Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sundays with The X Files - My Best Of Everything


It's time to wrap this re-watch up which I started back in May.  This is the final post and therefore the hardest to put together.  It's hard to sum up my feelings about nine years of a story.  Most of the post will be overall "best of" lists mostly because I like making lists.

Why Watch?

So what made The X Files such a terrific show?  If you've read any of my previous posts you will probably understand that what made me love the show was Mulder and Scully.  However, before I get there, I have to mention the mostly fantastic story-telling.  If you are interested in speculative fiction which can be both frightening and humorous, than The X Files is definitely a big honking cup of your tea.  

The balance of stand-alone episodes and long-arc mythology episodes makes it easy to love the show even if you prefer one over the other.  It is incredibly disappointing that the mythology ended up being as haphazard and frankly ridiculous as it became, but it was really fascinating and surprising for a good many seasons.  The X Files also managed to give its main characters some pretty soap-operatic characters arcs abut it almost always worked and was dramatic.  

The writing was also pretty universally top notch.  Many of the people who got their start producing, writing for and directing the shows have gone on to be huge successes beyond The X Files (Vince Gilligan, David Greenwalt, Kim Manners).  There was such a breadth of subject to write about, the more creative the better.  In my opinion Darin Morgan wrote some of the most brilliant episodes of TV ever.  Very few episodes truly disappointed me.

To sum up: how many shows can frighten you, gross you out, make you laugh, cry, and sigh sometimes all in one episode?  The X Files was a special beast.

In my opinion, the thing that helped it be extra special was its two main characters/lead actors.  I don't think it can be over stated how fortuitous the creation and casting of these two characters was.  One of the million essays about The X Files which you can find online argues that there is too much attention paid to "the 'ship" - Is there too much focus on the ‘ship.  The writer believes that too much focus on the romantic relationship, especially disappointment over the way that it was developed as well as the scarcity of Mulder in season's 8 and 9, distracts people from how great the storytelling was on The X Files.  This is a good point, but for me The X Files without Mulder and Scully is a well written and atmospheric show that's good but not addictive.  Add in Mulder and Scully's complex characters and relationship and the two actors with tons of charisma and chemistry and the show moves to a whole different level.  The lackluster quality of seasons 8 and 9 is not solely because of Mulder's scarcity but is because the show runners were unable to duplicate the dynamic with two new actors. 

So that's my retrospective - now for the lists!

Top Three Seasons

1) Season 3:  It was a a toss-up between season 3 or 4 for the top spot but season 3 edges out by a hair mostly because of 3 Darin Morgan episodes and Scully's cancer storyline in season 4 is well done but tough at times.  Duchovny and Anderson have really hit their stride with their characters and the tension is ratcheted up another notch with Scully losing her sister to Mulder's cause.  It complicates their relationship and the mythology.
2) Season 4: This season is dominated by Scully's cancer and has an emotional resonance than any of the other story lines they attempted (Mulder's sister's story, the mysterious alien baby pregnancy). It has one of the better season enders.
3) Season 6: Season 6 has it's ups and downs but it IS the shippiest of seasons and has some of the most fun episodes of the X Files (Triangle, Dreamland I and II, Arcadia, The Unnatural) and has a really strong couple of mythology arc episodes in the middle of the season  (Two Fathers and One Son). 

Top Ten Episodes Overall
This was hard! I had a list of about 28 episodes to narrow it down from and that was being pretty conservative about what were my favorites.  This is in chronological order.

1) Ice - Season 1, Episode 8
2) Humbug - Season 2, Episode 20
3) Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose - Season 3, Episode 4
4) War of the Coprophages - Season 3, Episode 12
5) Pusher - Season 3, Episode 17
6) Jose Chung's From Outer Space - Season 3, Episode 20
7) Quagmire - Season 3, Episode 22
7) Redux, Part II - Season 5, Episode 2
8) Tithonus - Season 6, Episode 10
10) Dreamland Part I and II - Season 6, Episode 4 and 5

Top Ten Mythology Episodes
In chronological order.  Multi-parters are treated as one.

1) Erlenmeyer Flask  - Season 1, Episode 24
2) Duane Barry - Season 2, Episode 5
3) One Breath - Season 2, Episode 8
4) Tunguska and Terma - Season 4, Episode 8 and 9
5) Gethsemane - Season 4, Episode 24
6) Redux, Part 2 - Season 5, Episode 2
7) The End - Season 5, Episode 20
8) Two Fathers and One Son - Season 6, Episodes 11 and 12
9) The Sixth Extinction Part II Amor Fati - Season 7, Episode 2
10) Requiem - Season 7, Episode 22

Top Ten Shipper Episodes
1) Tooms - Season 1, Episode 21

2)  Pusher - Season 3, Episode 17

3) Redux Part II - Season 5, Episode 2

4) Triangle - Season 6, Episode 3

5) Milagro - Season 6, Episode 18


6) The Unnatural - Season 6, Episode 19

7) The Sixth Extinction, Part II Amor Fati - Season 7, Episode 2

8) Requiem - Season 7, Episode 22

9) Empedocles - Season 8, Episode 17

10) The Truth - Season 9, Episode 20


Honorable Mention  - Fight The Future Movie

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