Binge Watch: 13 most shocking episodes of The X-Files

Dave Lange

WHAT IS The X-Files ABOUT?

A captivating sci-fi/thriller/mystery series that revolves around two FBI special agents who investigate mysterious and bizarre cases of unusual activity. While one of them believes in the existence of extra-terrestrial beings and paranormal phenomena, the other is skeptical of that and puts more faith in scientific analysis and more rational explanations of each of the things they encounter. Many of the cases they tackle throughout the series don’t necessarily get solved by the end of the episodes – or even at all, leaving many things to linger on as mysteries throughout the run of the series.

Original TV Home: Fox

Number Of Seasons: 9 (September 1993 – May 2002). The series also gave birth to two theatrical movies (1998 and 2004). A six-episode follow-up series is set to premiere Jan. 24, aimed at revisiting the main characters and reviving some of the mysteries they investigated.

Total Episodes / Time Table:
202 episodes (approx. 42-48 min. each, as well as an 86-min. final episode) = approx. 150 hours + 2 movies (approx. 2 hours each) = approx. 154 hours.

Viewing Strategy: It will be tough to binge watch the entire series (not to mention the two movies) all in time for the debut of the upcoming series revival on Jan. 24. However … you could do it – if you watched at least 9 episodes (approx. 7 hours) per day and jammed the two movies in somewhere along the way as well. That’s a lot to absorb, though, especially with this series. A more comfortable pace would be 5 to 6 episodes (approx. 4 to 4.5 hours) per day – and then just save the episodes of the new series for a follow-up binge watch afterward.

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WHO’S IN IT? Top Up arrow

X-Files,-The-1098 Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny, Mitch Pileggi, Robert Patrick, Annabeth Gish, Tom Braidwood, William B. Davis, Bruce Harwood, Dean Haglund, Nicholas Lea. Lots of other stars populated the series as it went on, both in recurring roles and in guest appearances. Among them: James Pickens Jr., Jerry Hardin, Mimi Rogers, Cary Elwes, James Riker, Veronica Cartwright, Adam Baldwin, Cliff De Young, Malcolm Stewart. John Neville, Felicity Huffman, Steve Hytner, Michael McKean, Darren McGavin, Neal McDonough, Nora Dunn, Joe Spano, Peter Boyle, Bruce Weitz, William Sanderson, Bryan Cranston, CCH Pounder, William Devane and many others.

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WHERE IS IT NOW? Top Up arrow

Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, iTunes, Vudu, Putlocker, GeekTV and various other online streaming sites. Also available on DVD (individual seasons as well as a complete boxed set) and Blu-Ray (recently released).

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WHY IS IT BINGE WORTHY? Top Up arrow

The X-Files was the longest-running sci-fi series of its time. It was also a huge hit in its day. Given today’s proliferation of sci-fi on TV and in the movies, it would probably have been an even bigger attraction now – which might well be the case when Fox revives The X-Files as a special six-episode series, starting Jan. 24.

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson co-star as Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, a pair of FBI agents assigned to the X-Files, a series of cases often involving unexplained phenomena – and, in some instances, apparent extra-terrestrial life forms. Suspicions of government conspiracies and cover-ups play a big part in many of the show’s storylines. “Trust No One.” “I Want To Believe.” “The Truth Is Out There.” Such catchphrases, used throughout the series, became everyday slogans for the show’s many fans during its initial run.

The chemistry between Duchovny and Anderson starts modestly but grows a lot as the series carries on. Some of the technology used in early seasons (old cordless phones, massive antenna cellphones, etc.) seem somewhat comical to see now. But the scientific thesis and conspiracy theories behind many episodes – even the oldest and most far-fetched – remain valid and intriguing.

The X-Files was the brainchild of creator/executive producer Chris Carter. His creative team included a number of other talented and noteworthy writers and producers, including: Vince Gilligan (who went on to give us Breaking Bad, Battle Creek and Better Call Saul), Frank Spotnitz (The Man in the High Castle) and Howard Gordon (Homeland). Duchovny ended up writing three episodes of the series and contributing stories to five others. He also directed three installments during the show’s latter seasons. Anderson, meanwhile, wrote only one episode, which she also directed.

During the first five seasons of The X-Files, the show was filmed in and around Vancouver, British Columbia. The production then moved to Los Angeles, in part because Duchovny reportedly grew weary of the rainy weather in Vancouver. As the show carried on, Duchovny’s attempts to beef up his contract resulted in him dropping out of the show for much of the the final two seasons. Robert Patrick stepped in to fill the void as John Doggett, who became Scully’s new partner during Mulder’s absence. A strong cast of other talented actors rounded out the series, including Mitch Pileggi as FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner, William B. Davis as the notorious and eerie Cigarette Smoking Man – and a pre-Grey’s Anatomy James Pickens Jr. in the role of FBI Assistant Director (later Deputy Director) Adam Kersh. Also worth mentioning among the crowd: Bruce Harwood, Tom Braidwood and Dean Haglund, better known as The Lone Gunmen, a trio of characters who ended up with their own, short-lived spinoff series.

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MUST SEES … Top Up arrow

There are so many must-see episodes in The X-Files and they’re way too numerous to mention. Nevertheless, there are some that are among the “best of the best” …

Pilot (Season 1, Episode 1): The episode introduces us to Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and sets the stage for much of what is to come. Other characters also revealed early in the episode, like the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), turn out to be quite significant as the series goes on.

Deep Throat (Season 1, Episode 2): A young Seth Green guest stars as one of two teenaged stoners whom Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Duchovny) encounter outside a military base in Idaho. The title of the episode refers to a mysterious informant (Jerry Hardin) who gives Mulder clues regarding the government and military conspiracies he is chasing down.

Conduit (Season 1, Episode 4): This episode is the first to shed more light on Mulder (David Duchovny) and his past, as well as his sister’s disappearance as a child, which accounts for his obsession with alien abductions.

E.B.E. (Season 1, Episode 17): This episode introduced Bruce Harwood, Dean Haglund and Tom Braidwood as the trio of recurring characters known as The Long Gunmen.

Tooms (Season 1, Episode 21): Mitch Pileggi makes his first appearance as FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner in an episode that revives the villain who first appeared in Squeeze (see “Most Shocking Episodes”).

The Erlenmeyer Flask (Season 1, Episode 24): The finale of the first season was the show’s most-viewed episode of that year. It has Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Duchovny discovering evidence of extra-terrestrial DNA.

Little Green Men (Season 2, Episode 1): The debut episode of the second season was the first one to show what seems to be a live extra-terrestrial being in the show.

Sleepless (Season 2, Episode 4): This episode introduces Nicholas Lea as FBI agent Alex Krycek.

Anasazi (Season 2, Episode 25): Mulder (David Duchovny) receives a computer disk with top-secret files that shed light on extra-terrestrials.

The Blessing Way (Season 3, Episode 1) and Paper Clip (Season 3, Episode 2): The storyline, which is split over two episodes, contains virtually all of the elements that the show is about – sneaky government secrecy, UFOs, aliens … and the Lone Gunmen.

Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose (Season 3, Episode 4): The late Peter Boyle guest stars as a sarcastic guy who has bizarre psychic powers and helps Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) track down a killer. The episode is both intriguing and bitingly funny. Boyle won an Emmy Award for his performance in this episode, which also garnered a Emmy for its writing.

Paper Hearts (Season 4, Episode 10): This is probably the episode that focuses on Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) the most. Written by Vince Gilligan, it revolves around a serial killer (Tom Noonan) who claims to have murdered Mulder’s sister.

Bad Blood (Season 5, Episode 12): Another one written by Vince Gilligan, this episode finds Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) probing a bizarre case involving a possible vampire.

The Beginning (Season 6, Episode 1): This episode marked “the beginning” of the shift in production of the show to Los Angeles from Vancouver. Also … long before he inhabited Seattle Grace Hospital as Dr. Richard Webber on Grey’s Anatomy, James Pickens Jr. put in a 19-episode stint on The X-Files, over the course of four seasons, playing FBI Assistant Director (later Deputy Director) Alvin Kersh. This is the episode that introduces his character.

Drive (Season 6, Episode 2): Yet another episode written by Vince Gilligan. This one features a special guest star: Bryan Cranston. It is reputed to be the episode where Cranston and Gilligan actually met for the first time. The pair would eventually go on to work together on a cool little TV show called Breaking Bad.

X-Cops (Season 7, Episode 12): This episode is kind of a kooky crossover with another Fox TV series. The opening portions are staged and played like a typical episode of Cops before the story eventually transitions to include Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Duchovny) – and, wait for it, a possible werewolf.

All Things (Season 7, Episode 17): The story sheds some new light on Scully (Gillian Anderson) and her past as she contemplates the choices she has made through life. But the opening scene and its narration are a great teaser to get things going. The episode is the only one of the series to be written by Anderson, who also directed it..

Within (Season 8, Episode 1): This chapter introduces Robert Patrick as a main character in the cast, taking on the role of John Doggett, an FBI agent who eventually becomes Scully’s new partner.

The Truth (Season 9, Episode 18): The final, 86-minute episode of the series is a must-see because, well, it’s the final episode of the series. It also marks the full return of Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) after an absence of some time. The episode recaps much of the show’s story threads and wraps up some of its theory of extra-terrestrial beings. And whether the truth is out there. It’s a fitting conclusion to the series that also sets the stage for the movie sequel … and the upcoming TV revival.

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MOST SHOCKING EPISODES Top Up arrow

Again … there are a lot of shocking and spine-tingling episodes in this series. Among the most stunning entries …

Squeeze (Season 1, Episode 3): This is the first episode built on a structure that has often been referred to as “monster of the week.” It proved to be popular tool that boosted the show’s audience. The instalment revolves around a serial killer (Doug Hutchison) who has a mysterious and bizarre history. He shows up again later in the season, in Tooms (Season 1, Episode 21).

The Host (Season 2, Episode 2): The notion of slopping around raw sewage is gross, to be sure. But this offbeat episode is a pulpy spine-chiller that revolves around a spooky sewer monster who wreaks havoc. It may make you think twice about using an unfamiliar toilet.

Duane Berry (Season 2, Episode 5) and Ascension (Season 2, Episode 6): A two-episode storyline has Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Duchovny) encounter the case of a former FBI agent (Steve Railsback) who claims he has been a UFO abductee. Things don’t go so well and Scully ends up being abducted.

One Breath (Season 2, Episode 8): Gillian Anderson’s real-life pregnancy led to a storyline that had her character, Dana Scully, get abducted. She finally reappears in this episode, mysteriously showing up comatose in a hospital.

Irresistible (Season 2, Episode 13): Brace yourself. This is probably one of the creepiest episodes – maybe even the creepiest one – of the entire series. It revolves around a scary sicko (Nick Chinlund) who has a fetish for collecting hair, fingernails and other body parts from dead females. The episode also delves into some demons from Scully’s past.

Our Town (Season 2, Episode 24): Disturbing themes of cannibalism surface in this chiller that revolves around a chicken-processing plant. Oh, one more thing … After watching this, and seeing Scully (Gillian Anderson) carrying a bucket of fried chicken around in one scene, like Scully, you may never want to consume take-out chicken ever again.

Grotesque (Season 3, Episode 14): A creepy, gothic atmosphere fills this episode about a killer obsessed with gargoyles. The case nearly sends Mulder (David Duchovny) off the deep end.

Home (Season 4, Episode 2): Nasty, nasty, nasty. Definitely one of the most disturbing episodes of the series, this instalment stirred up a lot of controversy because of its bizarre and horrific story of murder and its theme of incest/inbreeding. The episode revolves around a sleepy Pennsylvania town that is home to a bizarre family that embarks on a nightmarish killing spree.

Detour (Season 5, Episode 4): A delightfully spooky yarn, this episode has been referred to by some as a cross between Deliverance and Predator.

Requiem (Season 7, Episode 22): This season finale is a milestone episode marks a major shift as Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) return to the place where they investigated their first case. The end of the episode marks a major shift in the series and where it is headed. In addition, Scully discovers some surprising news about herself.

Badlaa (Season 8, Episode 10): It’s spooky and gross. This episode starts off in India and revolves around an amputee street beggar (Deep Roy) with mystical powers that allow him to implant himself into others.

Existence (Season 8, Episode 21): The show’s eighth-season finale is another milestone episode that has a significant impact on the lives of Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Duchovny).

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THAT LINE WAS SO GREAT… Top Up arrow

A lot of the best lines in The X-Files tend to come out of the mouth of Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), thanks to his maverick, cowboyish attitude. But there are other notable dialogue exchanges as well. Among the collection …

“Sorry, nobody down here but the FBI’s most unwanted.”

– From Pilot (Season 1, Episode 1): The first line delivered by Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) as Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) knocks on the door of Mulder’s secluded basement office for the first time.

Scully:

“Who is it?”

Mulder’s voice:

“Steven Spielberg.”

– From Pilot (Season 1, Episode 1): As Scully works in a motel room, transcribing her notes from earlier in the day, she answers a knock at the door. Mulder’s response is a clever reference to the famed filmmaker who directed 1982’s E.T.: The Extra-terrestrial.

“Let’s just say this case has a distinct smell to it – a certain paranormal bouquet.”

– From Deep Throat (Season 1, Episode 2): Mulder’s response when Scully (Gillian Anderson) asks him why he is interested in the case of a missing military pilot.

“What’s eating that guy?”

– From The Jersey Devil (Season 1, Episode 5): Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) wonders aloud why a police detective is upset that he and Scully (Gillian Anderson) have shown up to check out an apparent case of human cannibalism.

Mulder:

“What if it’s possible, somehow, to raise the body’s electrostatic charge to levels we’ve been seeing – and to use that energy to affect objects?”

Scully:

“If a person could generate that much energy, their body would break down – they’d, they’d start glowing like those lights.”

Mulder:

“Well, there’s evidence of this all through the X-Files … now, furniture moving untouched, objects levitating, unexplained electrical discharges. Frequently, people who have psychokinetic power are unaware of their own capability.”

Scully:

“Are you saying Lauren Kyte crashed our car?”

Mulder:

“Either that … or a poltergeist.”

Scully:

“There he-e-e-re!”

Mulder:

“They may be.”

– From Shadows (Season 1, Episode 6): An exchange between Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) after they have a bizarre encounter with a woman connected to a number of strange deaths, with Scully mimicking the line delivered by a Heather O’Rourke in another Steven Spielberg film credit, 1982’s Poltergeist.

“Before anyone passes judgment, may I remind you, we are in the Arctic.”

– From Ice (Season 1, Episode 8): Mulder (David Duchovny) makes a joke as he and two associates prepare to take off all their clothes in order to examine themselves for symptoms of an unusual parasite in a remote scientific outpost in Alaska.

“If a shark stops swimming, it dies. Don’t stop swimming, Mr. Mulder.”

– From E.B.E. (Season 1, Episode 17): Deep Throat (Jerry Hardin) gives Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) a bit of timely advice.

“Trust no one.”

– From The Erlenmeyer Flask (Season 1, Episode 25): One of the signature lines of the series, uttered by Deep Throat (Jerry Hardin) during one of the climactic moments of the episode.

“Scully, I think that the good people of Dudley have been eating more than just chicken.”

– From Our Town (Season 2, Episode 24): Mulder (David Duchovny) suspects that the case he and Scully (Gillian Anderson) are working on involves some sort of cannibalistic ritual.

Clyde Bruckman:

“You know, there are worse ways to go, but I can’t think of a more undignified one than auto-erotic asphyxiation.”

Fox Mulder:

“Why are you telling me that?”

Bruckman:

“Look. Forget I mentioned it. It’s none of my business.”

– From Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose (Season 3, Episode 4): Clyde Bruckman (Peter Boyle) reveals his vision of how Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) is destined to die.

Scully:

“Mulder, if you had to do without a cellphone for two minutes, you’d lapse into catatonic schizophrenia.”

Mulder:

“Scully, you don’t know me as well as you think you do. You know, my work demands that I live in a big city. But if I had to settle down, build a home, it’d be in a place like this.”

Scully:

“It would be like living in Mayberry.”

(A pickup truck arrives and the town sheriff approaches Scully and Mulder.)
Sheriff:

“Agents Mulder and Scully? Hi … I’m Sheriff Andy Taylor.”
Mulder: “For real?”

– From Home (Season 4, Episode 2): Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) mocks Fox Mulder (David Duchovny as he praises the qualities of living a simple life in a small town in a scene that makes subtle references to The Andy Griffith Show. It’s followed up by a scene in the sheriff’s office with another similar exchange …
Sheriff Taylor (as he takes the body of a baby wrapped in a towel out of the fridge): “We don’t have a lab or a morgue. I’ve got a room down here, might be a bit cleaner.” (A man enters the office.) “By the way, his is my deputy, Barney.”
Mulder: “Fife?”
Deputy: “Paster!”

“One more anal-probing, gyro-pyro-levitating ectoplasm alien anti-matter story and I’m going to take out my gun and shoot somebody”

– From Patient X (Season 5, Episode 10): Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) expressing how he no longer believes the alien conspiracy theory.

“I smelled you coming, Clarice.”

– From The Truth (Season 9, Episode 19): Mulder (David Duchovny) mimics Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs as he greets Scully (Gillian Anderson) when she and Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) visit him in prison.

“What is the point of all of this? To destroy a man who seeks the truth? Or to destroy the truth so no man can seek it? Either way, you lose.”

– From The Truth (Season 9, Episode 19): Monica (Annabeth Gish) rails against FBI deputy director Alvin Kersh (James Pickens Jr.) after she testifies at Mulder’s trial.

“I’d like to congratulate you – on succeeding where so many before you have failed. A bullet between the eyes would have been preferable to this charade. I’ve learned to pretend over the past nine years. To pretend that my victories mattered, only to realize that no one was keeping score. To realize that liars do not fear the truth, if there are enough liars. That the devil is just one man with a plan, but evil – true evil – is a collaboration of men, which is what we have here today. If I am a guilty man, my crime is in daring to believe that the truth will out and that no one lie can live forever. I believe it still. Much as you try to bury it, the truth is out there. Greater than you realize, the truth wants to be known. You will know it. It’ll come to you as it’s come to me. Faster than the speed of light. You may believe yourselves rid of your headache now. And maybe you are. But you’ve only done it by cutting off your own heads.”

– From The Truth (Season 9, Episode 19): Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) delivers his final statement to the panel of judges headed by FBI deputy director Alvin Kersh (James Pickens Jr.) before his sentencing is about to come down at his military murder trial.

“You’ve always said that you want to believe. But believe in what, Mulder? If this is the truth that you’ve been looking for, then what is left to believe in?”

“I want to believe that – the dead are not lost to us. That they speak to us – as part of something greater than us. Greater than any alien force. And if you and I are powerless now, I want to believe that if we listen to what’s speaking, it can give us the power to save ourselves.”

“Then we believe the same thing …”

“Maybe there’s hope.”

– From The Truth (Season 9, Episode 19): The final lines of the series, an exchange between Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) as they settle down in their motel room and contemplate their long journey together.