined to be a muddled and unbalanced season. We covered various likes and dislikes of that year extensively on the podcast. And while different fans of the show found different things resonated with them more than others, there was virtually unanimous agreement that this was that year’s best episode. It’s a down and dirty episode penned by – you guessed it – Vince Gilligan that sees Scully ditch her new partner, only for him to ride in and save the day when she is held prisoner by a cult of backroad crazies. Sure the ep isn’t perfect (the heavy handedness of Doggett once again saving the day being the most blatant) but it’s a damn good episode regardless.

Patience

Weirdly for a Chris Carter standalone this one doesn’t have any special hook to it, there is no novelty here, it’s just a run of the mill, straightforward case. Well, as straightforward a case as you might expect from The X-Files at any rate! But I think that’s what I like about it. It’s just a decent, barebones, back-to-basics story that does exactly what it says on the tin. Sure, the desperation for the audience to like Doggett is obvious, but for a season eight episode, this an undemanding hour that’s fairly rewatchable.

Redrum

Shamelessly ripping off Momento, this is a story which barely features Doggett (and Scully even less so) as we follow Martin Wells as every day he wakes up the day before. It’s a neat piece of timey wimey storytelling as Martin struggles to not only prove that he didn’t murder his wife – but also try to stop it before it happens. A great concept that is extremely well-written and executed.

Honorable mention: Invocation

BEST X-FILES SEASON NINE EPISODES

Hellbound

As I joked on the podcast, I have something for those episodes that deal with reincarnation. I guess there’s just something about those ideas presented both here and in The Field Where I Died that appeals to me. Here, we have a story which would not be out-of-place during the show’s golden years, albeit with a little Reyes-esque cosmic flavor (but at a low enough quantity that it’s easy to stomach.) Personally, I also think this is the best Reyes-centric story the show ever gave us, and has long been a highlight of season nine for me.

John Doe

Robert Patrick gets to shine in this Doggett-centric story written by Vince Gilligan and directed by Michelle MacLaren. It’s great work all round, resulting in a unique episode which is impactful on multiple fronts (visually, emotionally…) Just a damn good hour of TV.

Underneath

John Shiban’s first episode as both the writer and director salvages the sagging middle of the season with a story that feels like it was ripped from the show’s heyday. There is a definite season five vibe about this episode which dips into Doggett’s history as an NYPD beat cop and actually gives Scully something legitimate to do since DNA evidence plays a crucial roll. Unfortunately, this is one of those standalone eps that most fans have probably forgotten, but I promise it’s worth it to go back and rewatch.

Honorable mentions: Sunshine Days, Dæmonicus

THAT’S ALL FOLKS…

Or nearly…

I figured since I’m doing this, I might as well take the time to list every season of the show in order of preference. Here goes, best to worst: 4, 3, 7, 5, 1, 2, 6, 9, 8.

The first three are actually really close, as are seasons six and nine. Comment welcome below, lol!

Remember, the X-Philes Talk X-Files podcast will continue throughout the revival. Our next episode will drop next Friday, and will feature a discussion on the first two episodes of what some people are telling me is called season 10: My Struggle and Founder’s Mutation.

Best Episodes of Millennium #Top3Tuesday

In the episode of X-Philes Talk X-Files that goes live this Friday, one of the episodes we discuss is Millennium.

Spoiler: I’m not a huge fan. Frank Black deserves better.

So, I figured this is as good an opportunity as any to share my favorite three episodes of the show Millennium:

The Judge

The Judge

An early favorite which has a great concept at the core: a killer who targets his victims based on the fact that he considers them sinners. I always found this idea incredibly compelling and it’s one I haven’t’ been able to shake. For a while, I played around with developing my own story using a similar conceit, but ultimately I abandoned it for other ideas I found to be more personal and thus passionate about. But this Millennium episode rocks and for that reason I’m naming it as my #1 episode and the one I’d recommend any non-Millennium fans check out.

Midnight-of-the-Century-1

Midnight of the Century

A depressing and haunting episode that deals with death, repression, and memories of the past. Melancholy is rarely the emotion many Christmas movies or festive special episodes aim for, but really they should. As much as I love Christmas cheer, I think that there are a range of emotions well suited to Christmas entertainment and it is a crying shame that few pieces focus on them. Midnight of the Century does. It’s a truly great piece of television – and it’s worth noting this is the only episode on this list that isn’t from the phenomenal first season, after which the show took a decided nosedive.

The Well-Worn Lock

The Well-Worn Lock

Katherine Black takes center stage here in one of the very few episodes which focused on her job as clinical social worker as opposed to Frank’s as a criminal profiler. That said, this hardly means this episode is less disturbing than any of Frank’s cases. In fact, it focuses on a father who systematically oppressed and raped his daughters for years. As gritty as unshakable as you might imagine.

BEST X-FILES SEASON FOUR EPISODES #TOP3TUESDAY

Tunguska

The definite mythology episode in my book, and one that occurred at the perfect moment where I had not just become a fan of the show, but overnight a zealous worshipper of everything X-Files. That considered, it is hardly surprising that I still consider Krycek to be a strong contender for my favorite overall character for the show; despite the fact we’re supposed to love to hate him, I just plain love him. This is the one episode I could probably recite verbatim. “This is just one bomb I’m sitting on, Mulder. I didn’t tell you how many more I know about.” Tunguska builds on what went before and amps it up in every regard.

Home

This perennial fan favorite has so much going on and works on multiple levels. On the surface it’s a gross-out horror movie infused with juxtaposing popular culture touchstones (The Andy Griffith Show, Johnny Mathis, classic Cadillac convertibles), but look a little closer and it is a classic Lynchian examination of the seeming idyllic small town with a dark, dark underbelly. The contrast between the opposing maternal natures of Scully and Mrs. Peacock adds further depth to what is still a fantastic, gross-out, horror movie.

Small Potatoes

Picking the third ep for this list was a toughie, and it seems only right that I give a shout out to some of my honorable mentions: The Field Where I Died, Synchrony, Gethsemane, Zero Sum. Ultimately, Small Potatoes won out because it is just a great, compelling, and legitimately awesome hour of television. After Darin Morgan set the standard for comedic episodes over the previous two seasons, Vince Gilligan rose to the challenge and proved that Mulder and Scully themselves could be a hilarious source of humor. The scene where Mulder accidentally breaks the tail off Eddie Sr.’s corpse is one for the ages.

Books On My Immediate “To Read” List #Top3Tuesday

Price_of_salt

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

Highsmith became one of my favorite writers after I read her original trilogy of Tom Ripley books a year or two ago. So far, they remain the only books of hers that I have read. But eventually I intend to read them all. There is something so utterly refreshing about her writing style, her lightness of touch, that makes her books not only a pleasure to read, but a complete breeze too. The Price of Salt is one of her few (or perhaps her only) books not to deal with sociopaths or serial killers, and has recently been turned into the movie Carol starring Cate Blanchet and Rooney Mara which has received a lot of attention at festivals with the awards season looming. I really want to read the book before I see the film version.

LOTR

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

To my eternal shame, I have never read The Lord of the Rings. Or The Hobbit. Or anything by Tolkien. I’ve tried to, but something about the writing style just seemed incredibly inaccessible to me. But I really want to read The Lord of the Rings. I absolutely love the movies and ne’er a winter goes by without me watching at least one of them. The 9+ hours of special features on the extended edition DVDs are also fascinating, and really entice me to read the books. They might be an easy read, but I’m going to do it damn it. I’m going to do it.

rant

Rant by Chuck Palahniuk

I’ve only ever read one book by Palahniuk: Fight Club. Obviously. I don’t know why I’ve never read another. Fight Club was an easy read. It was compelling, engrossing, and written with a unique voice at once irreverent and dexterous. I recently listened to a podcast Q&A with Palahniuk about his upcoming graphic novel, Fight Club 2, and I caught myself wondering once again why I’d never bother to read any of his other works and subsequently vowed to do so. Rant was the book most often namechecked in the interview I listened to and is currently being developed into a movie by James Franco, so it seems like a logical next step.

BEST RETRO COMPUTER GAMES #TOP3TUESDAY

I feel it’s important to preface this list with the assertion that I am not now and never have been a gamer. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried, but my lasting memories of playing computer games are largely trying to get Lara Croft to jump or fight or some such thing, but instead getting stuck walking into a corner without any clue of getting out. Or else, playing as Tails on my friend’s Sega and being so slow that I repeatedly fell off the screen.

Basically, I suck at video games.

That said, I have enjoyed them from time to time. I have some good memories of Lemmings and Worms, of one of the many annual reiterations of FIFA, and of driving around aimlessly while enjoying the radio in GTA: Vice City.

But this list is devoted to some proper retro computer games from way back in the day…

moric

Moric
You’ve probably never heard of this oddity. But I loved it. It’s a relatively simple platform game about a minor who goes down into the sewer and into some strange new world where there are monsters such as chattering wind up teeth. I used to play it on my first computer, an Acorn Archimedes, but it stopped working when we updated to RISC OS 3. I rue the day. Over the years, I’ve tried to track the game down in the hope that someone has created a version that is playable on today’s computers, but no joy so far.

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
This was the type of adventure game that was my speed. Your old fashioned point and click adventure. None of this 3D landscape malarkey. Honestly though, this game was legitimately engrossing, and I know I’m not alone in recalling this particular game quite fondly. The game had such an impact, that when rumors surfaced of a potential fourth Indy film, there was considerable speculation that the plot would be modelled on this game. Also: for some reason I never forgot the line about an old jar of mayonnaise resembling diesel oil.

Red Alert
I don’t know if Red Alert truly qualifies as a retro game, but to hell with it – this is my list. I’ve got some good memories of this game, which is inarguably superior to others in the Command and Conquer series. Back when I was in school, one of my mates would have a bunch of us over his house to play on a LAN and good times resulted. My favorite tactic was to team up with someone from the other side, so that we could both have access to the full range of allied and communist arsenals. We would pretty much wipe everyone else off the map. Good times.