Watching/re-watching The X-Files

truth

I came into The X-Files late, in 1998. If it hadn’t been for my husband being a devoted fan already, the show would likely have remained only a blip on my pop culture radar. That’s not to say I wasn’t aware of the TV craze before then. It became a staple program in my house, and on my college campus, where you could have heard a pin drop Sunday nights when the show aired, indicating that everyone had nestled themselves in front of a TV somewhere, somehow.

I had friends who were ravenous fans of the show and could recount the stories encountered by Fox Mulder and Dana Scully at the drop of a hat. Stores hip and unhip all possessed various articles of clothing bearing the serious likenesses of David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, various aliens and space ships, and the show’s mantra: “The truth is out there.” Some of that shit glowed in the dark, I remember. Everyone knew about The X-Files.

With my husband, watching The X-Files each week quickly became part of my own routine. By then the show was well into its fifth season, and news of a movie based on the show was just beginning to make waves. With all the secondhand knowledge that I had garnered about the show, I thought I knew The X-Files. I didn’t. And in fact, with each new episode, I actually found myself becoming more and more confused. Where are all the aliens? (I wasn’t aware that premise was an arc rather than the topic of each and every show.) What’s with Mulder and Scully? (The way people talked about them, they sounded like an old, and slightly bitchy married couple. And they kind of were, but they weren’t.) Where are the actual X files? (I recall seeing very few manila folders.) But despite the haze, I readily watched the series until its end came in 2002. And when it was over, I gave up the show to memory. If I didn’t really come to understand the show itself, I understood why it was so popular, at least. Drama, handsome leads, and outlandish tales from the beyond that could have been grounded in reality. The makings of most good TV, mostly.

Fast forward to 2015 and the somewhat sudden announcement that The X-Files are returning to TV! Well how to you like dem apples? (Applesauce, bitch.) (Sorry.) While we both exhibited differing levels of excitement at this prospect, we were nonetheless intrigued. And to celebrate/prepare for such a wild event, we decided it was only right and proper to watch/re-watch the series, which we could readily do thanks to Netflix. This would give both of us the chance to become reacquainted with ol’ Sculder and Mully (huh?), and more importantly, it would provide me with some necessary backstory since between the time the show went off the air and now I’ve only seen a handful of older episodes. We intended to so some binge-watching before the airing of the first new X-Files, but with that happening in just a few days (Sunday 24th), we’ve only made it to the middle of season three, which originally aired starting in the fall of 1995. But that’s okay because the first two seasons were chock full of more than I could ever want or need to know about The X-Files.

(I guess I’ll say SPOILERS, if anyone cares some 20 years later.)

First off, I have to say that watching full, big seasons of this show have brought back to mind the days when TV schedules weren’t full of hiatuses or seasonal breaks or short runs. The X-Files ran some 20 to 25 episodes per season, and each came with tons of information to digest.

So far the most delicious parts of the early seasons of The X-Files revolve around Mulder and Scully’s relationship and all the alien business. Or really, Mulder’s slow decent into madness because of all the alien business. Added bonuses are all the “monster of the week” stories, which don’t really take off (in ways good and bad) until the second season. By the time I started watching the show, Fox M. and Dana S. were practically a couple. But early on they weren’t, even though they kind of were. Season one sets them up as the proverbial “skeptic” (Scully) and “believer” (Mulder), as Mulder harbors beliefs in the paranormal. Scully’s assigned to keep watch over Mulder, and throughout the season they end up in plenty of strange entanglements.

The shows tackles aliens, alien abductions, and the government’s supposed involvement with both, but it also manages to throw in villains ranging from “unseen forces” to various psychotic/”abnormal” individuals. Throughout the season, Mulder and Scully are definitely and only colleagues. In fact, if there were any instance of chemistry, I completely missed them. It wasn’t until the two of them ended up in several intimate, not romantic, instances (“Død Kalm” [2:19] comes to mind) that I started to accept the notion that the two could, probably, be together. And Mulder’s caring/protective side becomes readily apparent after Scully’s attack and subsequent disappearance and reappearance, which lasted over episodes 5-8.

And what of the aliens? Much like zombies, I generally feel quite “meh” when it comes to those typically lanky, gray-skinned beings from afar with the big eyes. But I do enjoy a good conspiracy, especially one laden with the government’s fingerprints. So I certainly have been enjoying learning about the lore of the X files themselves. (And there is actually a filing cabinet of them, complete with folders. In the show. And I bet somewhere at the FBI, too.) And it’s been interesting seeing how the X files revolve around more than just aliens – many but not all of the “monster” cases relate to unknowable phenomena. Still, in these early seasons, the strongest episodes deal with the alien arc. The “monster” shows are awfully uneven, either in pacing or writing, though it has been fun witnessing when things go off the rails in episodes like “The Host” (2:2) and “Humbug” (2:20).

Season three is off to a grand and quite dramatic start, particularly after the gruesome/bizarre/scary alien-related discovery and potentially deadly actions taken at the end of season two. Even with the shows revival on the horizon, I’m looking forward to continuing on with the adventures of Fox and Dana and everything weird, paranormal, and conspiratorial. Maybe we’ll even rewatch the movies. One of them is here on DVD somewhere…

14 thoughts on “Watching/re-watching The X-Files”

  1. Luckily, I got into the X-Files not too late but not from the very beginning either. I think I was in junior high, right before high school when I got into the X-Files. I’m not big on science fiction in general, but there was something about X-Files that really clicked with me. I also liked the chemistry, friendship, and sexual tension between Mulder and Scully. I think watching their characters evolve and change as the show progressed was handled really well. I even found myself liking a lot of the themes and monster of the week episodes they presented from time to time. I’m excited for the revival. Even though it’s a short run, it’s most welcome for me to see how they handle these characters years later when the world has changed from the time the X-Files first started. Too bad I didn’t have any time to binge watch all seasons of the X-Files before Sunday’s premiere. 😦

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    1. Well, with nine seasons of show to squeeze in, one would have had to start last summer just to get all the shows in. 🙂

      Your point about Mulder and Scully’s friendship and how it evolved is on point. We just got through a couple episodes that dealt with, in roundabout ways, the jealously between the two when ever one got more attention, either from another person or another obsession. It was interesting to see how each dealt with “being on the rocks” so to speak. Their feelings seemed real rather than contrived, as if they truly cared about each other and didn’t want to see anyone get hurt. It’s great that their relationship never got soap-operatic, and rather stayed pretty grounded.

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      1. I agree! 🙂 I know some fans didn’t like the idea of Mulder and Scully becoming romantically involved, but I think it made sense. The attraction was obvious between the two and many episodes have hinted at their “more than friends/partners” feelings for each other. I think their relationship is very mature, rooted in respect, love, and support. While I am saddened that the two have split up at the start of the 6 episode mini-series, I still think that no matter what happens to these two, they’ll always be there for one another. That’s what I call a bond that’s deeper than what most people can only hope they’ll find and achieve in their lifetime!

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  2. I really wanted to rewatch it all before the new season, but after realizing that was a little (or perhaps a lot) more than I could fit in, I sort of went through picking favorites from the show. It has been a lot of fun returning to it. What really struck me going back was just how great the chemistry between Mulder and Scully (and their actors) was. I was really impressed with the variety found in the monster of the week installments too. Spooky episodes, funny ones, sort of gimmicky ones, all kinds of stuff (though cherry picking the best means I avoided the clunkers in this department). I wasn’t a fan of the series finale or the second movie as a place to end the show on, so I welcome this new series. Hopefully it turns out well.

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    1. It’ll be most interesting to see what comes of this miniseries. We’ve now made it through the better part of season 3, and things keeping getting better, and weirder, but mostly better. You’re right about the variety of topics they covered. There seemed to be no limit to the writers’ imaginations!

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  3. I’ve never watched the X-Files but it’s something I’ve been thinking about trying… I love Twin Peaks and I’ve heard that there are some similarities, especially with Twin Peaks’ second season. I’d be interested to know whether you think it’s worth it. I’ve not watched much TV sci-fi, but I did enjoy Dark Angel if that helps any 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I must confess that I’ve not seen the full run of Twin Peaks. And I can’t put into words much about the few episode of it that I have seen because they just don’t make much sense out of context.

      Also confess: I had to look up Dark Angel — seems like it was an interesting show. I might have to look for it on Netflix or something.

      In any event, I don’t see the X-Files as a typical “sci-fi” show. Though I understand that it’s been categorized as such, it’s less about fantasy and more about the evolution/mutation/warping of the human condition. Sure, there’s all the alien stuff, but the show tries hard to ground even that in reality. It’s the kind of show where if you can make it through the whole first season without despising the show’s premise (and departures from it), then there’s a good chance you’ll be able to accept the show, which is filled with as many shining moments as it it head-scratching WTFs. Plus, there’s some fun to be had in watching Mulder and Scully together. Sometimes they are the sweetest thing; other times they could not be more at odds.

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      1. Cary, definitely recommend Twin Peaks. Funny, scary, surreal, moving. And the show only gets more amazing when you realise the impact it’s had on our hobby over the years! The Zelda series, for example… Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Link’s Awakening, all of them and every Zelda game since has been profoundly influenced by Twin Peaks.

        Dark Angel is pretty good too, especially the first series, although I don’t think it holds a candle to Twin Peaks.

        I will have to get around to X-Files then it sounds like… oh, and thanks for the tip Particlebit!

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