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The Most Important Episodes Of 'The X-Files'

Updated October 21, 2019 2.4k votes 341 voters 9.4k views15 items

List RulesVote up the episodes that mattered most to the series overall.

Decades before TV viewers could stream series with complex, seasons-long, and bingeworthy narratives, Chris Carter's The X-Files carved out a unique niche. His show introduced a more consistent "monster-of-the-week" format situated within an overarching narrative mythology. Casual viewers could tune in for a weekly dose of frights without too much character or plot baggage attached, and dedicated fans were rewarded for their attentiveness with plots and sub-plots linking characters, locations, and objects throughout the show's run.

For 202 episodes and nine seasons - plus two feature films and two encore seasons - FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) chased lights in the sky, fought terrifying cryptids, and attempted to deny their love for one another while pursuing a truth that remained forever out of reach.

While some episodes were pedestrian, others were nightmare-inducing, but all were essential parts of the larger tapestry of one of the best series in TV history. Vote up the episodes of The X-Files that mattered most to the series overall.

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  • The government conspiracy behind alien visitations is central to the second episode of the series, which finds Fox Mulder and Dana Scully investigating whether the US Air Force is suppressing evidence. Among other characters, the episode introduced Deep Throat (Jerry Hardin), a mysterious figure who is part of a shadow government known as the Syndicate.

    Deep Throat informs on his own cabal throughout the first season, providing information to Mulder and Scully that they couldn't otherwise obtain on their own. However, not all of Deep Throat's leaked information is factual. Deep Throat eventually reveals to Mulder that aliens have "been here for a long, long time," giving Mulder the push he needs to continue his pursuit for the truth.

    The Deep Throat character was embraced by fans and critics alike and made repeat appearances in later seasons, despite his demise in the Season 1 finale.

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  • When Dana Scully learns she has a cancerous tumor, Fox Mulder becomes convinced that her illness was caused by a government conspiracy and her prior abduction in Season 2. While Scully begins chemotherapy, Mulder investigates the ends of Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) members who were diagnosed with symptoms similar to Scully's.

    Mulder discovers a doctor working alongside a group of human-alien hybrid clones. The clones reveal that Scully and the other women were their surrogate mothers in a planned colonization project. Mulder takes back Scully's ova and returns to her side at the hospital as she fights her illness.

    While this episode had its detractors, it was well-received overall. The A.V. Club gave it an A, calling it "occasionally beautiful, occasionally haunting." It was submitted for a Primetime Emmy Award and likely contributed to Gillian Anderson winning a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

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  • 7

    Anasazi (Season 2, Episode 25)

    Fox Mulder receives a tape containing top-secret Defense Department files related to extraterrestrial life, but he finds it unreadable. Dana Scully, believing the code encryption is based on the Navajo language, goes in search of a Navajo translator, ultimately giving the tape to Navajo elder Albert Hosteen (Floyd Red Crow Westerman). Earlier in the episode, Hosteen was gifted alien remains found in a buried boxcar.

    Meanwhile, Mulder faces dismissal from the FBI for his increasingly erratic behavior and his accosting of Assistant Director Walter Skinner. Mulder then embarks on a mission of vengeance to end his former partner Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea) for taking the life of his father.

    Scully prevents Mulder from taking out Krycek and secrets him away to New Mexico, where she reveals his behavior was caused by substances placed in his drinking water. She also shares that the tape contains information about her and Duane Barry. Mulder is led to the location of the boxcar - which still contains the remains of several creatures - and is seemingly eliminated by the Cigarette Smoking Man's commandos, who set the boxcar on fire.

    The Season 2 finale is filled with lore that drives the show's mythology for the remainder of the series. While it's hard to believe that Mulder actually perished, his father's demise proves that anyone besides the two leads are fair game. Krycek is also positioned as a formidable adversary.

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  • Fox Mulder and Dana Scully investigate reports of a "monster" that supposedly impregnated an unconscious woman 18 years after impregnating her once before, a union that resulted in the birth of a boy named Izzy (Stewart Gale), who now draws comic books about the creature he calls "The Great Mutato." 

    After witnessing the real "Mutato" (Chris Owens) in the woods, Mulder and Scully track down a geneticist named Francis Pollidori (John O'Hurley), who they believe likens himself to a modern-day Dr. Frankenstein. Pollidori proves to be the real monster after he eliminates his own father and incites an angry mob to destroy Mutato, revealed to be his creation after all.

     "Post-Modern" was generally well-received at the time and was nominated for seven awards at the 1998 Emmys, winning one. It is now considered a classic and one of the best standalone episodes of the series.

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