The Best and Worst of Season 1

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Like many first seasons of most TV shows, The X-Files’ first season had its share of missteps. But when the show got it right, it really did get things right. The main characters — Mulder and Scully — are well drawn out and fun to watch from the start. Despite Scully’s introduction as a possible antagonist to Mulder, their banter and chemistry is immediately compelling and remains one of the reasons why the show is so meaningful to most longtime fans.

The first season also establishes a mythology for the show (something that has become more prominent in television today). Numerous aspects of the early mythology will remain integral to the show in its future seasons, a rather commendable feat by writers who were just starting to figure things out.

The standalone Monster of the Week episodes from this season are a mix of fantastic and slightly cruddy. But episodes like “Squeeze” and “Ice” establish that classic monster show feeling, while also feeling fresh and even somewhat scientifically possible at times.

We’ll be plowing ahead with season two soon enough, but before we do, we’d like to highlight our five favorite and five least favorite episodes from season one. Take a look, and tell us where you agree (or disagree) with what we think. Continue reading

1×24: The Erlenmeyer Flask

“Don’t give up on this one. Trust me. You’ve never been closer.” – Deep Throat
“Closer to what?” – Fox Mulder

After we glimpse a car chase that would later be shown on World’s Wildest Police Videos with Sheriff John Bunnell, our heroes get entangled in their most dangerous case yet…

The Erlenmeyer Flask

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Max: With a cold open of a high speed pursuit, you can feel that things are coming to a head in this episode. “The Erlenmeyer Flask,” our first season finale, does not disappoint and sets things in motion that will ripple throughout the entire series. I’ve spoken before of how the The X-Files‘ mythology starts out as a series of disparate puzzle pieces. In this episode, we don’t get to put any of those pieces together. But more importantly, we are provided the frame onto which we will be able to begin to attach these pieces.

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1×23: Roland

“I believe in psychic connections, and evidence suggests that it’s stronger between family members, strongest of all between twin siblings that share the same womb.”
— Fox Mulder

Our agents investigate mysterious deaths at an aerospace testing facility and start exploring the possibility of a telepathic murderer when it seems a mentally handicapped janitor may be behind it all.

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Radhika: “Roland” is one of those “pleasant enough” Monster of the Week episodes, airing right before it was time to ramp things up with The X-Files’ first season finale. The script is a little soft, and there are themes (revenge from beyond the grave — sort of) that are reminiscent of “Born Again” and “Shadows.”

This time, the vulnerable character at the center of the story is Roland, a mentally handicapped janitor who works at a research facility where scientists are working on a prototype jet engine. Mulder and Scully make an appearance when a turbine at the facility kills one of the scientists. (As viewers, we see that Roland activated the turbine in the teaser.) Continue reading

1×22: Born Again

“Why is it still so hard for you to believe, even when all the evidence suggests extraordinary phenomena?” – Fox Mulder
“Because sometimes looking for extreme possibilities makes you blind to the probable explanation right in front of you.” – Dana Scully

Our heroes venture to upstate New York to investigate the apparent suicide of a police detective. But does the sullen little girl who was in the room with him at the time hold the key to what really happened?

Born Again

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Max: “Born Again” is a wonderfully compelling late-season outing, with a lot going on in terms of both the main case and the working relationship between Mulder and Scully.

A little girl named Michelle is present at the death of a police officer, miles away from her home, and the weird circumstances surrounding it bring our heroes into the fold. She claims to have seen a man in the room with them, but the physical description turns out to be that of a police officer named Charlie Morris slain in an apparent hit nine years prior. Continue reading

1×21: Tooms

“Mulder, I wouldn’t put myself on the line for anybody but you.” — Dana Scully
“If there’s an iced tea in that bag, it could be love.” — Fox Mulder
“Must be fate, Mulder. Root beer.” — Dana Scully

Our agents revisit the case of liver-eating serial killer Eugene Victor Tooms when he’s released on parole. But in addition to stalking new prey for his next meal, Tooms is also out to get a certain special agent in trouble.

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Radhika: “Tooms” serves as a sequel to the show’s very first Monster of the Week, “Squeeze,” and it’s just as rich — if not richer — than its predecessor. We see the return of Eugene Victor Tooms, the mutant serial killer with a taste for human liver, who has a tendency to kill his victims every 30 years. In this episode, Tooms, who was incarcerated for an assault on Scully without being charged for any murders, is released on parole… and of course our agents, especially Mulder, are not happy. Continue reading

1×20: Darkness Falls

“Get the impression that we’ve walked into the middle of a war that’s already started?”
– Dana Scully

Our heroes decide to take a nice trip to the forest, but instead come face to face with a swarm of apparently hundreds-of-years-old insects, hungry and with a score to settle…

Darkness Falls

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Max: “Darkness Falls” is a better episode that I have given it credit for over the years. Yes, the idea of tiny insects being able to swarm and cocoon human beings thousands of times their size is a bit on the ridiculous side, and the special effects used to manifest them laughably outdated by today’s standards, but the tension of what might happen when the sun sets is palpable and works effectively here. Chris Carter, not necessarily known for writing the best episodes of his show, does a bang up job here. And for once, the real world issues that are brought into this episode work to our benefit.

After a logging company loses contact with a group of its employees and a Forest Service team sent into investigate disappear as well, Mulder and Scully are put on the case. Continue reading

1×19: Shapes

“They told me that even though my deodorant is made for a woman, it’s strong enough for a man.” — Fox Mulder

Our agents are called in on a case about a shooting on a farm close to a Native American reservation, and soon discover that they’re dealing with an old-school spooky creature: the werewolf.

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Radhika: “Shapes” is a bit of a middle-of-the-road X-File. On one hand, I appreciate that it’s a callback to a more traditional type of monster (with a Native American element), but on the other hand… I’m always a little underwhelmed when I watch it.

“Shapes” has the trappings of your traditional X-File — the shadows, the trench coats, the general dark atmosphere. But I personally feel the story moves too slowly, and I’m not sure the Native American characterizations are my favorite. But I’m also not going to profess to be an expert on the subject, and at least we’re not seeing some Lone Ranger-esque stereotypes here. (Of course, we know there will be more Native American elements to come on The X-Files, specifically in the form of Navajo references.) Continue reading