Monday, December 13, 2010

Underrated X-Files episodes that deserve credit

Lately, I've pulled out some of my old X-Files DVDs to re-watch some episodes. I must say, that the show holds up remarkably well. Plenty of the episodes that I recall as stellar upon the initial viewing remain stellar such as "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose", "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'" (hell any Darin Morgan episode for that matter), "Beyond the Sea", "One Breath", "Duane Barry", "Small Potatoes" and "Pusher", to name a few. However, there are also a good number of episodes that I think never received the acclaim they deserved. It could have been because they had the misfortune of being overshadowed by the mythology episodes or the audience didn't fully appreciate them.

However, these are the episodes of the X-Files that I think were really exceptional and never received their due credit. And no, I will not be including "Teso Dos Bichos", "Badlaa", or "Fight Club". Those episodes were atrocious the first time I watched them, and I'm sure they are now. As a matter of fact, it's hard for me to call anything really exceptional from season 6-9 (with the exception being the David Duchovny penned/directed outing, "The Unnatural").

These are my choices, feel free to agree or disagree all you want.


This Glen Morgan & James Wong episode (which features a story credit to Darin Morgan- who will go on to become the best writer of the series) is a very spooky tale which has townspeople committing murder after receiving messages from electronic devices. Of course, as with everything on the X-Files, it is a tad more complex than that. We soon discover that the town has been the subject of a controlled experiment with a chemical compound. All of this culminates in a shooting at a clocktower. The old chestnut of subliminal messages is used here and works amazingly well (the theme is used again in "Wetwired"- another solid episode). Although the shooting at the climax of the episode is memorable- my favorite moment would be the creepy scene with Mrs. McRoberts and the mechanic. There is a sense of unease that director David Nutter captured beautifully. Former porn star, Ashlyn Gere (who Morgan and Wong would work with again on Millennium and Space: Above and Beyond) showed she had some genuine acting chops with her role as McRoberts, who killed the mechanic due to her rape phobia. A very effective and jarring episode which also features the second appearance of the Lone Gunmen (and made me a fan of Frohike's for life)- and remains one of the most disturbing X-Files ever.


"Red Museum" is tied to the mythology arc- but never seems to be remembered by X-Files fans. Written by series creator, Chris Carter, this episode is in ways, a sequel to the previous season's "The Erlenmeyer Flask". The episode has all the ingredients of a classic X-File: a Peeping Tom, kids being abducted and being returned with "He is One" or "She is One" on their backs. You have a cult called The Church of the Red Museum who are all vegetarians and contrast the meat-eating townspeople, who are becoming increasingly hostile. Then, you throw in the killer of Deep Throat, the Crew-Cut Man and this episode is an over the top success. But it ultimately falls by the wayside with fans. I do understand some thought it was a mistake for the Crew-Cut Man to die, but I'd prefer Mulder's search for vengeance to be thwarted somewhat. Also, this episode reminds me that Mulder (at least in the earlier seasons) used to have a brain when he starts discussing "walk-ins" with Scully. By the way, the scene with Scully and Mulder enjoying ribs together is priceless. I think the episode was quite disturbing which was something that show used to do very well.

This episode was supposed to be linked with an episode of the CBS show, Picket Fences, but it never materialized. It's too bad, I would have enjoyed to have seen the case carry over to another series. But, cross-network promoting was something that CBS had no interest in.


This episode has gotten a fair share of backlash from fans but I like to think that most of that backlash was from the "shippers" who only want Mulder and Scully to be together. Personally, I think this episode was the perfect opportunity for Mulder to be vulnerable enough to sleep with someone. He was at a point where he was at rock bottom. The X-Files are re-opened but he is emotionally dead without Scully (who has been abducted). When Mulder goes to Los Angeles, the fires that are plaguing the state at the time, is a nice stand-in for Hell. A series of vampire-like murders are occurring and Mulder meets up with a woman named Kristen (played by Perry Reeves, who was Duchovny's real life girlfriend at the time), who may be a part of the trinity of killers.

Mulder is at his worst here and comes across Kristen, who is just as damaged as he is. The two have sex (although in famous Chris Carter fashion, it remains ambiguous because you never see it)- and in the end, Kristen sacrifices herself to stop the killers once and for all. All is left is a fiery blaze, and all Mulder has left to cling to is Scully's necklace.

I think the direction and music for this episode are top-notch. Glen Morgan and James Wong re-wrote a Chris Ruppenthal script which apparently included a lot of bloodsports and violence. Even though that aspect was watered down, I still find a lot of interesting things in this episode. Perry Reeves does a good job with her performance, however the real guest star is Frank Military, who steals every scene as John/The Son. He burns up the screen with his manic performance and he really made the episode special. He literally scares the living shit out of you because his intensity is off the charts.

It may always be loathed because fans are not pleased that Mulder had sex with someone else. But get over it, the man has to be human every once in a while. I applaud Morgan and Wong for showing the humanity (shippers would be pissed again with another Morgan and Wong script, "Never Again" which had Scully having sex with killer Ed Jerse).


Perhaps this episode's lack of notoriety is due to following, "Die Hand Die Verletzt" which was Morgan and Wong's swan song for The X-Files (they returned in the fourth season). I'm not sure why this Howard Gordon penned episode never really is recognized but it is a chilling hour. The episode centers around a number of voodoo related incidents happening to troops who are working at a processing center which holds Haitian refugees. Initially it seems that the culprit is voodoo practitioner and refugee, Pierre Bauvais. But in true X-Files fashion, the real culprit is Colonel Wharton, who has been beating the refugees. In the end, an already dead Bauvais turns the tables on Wharton.

As strong as Howard Gordon's script is, the performances are top-notch including Daniel Benzali as Wharton and Bruce Young as the charismatic Bauvais. I think the first scene with Bauvais in his cell may be one of the best acted scenes in the series. I absolutely love the passion in which Bruce Young recited his lines- you would truly believe that Bauvais is a powerful man. And I remember freaking out when I saw the refugee's fingers come out of Scully's hand and started to strangle her. I still think this episode is pound for pound one of the scariest X-Files ever.


I love the premise of this episode. Dr. Chester Ray Banton (played by future Monk star, Tony Shalhoub) is a man who is literally terrified of his own shadow. It turns out that he survived an accident when he was researching dark matter, and now his shadow is a black hole and kills anyone that it comes across. As great as that idea is, the episode really kicks into high gear when X, Mulder's informant (played with great intensity by Steven Williams), arrives. He manipulates and uses Mulder to find out where Dr. Banton is being held out- and tries to abduct the scientist, but allows him to flee when his two associates are killed by Banton's shadow. In the end, X is able to abduct the scientist and also damages his relationship with Mulder. The final shot of Banton receiving the "brain suck" he so dreaded is heartbreaking.

This episode was the first episode from writer, Vince Gilligan, who would go on to be the best writer of the show after Glen Morgan, James Wong and Darin Morgan left (and who would go on to create the brilliant series, Breaking Bad).


Howard Gordon wrote this horrifying episode which is about a serial killer who claims that a gargoyle spirit committed the crimes. This episode was the darkest episode of the series to date, and in many ways, seems like the template for the look and theme of Millennium which would debut in the next season. The premise of this episode seems to be based on the John Douglas comment of catching a killer by getting into the mind of one. Mulder eventually becomes obsessed with the case, to the point where everyone around him questions his sanity. In the end, Mulder's former mentor is the one who has become consumed by the darkness he was chasing for so many years. It's a cautionary tale of not becoming what you are trying to fight. As good as the guest cast (including Kurtwood Smith) all are- I think that Levani Outchaneichvili really steals the show. He would later on portray the demonic Yaponchik on Millennium.


When I first saw this episode, I didn't really care too much for it. I thought it was kind of a let-down following the mythology episodes that preceded it. Re-watching the episode now, I can appreciate it. I guess Darren Oswald and his pal Zero (played by Jack Black) are the closest the X-Files will ever come to Beavis and Butthead. I really enjoy the nice metaphor of the lightning powers being connected to Darren's out of control hormones. It's not a complex episode at all, and the episode is very straight-forward, but it's wonderfully executed. Giovanni Ribisi is outstanding as the emotionally fractured and destructive Darren, who spends his days creating accidents and slaughtering cattle with his abilities.

This episode is either frowned upon or appreciated by X-Files fans, but I think it requires a second viewing. While it's not the best episode, I think there is something truly special with this tale. I think it deserves a second chance, and you won't be disappointed by what you see.


Anonymous said...

This is one of the most insightful blogs I have ever seen on the subject of the merits of x files episodes that fall by the wayside, I have scoured the internet for years trying to find something worth reading, Loved that you gave a shout out to red museum, fresh bones, and grotesque.

Laughed when you implied that Mulder's intellectual qualities were played down towards the fag end of the franchise. I totally agree with this.

A few underrated episodes from seasons Four & 0ne would have been nice. Maybe you could add a few at sometime in the future.

Otherwise Excellent blog sir/madam

Anonymous said...

Great blog, on a tangent here but I perosnally I don't get the fascination with "Small Potatoes". In my opinion its not even the best X-Files comedy episode let alone one of the best X-Files episodes. I find it quite boring and not really that funny . One of my least favourite episodes.

All the episodes you have flagged up as underrated are very good in my opinion. No surprise they are all from the earlier seasons. Good read.