To Binge or Not to Binge Episode 57: ‘The X Files’


Hannah Allred

(Graphic by Hannah Allred | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Abigail Bowé, Arts Writer


Most pop culture aficionados are guilty of it — “shipping,” a word used for when one wants to see two fictional characters engage in a romantic relationship. While “Star Trek” is credited for inspiring the first “ships,” the term itself was actually created by the followers of a later sci-fi show, “The X Files.” A significant element in this show’s widespread appeal is its legendary, multi-season slow-burning “will-they-won’t-they” between its protagonists, FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson). This potential romance is a good one to geek out over.

That being said, “The X Files” also has more substance to it than romance alone. “The X Files” is best known as an ominous horror series whose heroes investigate a series of paranormal cases to unravel a potential apocalyptic government conspiracy. Cue the blood, guts and jump scares.

Despite what I’d describe as its truly ’90s style longing and wistfulness, “The X Files” pulls off its aesthetic and shows strong character development. It’s well worth the watch, whether or not you plan to drive out and storm Area 51 in September.


To Binge or Not to Binge?

Binge this sucker but not by jumping into it headfirst. With ten original seasons, two movies, over 200 episodes and an additional 2018 revival season (which has been mostly successful in staying true to the original, though it also sags a little), “The X Files” almost offers too much, especially considering its spin-off series, plethora of comic books and a hilarious crossover episode of “The Simpsons.” Bulk is the only reason that this series isn’t rated at a full five stars here at To Binge or Not to Binge — getting into “The X Files” isn’t a wholly simple task. Besides, you’ve got to be a tad emo to enjoy the series’ long-drawn drama.

Luckily, there is a workaround to navigating the franchise for those willing to put in the effort. “The X Files” series is made up of two types of episodes: “mythology” episodes, which follow plot points, and “monster of the week” episodes, or miscellaneous mysteries about troublesome cryptids varying from giant insects to vampires to freaky worm men. The key is to watch the mythology episodes and movies first, and then occasionally go back to the monster episodes when you’re in the mood for them. This isn’t to discount the monster episodes as not entertaining, though a handful of them certainly are campy and dated. However, they don’t add anything vital to the series except frights and fun. When it comes to binging, the fastest way to enjoy “The X Files” is to dig directly into its heart.

Why? The show’s heart offers much to love. Scully, one of my personal favorite television characters, is one of the most kick-butt protagonists I’ve ever seen on film. As a bonus, she avoids every tired-out trope of the female heroine I can think up, rescuing her male counterpart as often as he rescues her and working as the scientific brains behind the duo and rarely backing down from an enemy. Her successful characterization stems from the show’s creator Chris Carter’s idea to write a pair of protagonists which featured a female with normative-masculine intellectual traits and a male with normative-feminine emotional traits.

This setup makes Mulder equally as interesting as a soft-spoken conspiracy theorist who is led by emotion over logic but almost always makes his decisions to heroic ends. Who isn’t sick of the naive, feminine blonde who continually endangers others with her daftness and the dashing, masculine hero who might as well be replaced with an unspeaking plastic Ken doll — especially across the horror genre? Anderson and Duchovny both give talented, three-dimensional performances in “The X Files” which rival the best of the best throughout other television series. Each of the two scored a Golden Globe for their top-notch acting. On a final note, “The X Files” is also binge-worthy for its deeply relevant themes of social paranoia, political corruption and institutionalized manipulation.


Best Episode(s)

The best monster episode is perhaps “Squeeze,” Season 1, Episode 3. Even if it isn’t the most horrific episode of the series, you’ll find that it scores nothing short of an A+ in the “it’s so messed up you’ll never be able to forget it but you’ll certainly wish you could unsee it” department.

As for the mythology, the first feature film of the franchise, “The X Files: Fight the Future” (taking place between Seasons 5 and 6), throws unbelievable twists to the show’s elaborate story arc that are bound to surprise you.


Similar Shows

Listen up. “The X Files” is an absolute must — I repeat, a must — for anybody who has finished the third season of “Stranger Things” and has been left craving retro-paranormal adventuring, depictions of monsters chowing down on small-town innocents and an eerie synth theme song ever since.

Otherwise, “The X Files” shares similarities with “The Twilight Zone,” “Doctor Who,” “Supernatural” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in terms of your standard fare of aliens, lore and mystery.


Trigger Warnings

“The X Files” isn’t so gruesome as much horror television can be — think “The Walking Dead” or “American Horror Story” — but its gore factor sometimes goes over the top for a mostly TV-14 rated franchise. As for the sensual content, it’s usually tame, but certain episodes do contain depictions, allusions and references to sex, fetish and rape.


“The X Files”
4.8 out of 5 stars
Available to stream on Hulu
218 episodes and 2 Feature Length Films, Approximately 160 hours total.

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