The Top 20 X-Files Episodes : 1 - 10

Welcome back...or if you missed 20 to 11 check it out right here. Without further adieu, let's continue our journey through the X-Files cannon.

10. Clyde Bruckmans Final Repose

We've already taken a look at a few of the shows "comedy" episodes, "Dreamland" + "Jose Chung," on the list, but IMHO this is the funniest pure comedy episode of the entire series.  Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate the deaths of several local fortune tellers. The local police fall under the spell of the famous psychic The Stupendous Yappi. Mulder and Scully are less then impressed by Yappis ability. Their investigation crosses their paths with Clyde Bruckman (Peter Boyle). Bruckman is an actual psychic. He has the ability to to tell when everyone is going to die. Bruckman has such an extraordinary ability, but to him it's a curse. He lives his life in fear. He has become a shell of the person he want's to be, all becasue of his ability. He aids Mulder and Scully in their investigation of the psychic killer.  The script is tremendous. It's quick. One liners fly at a rate that usually doesn't exist in this show.Then there is Boyle, who was no stranger to off beat comedy (see: Young Frankenstein). Boyle is tremendous in this episode. He's funny, sympathetic, and even bit angry. It's his performance that raises the bar for this episode.

9. Monday

Did I mention that I am a fan of things that really fuck with the space time continuum (I think I did)? Much like "Redrum" this episode centers around a character who is trying to reset a wrong that's already happened. However instead of living backwards one day at a time, our protagonist keeps living the same day over and over again. Pam (Carrie Hamilton)  wakes up everyday knowing that her boyfriend is going to rob a bank. He is going to kill many people, including Mulder, who is just coming to make a deposit. So everyday she wakes up and tries to do something differently to change the outcome of the day. It's the X-Files version of Groundhog Day. A great guest starring performance from Hamilton really keeps what could have been a mess of an episode grounded.

8. Ice

Essentially, "Ice" is the X-Files take on John Carpenters The Thing. Mulder and Scully are called to Alaska where a group of scientists investigating the ice core have all gone crazy and killed each other. Much like Carpenters version, this episode not only deals with the cause of the killings but also the paranoia that sets in once small groups of people are left isolated from the general population. This is one of the first times where Mulder and Scully act more like friends than just partners, a theme that would sustain the show for the next 7 seasons. You also get an early performance by Felicity Huffman as one of the scientists who accompanies Mulder and Scully to the outpost. They are joined by Steve (Kenny Banya) Hynter as well. Even though this episode is at best derivative, it is still extremely effective and gave viewers a really good look at what the relationship between Mulder and Scully could become.

7. Drive

Again, we go back to the sympathetic bad guy. The twist here though is that, depending on your point of view, he's not entirely sympathetic, and he's not really all that bad. Mulder is kidnapped by Patrick Crump and instructed to drive west as fast as he can or Crumps head will explode from the increased high frequency waves in his head. Sounds pretty pedestrian right? Normally it would be, but in the hands of such great actors as Duchovny and guest star Bryan Cranston it turns into one of the best episodes of the entire series. Cranston, who at this point was known mostly as dentist Tim Whatley (Whatley!) from Seinfeld, gives one hell of a performance. Essentially, this episode becomes a two person play with peripheral involvement of Scully and others, but it's really the Cranston/Duchovny show. If you want to see two actors at the top of their game just owning it - here it is. 

6. Duane Berry/Ascention

Yes, I am cheating again. But, as I explained earlier, you can't really take part one without part two. This is the watershed moment for all the mythos episodes. All the talk and speculation, all Mulders pontificating kind of comes to a head and shit gets real. Mulder is called in to talk to Duane Berry an escaped prisoner who has taken four people hostage. Berry claims that he's been abducted by aliens numerous times. Each time the experiment on him and send him back, only to repeat the process over and over again. Mulder is intrigued. But Scully tells him Barry is crazy and full of shit. Scully soon learns the error of her ways when, in the Ascension part of the episode, Barry kidnaps her and she is the one abducted by the aliens. This really kicks off the whole storyline with Scully and chip in her neck that is removed, then put back in and her DNA and the baby. If you wanted to get involved in the whole alien abduction mythos storyline, but don't want to sit through Mulder whining about it for the first season and a half, this is where you should start. The first part will catch you up on Mulders situation with his sister and why he more apt to believe Barry. While the second part starts the real meat and potatoes of the X-Files Mythology. I would be remiss if I didn't point out yet another great guest performance, this time from Steve Railsback as the title character, Duane Berry.

5. Small Potatoes

I had said that the "Clyde Bruckner" episode was the last "comedy" episode to be on the list. Many will say that this is indeed a "comedy" episode. I would tend to disagree, but if you want to think that way, I see your point and wont argue with you. In this episode, 5 babies are born around the same time. All have a vestigial tail. All were fathered by the same man, William Van Blundht (the "h" is silent). One problem, none of the women involved ever slept with Mr. Van Blundht. In fact Mr. Van Blundht is a looser janitor who would have a hard time getting a woman's phone number, forget about sleeping with them. Scully suggests its a Rohypnol/rape situation. But that's a little dark for the X-Files. No, Mr. Van Blundht is a shape shifter. He was able to turn in to these women's husbands, boyfriends, and in one case Luke Skywalker, in order to get these women to sleep with him. He's pretty good at what he does, even transforming into Mulder at one point and almost scoring with Scully. Van Blundht is so pathetic you almost can't help but feel sorry for him and his ho hum nature. This episode is not laugh out loud "ha ha funny", but it is a tremendous dark comedy, and it's another episode of the show where they tease you with the "will they or won't they " Mulder and Scully thing.

4. Squeeze/Tooms

"Squeeze" was the second episode of the show to ever air. Whereas the first episode established the overall mythology story arc of the series, "Squeeze" stood as a testament to just how far the show would push things with their "monster of the week" episodes. Doug Hutchison plays Eugene Victor Tooms, the first real bad guy of the series. Tooms, while human in appearance, is anything but. He s a creature of unknown origin that awakens every thirty years to claim 5 more victims, subsisting on nothing by their livers, before retreating back into hibernation. The original episode established the differences between Mulder and Scully in how they approach their work. Scully refuses to accept Mulders explanation of the killings, even when confronted with all of Mulders evidence. It's not until Scully is able to see Tooms in action, as it were, that she is finally convinced. This is an episode, that, if it had come later in the series probably wouldn't have made as great an impact. Once Scully started really buying into what Mulder was selling they dynamics between them changed. Here she acts more like an antagonist to him rather than a partner. The sequel episode pales in comparison to the original and almost feels like the shoehorned Tooms into it because of the great response to "Squeeze." Still, "Squeeze" set the early template for these types of episodes while Scully was still in her "Come on Mulder, that's ridiculous" phase.

3. Beyond The Sea

In many ways the best X-Files episodes are driven by their guest stars. We've already seen it with Peter Boyle and Bryan Cranston. Sometimes the guest star can elevate the episode all by themselves. That's what Brad Douriff does here. Not that Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny are bad, not at all, but Douriff is so damn good he makes this episode, which has a pretty thin premise, one of the all time greats simply with his performance. Douriff is Luther Lee Boggs a serial killer on death row who reaches out to Mulder to aid him in his investigation of another serial killer. If you think it sounds like Silence of The Lambs - you'd be right. However, Boggs claims to be psychic and claims to be able to form a psychic connection to the killer. In a reversal of roles, Mulder thinks he's full of shit. Scully on the other hand, now dealing with the loss of her father, is slowly convinced by Boggs, who claims he can channel her deceased father. When he does that, Scully is convinced. Another episode that's, again a two person play between Douriff and Anderson with Duchovnys search for the killer taking up te secondary plot line of the episode. Not only do we get to learn a lot more about Scullys background, specifically her relationship with her father, but also we learn a few more reasons as to why she approaches things the way she does. It's always amazing watching Brad Douriff in things that he's not more of a household name. His performance here is arguably the best of the whole series. 

2. The Post-Modern Prometheus

"The Post-Modern Prometheus" is essentially the entire series run of The X-Files boiled down to one episode. It's quirky, it's funny, it's creepy. It's tongue in cheek and deadly serious all at the same time. The ending of the episode has more heart and good will than any other of the shows entire run. Book-ended with comic book excerpts, the episode, shot entirely in black and white, feels like it could be a segment of Creepshow almost more than it feels like an X-Files episode. Mulder and Scully are called to a small town to search for The Great Mutato, a Frankenstein-like creature that they claim is terrorizing them in the night. What they find when they get there is something completely different. Sure there is a "monster" but he's not evil or even mean spirited. He's simply a deformed by who, becasue of the movie Mask loves Cher. David Duchovny has stated that this is his favorite episode of the series becasue "it's really what the whole show was about." I think he's right.

1. Home

This is a horror site right? Well, then it should be of no surprise that my #1 episode of the whole series is the most obvious horror based episode of the entire shows run. Yes, I see the irony that, technically this isn't even an X-File. However, it turns out to be something even more sinister. Mulder and Scully are called out to a small town to investigate a dead baby found in a shallow grave on the outskirts of the Peacock family property. They quickly deduce that the baby came from the Peacock house. however, they are completely off base when it comes to how or why it came from there. Ifamous even before it aired, this is the only episode of the series to be rated TV-MA. It was banned in Great Britain for a long period of time based in both the subject matter and the disturbing images. While all that is true, the episode goes out of it's way to not take itself too seriously by throwing a couple good one liners in. The episode also has a rather not so subtle undercurrent of "old ways vs. new ways" and the thought that sometimes keeping with the status quo is best for everyone. Moral undercurrents aside though, this is the episode that I remember the most from watching the show in it's initial run and was most anticipating as we started wading through the show a second time. It certainly didn't disappoint. "Home" is just as disturbing and memorable as it was when it aired originally.

So that's it for my journey though, what I consider to be the best 20 X-Files episodes. What are your thoughts? Favorites? Something I may have missed? let me know in the comment section below.

As always...thanks for reading...and "Enjoy Every Sandwich."

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