This is the first in a semi-regular series where I’ll rank various aspects of The X-Files. I’ll try to cover a wide range of topics but to keep things simple this time, I’ve decided to start with something where my choice is confined to only ten: season premieres.
I must stress that these are personal opinions only and these rankings are not linked to the episode poll you will have seen elsewhere on the blog. You may agree or (more likely) disagree. Feel free to get in touch with your views: you can leave a comment here or on our Facebook page.
It seems to me that, while The X-Files generally did season finales well, the show’s record with season premieres was much more patchy. There are some undoubted highlights here, though, so without further ado let’s rate these episodes…
10. Nothing Important Happened Today (Season 9)
Not a difficult choice. Pretty dreary stuff and the choices made here hobbled the show for the rest of the year. ‘Existence’ gave us a happy ending for Mulder and Scully but David Duchovny’s departure from the series meant that their domestic bliss was short-lived. It’s hard to swallow Mulder going on the run but the main problem here is that the episode as a whole is rather lifeless.
9. My Struggle (Season 10)
The revival begins, but not with the bang we’d all hoped for. It’s a curious episode. Our leads are still finding their way back into the characters, and their performances are uneven as a result. They’re not always helped by the script, which includes some of Carter’s most on-the-nose dialogue (take a drink every time you hear the words ‘alien DNA’).
8. The Beginning (Season 6)
The X-Files moves to Los Angeles! This one feels like a missed opportunity to me. Scully’s scepticism seems somewhat forced off the back of Fight the Future and it’s hard to escape the feeling that the big-screen adventure hasn’t really changed things sufficiently.
7. Herrenvolk (Season 4)
Some memorable moments here, including X’s bloody death. Marita appears for the first time and bees are introduced into the mythology stew. The chase sequence at the beginning should be thrilling but instead is overlong and pedestrian. Not bad, but this and ‘Talitha Cumi’ were the weakest two-parter up to this point in the show’s run.
6. The Sixth Extinction (Season 7)
This is sandwiched between two superior episodes but it certainly has its merits. Your mileage may vary, and the mythology’s new focus on religious symbols and artefacts is a distinct change from what came before, but I find Scully’s sojourn to the Ivory Coast to be an interesting change of pace. Always good to see John Finn as Kritschgau, he’s a character I’d have liked to have seen more of.
5. Within (Season 8)
Enter John Doggett. Robert Patrick impresses from the get-go and shows he can bravely take a cup of water to the face. Mark Snow’s recurring theme for Scully is very effective, which is good because we hear a lot of it. The idea of Scully not knowing Mulder as well as she thinks she does has potential, but the contrivance of his fatal illness doesn’t ring true. Still, this begins a new era for The X-Files in promising fashion.
4. The Blessing Way (Season 3)
Mulder’s healing ritual is hokey and the cliffhanger that ended Season 2 isn’t really dealt with explicitly. However, Scully’s storyline here is great. Anderson is reliably superb and she has good material to work with here opposite Mitch Pileggi and John Neville. Exciting ending, too.
3. Pilot (Season 1)
Where it all began. Anderson looks ridiculously young and Duchovny plays things a bit broader than he would subsequently. But the episode gets a lot of things right and establishes a very solid basis for the series to come. It’s amazing to look back at the non-speaking role William B. Davis has here – what a stroke of genius that casting decision would turn out to be!
2. Redux (Season 5)
I may be wrong, but my feeling is that this one gets a bit of flak from fans. I suppose I can see why: a high tolerance for scenes of characters walking down corridors to the sound of Chris Carter monologues is required. The episode resolves the shocker of Mulder’s apparent suicide well, I think. There’s an extraordinary scene, inspired by Oliver Stone’s JFK, where Kritschgau lays out an alternative history of post-WW2 America while the audience is bombarded with documentary footage. It’s a great example of the distinctive way The X-Files could examine US history.
1. Little Green Men (Season 2)
Deep Throat is dead, the X-Files have been shut down and Mulder and Scully have been separated. This is an interesting point for the series and Glen Morgan and James Wong’s script begins the sophomore year with aplomb. Samantha’s abduction is vividly recreated and we learn a bit about Mulder’s connection in Congress (Senator Matheson should have appeared more, don’t you think?). This is a great character study buoyed by fantastic acting. Duchovny portrayal of Mulder, weary and paranoid, is some of his best work. The X-Files remain closed at episode’s end but this episode makes the future of the series look very bright.
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