The Corona Files: Top Ten Scariest Monster of the Week Episodes

~Top 10 Monster of the Week episodes ~
Category: Horror

It’s been over a month since I wrote my review for The Jersey Devil. However, I believe last month excuses slacking behavior. You might think that a global pandemic is the perfect occasion for watching and reviewing, but my ADD-like mind performs poorly when I have too much time on my hands. Instead of focusing on the task at hand, I initiate a million projects, get bored with them, and jump to something else before finishing.

Basically, I’m mentally incapable of watching 217 episodes of The X Files right now. On normal days, they would be something to look forward to it. Now, it feels like a chore. This is a sentiment I obviously want to avoid, lest I abandon this project altogether.

Therefore, I decided to do things differently for this entry, and to write about the one thing that unites us all right now: fear.

If I may ramble and reminiscence for a bit before jumping to the ranking: when I was a child, I was afraid of just about everything. I used to have ongoing nightmares where the basilisk from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) resided in my closet, or the shark from Jaws (1976) tried to eat me in my sleep. Yet, I have always been fascinated by that which frightened me, so much so that I browsed urban legends and creepypastas until I was too afraid to even move.

I didn’t really get into horror as a genre until I borrowed American Horror Story: Asylum (2012) from my local library a couple of years ago. To this day, I still consider it to be the perfect gateway to a wide array of movies and series that tackle the macabre: the story and acting stands strong, it’s sinister enough to give those new to the genre chills, but not nearly terrifying enough to scare them away indefinitely.

Thanks to AHS: Asylum, curiosity overcame fear and I quickly became desensitized to horror. Now, it is my absolute favorite genre.

The X Files, although an amalgam of several genres, focuses first and foremost on a horrific aspect. Every episode explores the concept of what sets humans off: be it killers, monsters, conspiracies, cults, ghosts, witches, psychoses, diseases, or death. Of course, truly horrific episodes, that scare the living daylight out of its viewers, were not an option for a show airing on prime time. Therefore, the imagery remained rather mild. However, the writers continuously flirted with nightmarish twists, which resulted in some truly unsettling Monster of the Week episodes.

Before I list my top ten, I would like to add three disclaimers:

  1. Fear is subjective. Therefore, what sets me off is going to be different from what sets you off. In fact, I can imagine that not a single top ten on this subject is going to be the same. If you are afraid of bugs, Darkness Falls (S1E20) might be somewhere on your list. If you’ve had a particularly bad experience with online dating, then perhaps 2Shy (S3E6) will make an appearance. Neither of those things scare me, though. But I can see why they might be scary to some. Vice versa, some spots in my top ten might be run-of-the-mill episodes to you. Horror is that which universally frightens us, but, at the same time, is highly personal.
  2. I don’t remember every episode in detail.
  3. As the title already indicates, I’m only focusing on Monster of the Week episodes.

After some finagling, here’s the result of my top ten scariest Monster of the Week episodes of The X Files:

10. Irresistible (S2E13)

I am sure that Irresistible will make an appearance on many lists. In fact, most people will probably rank it higher than I did. I might have seen too many documentaries on serial killers to be truly fazed by Donnie Pfaster. However, he’s a frightening individual nonetheless. Underneath his seemingly soft demeanor hides a cold-blooded murderer. He rapidly escalates as he tries to (re-)capture the high he receives from murdering women and collecting trophies off of their dead bodies.

The most horrifying part is that, unlike all those monsters and mutants, people like Donnie exist. They might be your neighbor, your bus driver, or your delivery man. They might watch us, and target us, patiently waiting before executing their next move.

When Scully looks at Donnie, she sees him as the true incarnation of evil: a demon.

Whether he is an actual demonic entity, or this is a manifestation of the evil Scully sees in him, is still up to the viewer in Irresistible. I preferred to believe the latter. Turning him into a demon instead of a human being capable of doing such awful things to other human beings, weakens the credibility of his character. This is why Orison (S7E7), where the writing staff decided to take the full-on demon route, devalues him as a character. I guess an ordinary serial killer was not X-Filey enough, but I find this to be an unfortunate decision.

9. Squeeze (S1E3)

I reviewed Squeeze a while ago and talked about how Eugene Victor Tooms terrified me when I was a child. Looking back, Tooms is one of those classic characters whose design in and of itself isn’t particularly creepy. However, the direction, is.

I used to have a phobia when I was younger: ommetaphobia (fear of eyes). I blame Squeeze for this. I vividly remember watching this episode and the accompanying nightmares I had of dark yellow eyes staring at me from the corner of the room.

Although I more or less got over this fear, Squeeze deserves a spot in the top 10 for all the nightmares it once gave me.

8. Detour (S5E4)

Going from one example of ommetaphobia to another: of course, the red eyes in Detour had to make an appearance on this list.

Detour is one of my favorite episodes. When I watched it for the first time, I was well into my teens and had gotten over my fear of eyes lurking in the dark. Fortunately. Those red eyes following your every move in a dense forest would have given me the creeps for many nights and days to come.

Detour ranks before Squeeze because, let’s be honest, red eyes are scarier than yellow. And, on a more serious note, whereas Tooms mainly turned creepy thanks to excellent directing, the Mothmen combine excellent directing with a design that still stands strong after more than twenty years.

Although Detour is a pretty shippy and generally lighthearted episode, those Mothmen are among the scariest monsters The X Files has to offer.

7. Tithonus (S6E10)

I’m the first to admit that I’m biased when it comes to Tithonus. It is my favorite episode, I consider it to be close to perfection, and I cannot wait to review it.

Without getting into all of the reasons why I will literally defend this episode with my life, I want to look at the horror aspect. Tithonus is all about another phobia of mine: thanatophobia, or, a fear of dying. However, at the same time, I’m morbidly fascinated by the end of life. It’s a fear and a fascination that Scully and I both share. She cannot believe that Alfred Fellig would rather die than be immortal. Alfred, from his side, provides the viewer with a healthy dose of existential dread: life does not last, love does not last, and everything must perish in the end.

Soon, it is established that death is something inevitable. From the moment The Grim Reaper decided that someone’s time is up, that person will die and there’s nothing they can do about it. When Alfred tells Scully that the hooker on the corner of the street will die, and she gets attacked by an armed assailant, Scully rushes in to rescue her, only for the woman fleeing the scene and getting hit and killed by a truck.

None of our actions matter once Death has singled you out.

As the episode builds to its climax, so does the music. Tithonus is Mark Snow at his finest. The score crescendos when Death draws ever closer to Scully, which adds a lot to the ever-persisting tension. The only way to escape him, is to deceive Death. But that’s an entry for later.

The horror in Tithonus isn’t as defined as it is for other episodes on this list. Yet, this is a very personal kind of horror to me, which is why I ranked it all the way up to number 7.

6. Fresh Bones (S2E15)

Need I say more? Those two pictures pretty much sum up why Fresh Bones ranks at number 6. I believe it’s one of the most disturbing images in The X Files and I’m genuinely surprised that the network let it slip.

5. Roadrunners (S8E4)

Something season 8 (which is a highly underrated season, btw) does right, is that it finally manages to implement the warmer and brighter Californian setting into the stories that are being told. The season almost gives off a Carnivàle-esque (2003) vibe: a dry, hot climate, a bright color scheme, and a bleak atmosphere, with surreal stories that draw inspiration from Christianity and devilish cults. Roadrunners is no different. In fact, the entire concept of the episode would have made for an excellent Carnivàle subplot.

Carnivàle will always be one of my favorite shows and I am forever disappointed that it was cancelled because some people got their priorities in a twist.

Roadrunners opens with a hitchhiker stepping on a bus that drives around the desert at night. The unfortunate hiker then witnesses a man getting killed while the passengers on the bus cheer and chant.

Scully investigates the mysterious disappearances happening in the area on her own. When her car breaks down, she is left stranded in the middle of nowhere, without any reception. Only the friendly people that live in a nearby hamlet might be able to get her out of there. However, it becomes apparent that they don’t want her to leave.

Ultimately, she is defenseless against the mob that worships Banana Slug Jesus: a massive parasite that leaves its hosts paralyzed, epileptic, and compliant. The cult believes that he or she who is able to withstand the parasite, is the chosen one.

Roadrunners follows a classic horror pattern where Scully finds herself out of the frying pan and into the fire. Each predicament seems to be more dire than the one before. Tension keeps building in this episode and the viewers are presented with a fair bit of gore when the parasite crawls through Scully’s spine, all the way up to her brain, until Doggett finally manages to cut it out.

Following the cult-craze in the 1990s, there are plenty of cult episodes in The X Files, but I believe Roadrunners is by far the most gruesome among them.

4. Home (S4E2)

Another episode I suspect will make an appearance on many lists, is Home. You all undoubtedly know that Home was the first out of two episodes of The X Files to receive a “viewer discretion” warning. In fact, the episode was so gruesome that many fans questioned if they should continue watching the series.

I understand that sentiment. The content of this episode is, after all, highly shocking. It opens with a baby being buried alive, and things only get worse from there: initially, Mulder and Scully believe that they’re dealing with a woman being captured, raped, and forced to give birth against her will by three deformed brothers. However, it turns out that their delimbed mother is hiding underneath the bed and gave birth to a baby that was conceived by all three of the brothers at the same time, while the eldest fathered the two younger ones too. Top it off with the awful murder of the sheriff and his wife and I get why this episode received a viewer discretion.

This is obviously a very shocking scenario and therefore deserving of a place in the top 5. I didn’t rank Home higher, though, because at this point, I qualify as somewhat of a horror veteran. I’m desensitized to those fucked-up premises. In fact, at this point, I am a lot more susceptible to disturbing imagery than I am to disturbing content.

3. Unruhe (S4E4)

We’re up to number 3 and I’m starting to note a pattern: Scully seems to encounter a lot more stuff I find unsettling than Mulder does. Unruhe isn’t an exception. A serial killer is on the loose and targets her once more after she chased him down at an abandoned construction site.

Enter: one of the most chilling scenes of The X Files. The killer, Gerry Schnauz, is walking on stilts, which is a frightening image in and of itself. There’s a reason that very tall and towering figures, such as Slenderman or The Crooked Man, are common horror tropes. They not only appear and walk strangely, they also literally look down on their victims. Not to mention that many people suffering from sleep paralysis have universally reported abnormally tall and shadowy figures looming over them.

But the horror doesn’t end there. Scully stops and questions Gerry when Mulder calls her on her cellphone and mentions: “Scully, I may have something for you on the kidnapper. It’s something about his legs. They’re unusually long, they’re out of proportion. I’m thinking he’s either very tall, or he’s not but wants to be.”

Scully and the audience realize at the same time that she is talking to the very person who kidnaps and lobotomizes women. It’s one of those rare moments that still sends shivers down my spine after several viewings.

Then there’s also the picture that Gerry creates with his mind. Those demonic creatures with their elongated fingers pulling Scully down into the abyss are sheer nightmare fuel.

2. Familiar (S11E8)

Familiar would have been a pretty bland and forgettable episode, were it not for Mr. Chuckleteeth and his army of Teletubbies from Hell.

For some reason, The X Files takes place in a universe where this demon spawn is considered to be wholesome content for kids. They’re even merchandising him so small children can pledge their souls to a satanic dolly.

We all float down here, Georgie.

Familiar seems to be inspired by such stories as IT (2017), of which a cinematic remake was released a year earlier, and by creepypastas like Candle Cove, where children collectively watch a disturbing show on television while adults can only see static. The concept of monsters only children can spot, has proven to be an effective way to give an audience the heebie-jeebies. The X Files dabbled with this premise too (Scary Monsters (S9E14), for example), but never as persuasively as in Familiar.

Of course, Mr. Chuckleteeth’s design adds a lot to his creep factor. Secondly, this is the only time that The X Files actually went all-out into jumpscare territory. This makes Familiar one of the only occasions that the show shamelessly exploited common horror tropes, so evidently, it earns its spot at no. 2.

1. Via Negativa (S8E7)

Let me tell you about my most irrational fear: experiencing sleep paralysis. Up to 50% of all people will experience sleep paralysis at least once in their lifetime. 8% has regular episodes, during which they wake up and are aware at night, but unable to move or speak. During this state, people can suffer from both auditory and visual hallucinations. They will believe someone’s standing in the room, watching them, drawing ever closer, while they remain paralyzed and unable to snap out of it.

Via Negativa is the second and final episode on The X Files to receive a viewer discretion because of its disturbing scenes and images. The story goes that yet another cult leader tries to reach a higher plane of existence by following the “via negativa”: the negative way. He learned to open his third eye and to reach into people’s psyche. That way, he commands them to do his bidding while they sleep.

Doggett gets possessed by him. Both he, and us fans, are unsure about whether he finds himself in a dream-state or not. He has been experiencing dreadful nightmares, after all, leaving the audience on the edge of their seats. However, everyone around him reassures him that everything’s real. Yet things aren’t what they seem.

Eerie voices are whispering in his head, the setting around him becomes increasingly volatile, the music grows louder, and the voices turn more and more distorted. It reminds me, personally, of Valravn’s plane of existence in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (2017). I had to take a break while playing this part of the game because the erratic voices and flashes were too much for me to handle in one sitting.

It soon becomes clear that this is, in fact, a dream sequence. However, just like sleep paralysis, no matter how horrific those hallucinations seem to get, Doggett has no way of stopping it.

In his dream, he walks into Scully’s apartment, in a scene that is lit in the same way as Bongcheon Dong Ghost (warning: not for the faint of heart). He picks up a conveniently-placed ax and walks up to kill her.

Of course, in the end, all’s well that ends well (apart from Doggett apparently fantasizing about killing Scully), but it took a surprisingly large amount of psychological torture to get to the episode’s conclusion. The psychological aspect, combined with the lack of control, the voices, lightning, and confusion, make Via Negativa the scariest episode of The X Files.

~

Thank you all for reading! I am not sure whether the next entry will be another top ten, or a regular review. But in the meantime, stay healthy, stay indoors, practice social distancing, and happy Easter and/or Passover!

Your pal,

Astrid

Review: The Jersey Devil (S1E5)

Written by: Chris Carter
Directed by: Joe Napolitano

Aired on: October 8, 1993
Rewatched on: March 7, 2020

Disclaimer: I’m lying sick in bed, so if this review sounds more incoherent than usual, you know why.

Let’s start right off the bat with a warning that I am going to heavily criticize The Jersey Devil. It’s undoubtedly the most flawed episode so far. However, there are a couple of redeeming factors to counter the bad ones. I will be discussing both in this review.

The episode opens with a badly-lit scene where a family is driving around New Jersey in 1947. Their car breaks down and, while changing the tire, the dad is dragged into the woods. His leg is then eaten by the titular Jersey Devil.

Back in 1993, Scully enters the office to witness Mulder working on a very important case.

This already brings me to redeeming factor no. 1: it’s funny. I doubt humor was Chris Carter’s actual intention. As far as I’m aware, the first intentionally funny episode of The X Files is Humbug (S2E20). But it is a logical side-effect when combining this episode’s theme with our two heroes.

After all, The Jersey Devil is all about primal instincts; instincts that are depicted as being both sexual and reproductive. When applying those instincts to Mulder and Scully, they will deviate from their usual self, without necessarily being out of character. We see the same thing happen in such episodes as Syzygy (S3E13) and Three of a Kind (S6E20).

When Scully tells Mulder that a homeless person was found cannibalized in Atlantic City, Mulder is convinced that they’re dealing with the Jersey Devil. And despite the previous episode centering around Blevins who questioned Mulder’s motives to go to Sioux City, Iowa, the duo can now order a rental car and drive to New Jersey as they please.

Did you notice that The X Files is already being inconsistent when it comes to their very own, in-universe rules? Episodes contradict each other all the time. And this is only the 5th episode, out of 218.

Oof.

Once Mulder and Scully arrive in Atlantic City, they are quickly shown the door by the local P.D. Mulder, however, wants to stay and investigate anyway. Scully does not. It’s Friday evening, her godson’s birthday party is coming up, and she promised that she’d be there.

We get a boring scene in which Mulder talks to a park ranger, followed by redeeming factor no. 2: the slice-of-life in The Jersey Devil.

This dog is going to die from diabetes.

Scully is helping out her friend/sister-in-law, who is organizing a birthday party for her son and his friends. To stick with the primal theme, the topics of “finding a mate” and “motherhood” are addressed. Scully’s friend/SIL claims that she would be a good mother, and Scully is set up on a date with one of the boys’ divorced father.

This is something we rarely get to see in The X Files. Mulder is pretty much consumed by all of the cases he comes across but Scully still has a life and expectations outside of her job. I love that we’re visiting this life. It allows us to see another, gentler and more relaxed, side of her: one where she’s comforting a boy who bumped his head, goes on dates, or calls Mulder “cute”.

Dana borrowed her sister Melissa’s boho outfit.

In the meantime, Mulder is channeling his inner tramp as he trades his hotel room for a homeless person’s stack of mattresses. He’s convinced that he will witness the Jersey Devil, of which this is an artist’s rendition:

I can’t take this episode seriously and this drawing is part of the reason why.

On a side-note: I completely forgot that The Jersey Devil introduces us to the tribal panpipes music that plays in all of my least favorite episodes.

Mulder is arrested by the local P.D. Since the only proof of the Jersey Devil he can present, is that stupid-ass drawing, he is thrown in the drunk tank.

This brings me to the last redeeming factor, namely redeeming factor no. 3: The Jersey Devil-Mulder might be my favorite Mulder.

Both Mulder and Scully are fluent characters who tend to be written differently in each episode, depending on which writer is handling them. Everyone has their own set of ideas of what they would say or do, or different aspects that they like to highlight. It happens all the time. Writers are humans too, nothing more than fancy fanfiction authors. Therefore, just like when comparing to fanfics, Chris Carter’s Mulder is different from Darin Morgan’s. Glen Morgan and James Wong’s Scully is different from Vince Gilligan’s.

Generally, in the show, Scully is written more consistently than Mulder. And usually, I dislike Chris’ adaptation of both Mulder and Scully, for reasons we’ll get into once we tackle the behemoth that is the plot.

But The Jersey Devil-Mulder – despite being one of Chris’ Mulders – is determined yet pleasant, funny, quirky, and completely unaware of his own social inadequacies.

He is also possessive when it comes to Scully.

The possessiveness adds to their sexual tension, but in this context, is obviously a part of the primal instincts-theme; the idea that we’re nothing more than clothed monkeys with guns: Scully is looking for a mate, Mulder becomes annoyed when he hears that she’s going on a date. He is the Alpha male who wants her undivided attention.

No, you don’t.

Mulder is certain that what he saw, was human. Scully then introduces Mulder to her old Professor of Anthropology, who also happens to be one of my least favorite characters of the first season because he bullshits his way through his scenes.

A correction of all the things he is bullshitting:

  1. Homo Sapiens are omnivorous, not carnivorous.
  2. Animals weighing less than 50 kilograms didn’t go extinct because early Homo Sapiens actively hunted them down and killed them. Their extinction is a consequence of the changes humans brought forth in their natural environment.
  3. Homo Sapiens aren’t more intelligent than other mammals, our intelligence manifests itself differently. When it comes to survival in the woods, a human isn’t better off than, let’s say, a bear.
  4. The idea that civilization automatically equals “better” has been disproved among anthropologists long before the episode aired.
  5. There is no evidence at all that Neanderthal have ever traveled as far as The USA.
  6. And my absolute favorite: “primates have a natural fear of heights.”
PRIMATES
HAVE
A
NATURAL
FEAR
OF
HEIGHTS

It’s true that we tend to suffer from vertigo. But please, don’t go saying that this Neanderthal woman isn’t going to try to escape by climbing on the roof when that is exactly how literally every primate that isn’t a human would escape.

I cannot say how (in)accurate The X Files’ science is in general. Physicists or M.D.’s might cringe at certain scenes the way I cringed during this scene. I studied human sciences, not exact sciences. But since anthropology is a human science, I can tell you that they did not consult an anthropologist.

Anyway, other than bullshit, this scene hardly adds anything to the episode. This brings me to The Jersey Devil’s weakest point: there isn’t much of a story, other than “there’s a Neanderthal on the loose in Atlantic City and, in a way, Mulder and Scully are acting just as primal as their ancestors.” This results in a lot of pointless scenes and dragged-out chases, just to reach the forty-minute-mark. Whenever a scene does not center around one of the three redeeming factors (funny, slice-of-life, and a particularly quirky-written Mulder), it’s boring.

Luckily, there is one more scene that contains all three of those redeeming factors:

Mulder is staring at a drawing of Bigfoot he drew titties on when it dawns on him: the Jersey Devil/Neanderthal they’re looking for might be female.

In the meantime, Scully is having a date with a guy who tells her about his fantasy to run over his son’s step-father with a car.

She’s also wearing the ugliest outfit in existence.

Mulder has to share his revelation so he pages Scully immediately. She is glad that she has an excuse to end her date with killer-dad early and meets up with Mulder, in an attempt to catch the Jersey Devil.

The rest of the episode consists of a boring chase scene and Mulder getting the weirdest boner when the Jersey Devil/Neanderthal overpowers him.

She runs into the woods and is shot and killed, to Mulder and Scully’s dismay.

The episode ends with killer-dad asking Scully out on another date, which she refuses. She rather joins Mulder to the Smithsonian, which marks the final time our Dana will have a semblance of a life.

The Jersey Devil feels like an experimental episode, shot in a time they hadn’t found their footing yet. I always argue that it’s a good thing Glen Morgan and James Wong wrote for The X Files in 1993, or we would’ve ended up with Monster-Of-The-Weeks that resembled The Jersey Devil or Space (S1E9).

Experimentation is normal at this stage. We mustn’t forget that The Jersey Devil is only the fifth episode. However, that doesn’t mean it’s good. The biggest part of the episode is boring and, frankly, rather silly. There are countless of cool, wacky designs for the Jersey Devil out there, but we end up with a Neanderthal of all things.

There is another thing that I haven’t discussed yet; now feels like the right time to introduce “Chris-isms”. Chris Carter, despite being the showrunner, is generally one of my least favorite frequent writers. I respect him for creating The X Files but I don’t believe he’s as accomplished as other frequent writers, such as Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan, Darin Morgan, or Glen Morgan and James Wong.

Among other problems, are the Chris-isms. Chris has certain tropes he likes to add to his episodes. The Jersey Devil has three:

  1. Chris’ obsession with reproduction, fertility, and pregnancy. It’s something that’s easily overlooked this early in the run, but will become apparent later on.
  2. Weird dialogue.

I know the fandom likes the final two sentences. It sets up a pun after all:

- "Eight million years out of Africa."
- "And look who's holding the door."

But why would Mulder say “eight million years out of Africa” at that point in the conversation? It’s not natural at all. People don’t randomly say “eight million years out of Africa” when talking to someone.

The opposite would be:

- "They got HBO?" 
- "Yeah, they do."

In real life, conversations are exactly like that: scrambled and pointless. But this isn’t real life. It’s a TV show, and adding the HBO phrase was completely unnecessary. It’s not even funny, it merely resulted in strange, wooden dialogue that does not work.

The trick is to discover the fine line between natural, and serving a purpose in the context of a television episode. Chris isn’t really good at discerning this.

(For the record, I’m not saying that I would do any better. I think it would be effing difficult).

3. “Not outside the realm of extreme possibility.”

Chris loves that sentence. He uses it in multiple episodes, said by multiple characters. After a while, this becomes noticeable and annoying.

Fortunately, despite the fact that The Jersey Devil is pretty boring, silly, and has Chris-isms, there are the three redeeming factors. It’s funny, has slice-of-life, and a good Mulder. Therefore, I would still watch it. After all, the scenes I do like, genuinely make me laugh, even though I doubt that’s the intention.

Just don’t take this episode too seriously and you’ll be good.

Thanks for reading and happy International Women’s Day!

Your pal,

Astrid

Watch/Skip: Watch

Next up: Shadows

Review: Conduit (S1E4)

Written by: Alex Gansa & Howard Gordon
Directed by: Daniel Sackheim

Aired on: October 1, 1993
Rewatched on: March 2, 2020

I have a strange relationship with Conduit. Every time I watch it, I’m surprised by how much I actually like it. Then I tend to forget about it, and its emotional depth, until my next rewatch. I guess this has to do with my general dislike for the Samantha story arc. Truth be told, seeing Conduit makes me sad about the way they handled it later on. After all, what this episode does well, is show us how much potential this arc had when the writing team still had a vision.

But I’m getting a couple of seasons ahead of myself.

Conduit opens with an abduction, and therefore with restoring The X Files’ reputation as The Alien Show after briefly abandoning this concept in Squeeze. This theme might seem repetitive but it isn’t. The aliens, after all, are nothing more than a prop; a tool to make us understand Mulder’s motivations and trauma.

Mulder and Scully find themselves in Sioux City, Iowa, where the infamous Lake Okobogee is supposed to be a hotspot for extraterrestrial activity. A local girl called Ruby has been reported missing from this exact spot, so of course Mulder is drawn to the case. Chief Deputy Director Blevins, however, questions his request to investigate. He inquires Scully whether “Agent Mulder’s personal agenda [has] clouded his judgment”.

“Okobogee.”

This brings us to the topic of the episode: has it? I think there will only be one conclusion in the end, namely that it has. Let us get into it.

From the minute the duo arrives in Sioux City, it becomes obvious that the reason Mulder took on this case, is because of the similarities between Ruby’s disappearance and Samantha’s. He stares longingly at Ruby’s childhood portrait as Scully watches him.

On a side-note: I get what they were going for but Daniel Sackheim should’ve realized that a grown-ass man stroking the portrait of a little girl in a bathing suit would be creepy.

Once more, Scully and the viewer blend together as we both witness the true extent of Mulder’s trauma for the first time. Scully observes him but still keeps her distance. She promised Blevins that Mulder was not affected by his past, but now she’s beginning to doubt her own belief. This is a good moment to note that both Gillian and David are strong in this episode. Particularly David shines in Conduit. For example, what we see in the scene above, is Mulder’s melancholy, and Scully realizing that he really does associate Ruby with Samantha. They might be silent, but their eyes speak for themselves.

The episode loses momentum with the introduction of an incoherent side-plot that leads to nowhere, namely Kevin and the Mystery of the Binary Code. Kevin is Ruby’s younger brother. Ever since his sister was abducted, he is writing page after page full of binary. Mulder and Scully seize it so it can be examined.

It turns out that the government believes little Kevin is Adil Hoxha from The Crepes of Wrath (1990) 2.0, and writes down highly classified information, which he receives via a defense satellite transmission.

Hired goons burst into Scully’s room in the middle of the night and demand the page with the binary code written on them. To Mulder’s dismay, Scully hands it over. This is where the episode is starting to lose me. How did those people know of Kevin writing down the binary code? How did they know Mulder and Scully had those pages? And how did they recognize it was their secret code so quickly? Are we to assume that the government has a hand in this as well?

It does not make sense now, and it never will. Luckily, this scene has one saving grace, which is our heroes’ messy bed-hair:

The binary turns out to be code for Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, a DNA double helix, and music from the Brandenburg Concertos. I have no idea why those goons believed it was harmful but the translation reminds faithful viewers of The Sixth Extinction (S7E1), where Scully discovers a spaceship carrying similar culturally significant messages. However, right now, this information is seemingly random. There will be no connection or thread for seven seasons.

Therefore, Conduit isn’t the episode where this needs to be discussed. For now, let’s pretend that the binary code is just a random thing that happens and doesn’t actually add a lot to the episode, despite Kevin being set up as “the key”.

In the meantime, Ruby’s friend Tessa claims that Ruby became pregnant by a guy named Greg, and has eloped with him. This explanation is a lot more logical than Ruby being abducted by aliens so Scully believes this to be the case. Mulder, however, is convinced of the abduction-theory and drives back to the scene of the crime. There, a pack of wolves leads Mulder and Scully to a shallow grave in the woods, near Lake Okobogee.

There is very little regard for personal space in this episode.

Mulder starts digging, with his bare hands. It becomes apparent once more that he only sees Samantha in Ruby. He wants to find Ruby, but at the same time, he’s scared of what he may discover. This analogizes his feelings about Samantha.

The body turns out to be Greg’s. It wasn’t Ruby who had been pregnant, but Tessa. We can assume that Tessa is the one who killed him, in a fit of jealousy, but the episode sadly never gives us a clear-cut answer. It adds to how unfocused and scrambled this plot is. I wish it wasn’t, because this is an important episode for Mulder.

David is peaking in this episode. The interrogation scene is just one of the many examples.

Therefore, let’s go back to the good stuff once more. Scully realizes that Mulder is definitely allowing his personal agenda to cloud his judgement. So she tells him, outright: “Mulder, stop. Stop running after your sister. This won’t bring her back.”

Mulder, however, becomes frustrated. He cannot stop. He knows how much it’s consuming him but he cannot let go, or as he puts it: “You know when I was a kid, I had this ritual. I closed my eyes before I walked into my room, ’cause I thought that one day when I opened them my sister would be there. Just lying in bed, like nothing ever happened. You know I’m still walking into that room, everyday of my life.”

This is good characterization of someone who has been drained by PTSD for the biggest part of his life. We, like Scully, realize that he takes on cases that remind him of his sister because of how deeply rooted this trauma actually is. We feel sorry for him and we truly hope that one day, he will find closure. It is a good introduction to what Samantha means to Mulder.

Ruby eventually turns up. She was abducted by aliens after all. We never discover the significance of the binary code, nor why Kevin was the conduit. It’s a shame that not even the episode’s title is properly explained. However, I can overlook this because of the final two shots. They are the strongest of Conduit.

Scully is listening to the tapes of the hypnosis sessions Mulder underwent. They enabled him to reach into his unconscious and remember the bright light, which convinced him that Samantha must’ve been abducted by aliens (this is a nice throwback to The Pilot). Scully wants to understand the trauma he’s experiencing. She knows how important this is.

In the meantime, Mulder sits in church and contemplates on the recent events. Eventually, he breaks down. I know that the fandom sometimes discusses this moment, for Mulder isn’t religious (and if he is, he’s likely Jewish). It is marked as an inconsistency so if I may shed some light on this: I’m not religious in an institutional way, but I am spiritual. I respect a church’s sanctity. It is a calming and peaceful place, and perfect to just sit down and think.

I believe Mulder would respect it too.

This is a powerful ending to an emotional episode. Regrettably, there are too many discrepancies in the plot and things that lead to nowhere to make Conduit stand out. However, it is still a must-watch, because the acting is particularly strong and it is a genuinely touching piece of media.

Thanks for reading!

Your pal,

Astrid

Watch/Skip: Watch

Next up: The Jersey Devil

Review: Squeeze (S1E3)

Written by: Glen Morgan & James Wong
Directed by: Harry Longstreet

Aired on: September 24, 1993
Rewatched on: February 24, 2020

Squeeze is the first episode of The X Files that wasn’t written by Chris Carter, nor directed by Daniel Sackheim. Whereas it is director Harry Longstreet’s first and only episode, writers Glen Morgan and James Wong teamed up several times and managed to leave their mark on this series. In fact, I consider them to be crucial for establishing several key elements of the show.

After The Pilot (S1E1) and Deep Throat (S1E2), The X Files set itself up as The Alien Show. In Squeeze, however, it is stressed early on that the culprit isn’t going to be aliens, making it the very first Monster-of-the-Week episode.

Those who know me, know that I prefer the Monster-of-the-Weeks over the Plot Episodes. The reason for this, is simple: the plot is like a tower. It accumulates. If you don’t like one of the building blocks, it can be hard to like the tower as a whole. And there are several blocks that I don’t like.

The Monster-of-the-Weeks, however, live and operate in a world of their own. They can stand tall, or fall down, but they do so individually. They are rarely affected by the overarching plot. Therefore, whereas I usually struggle to overlook flaws in the Plot Episodes early on, I like plenty of Monster-of-the-Weeks, whether they be in season 1 or season 11.

Squeeze is easily one of the most important episodes in the entire series. It founded the base of all Monster-of-the-Weeks that are to come, and did so by doing everything right.

The episode starts off with the monster that gave me nightmares as a child: Eugene Victor Tooms. In the opening scene, he enters through a vent and murders a business man in his office.

Next up, Scully is having lunch with her old classmate, Tom Colton. Colton introduces her to the case of the murdered business man. He asks if she wants to join and cannot help but tease her for working on the X-Files, by calling her Mrs. Spooky.

Something this episode does well, is show us that Mulder is a pariah, and Scully is becoming one by working alongside him. Mulder more-or-less accepted this role of outcast years ago. In the scene where he first meets Colton, he jokes around about Reticulans, mainly to incite a response.

The smug expression of a man who knows for how much liver and onions go on Reticula.

Scully, unlike Mulder, isn’t used to getting mocked by her peers and longs for their approval. She works all night to come up with a psychological profile of the killer and organizes a stakeout, where Tooms is eventually caught.

Mulder is convinced that Tooms is the guy they’re looking for. In the polygraph test, Tooms fails on the questions Mulder asked. However, they are so out there that no one believes him. No one but Scully, that is. By now, she has seen what Mulder is capable of and knows that he should be taken seriously.

Dialogue that I find incredibly significant, is the following:

- Colton: "[Dana,] you coming?"
- Scully: "Tom, I wanna thank you for letting me put in some time with the 
[Violent Crimes Unit], but I am officially assigned to the X-Files."
- Colton: "I'll see what I can do about that."
- Scully: "Tom, I can look out for myself."

You know what this scene reminds me of? This moment in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001):

The fact that this scene is essential, is also shown in the way the episode has been directed. Take a look at this:

Before the scene I mentioned above, whenever Mulder, Scully, and Colton are in the same room, Scully and Colton are shown standing together, vs. Mulder.

Compared to this:

After the scene, when all three are present in the same room, she is standing with Mulder, vs. Colton.

Guys, that scene, is where Scully officially chooses to work with Mulder. This time around, no one is ordering her to work with him. She can leave whenever she wants. Mulder even offers it to her, he says he isn’t going to “hold it against her” if she wants to continue working with Colton and the others.

But Scully, whether it is because she has a curious nature herself, believes there’s more to Mulder than meets the eye, or even has a little crush on him, chose him there and then, despite knowing very well that she committed career suicide.

(Excuse me for the quality of this screencap, but check out how happy Mulder is when Scully tells him that she wants to see what else he’s got. My shipper’s heart can hardly take it.)

I swoon.

Anyway, now that their partnership has been secured, Mulder and Scully meet the old man who investigated Tooms back in the thirties. This scene leads the duo to 66 Exeter Street, and to this iconic moment:

Tooms snatches Scully’s necklace and starts targeting her. Meanwhile, Mulder and Scully ask for a stakeout, which Colton then calls off. Scully is furious and Mulder, upon realizing that no one is keeping an eye on Tooms and subsequently discovering Scully’s necklace, rushes through Chernobyl to save her:

Seriously, what’s up with the radioactive glow in this scene?

Tooms, by now, is assaulting Scully in her apartment, in a scene that becomes a million times more awkward when bearing this anecdote in mind:

Yes, that is Doug Hutchison and his, then, 16-year-old girlfriend.

The episode ends with Scully and Mulder overpowering Tooms and him being put behind bars.

As this review, and my lack of negative remarks, indicate: I really love this episode. It’s not as expensive, flashy, or colorful as some Monster-of-the-Weeks from later seasons, but it’s incredibly solid and holds up well.

Tooms truly is a terrifying monster. The soundtrack that accompanies him to illustrate this is – once more – top-notch. And the story of how Mulder and Scully manage to catch him, is exciting, conclusive, and satisfying.

The strongest asset, however, is the way Mulder and Scully are written. I really like their characterization, and there’s not a single line in the episode that bothers me. They stand strong, both as individuals, and as a team: they’re small, goofy fish trying to find their place within the big pond that is the FBI. They are continuously mocked and teased. Mulder accepted this, although he doesn’t relish in it (“Maybe I run into so many people, who are hostile, just because they can’t open their minds to the possibilities, that sometimes the need to mess with their heads, outweighs the millstone of humiliation”).

Scully, on the other hand, learns throughout this episode that if she wants to work with Mulder, she will have to come to terms with the fact that she isn’t going to be taken seriously; that it’s Them vs. The World.

Yet when they do work together, they are stronger. They manage to solve the case and to defeat Tooms. It might not earn them respect they deserve, but at least they did something right in the world.

The world might not think of them as heroes, but people like Frank Briggs know.

Thanks for reading!

Your pal,

Astrid

Watch/Skip: Watch

Next up: Conduit

Review: Deep Throat (S1E2)

Written by: Chris Carter
Directed by: Daniel Sackheim

Aired on: September 17, 1993
Rewatched on: February 21, 2020

I have to say, I dislike the title for – what I hope are – obvious reasons. Imagine twelve-year-old me, in 2006, gleefully googling Deep Throat to see what this episode is all about. Yeah, not doing that again.

That being said, I do believe this episode is, in many ways, superior to The Pilot, and in some ways isn’t.

The titular character is named after the historical Deep Throat, an informant who leaked information about the FBI’s investigation of the Watergate scandal to journalists. I believe reading that Chris Carter – who was fifteen years old at the time Watergate happened – has been deeply influenced by this event. It would make sense, judging from the recurring themes in his episodes: the government is a generally shady, sometimes downright evil, institution, and simply cannot be trusted. They purposefully keep information from the public while experimenting on them at the same time.

Whereas The Pilot centers around aliens, in Deep Throat, the government takes on the role of main antagonist. I’m not a big fan of this whole government-is-evil shtick the early episodes often explore, simply because it didn’t age well. Today, a lot of The X Files’ anti-government themes are used as far-right propaganda. For example, Alex Jones – a far-right American conspiracy theorist who hosts his own radio show – accuses the US government of planning the Oklahoma city bombing, the September 11 attacks, and faking the Moon landing in 1969. Furthermore, he claims that the government has colluded to create a New World Order through “manufactured economic crises, sophisticated surveillance technology and – above all – inside-job terror attacks that fuel exploitable hysteria”.

Admit it, this right-wing extremist sounds like one of The Lone Gunmen. Perhaps even like Mulder himself?

No, I repeat, although The X Files sticks to the realm of common ufology for the time being, I don’t think the anti-government episodes aged particularly well. Although I can’t really assert where on the political spectrum they belonged in 1993 – as I wasn’t even alive back then – it’s hard to watch them through a modern day’s lens, hence why I prefer The Pilot’s theme.

As for the episode itself, in the teaser, a SWAT team enters the home of a pilot who has stolen a military vehicle and locked himself inside the house. The episode isn’t about him, though. Contrary to what the title makes you believe, it isn’t so much about Deep Throat either.

It’s about the aforementioned anti-government plot, but also about further exploring Mulder and Scully as characters, as well as their dynamic.

The first thing I realized when watching this episode was that Gillian and David’s acting has improved compared to The Pilot. They were a lot more on point, bar from one or two somewhat awkward deliveries. They relaxed, and it shows. Mulder and Scully relaxed around each another as well, leaving more room for playful banter.

My cousin Megane thought they were going to kiss here. Oh, sweet Summer child…

Mulder introduces Scully to the case in a pub. Then, in the restroom, he encounters Deep Throat for the first time (sentences like this are why I’m not a fan of the name Deep Throat). Deep Throat warns him about going to Idaho. This is contrary to later cases, where he urges Mulder to investigate. This only adds to my suspicion that Deep Throat’s goal isn’t transparency or revealing the truth, but that he has an agenda of his own. I’ll get into this later, when I’m discussing E.B.E. (S1E17) and The Erlenmeyer Flask (S1E24).

As the two agents find themselves in Idaho, we see Mulder’s obsessiveness re-emerge. He asks around for UFO’s and sneaks into military bases just to spot them, almost as if he doesn’t even want to find the victim.

Of course, he wants to find the missing pilot, but for him, this case isn’t as much about the victim, as it is about finding proof of extraterrestrial life and confirming his own suspicions about the government. This corroborates with what we already learned about him during the first episode, where he says that all he wants, is to find out what happened to his sister, and nothing else matters to him.

Although it’s his goofy demeanor and awkwardness that sticks, we shouldn’t overlook that, in season 1 (and in many more seasons to come), his motivations can be pretty selfish. I think this is a really interesting aspect of his personality. It adds another layer. The show doesn’t necessarily present him as possessing the right attitude, either, nor do they present Scully as being in the wrong.

However, the audience will likely tend to side with Mulder in those early seasons. It makes sense. It’s the alien show, after all, so viewers know that he has the answers whereas Scully’s scientific explanation is wrong by default. This is one of those early seasons’ weaknesses; more on that later. For now, all I want to get into, is that those thinking Mulder is a knight in shining armor, seem to have missed the point. He isn’t flawless at all.

As for Scully, she is there to follow orders, namely to discover the whereabouts of the missing pilot. She plays things exactly by the book and gets mad at Mulder for being distracted by the UFO’s – a distraction that leads us to the first of two moments that make Deep Throat, visually, a better episode than The Pilot:

There is something magical about this scene, where our two protagonists look up at the night sky and watch the mysterious lights that dance around in the dark.

When the missing pilot is returned, and after his wife began questioning his sanity, Mulder and Scully are being run off the road by Men In Black, who tell them to leave town. Mulder is having none of this, ditches Scully, and goes off in search for The Truth™.

Meanwhile, Scully has been shaken by those Men in Black. She still has a steadfast belief in the government, and considers the case closed because the pilot has been returned. Therefore, she wants to leave town ASAP instead of looking at what is being kept hidden in the military base.

Although she’s less played out as a representation of the viewer in this episode, and fortunately not dumbed down this time, she’s definitely naive. Her moral compass is pointing in the right direction but she is nonetheless raised to be patriotic and to believe in her country. She cannot imagine the government doing something that would possibly harm its people.

Her character is further explored when she keeps a government official at gunpoint, forces him to drive down to the base, and to pick up Mulder. This doesn’t only show us that she is willing to break the rules – and therefore is less predictable in her actions than we might have suspected – it also proves that she is already devoted to protecting Mulder. Even though we can assume that it’s still her job to debunk him, she is taking this partnership very seriously nonetheless.

The exploration of both Mulder and Scully’s personalities is this episode’s strongest asset. The second one, as mentioned above, are the visuals. Whereas the scene in which Mulder and Scully gaze at the lights, is magical, this one just hits all of the post-futurism marks:

What this episode lacks, however, is an actual story. There is no real build-up or structure. Stuff just happens. It reminds me of Tintin in the Land of the Soviets (1929). Tintin travels to – what was then – The USSR. On his way, stuff happens too: the secret police sabotages the train, he witnesses a local election, spies on a Bolshevik meeting, infiltrates The Red Army, etc. But there is no story, just some events that are loosely tied together.

I’m Belgian. Of course I’m going to mention Tintin whenever I can.

In the end, Deep Throat does a good job at introducing us to the fact that – in The X Files’ universe (I’m deliberately being careful here; let’s not get political) – the government is evil, just as much as Tintin in the Land of the Soviets introduced the reader to the USSR being evil. All of the things that happened to reach this conclusion, are merely examples of the conclusion, not a story in and of itself.

I definitely consider this episode to be mostly character-driven, which is exactly the reason I enjoy it. I wouldn’t rewatch it for the story, but for those little character moments that will continue to be the show’s strong suit.

Thanks for reading!

Your pal,

Astrid

Watch/Skip: Watch

Next up: Squeeze

Review: The Pilot (S1E1)

Written by: Chris Carter 
Directed by: Daniel Sackheim 

Aired on: September 10, 1993 
Rewatched on: February 20, 2020 

“The following story is inspired by actual documented accounts.”

~

We are greeted by this phrase as though it holds any significance, but we will never see or hear from it again. It was undoubtedly used as an extra element to the mystery and the horror of the episode, but ultimately serves as proof that creator Chris Carter hadn’t yet decided which direction he wanted to follow with his brand-new show. This can be forgiven, since we’re watching the pilot episode, mainly meant to enthuse the FOX Network into accepting the series. Who would’ve guessed that it would ever become such a cultural phenomenon?

The episode starts off with a girl running in the forest, seemingly fleeing for her life. She trips, a bright light shines through the trees. We spot the contours of a man who, upon rewatch, is obviously Billy Miles; they actually gave away the twist in the opening scene but only very few people will have noticed this on their first watch. It’s a nice little detail. The culprit – Billy – sacrifices the girl to the source of the light, high in the sky.

Then the episode cuts to the J. Edgar Hoover building. There is no iconic intro just yet, only Dana Scully zigzagging through the narrow corridors.

Gillian Anderson looks too young to play her. I always loved the story of her being unable to find a job after graduating college, and then finally auditioning for the part of Agent Scully who “had to be in her late twenties or early thirties”. She then bluffed her way through the audition, saying she’s 28, while in reality she was only 23 at the time they were shooting this.

This is very likely her weakest episode. She is visibly nervous in some scenes, somewhat awkward in others. I don’t blame her at all. In fact, I actually believe she is the strongest actor to appear on the show, especially in later seasons. But she isn’t quite there yet, and that’s okay. It makes The Pilot all the more endearing.

By the way, you will quickly note that I use “endearing” a lot. Why? Because to me, this word summarizes the very first episode of The X Files.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I was talking about Dana Scully who, in my opinion, is the pivotal character of this episode. We see the story from her position because she represents the uninformed viewer or – as I realized a while back in a sudden moment of clarity – The Fool from Tarot.

“The Fool is the card of new beginnings, opportunity and potential […] You are at the outset of your journey, standing at the cliff‘s edge, and about to take your first step into the unknown […] As you undertake this new journey, the Fool encourages you to have an open, curious mind and a sense of excitement. Throw caution to the wind and be ready to embrace the unknown, leaving behind any fear, worry, or anxiety about what may or may not happen. This is about new experiences, personal growth, development, and adventure.”

The Rider Waite Tarot Deck

Together with Scully, the viewer is invited on this journey into the unknown, and it’s there that they both meet Fox Mulder.

I have to be honest with you, season 1 Mulder is my favorite Mulder. He’s just so – and there’s that word again – endearing. He is both written and played as a socially awkward, weird, quirky, and lonely young man, and it especially shows in the first season. Whereas Scully/the viewer is more or less like a blank slate ready to be written on, Mulder is already scarred by life. He lost his sister many years prior to this episode, to what he believes was alien abduction. This traumatizing event made him obsessed with the truth behind extraterrestrial life.

Later, we will see many problems emerge in the way the Samantha story arc is handled. But for now, this is a good and believable – albeit somewhat classic – motivation of the why’s and how’s of Fox Mulder.

David Duchovny is eight years older than Gillian Anderson, and more experienced, although still fairly obscure as an actor. As is the case with Gillian, David isn’t at his peak in this episode. He, as well, delivers some of his lines awkwardly. Again, I don’t mind. After all, the most important element is already there: the chemistry.

Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny’s chemistry is legendary and one of – if not the – biggest trump card of The X Files.

It is also The Pilot’s lifeline.

Let me explain: to me, it saves the infamous mosquito scene. I’m not a fan of this scene, simply because I find it very uncomfortable to watch. It’s shot in such a way that it oversexualizes Scully. As Gillian later confirmed: “There really was no reason. It’s a gratuitous scene.”

It also dumbs her down. I get that she’s startled but given what we know about her, I don’t see how she would immediately assume that she has the evil alien marks.

The dumbing down of Scully also happens on another occasion in this episode. She argues with Mulder that alien life couldn’t possibly exist. This would make her a follower of the Rare Earth hypothesis, which suggests that life can only originate on Earth and nowhere else in the entire – vast and endless – universe. Somehow, I just cannot imagine that she, a physicist who wrote her thesis about Einstein, would believe this when other physicists, such as Carl Sagan and Frank Drake, didn’t.

The reason this happened, isn’t just because she’s meant to represent the viewer, but she’s also supposed to be Mulder’s foil (I could even go as far as saying that she, in a skewed way, is actually an antagonist, since she is ordered to spy on Mulder). There is one simple rule present in those early seasons of The X Files: Mulder is always right and Scully is always wrong. Although this will become frustrating very early on, at this point in time it’s an understandable decision.

On a side-note, I really do commend Chris Carter for writing Scully the way he did. She is a woman who is smart, rational, and successful. There will be moments that make me wonder how much sexism is at play but cui honorem honorem: many writers can’t even manage to create such a character anno 2020, let alone in 1992 (which is when the episode was written, even though it aired in 1993).

Where was I? Oh yes, chemistry. To me, the mosquito scene becomes bearable because of the scene that follows it. Scully sits on Mulder’s bed, Mulder on the floor, and he tells her about Samantha. You could say that Scully opened up literally so Mulder could open up metaphorically. She trusted him, so he decided to trust her. This scene is strong; not thanks to the acting or the dialogue, but because of the incredible chemistry between those two actors.

The same goes for the scene on the graveyard. You know the one. Objectively, it might be the worst-acted scene in The X Files. Gillian and David were cold, drenched, tired, and they just couldn’t get their lines right without stumbling over their words and laughing. It should not have worked in any way but for some reason, it did. This scene – again – is such an endearing and iconic moment that they actually got away with it.

It’s probably those giggles. They’re contagious.

As for the story, it builds up nicely. The pacing is alright and we are introduced to new characters in a right way, at the right time. It’s not the most exciting or colorful plot, but it’s not boring either. The conclusion, however, remains mysterious. Billy Miles turned out to be the culprit. After he and his classmates were abducted by aliens during their graduation party in the forest, they placed chips up their noses and did tests on them. We later learn that they were attempting to create Super-Soldiers. What I don’t get, though, is why Billy – of all people – had to gather them? What made him so special? And if they wanted the evidence destroyed, then why did they suddenly stop in the middle of doing so?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe we ever find out.

A strong element, is the soundtrack. The piano and spooky ambience just sets the tone perfectly. You don’t notice it until after a couple of viewings, but believe me, music can make or break a show, movie, or video game. Mark Snow deserves all the credit for his work on The X Files. It will be another 16 years before he will compose my favorite song, but he was definitely on from the very beginning.

Another one of my favorite aspects of The Pilot, is highly personal: the clothes, especially their “forest adventure outfit”. They look like college kids and I absolutely love it because, you guessed it, I find it endearing. It is the kind of outfit that I go to second-hand shops for.

Then there’s the glasses of which we needed to see more. I will forever be mad that we didn’t get to see more glasses.

The episode is, at times, awkward, both in acting and dialogue (again, see the graveyard scene). Other not-so-good aspects are the guest actors. Theresa Nemman is particularly bad, and then there’s that one nurse who says “not my aisle of the produce section”, who always cracks me up with her weird delivery.

As for production value, it’s still very low. The X Files isn’t yet FOX’s Big Budget Beast, as it will become around season 5. To illustrate, this is what the set for the FBI looks like in The Pilot:

Compare this to The X Files Movie (1998) and I’m sure you’ll catch my drift:

It isn’t a criticism. I don’t blame them for not having a big budget yet. But you can imagine that the set they used in Fight The Future leaves more of an impact than the one in The Pilot did.

Perhaps it’s low budget too that caused the sound to be off at times? The most notable occasion is when Mulder and Scully are in the diner, talking to Theresa Nemman, and Mulder says: “You were the one on the phone, you told me Peggy O’Dell had been killed”. The distortion is painful once you pay attention to it, it’s a dead giveaway that this line was redone in post.

If anything, it’s definitely low budget that made the editing team decide this would do as a transition:

It’s pretty laughable but considering everything, again, it’s just such an endearing moment. It makes me nostalgic for a time I wasn’t even alive.

If anything, the FOX Network recognized the passion the cast and crew showcased back in 1992, and the rest is history.

Also, shout-out to this nod to Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981):

If you made it this far, thanks for reading and for joining me on this adventure in which I will review all 218 episodes of The X Files, including the two movies. I can’t imagine every one of my reviews will be this long (I mean, let’s be honest here, a big chunk of MoTW episodes are like The Walk or The List) but since this is The Pilot I obviously wanted to do something special.

Your pal,

Astrid

Watch/Skip: Watch, duh. Don’t skip the first episode, y’all.

Next up: Deep Throat

Introduction

Dear Phile,

I created this blog in June of 2019 because I wanted to have a platform where I could write about The X Files without Twitter’s limit of 280 characters per post, and so I wouldn’t be spamming people with my opinionated content. As things go, I didn’t revisit this site until February 2020.

I have a lot to say about The X Files. In fact, I could talk about it for days on end. This is going to be the main purpose of my blog, starting off with a project where I review each and every episode, from season 1 up to season 11, including The X Files Movie (1998) and I Want To Believe (2008).

Therefore, who I am isn’t exactly relevant to this, since this isn’t a blog about me. However, I realize that it might be interesting to learn about my background, if only to understand my stance on certain topics.

I was born in Belgium on September 12, 1994 (my birth episode is “Little Green Men”). Therefore, I’m watching this show through the eyes of a European Millennial who borderlines Gen Z. In fact, Old School fans refer to me as a Baby Phile. It’s a cute term, in my opinion, and somewhat accurate since I first started watching The X Files around 2006. However, I didn’t really get into it until I was older. I was introduced to it by my younger brother, who loved seeing the show on the SYFY Channel. He then suggested it to my cousin Jesse, and I decided to tag along on my cousin’s first watch. I loved it almost instantly.

A little bit more about me would be that I studied History at the University of Ghent. I obtained my Master’s degree in 2019, have an academic minor in Sociology, and studied English Literature for a year before realizing that I don’t like to be forced to read old and dull literary works. My passion lies in television. A part of me regrets that 19-year-old me chose History over Film And Media. During my final year at University, I searched for courses about TV and began reading up on this subject. For my thesis, I examined how history can be represented in modern storytelling. It gave me some insight into the building blocks of what makes a story good, and what doesn’t.

I want to stress that although I do believe that I know quite a bit about television and fiction, none of this makes my opinion worth any more than yours. Opinions wouldn’t be opinions if they weren’t personal. They don’t always stem from a rational place. They don’t have to, either. Sometimes, you just like something, and sometimes you don’t, without an actual reason. So this blog merely serves as a dump for my personal thoughts and feelings on a show, and of course I’m just as biased as the next person.

I’m a postmodernist. I don’t believe in one Truth, but in several.

My hope is that throughout the course of this project, I will be able to eloquently provide readers with some new insight, either by affirming their view, or by showing them another. This is comparable to the objective of “Monsters of the Week: The Complete Critical Companion to The X Files” (2018). I don’t always agree with authors Zack Handlen and Todd VanDerWerff, but this book gave me several new angles to look from as well.

I know some fans don’t like this particular book because Handlen and VanDerWerff tend to diss a couple of generally beloved episodes. I must admit that some of their conclusions made me cringe too. However, although I will attempt to nuance if necessary, I don’t intend to hold back my thoughts. Holding back is what I do on Twitter, for the sake of keeping peace. Here, I aim to express all of my ideas about an episode, no matter how good, bad, or ugly they might be.

Those who will stick around will, no doubt, disagree with me on certain things. It’s only human and, frankly, I would be weirded out if we were to agree on everything. Feel free to enter a discussion, but please do so respectfully. After all, it’s just a TV show.

Your pal,

Astrid

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started