It’s that time again, when we look back at the best and worst of the last The X-Files season we rewatched. Season four wound up being more polarizing than we remembered, as this was a season where some of the best episodes were really top notch, while the worst were actually quite terrible. But that said, it’s still a pretty decent season of the show — part of the “classic” Vancouver years. The mythology, which still mostly made sense at the time, kept growing in this season. It was the year of Scully’s cancer, of some true heart-to-hearts between our favorite agents. And it was also a year for Mulder, occasionally obtuse and oblivious, to grow and face some of his own demons.
So, here we go. As usual, we list our top five favorites, along with our five least favorites. (Multi-part mythology episodes that make the list continue to count as “one” for the purposes of storytelling.) And before you know it, we’ll be onto season five!
TOP 5 EPISODES OF SEASON 4
Home – Controversial enough to be banned from network TV after it aired, “Home” still makes viewers uncomfortable to this day. It’s not an episode for the faint of heart and it still requires some of us to turn our heads away while watching, but it also isn’t just shocking for the sake of being shocking. There’s a reason why so many Philes still talk about this episode, and it remains one to watch.
Unruhe – This was one of the genuinely well-done Monster of the Weeks of season four and it was largely due to the fact that it’s really rather realistic outside a small supernatural element. The fear and suspense in this episode is palpable, and while it may not be one of the first X-Files episodes that comes to most people’s minds, it’s probably one of the best.
Musings Of A Cigarette Smoking Man – We finally get some answers — or do we? — when The X-Files’ central villain gets an episode of his very own. While we can never be entirely sure of how much of this episode is actually true, getting a glimpse of everything from historical events the CSM was a part of to his secret desire to just be a successful writer is a legitimate treat.
Tunguska / Terma – Krycek is back! The black oil is back! Mulder goes to Russia! Krycek loses an arm! Excitement and intrigue abound in this two-parter, and while the first part was a little stronger in our opinion, the episodes contain enough iconic moments that they needed to make this list.
Paper Hearts – This is a fantastic episode for some Mulder angst and beautifully told to boot. While it ties to Mulder’s past — a certain abduction to be exact — it’s a beautiful character-driven standalone episode that everyone should watch at least once.
Honorable Mention: Memento Mori – It might seem strange that we didn’t give any of the Scully cancer arc episodes a top five designation, but that wasn’t on purpose. We just generally like variety when looking back at these seasons. But this was one of the most touching episodes to date and also one of those must-watch installments of a major storyline. Keep a box of Kleenex handy.
WORST 5 EPISODES OF SEASON 4
Teliko – Between feeling a bit like a rip-off of season one’s “Squeeze” and the “othering” of African characters, “Teliko” is mildly offensive at times and not particularly compelling. While it got us to think a little bit, it’s not one of our most highly recommended episodes.
The Field Where I Died – With its laughable acting, poorly thought-out story and weird pacing, this episode is a genuine hot mess. Philes hated it then and we still don’t particularly care for it now. Skip!
Sanguinarium – Plastic surgery and witchcraft don’t particularly reward us with much of anything, except for some slightly uncharacteristic gore. While atmospheric, it’s not a particularly cohesive episode. Spare yourself from puzzling over this one and watch some of the best episodes we listed instead.
El Mundo Gira – This episode is such garbage, we don’t have any more insight to add.
Unrequited – When the teaser is the best part of an episode, there are some serious problems on hand. What starts out promising ends up being a forgettable snoozer of an episode, which would be an utter shame, except we can hardly be bothered to care.