It's been 20 years and the truth is still freakin' out there, people.
X-Files stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, creator Chris Carter, and several X-writers including Howard Gordon (Homeland) and Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad), took part in a 20-Year Anniversary Q&A Panel back in July at Comic-Con. But today is the day. Today marks the actual 20th Anniversary of the first time beautiful/skeptical FBI Agent Dan Scully met banished-to-the-basement Fox Mulder, changing their lives forever and kicking off a global TV phenomenon, on the first episode of the FOX series.
So what better time to dust off, and shine up, IGN's Top 10 X-Files Standalone Episodes list? That's right, these are episodes that don't involve the over-arching alien mythology. They're most commonly categorized as being "Monster of the Week" chapters, which in X-Files' case often led to some of their best and most creative episodes.
And let's not forget, the adventures of Mulder and Scully continue even now, 20 years later, in IDW Publishing’s new comic book series, X-Files: Season 10, picking up just where the final season and last movie left off. In fact, here's a nine-season's worth "primer" for getting into the X-Files: Season 10 comic series, should you wish to follow our heroes' exploits on the paneled page.
But let's get into the Top 10!
When a carnival freak show sees some of its own brutally murdered, Mulder and Scully decide to investigate the strange world of "humbug" -- the old-school term for hoax or fraudulent spectacle. There is nothing actually supernatural about the sideshow's employees (who include an alligator man, a former dog-faced boy, an escape artist, and a "geek"), most of whom can trace their particular oddities to a medical condition or just strange lifestyle choices. Of course, Mulder nonetheless thinks he has an otherworldly explanation for the murders in something called the legendary Fiji Mermaid... but could it be that, for once, Mulder has it all wrong?
This second-season episode was an early attempt at the dark humor that would prove to work so well on The X-Files. While never undermining the story or its characters, the laughs in "Humbug" come from the self-awareness of the show's creators (particularly the episode's scribe, Darin Morgan). Take the scene when one of the freaks talks about how, thanks to the inevitable genetic engineering of the 21st century, people like him are a dying breed. "I've seen the future and the future looks just like him," he says, pointing at Mulder in the distance, who is striking a particularly heroic (bordering on ridiculous) stance. "Imagine, going through your whole life looking like that." Aside from the humor, the episode also benefits from some truly stylish touches, as when Scully awakens to see what appears to be men literally falling from the sky. Supported by a great guest cast of familiar favorites (Vincent Schiavelli, Twin Peaks' Man from Another Place Michael J. Anderson), "Humbug" is requisite X-Files viewing and a segment that only gets better with age.
"Paper Hearts" leaves behind UFOs, aliens and the show's mythology to instead focus on Mulder and the other part of his search: what happened to his sister. The episode, written by Vince Gilligan (creator of Breaking Bad), is creepy and unsettling with barely a hint of the supernatural. The only element here that would even qualify this case as an X-File is the presence of what appears to be a ghost taking Mulder to the crime scenes. Of course, Scully is able to explain these away, and little more is made of it.
Duchovny adds a layer of pain and torment here, as we find out just how deeply scarred he is from his sister's disappearance. The villain, a sick and twisted child murderer named John Lee Roche is one of the most disturbing villains to make an appearance in the series. There's no cigarette smoking man, no black ooze, no special powers – just undeniable and all-too-real evil. This is one of those episodes that proved the series could get under your skin. It also showed us the many levels of Fox Mulder and why David Duchovny was so essential in creating this iconic character.
In another episode written by Vince Gilligan, a high-speed car chase in Nevada culminates in the apprehension by police of the driver... and, in quick order, the explosion of the head of the car's passenger. Mulder and Scully, investigating fertilizer purchase orders in Idaho -- as part of their recent (and demeaning) punishment by their FBI overseers -- decide to investigate the unusual case as "one quick side trip." But soon after arriving in Nevada, Mulder winds up getting kidnapped by the driver, one Patrick Crump, who heads back out on his high-speed journey with Mulder at the wheel, apparently driven by some debilitating need to just keep moving forward. Or else, you see, his head will explode too, just like his wife's before him.
"Drive" opens with a mock news report of the car chase in question, echoing the O.J. Simpson incident of just a few years earlier. But it's the interplay between Mulder and Crump that makes this episode a standout. The tragic victim of an overreaching military experiment, Crump is the living proof of the conspiracies which are Mulder's life mission to uncover. Played by Bryan Cranston -- in the episode that put him on Vince Gilligan's radar, eventually leading to their collaboration on Breaking Bad -- Crump here is an antagonistic yet heartbreaking character, and as he and Mulder become unlikely allies in their "drive," "Drive" in turn becomes a memorably scary X-Files episode - not for any particular monster or alien presence, but because of the perhaps most frightening element of the show's world ever: mankind itself, and the governments that supposedly protect us.
In this Rashomon tale, Mulder and Scully try to get their stories straight after Mulder drives a stake through the heart of a pizza delivery boy. They argue about everything, be it the existence of vampires, the name of their Texas motel, or whether the local sheriff (Luke Wilson) had an overbite. In the end, we discover that the sheriff and everyone else in town are indeed vampires and these new-school bloodsuckers (who just want to drink cow's blood and be left alone) drug the agents before pulling up stakes (Vince Gilligan's pun, not ours - and yes, he wrote this one too!).
The real fun lies in how Mulder and Scully choose to see themselves as well as each other. Scully paints herself as a devoted and heroic martyr, going without food and sleep to please a selfish and bossy Mulder, while he portrays her as a mean and whiny jerk, constantly sneering at his polite and scholarly arguments in favor of the supernatural. "Bad Blood" is full of truly funny moments, like Scully getting a craving for pizza while cataloguing a victim's stomach contents during an autopsy and it brilliantly explores, through humor, how deeply Mulder and Scully crave to be better understood and appreciated by one another.
Mulder and Scully find themselves stranded in a remote cabin with a forest ranger, a logger and an eco-terrorist while searching for a group of missing loggers. They soon come to realize that the missing men were killed by swarms of bugs that attack when the sun sets. The eco-terrorist, whose vandalism led to the agents being trapped in the first place, comes through in the end with an escape plan, but they cannot outrun the night. The strange green bugs catch and cocoon them all, and it's only a timely rescue by the government that keeps Mulder and Scully from being completely devoured.
The episode covers familiar ground in the fright department: being afraid of the dark, being trapped, not knowing who you can trust. And it boasts several interesting twists, the biggest and best being that Mulder and Scully don't get away in the end and wind up as bug food! The strength of Chris Carter's script is how smart it is, for instance using an on-going environmental debate between the agents and the supporting characters to uncover the mystery of the ancient hungry wood mites. Mulder and Scully are unique in that they can speak, casually, believably and entertainingly, on subjects like geology, botany, and entomology. They're the sexiest nerds in TV history.
Men in Black, psychics, and scary-ass hill folk on Page 2...
Source : ign[dot]com