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Popular Episodes 2020

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Channel 5                 X-Cops                         2020

Episode: Season 7, Episode 12
Aired: February 20, 2000
Vince Gilligan originally pitched this high-concept episode in The X-Files’ fourth year, but it didn’t get greenlit until Season 7. Taking the form of a faux episode of Fox reality show Cops, the hour gets weird when it’s revealed that the LA lawmen are working the same case as Mulder and Scully. Rather than a run-of-the-mill perp, the killer they’re pursuing is a diabolical creature that takes the form of whatever its victim fears most, raising the intriguing possibility that our heroes are actually on the trail of the Polymorph from Red Dwarf. X-Cops could have been a gimmicky disaster, but Gilligan’s sharp writing and the nicely underplayed performances help elevate it to classic status. We particularly like the fact that the format allows Mulder to drop a bleeped-out F-bomb, and his exhortation to a petrified cop to “cowboy up”. Throw in an off-screen cameo from Freddy Krueger, some long bravura tracking shots and Scully’s increasing annoyance at being followed by a camera crew, and you have an experiment in form that works gangbusters.
X-Fact: Actual SWAT team members appear in the episode, breaking down the door of the crack house.

 Beyond The Sea

Episode: Season 1, Episode 13
Aired: January 7, 1994
An early twist on the Mulder-as-believer/ Scully-as-sceptic division, with Dana quicker to accept a self-proclaimed psychic on Death Row after he talks about her just-deceased father. Writers Glen Morgan and James Wong also dig beneath the often icy veneer Scully has used as self-defence to this point, allowing Gillian Anderson to give her some welcome emotional warmth as we learn a little more about what makes her tick. Don Davis and Sheila Larkin offer excellent support as Scully’s parents, the dedicated naval man and the emotional wife who wants to badly to think her husband has contacted them from beyond the grave. Kudos also goes to Brad Dourif for instilling Luther Lee Boggs with such creepy charisma, shape-shifting emotionally as he claims to channel spirits and proving more than a match for Duchovny and Anderson. Little touches make this work so well, including Mulder calling Scully “Dana” in a moment of tender sympathy for her recent loss, and the believable relationship between the seemingly distant military man and his FBI daughter, who still feels like a disappointment to him despite all she has achieved. It’s a fine introduction to Scully’s family or at least part of it — all of which becomes more valuable down the line.
X-Fact: When Scully sees a vision of her father shortly before learning of his death, actor Don Davis is silently reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

Duane Barry

Episode: Season 2, Episode 5
Aired: October 14, 1994
After an early run of standalone episodes in Season 2, the mythology kicked back into high gear with one of the most notable cliffhangers. Starting a story that will actually run across several episodes — and impact the rest of the series — we’re introduced to Steve Railsbeck’s seemingly insane former FBI bod Duane Barry, committed to an asylum thanks to his beliefs about alien abduction and experimentation. He serves as a chilling peek into what could happen to Mulder in the future, and when the FBI’s “least wanted” is called in to consult after Barry breaks out of the hospital and takes hostages, he’s inclined to believe the man’s claims. In one of the clearest early examples of the creative team truly embracing the alien storylines, Chris Carter writes and directs this one, and crams it full of effective tension. A favourite moment is the sudden power loss at the plaza where the hostage-filled bank is situated — the lights flicker and die, and, even more spookily, the fountain stops. The image is beautifully unsettling, but that’s just one reason why the episode works. Railsbeck makes Barry a sympathetic character and CCH Pounder is her usual brilliant self, a tough-nosed FBI agent with little time for Mulder’s theories — at least, at first…
X-Fact: A sign at the hospital reads “Please line up quietly”, a nod to One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.


Episode: Season 1, Episode 1
Aired: September 10, 1993
Late at night in an Oregon motel, there’s a sinister knock at the door. “Who is it?” asks fledgling FBI agent Dana Scully. “Steven Spielberg,” jokes the knocker, who turns out to actually be her new partner, Fox “Spooky” Mulder. There’s a reason for the reference (as well as riffing on images from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, the episode has a final shot cribbed from Raiders Of The Lost Ark), but the moment also perfectly encapsulates the appeal of The X-Files: mystery and humour, blended together in perfect proportion. While some TV shows take a while to find their feet, this pilot is sheer class right from the start, following Scully as she’s drafted into her new station, “an unassigned project outside of the Bureau mainstream”, and introducing several of the series’ quirkier mainstays, from Mulder’s sunflower-seed obsession to the Cigarette Smoking Man, who demonstrates within the first five minutes that no-one leans against filing cabinets with greater menace. And the production values are so slick and cinematic that the unanswered questions — not least, why the two agents are given such a massive travel budget when their department is regarded as a joke — don’t seem like such a big deal. One final note: a subtitle on the final scene reveals that the episode is rather inexplicably set in March 1992, a year before it was shot. Spooky.
X-Fact: Scully was originally meant to have a boyfriend called Ethan, but his two scenes were dumped.

 War Of The Coprophages

Episode: Season 3, Episode 12
Aired: January 5, 1996
Darin Morgan’s back, this time blending a love for classic, cheesy sci-fi movies with a seriously skin-crawling episode about cockroaches (the coprophages of the title, which means faeces-eater). Riffing on the fact that Scully and Mulder spend so much time on their mobiles, Morgan cannily keeps the pair apart for much of the episode, swapping theories on the cockroach-related deaths as Mulder pushes ahead with his beliefs in the face of Scully’s usual scepticism. We’re also given an alternative sidekick for Mulder in the shapely form of Dr. Bambi Berenbaum (“Her name is Bambi?” Scully says in disbelief twice when Mulder mentions the entomologist) and a town full of kooks and local weirdoes who must deal with the unusual circumstances. Amidst all the fun, it’s still a scary treat for those who can’t stand the idea of creepy crawlies. As usual with a Darin Morgan episode, repeat viewings are rewarded with little references and Easter eggs. Note, for example, that when Mulder is eating cake at the end, it looks exactly like he’s eating crap. Also, in possibly one of the most meta moments of the series — or any series — a cockroach appears to crawl across the screen just as Dr. Ivanov (Ken Kramer) and Mulder discuss the case in the scientist’s laboratory.
X-Fact: Scully is reading Breakfast At Tiffany’s, a wink to David Duchovny’s appearance on Celebrity Jeopardy where a wrong answer about the book lost him the game.

 One Breath

Episode: Season 2, Episode 8
Aired: November 11, 1994
The story arc that began with Duane Barry comes to a close with this highly emotional episode. Scully is returned, but in a coma and a battle begins for her future. While her mother is convinced that Dana should be allowed to die peacefully, Mulder isn’t ready to give up on her that easily. The core of spirituality vs. science that runs through the series rears its head again in James Wong and Glen Morgan’s script as the two sides argue it out. Scully, meanwhile, is trapped in a dreamlike limbo, trying to decide if she’ll embrace the afterlife or return to the world. It’s an effective mix of the drama and metaphysical aspects of the show. And One Breath is testament to The X-Files writing staff’s ability to turn the temporary loss of one of the stars into a compelling, suspenseful and worthwhile piece of the overall mythology. Duchovny gets one of his best early scenes, as Mulder burns with intense anger (and anguish) over the thought of losing his partner while all around him preach acceptance. Steven Williams’ Mr. X is also great here, shifting from demanding that Mulder drop what he sees as a fool’s errand that’ll get him killed to begrudgingly helping him.
X-Fact: The entire arc was designed to let Gillian Anderson have time off to give birth to her daughter, Piper.

Musings Of A Cigerette Smoking Man

Episode: Season 4, Episode 7
Aired: November 17, 1996
A welcome trawl through the backstory of one of the series’ most enigmatic characters, even if we’re never quite sure — as usual — whether what we’re seeing is the truth or not. After all, the information about William B. Davis’ Cancer Man is dug up by squat troublemaker Frohike of the Lone Gunmen. Still, accurate or not, it’s a fascinating trip through some of America’s biggest conspiracy hotspots, as seen by someone involved with most of them, seen through the filter of X-Files history. So we “learn” that the CSM had a Communist father and was recruited from the military to assist in dark, bloody projects including the assassination of JFK and Martin Luther King Jr. And via Glen Morgan’s script (directed by regular collaborator James Wong), we also get to dig under the skin of the man, with his frustrated attempts to establish himself as a mystery writer, only for his efforts to be turned down by publisher after publisher as simply outlandish. If only they knew… It’s a fascinating, funny peeling of a mysterious onion that also drops a few hints at other X-Files lore (we briefly meet a young Bill Mulder and there’s a welcome return for Jerry Hardin’s Deep Throat as the pair meet at an alien crash site and consider their different roles in the conspiracy cover-up).
X-Fact: Chris Owens, who plays the young Cancer Man, returned in Season 5 to play Spender, who (spoiler alert!) was the Cigarette Smoking Man’s son.

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