“The X-Files”: The Skip It/Watch It Guide

Okay. So. This guide, officially, has been available in eBook form (along with others!) for a little while. But now was the time, with the revival coming towards us like a freight train, and with friends making an effort to rewatch hung up on misadvised installments, to release it to the people. Because now is the time, for the people to know that they maybe should not watch (or rewatch) all 201 episodes of “The X-Files” that have already aired. That maybe, just maybe, this seminal show, this series of delights, had some rough patches over its nine-season run.

Also, allow me to preface this guide with the following disclaimer: This guide is subjective. This guide is heavily influenced by my personal history with this show. This guide has a crush on Mulder and little patience for Reyes. This guide is at least 70 percent focused on identifying all the super-flirty episodes, and 30 percent focused on avoiding the really stupid stuff. This guide will be ignoring the existence of The X-Files: I Want to Believe.

This guide is here to help.

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1. “Pilot”: Must see. Say it with me, kids — YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO WATCH THE PILOT. Also, this pilot is AMAZING, both on a nostalgia level (1993, you guys!) and as a set-up of our heroes and their adventures to come. Plus, it rates a score of 8 on the Flirt-o-meter. It’s genuinely one of TV’s great pilots.

2. “Deep Throat”: Watch it. Conspiracy funtimes! A major player is introduced! And Mulder does something stupid and gets arrested! (A proud tradition begins here.)

3. “Squeeze”: Watch it. Another proud tradition begins here — the mutant of the week episode! And our buddy Tooms does kick things off with a bang.

4. “Conduit”: Watch it. The main mystery failed to make an impression on me at the time, but there’s some big character stuff with Mulder here.

5. “The Jersey Devil”: Maybe skip it. I am perversely fond of this pretty cute episode. Scully goes on a date! Mulder does something stupid and gets arrested! But it falls under the category of “non-essential.”

6. “Shadows”: Skip it. For many episodes, I use this litmus test — can I even remember what the hell happened? “Shadows” is an example of an episode where I cannot remember what the hell happened, even after rereading the episode summary on Wikipedia. Expect to see the “Shadows” rule applied a fair amount going forward.

7. “Ghost in the Machine”: Skip it. I do remember what happened in this episode. And it was really bad. Spare yourself the trouble.

8. “Ice”: Watch it. Oh, this one’s great. And I’m not just saying that because Felicity Huffman shows up and there’s a big ol’ “The Thing” homage. Really cool and creepy.

9. “Space”: Skip it. Nope. Just, nope.

10. “Fallen Angel”: Watch it. Hey, Mulder does something stupid and gets arrested! Introduces a character who’ll reappear down the line, and includes some important additions to the mythology.

11. “Eve”: Watch it. A cool mystery with some good twists.

12. “Fire”: Maybe skip it. Reasons to watch — Mark Sheppard guest-stars; Mulder’s ex-girlfriend shows up and Scully gets adorably pissy about it; Mulder wears both a tuxedo and black silk boxers. Reasons not to watch — it’s kind of silly. I leave it up to you.

13. “Beyond the Sea”: Must see. A really important episode for Scully, and a solid serial killer story. Definitely worth checking out.

14. “Gender Bender”: Skip it. Meh. Unless you have a major hard-on for Nicholas Lea, and there’s a lot more Nicholas Lea to come, never fear.

15. “Lazarus”: Skip it. I mean, unless you’re really invested in the tale of Scully’s ex-boyfriend.

16. “Young at Heart”: Skip it. Another monster-of-the-week episode that’s unmemorable.

17. “E.B.E.”: Watch it. Lots of mythology stuff, plus the introduction of the Lone Gunmen, who are the best.

18. “Miracle Man”: Skip it. A rule of thumb — anything religious cult-related probably isn’t gonna be very good. You’re fine without this one.

19. “Shapes”: Skip it. The “Shadows” rule applies here.

20. “Darkness Falls”: Watch it. This is a monster-of-the-week episode I remember really digging. Perhaps you will dig it too!

21. “Tooms”: Watch it. Our old friend Tooms is back! I dig how this follows up on “Squeeze” — it’s an example of thoroughness that will not be a hallmark of later seasons, so let’s appreciate it here.

22. “Born Again”: Skip it. This is like the third fucking reincarnation episode this season. ENOUGH WITH THE REINCARNATION ALREADY.

23. “Roland”: Skip it. A telepathically-controlled janitor! Oh, joy.

24. “The Erlenmeyer Flask”: Must see. Big things happen! X-Files season finales are reliable that way. And it’s pretty exciting, too.

redmuseumSEASON 2
1. “Little Green Men”: Watch it. Picks up where “Erlenmeyer Flask” left off. And full of exciting Puerto Rico action!

2. “The Host”: Watch it. One of the most notorious monsters-of-the-week, with a highly enjoyable amount of grossness.

3. “Blood”: Maybe skip it. There are some memorable moments, but non-essential.

4. “Sleepless”: Watch it. It’s time to meet our new friend Agent Krycek, and remember that 20 years ago, Vietnam vets were, y’know, 20 years younger than they are now. With the exception of the last scene, a standard monster-of-the-week, with some highly enjoyable Scully bitchery.

5/6. “Duane Barry”/”Ascension”: Must see. Oh damn this two-parter is super-super-important. I won’t say anything else about it, but DAMN.

7. “3”: Skip it. Okay, I enjoy mopey Mulder as much as the next girl, but vampire cultists? Move along, nothing to see here.

8. “One Breath”: Must see. Essentially a sequel to “Duane Barry” and “Ascension,” and features some truly breathtaking Mulder Cry Faces.

9. “Firewalker”: Watch it. This episode is a lot like “Ice” and “Darkness Falls,” except with bonus Bradley Whitford. In case it’s not clear, that’s a good thing.

10. “Red Museum”: Watch it. Not only is this the episode where Mulder wipes barbecue sauce off Scully’s chin, but there’s a good mystery combined with some mythology plot. (Which Mike, who offered some notes on this guide, reminded me about.)

11. “Excelsis Dei”: Skip it. The “Shadows” rule in action, once again.

12. “Aubrey”: Skip it. Meh.

13. “Irresistible”: Watch it. This episode is pretty fucked up, especially for 1995 network television — but I mean that in a good way.

14. “Die Hand die Verletzt”: Watch it. I had nightmares for weeks after watching this episode. IT IS TERRIFYING. You will enjoy.

15. “Fresh Bones”: Skip it. The Haitian voodoo episode. Pretty inconsequential.

16/17. “Colony”/”End Game”: Must see. A pattern emerges in Season 2 when it comes to the structure of X-Files seasons: While most episodes are stand-alone in nature, two-parters in the fall and spring serve up major amounts of plot. That is very much the case here. Exciting stuff happens!

18. “Fearful Symmetry”: Skip it. “Invisible elephant rampage.” Seriously. Pass.

19. “Dod Kalm”: Maybe watch it. There’s some silly-bad old age makeup in play, but also some nice bonding between Mulder and Scully, so you KNOW I’m tempted to recommend.

20. “Humbug”: Watch it. The first episode Darin Morgan ever wrote for the show. Don’t know the name? Learn it. Darin Morgan wrote only a handful of episodes, but each was brilliant in their own special way.

21. “The Calusari”: Skip it. I’m invoking the “Shadows” rule again.

22. “F. Emasculata”: Watch it. The exploding boils episode! I remember the exploding boils episode! It’s so gross AKA awesome! If you are not a fan of exploding boils, you might want to avoid.

23. “Soft Light”: Skip it. Not only am I invoking the “Shadows” rule, but I am invoking it on an episode which appears to be about shadows coming to life. Sorry, guest star Tony Shalhoub.

24. “Our Town”: Maybe watch it. A fine example of early-days X-Files not being afraid to get gross and weird in a fun way. Not essential viewing, but like I said, gross and weird in a fun way.

25. “Anasazi”: Must see. Yay for finales! Especially balls-to-the-wall insane finales.

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1/2. “The Blessing Way”/”Paper Clip”: Must see. Shit, son, time to resolve some cliffhangers! And also dig even further into the show’s mythology.

3. “D.P.O.”: Maybe skip it. Features Jack Black and Giovanni Ribisi, but also your standard-issue monster-of-the-week, and I don’t think Mulder and Scully do one single cute thing.

4. “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”: Must see. Darin Morgan strikes again! This won an Emmy for writing. Peter Boyle won an Emmy for being Peter Boyle. It’s just an awesome hour of television.

5. “The List”: Skip it. Yawn possessed serial killers on death row yawn.

6. “2Shy”: Skip it. Yawn fat-sucking serial killer yawn.

7. “The Walk”: Skip it. Yawn quadruple-amputee vengeance killing yawn.

8. “Oubliette”: Watch it. A monster-of-the-week, but an emotionally intense one. Guest starring Jewel “Kaylee on Firefly” Staite!

9/10. “Nisei”/”731”: Watch it. Sets up some big mythology things for Season 4. And Mulder jumps on a moving train!

11. “Revelations”: Maybe skip it. Unless you’re really super-into an hour of Scully fretting about her religious beliefs. I could live without it, personally.

12. “War of the Coprophages”: Watch it. Darin Morgan, you magnificent bastard. The thing to love about Darin Morgan is that his episodes are funny; by Season 3, this will become a thing to treasure.

13. “Syzygy”: Watch it. Oh, this episode is silly but it makes me laugh. Mulder and Scully getting super-pissy with each other = comedy gold. And bonus very very young Ryan Reynolds! (Briefly.)

14. “Grotesque”: Watch it. I initially wrote this off as “the gargoyle serial killer” episode, but upon re-examination (per Mike’s suggestion) found it to be a dark and complex mystery layered with some interesting back story for Mulder. Mulder does a LOT of staring at stuff, though. Be prepared for that.

15/16. “Piper Maru”/”Apocrypha”: Watch it. Mythology two-parters, as mentioned before, tend to be “Watch it”s, and this one does introduce some key stuff.

17. “Pusher”: Must see. This might be one of my favorite episodes of all time; it’s certainly the episode that made me realize how much I liked the show. The last ten minutes are INTENSE.

18. “Teso Dos Bichos”: Skip it. The one where Scully gets attacked by a rabid cat. Let us not speak of this one.

19. “Hell Money”: Skip it. If only because I’m pretty sure it’s pretty racist.

20. “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space”: Must see. Darin Morgan keeps the hits a’comin! This is maybe a perfect hour of television. Just brilliant and funny and sad and perfect.

21. “Avatar”: Skip it. Unless you’re, like, SUPER into A.D. Skinner’s sex life. To be fair, those people do exist. I do not happen to be one of them.

22. “Quagmire”: Watch it. There’s some great stuff in this one — probably because Darin Morgan did some scripting work on it. Anchored by a really great scene between Mulder and Scully that basically defines their relationship up until that point. Also, sea monsters!

23. “Wetwired”: Watch it. Kind of similar to “Blood” from Season 2, but with a little bit of mythology and 100 percent more Scully and vastly superior as a result.

24. “Talitha Cumi”: Watch it. Arguably the least-exciting season finale in X-Files history, but hell, it does set up a few things.

xfilesSEASON 4
1. “Herrenvolk”: Watch it. Not super-exciting, but it sets up things like the Consortium’s use of bees — AKA MY MORTAL ENEMIES. (Bees, that is. Fuck you, bees. You suck.)

2. “Home”: Watch it. One of the show’s most famous installments, mostly for how fucked up it is. It’ll haunt you, that’s for damn sure.

3. “Teliko”: Skip it. Black people are getting “de-pigmented”? Yeah, it’s a pass.

4. “Unruhe”: Maybe skip it. Oh, Scully, serial killers sure do love kidnapping you. A kinda cool X-File, though.

5. “The Field Where I Died”: Skip it. You know, I don’t think I’ve actually ever seen this episode, but from what I understand I’m not really missing out. Past lives regression and cult suicides. And some lady claims that Scully is not Mulder’s soulmate! Fuck you, lady! (Mike thinks I should watch it because it is “kind of amazingly bad,” which makes me directly question our friendship and/or think he understands me too well.)

6. “Sanguinarium”: Skip it. Witchcraft and plastic surgery. Life is short, you guys.

7. “Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man”: Watch it. Billed as the “anti-Forrest Gump,” this is a surprisingly funny look at the Smoking Man’s back story, and after four seasons of watching him skulk in the shadows, it couldn’t come too soon.

8/9. “Tunguska”/”Terma”: Watch it. The fall mid-season mythology two-parter! And a pretty gripping installment. Plus, there’s a really good Mulder and Scully hug!

10. “Paper Hearts”: Watch it. A serial killer stand-alone, but a relatively fresh one with some good character stuff.

11. “El Mundo Gira”: Skip it. The Mexican goat sucker episode. NOPE.

12. “Leonard Betts”: Watch it. Historical note: This was the big X-Files post-Super Bowl episode, and thus a watershed moment for the series. It also totally explodes the show for the rest of the season, thanks to the final twist.

13. “Never Again”: Hmmmm. So this episode is relatively controversial — at least, we sure did talk bunches about it on the message boards, back in the day. Here is what you need to know if you decide not to watch: Scully goes on a solo investigation, and runs into this guy from Space: Above And Beyond, and it’s not totally clear whether they have sex or not, but Jodie Foster plays the voice of a tattoo and Scully has a major fight with Mulder. None of these things ever come up ever again. (I’m kind of grateful for this.)

14. “Memento Mori”: Must see. Oh holy shit this episode, you guys. This episode. The revelation of “Leonard Betts” goes nuclear here. Just watch it.

15. “Kaddish”: Skip it. Yet another “religious fable used as source for monster” episode, and not essential viewing.

16. “Unrequited”: Skip it. Yawn invisible assassin yawn.

17/18. “Tempus Fugit”/”Max”: Watch it. Mythology time! Mythology time! Also, Mulder gets Scully a birthday present.

19. “Synchrony”: Maybe skip it. This is a really fucking weird episode — X-Files does time travel! — and the execution isn’t great. But the approach to time travel is intellectually pretty interesting, so if you like unique approaches to time travel, I’d give this one a look.

20. “Small Potatoes”: Watch it. Darin Morgan alert! Well, he’s only acting, not writing (Vince Gilligan wrote this one, more about him in a bit). But still, Darin Morgan is in this light-hearted shapeshifter romp with tons of great moments. (Though, um. With modern attitudes towards sexual consent, this one has a rougher appreciation.)

21. “Zero Sum”: Watch it. Okay, Skinner fans, I’ll give you this one. Just this once. And it sets up some mythology stuff, plus back story that’ll matter when we get to The Only Movie We’ll Discuss Here.

22. “Elegy”: Maybe skip it. Actually vaguely ties into the narrative in play, but otherwise your pretty standard stand-alone.

23. “Demons”: Maybe watch it. I mean, it’s a bit over the top, but if you like Mulder Cry Face and Scully going all nurturing, it’s worth checking out.

24. “Gethsemane”: Watch it. Oh so much drama and a classic X-Files cliffhanger. Part of me feels that you should have to endure the three-month wait between this episode and the Season 5 premiere that we humble fans did, back in the day. That would be the sadist part of me. We’ll just ignore her.

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1. “Redux”: Watch it. I am not a fan of how much stalling occurs in this episode, but it does address the Season 4 cliffhanger and a bunch of other important stuff. Sometimes, it does so using a montage of stock footage. Alas.

2. “Redux II”: Must see. Aside from the terrible name, this episode is super-key in resolving old arcs and starting new. Plus, TWISTS! And Mulder and Scully being super-adorbs.

3. “Unusual Suspects”: Watch it. It’s 1989! Let’s meet the Lone Gunmen! It’s a delightful episode.

4. “Detour”: Watch it. Ostensibly a stand-alone, but definitely worth watching for the part where the needle on the Flirt-o-meter gets buried in the red. Seriously, so much fucking flirting, your mind will be blown.

5. “The Post-Modern Prometheus”: Watch it. Speaking of flirting… Oh, and Cher, and monsters, and black-and-white cinematography, and all sorts of other things. A super-weird episode, but unless you’re dead inside (or deeply offended by Cher covers of Marc Cohn songs) the ending will put a smile on your face. (But also, the consent issues mentioned with “Small Potatoes”? Yeah. Trigger warning.)

6/7. “Christmas Carol”/”Emily”: Watch it. This is a bummer of a two-parter, but it’s key to the mythology. Mulder makes a funny face at one point, if you want something to look forward to.

8. “Kitsunegari”: Maybe skip it. A follow-up to “Pusher,” but one that suffers from comparison. Though the ending is pretty solid.

9. “Schizogeny”: Skip it. “The Killer Tree Episode.”

10. “Chinga”: Skip it. Stephen King may have co-written it, but that doesn’t make it essential viewing. Scully has a cute little speech about witchcraft, but you can just look that up on YouTube or something.

11. “Kill Switch”: Watch it. Meanwhile, William Gibson steps up to co-write an episode and it is RADSAUCE. A really cool cyberpunk-themed adventure.

12. “Bad Blood”: Watch it. This episode improves with age. One of the funnier installments, featuring Luke Wilson, vampires, and the theme song from Shaft.

13/14. “Patient X”/”The Red and the Black”: Watch it. More mythology, bringing in some new characters and big reveals.

15. “Travelers”: Skip it. Not a bad episode, but doesn’t really tie into anything beyond the promise of investigating “the first X-File.”

16. “Mind’s Eye”: Skip it. We’re hitting a run of episodes where Mulder and Scully are largely separated to accommodate filming X-Files: Fight the Future. I’m not really a fan, even with Lili Taylor guest-starring.

17. “All Souls”: Skip it. In case you couldn’t tell, I don’t have a lot of patience for the more religious-themed episodes, and this is no exception. Angels, guys! Angels!

18. “The Pine Bluff Variant”: Watch it. I liked this episode! Mulder going undercover is a relatively fresh storyline, and many exciting things happen!

19. “Folie a Deux”: Watch it. Do you like your stand-alone episodes with lots of flirting and sappy bedside confessions? Then do I have an episode for you!

20. “The End”: Must see. Surely by now you’ve sensed a pattern when it comes to finales and premieres, but this one’s big, because it tees things off for…


The X-Files: Fight the Future: Must see. Mulder gets to swear, and there are like a metric ton of helicopters, and the last act is just hilarious, in its weird wacky way. But it is a huge moment for the franchise. Even if fucking bees fucking fuck shit up. Fucking bees.

And then we’re off to…

mulder-and-scully_32339_13SEASON 6
1. “The Beginning”: Watch it. Isn’t exactly Shakespeare, but it does set up the new direction for the season.

2. “Drive”: Watch it. If only because Bryan Cranston’s appearance here eventually paved the way for Breaking Bad (which was created by X-Files co-EP Vince Gilligan, if you didn’t know). It’s also a pretty tight adventure.

3. “Triangle”: Watch it. This episode is fucking bonkers, mostly in a good way. And there are some cool filmmaking tricks on display.

4/5. “Dreamland”/”Dreamland II”: Watch it. Season 6 marked a distinct rise in comedy for the show, and this two-parter co-starring Michael McKean and Nora Dunn is a major part of that. Things get weird, y’all.

6. “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas”: Maybe watch it? Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin are a treat, of course. And of course it’s delightful to see Mulder and Scully celebrate Christmas together. But it’s basically an hour of talk talk talk. I wouldn’t consider it essential viewing.

7. “Terms of Endearment”: Maybe skip it. Bruce Campbell aside, “Rosemary’s Baby in reverse” lacks appeal.

8. “The Rain King”: Watch it. A weirdly charming episode, with lots of fun Mulder and Scully stuff. Even Victoria “Crazypants” Jackson can’t ruin it.

9. “S.R. 819”: Maybe watch it. Again, my interest in Skinner is pretty minimal, but this is a big Skinner episode with mythology implications, so I guess you should care.

10. “Tithonus”: Watch it. This is a pretty cool X-File, with some good Mulder/Scully interaction.

11/12. “Two Fathers”/”One Son”: Watch it. Yep, it’s mythology time again, with an important change to the status quo by the end.

13. “Agua Mala”: Skip it. Just kinda meh, despite the reappearance of Darren McGavin.

14. “Monday”: Watch it. Oh, this episode is great. I mean, it’s in the proud tradition of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “Cause and Effect,” which is to say that you’ll experience some… DEJA VU? (Jokes!) But the execution is solid.

15. “Arcadia”: Watch it. It seriously took until Season 6 for there to be a “Mulder and Scully go undercover as a married couple” episode, but it was worth the wait. For me, anyway.

16. “Alpha”: Maybe skip it. I mean, how high is your tolerance for dog puns? Because HOLY SHIT Mulder does not let up on those dog puns. Aside from the dog puns, there is some relatively clever dialogue, but the only thing of note in this episode is that Mulder gets a new “I Want To Believe” poster at the end.

17. “Trevor”: Maybe watch it. I upgraded this one after publishing! Some cute banter and way more entertaining than I remember.

18. “Milagro”: Maybe watch it. This episode, about a murderous novelist, features Deadwood star John Hawkes, but also some of the silliest writing Chris Carter ever inflicted on X-Files viewers. There is a bunch of gooey Mulder/Scully stuff, though. It’s one I’d watch again, but while occasionally stifling laughter.

19. “The Unnatural”: Watch it. One of three episodes David Duchovny directed for the series, and while the primary mystery isn’t the most engaging, all of the Mulder/Scully scenes will put a smile on your face.

20. “Three of a Kind”: Watch it. Were you expecting a follow-up to “Unusual Suspects” from Season 5? I bet you weren’t! But here you have it anyway.

21. “Field Trip”: Watch it. I initially was on the fence about recommending this one, but then I rewatched it and found it really charming! It’s a surprisingly subtle and sweet character study.

22. “Biogenesis”: Watch it. Oh, hey, a finale. Well, of course you’re going to watch it, right?

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1/2. “The Sixth Extinction”/”The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati”: Watch it. Okay, be forewarned — some truly ridiculous stuff happens in “Amor Fati.” (This is about when Chris Carter got a major hard-on for Jesus metaphors, which get way over the top way fast.) But, y’know, it’s the premiere. We forgive it as much as we can.

3. “Hungry”: Watch it. A stand-alone, but an interesting experiment in POV.

4. “Millennium”: Watch it. Technically, this episode is a coda to the other Chris Carter series of the same name. Even if you didn’t watch Millennium, though, it’s still a decent zombie adventure. And the ending scene is top-notch.

5. “Rush”: Maybe skip it. Flirt-o-meter gets a workout during this episode, but it’s otherwise a pretty average stand-alone.

6. “The Goldberg Variation”: Watch it. Rube Goldberg devices! Stanford from Sex and the City! Always a pleasure.

7. “Orison”: Skip it. Blargh. Another case of X-Files trying to bring back an old villain, resulting in an episode that suffers by comparison.

8. “The Amazing Maleeni”: Watch it. I like magic, I like Ricky Jay, I’m gonna recommend this one.

9, “Signs and Wonders”: Skip it. Ugh, yet another religious cult episode. There’s a cute bit where Mulder teases Scully about “snake handling,” but you can live without it.

10/11. “Sein und Zeit”/”Closure”: Watch it. It’s mythology time again, and as the title of Part 2 promises, these episodes resolve one of the show’s biggest mysteries: What happened to Mulder’s sister? (Note: You may not find said resolution terribly satisfying. But IT’S AS CLOSE TO AN ANSWER AS YOU’RE EVER GONNA GET.)

12. “X-Cops”: Maybe skip it. An interesting experiment with form, but gets a bit silly.

13. “First Person Shooter”: Watch it. Kind of a follow-up to “Kill Switch,” and also written by William Gibson. It’s weird, but some of the video game stuff is pretty cool and Scully gets to kick a lot of ass.

14. “Theef”: Skip it. The ass genie episode. NOPE NOPE NOPE. I WAS WRONG ABOUT THIS ONE. I can’t even remember what the fuck happened. “Shadows” rule.

15. “En Ami”: Skip it. The “Smoking Man pervs out on Scully” hour, and doesn’t really add anything to the narrative.

16. “Chimera”: Skip it. Nothing good happens when Mulder and Scully split up. (Get ready for this to become a theme of Season 8.)

17. “all things”: Watch it. Boy, I hope you like Moby, because you’re gonna hear some Moby in this episode! It is written and directed by Gillian Anderson, and there’s really nothing I can say about it that will make it make sense. But you’ve come this far with me on the schmoop train, you might as well see it all the way through.

18. “Brand X”: Skip it. Not a terrible episode, but not really a winner.

19. “Hollywood A.D.”: Watch it. David Duchovny’s second writing/directing adventure, and more than a little self-indulgent. But also a ridiculous amount of fun: Worth it just for the scene where Scully runs in heels.


21. “Je Souhaite”: Watch it. A very sweet stand-alone — not essential viewing, but I’m fond of it.

22. “Requiem”: Must see. Ahahahahahahah it’s the episode of television that ruined the summer of 2000 for me. But decidedly essential viewing.

x-files-per-manum-e1416166723442SEASON 8
A note: I don’t really care about Doggett. If you care about Doggett, you’re probably gonna want to find another Skip It/Watch It Guide. Good luck with that.

1/2. “Within”/”Without”: Watch it. Well, let’s meet John Doggett and get it over with.

3. “Patience”: Skip it. Ahahahaha MANBAT NOPE.

4. “Roadrunners”: Maybe watch it. Here’s the deal — this episode is stand-alone, it features a religious cult (never a good sign) and the phenomenon in question is one of the weirdest in X-Files history. But Mike said I should give it a second chance, and to its credit, it’s not badly executed. So if a largely solo Scully adventure with some weirdly fun gross moments appeals, I’ll go ahead and say check it out.

5. “Invocation”: Maybe watch it. Well, there’s no banana slug being worshipped as the second coming of Jesus Christ — instead, Doggett gets mopey about his dead son. So I guess if you’re interested in Doggett, give it a watch?

6. “Redrum”: Maybe watch it. Hey, it’s Joe Morton and a timey-wimey-ish murder crime! You could do worse.

7. “Via Negativa”: Skip it. OH BOY A RELIGIOUS CULT YOU DON’T SAY.

8. “Surekill”: Skip it. Definitely invoking the “Shadows” rule here.

9. “Salvage”: Skip it. A cyborg episode? Seriously?

10. “Badlaa”: Skip it. Only eight seasons before they got around to a legless Indian mystic? Color me shocked.

11. “The Gift”: Watch it. Hey, Mulder shows up! In flashback form, but still, it’s something. And here, it’s an episode also featuring Doggett! See how fair and balanced I’m being?

12. “Medusa”: Skip it. “Shadows” rule! “Shadows” rule!

13. “Per Manum”: Watch it. Guys, I don’t even know how to describe what happens in this episode, I just know that it is essential viewing for you passengers on the Schmoop Train.

14/15. “This is Not Happening”/”DeadAlive”: Must see. Oh, Season 8. These two episodes are just ridiculous, and the way they bend space and time is enough to drive you insane. But hey, you’re at Season 8 now, AKA SAP TOWN POPULATION SAP. You’re pretty much pot-committed.

16. “Three Words”: Watch it. The three words are not “I love you, Scully, let me take you away from all this.” (Well, you know what I mean.) But, hey, Mulder’s back, we might as well watch him do shit, and some more mythology gets dropped in.

17. “Empedocles”: Watch it. More stuff about Doggett’s son, and more Reyes. (Oh, Reyes.) But Mulder also gets to investigate stuff, so maybe we’ll forgive it.

18. “Vienen”: Maybe watch it. Ugh, fine, I guess. “Mulder and Doggett investigate” isn’t a premise that really sets my panties on fire, but some plotting gets underway.

19. “Alone”: Watch it. The super-meta fan service episode! Well, maybe not SUPER meta. But meta enough, especially at the end.

20/21. “Essence”/”Existence”: Must see. At the very least, there’s a certain special agent who’s got a special delivery to make. At the most… Well, welcome to the new X-Files, in all its glory.

mulder-and-scully_32438_9SEASON 9
A note: Oh, man, let the skipping begin…

1/2. “Nothing Important Happened Today”/”Nothing Important Happened Today II”: Maybe watch it. Hey, Lucy Lawless shows up! David Duchovny does not. But we begin to painfully abuse the phrase “super-soldiers” learn about super-soldiers!

3. “Dæmonicus”: Skip it. Oh, hey, satanic ritual murders! THAT’S NEW.

4. “4-D”: Skip it. I love Cary Elwes, but he has not aged well.

5. “Lord of the Flies”: Skip it. From Wikipedia: “the culprit was apparently a swarm of killer flies hidden in the victim’s brain.” NOPE.

6. “Trust No 1”: Watch it. Hey, Mulder might stop by! And a lot of weird stuff happens. Including the most ridiculous email ever seen on this show, ever.

7. “John Doe”: Maybe skip it. An entire episode all about Doggett! Be still my beating heart! But it’s also the directorial debut of Michelle MacLaren, and there’s a lot of visual interest to it. MAYBE worth watching. MAYBE.

8. “Hellbound”: Skip it. Even better, an entire episode all about Reyes!

9/10. “Provenance”/”Providence”: Watch it. You might as well. Some important plot developments ensue.

11. “Audrey Pauley”: Watch it. I actually like this episode, despite the fact that it’s a big Doggett/Reyes adventure. It’s sweet.

12. “Underneath”: Skip it. “Shadows” rule in play here.

13. “Improbable”: Maybe skip it. I think I missed this one when it aired originally? But Burt Reynolds plays God? Sure, fine, whatever.

14. “Scary Monsters”: Skip it. I mean, I liked the junior nitpicking agent from last season’s “Alone,” but did I like her enough to watch a whole other episode featuring her? No. No I did not.

15. “Jump the Shark”: Watch it. It will make you make the saddest faces. But yeah, you gotta watch it.

16. “William”: Watch it. If only so that you’re not confused by what happened to the magic baby.

17. “Release”: Skip it. Unless you’re super-invested in Doggett’s dead son. Which I don’t think you are.

18. “Sunshine Days”: Maybe watch it. So this is the penultimate episode of The X-Files. The second-to-last episode EVER. And… It’s a Brady Bunch homage? It’s a Brady Bunch homage. It’s almost worth watching just to see for yourself.

19/20. “The Truth”: Must see. Don’t you want to see how it ends? Don’t you want to experience some of the most nonsensical writing of the show’s history? Don’t you want to see Chris Carter try to make the past nine years of convoluted mythology seem like it actually made some sense?

Well, here you go. Maybe pour yourself a nice glass of wine or moonshine while you watch it. You deserve it.

Enjoy what you just read? Trying to forget that there’s more to come? Well, maybe you’ll enjoy the other Skip It/Watch It guides! Or the Liz Tells Frank Live podcasts! We have a good time.

About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor, and has been talking about television on the Internet since the very beginnings of the Internet. She is currently Senior TV Editor at Collider, and her work has also been published by the New York Times, Vulture, Variety, the AV Club, the Hollywood Reporter, IGN, The Verge, and Thought Catalog. She is also a produced playwright, a host of podcasts, and a repository of "X-Files" trivia.

Posted on August 20, 2015, in Skip It/Watch It Guide, TV and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 55 Comments.

  1. Go and watch The Field Where I Died and then immediately change to “must see”!

  2. Don’t skip All Souls! It’s got a great warp-up to the Christmas Carol/Emily storyline.

  3. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!

    Best guide out there. The descriptions help a lot!

  4. I have been following this list and It has been very helpful but I have to say the episode Kill Switch from season 5 is one of the most idiotic and boring things I have ever watched…
    I am not sure why you left it as a “watch it episode” since it was ridiculous even by X Files standards.
    and the blonde girl… wtf, this is probably the worst X files episode I have seen (I know I skipped a lot of the bad ones but still) this was incredibly cheesy. long and dull. dumb premise.
    I hated it so much I felt like I needed to warn others lol

  5. You make “First Person Shooter” an episode people should watch, but then tell them to skip En Ami. I started off my refresher of the X Files by following this guide, but around Season 3, I began to doubt it. Now that I’m at season 7, I’m glad I’ve found other guides to check too. This list is full of personal whims. Rather than focus on the mythology or great episodes, you just focus on episodes with a good “shipping” scene, with little regard for any other characters.

    • Hi, Mike! So this is the very second paragraph of this article.

      –This guide is subjective. This guide is heavily influenced by my personal history with this show. This guide has a crush on Mulder and little patience for Reyes. This guide is at least 70 percent focused on identifying all the super-flirty episodes, and 30 percent focused on avoiding the really stupid stuff.–

      Which is to say, I’m not going to argue with you! And thank you for reading.

  6. Cool list!

    I do not follow it exactly and still watch some of the “skip it” episodes, its just that when I’m warned about their poor quality I fast forward like 80% of the episode. So real great help there.

    (Spoiler alert!)

    So far I disagree probably on “Dod kalm” and “Hell Money”, the first one has this, like, very thick atmosphere and the cool huge rusty ship which is a beautiful thing on it’s own, the makeup is OK by my taste, the second one is just really nice in my opinion, and not that racist, at least I don’t see it that way. And the fact that it has no super-natural stuff in it is great since it shows that Mulder and Scully are not just chasing ghosts and flying saucers and get paid by government for that. Also true point by jemmy that killswitch is probably a “skip it”, in my opinion at least. “Ghost in the machine” (which I think is just a really stupid episode) is cyber punk-ish too in a way that it’s about self-aware AI that kills people, so dont know why you put it on the skip list then. For me both are just waaaaaay too presumptuous about technological capabilities, especially when you remember that it was mid-90s and today, in 2016, AI has hardly arrived. But that’s just one of my “buttons” though 🙂

    Anyways, I’m not trying to argue or anything, I just had this irresistible urge to write a comment so, you know, just sayin’ 🙂

    Many thanks to you for a great guide. Really, really helpful/

    • I thought, having watched the revival seasons…okay, “Rm9………” was my absolute least favorite episode of the revival, BUT it makes a really actually interesting pairing with “Ghost in the Machine.”

      Almost as if “Ghost” was the warning and “Rm9” was the fulfillment of the threat posed by AI creeping into an increasing number of facets of our lives.

  7. Omission for S5, E15 “Travelers”

    To power binge for X-Files, I’ve been using your guide and something that /u/ragan651 wrote for reddit to best do it.

    I found your list especially useful because it helps me better pick the non-myth episodes to watch, especially for now well known actors having first roles (Jewel Stait and Ryan Reynolds were a hoot).

    However, I think you really missed the mark by not making a S5, Ep. 15 “Travelers” either a Watch It or at least a Maybe Skip It. This is what you wrote:

    Skip it. Not a bad episode, but doesn’t really tie into anything beyond the promise of investigating “the first X-File.”

    First off, it has backstory on Mulder’s father (and it’s far from “the first X-file) and the beginning of the resistance to the cabal. But in terms of how X-Files likes to tie itself into geek culture in a meta way (like casting Roy Thinnes in an arc – he was the star of a 1960s X-Files inspiration called The Invaders) there is the fact they cast Darrin McGavin, who starred in the inspiration for the monster-of-the-week episodes 1970s X-Files precursor Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

    If that wasn’t enough, the episode also ties in with the show’s penchant for re-writing history so that well known events were in fact products of the show’s myth (like Cancer Man killing both JFK & MLK). In this case it’s the whole HUAC witchhunt from Hoover, McCarthy & Cohn being part of the myth backstory. There’s also one of Garret Dillahunt’s first roles here too (for Lost fans there’s Fredrick Lane as the young Darren McGavin).

    I’m lucky that something made me check this episode out, I would have really missed out otherwise.

    Steve C.
    ps – this was also sent via email with beautiful formatting I don’t have the time to repeat here.

  8. Whyyyy do you hate Skinner?
    He is awesome and I love him and I love you, thank you for this awesome list 😀

  9. I have only two rules when rewatching the old X-Files: Skip ALL the mythology episodes (waste of time) and stop watching after Season 5. It was never the same after they moved production from Vancouver to Los Angeles.

  10. This is a great guide, and a very timely discovery – I’ve just started rewatching the whole series, fifteen years after I first caught it, back when I was a teenager furtively stalking downstairs past my parents’ bedroom to watch late night runs on the BBC. That’s the real thrill of compelling TV.

    But – that’s not why I’m posting a comment. The real reason I’m here is that I just wanted to take the opportunity to say that S1E9 SPACE SUCKS.

  11. Please make a Season 10 edition

  12. such a great guide! skipping the episodes that you suggest, unless they’re one’s i remember watching as a kid, for nostalgias sake!

  13. “15. “En Ami”: Skip it. The “Smoking Man pervs out on Scully” hour, and doesn’t really add anything to the narrative.”

    Heh heh. Heh heh heh heh. Heh heh heh! Heh! (Sobs)

  14. We need a season 11 guide

  15. My X-Files Season 10 (Watch/Skip guide)

    1. “My Struggle”: -Must See-. THE X FILES IS BACK!!! The heroes reunite and we see a crazy number of twists and nostalgia.

    2. “The Founder’s Mutation”: -Maybe watch it-. Brings back the monster of the week episodes! A really weird one to say the least..

    3. “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-monster”: -Watch it-. The episode title is long but GUESS WHO’S BACK? Darin Morgan! This episode is funny but still a good episode as well.

    4. “Home Again”: -Watch it-. Not the “Home” sequel I was hoping for but still a creepy-good episode. Plus, magets..

    5. “Babylon”: -Skip it-. Just a stale monster of the week. The only important thing is Mulder getting high on shrooms and the ripoffs showing up.

    6. “My Struggle II”: -Must See-. All types of craziness occurs! Mulder is missing and Scully has to find him. It all ends off with a classic X-Files cliffhanger that leaves you looking for answers for 2 FREAKING YEARS!!!

  16. This list is really helpfull. Im following it since season 3 and watching it has become more enjoyable and consistent with less mediocre episodes. Thanks for that.


  18. Hi Liz, thank you for this guide to the xfiles universe. I’m thoroughly enjoying xfiles after 20 years. Lots of fun introducing the family to the adventures of Fox & Dana. Totally freaking out to it, thanks a bunch!

  19. Peter Harbman


    Great write up, I enjoyed them very much. Any thoughts up an update to include the two new seasons, 10 & 11? I’d like to see your thoughts on these as well. That is if you’re available or have already done so. Maybe a seperate web page?
    Thank you!

  20. Did you just grow up with a potty mouth, or was this a learned skill?

  21. This is a perfectly fair difference of taste, but I’m actually incredibly fond of Arthur Dales as a character and highly, highly recommend both Travelers and Agua Mala.

    It’s subtle, but I’d say there’s some worthwhile setup and appreciation of what Mulder and Scully’s partnership is in both of them, despite the fact that Scully doesn’t even appear in Travelers.

  22. Thanks, it was really usefull. Just one thing, after watching season 11, I think En ami is actually important.

  23. Awesome list thank you so much!! I am very glad that we have the same priorities with scully-mulder cuteness topping the list.

    Just one question, what do you mean by “schmoop?”

    • I had to google this term – but it’s basically a term used in fanfic to describe a romance that is very sweetly romantic or cute. Hope that helps!

  24. I feel like telling recommending people who have never watched the show to just skip 70% of them is not really wise,first time viewers should watch all episodes so they can form their own opinion and maybe even find themselves a favourite that others don’t enjoy that much. This isn’t supposed to be hate,just a friendly observation.

    • First-time viewer here! I would never skip an episode of a TV show I haven’t seen before, but I watch a lot of tv whilst working or drawing, so this list helped with working out what episodes I could do that with and what ones needed more attention.

      However, I think this skip it watch it list is more aimed at the people re-watching?

  25. I grew up watching the X-Files and I, too, didn’t care for Doggett when he came aboard while Mulder was gone. I wanted Mulder back, dammit, don’t give me this stand in!

    Here I am many years later, rewatching the series. I don’t know what has changed but now I would die for Doggett. The way he saves Scully on that bus while they were surrounded in Roadrunner, and he just like, pulls that knife out and cuts out the worm with zero questions asked completely solidified him and his badassary for me.

    Not saying you have to change your mind at all, just putting my two cents in. 🙂 So happy to have found this guide, thank you! I’m trying to get my hubby through the entirety of the show from the beginning and it’s hard to remember if every single one was MotW/mediocre/skippable or not.

    Thank you again!

  26. Season 8 Episode 9- cyborg? He’s not really cyborg also a good episode

  27. Thank you for this Skip it/Watch it guide! As a first-time viewer, I would personally never skip an episode, or series (even as painful as S9 was). But I tend to watch tv whilst drawing or working, so It was a good way to know which episodes I could do that with and what ones needed more attention!

    For me most of the skip it/watch its were very accurate and nicely set up what to expect in the episode without spoiling it.

    I am, however, curious as to why you don’t like Reyes? I mean, I was disappointed by the lack of Scully/Mulder at the end of the show but I did like Reyes and Doggett eventually, kind of grew on me.

  28. This list has been really helpful for making a playlists of episodes that I can just put on shuffle. We’ll watch the story episodes when watching the full seasons, but the MotW eps are great for just having something on. You and my wife have very similar tastes, too, as far as favorites go.

    Now I have to take a small issue with the “Travelers” (s05e15) comments; there’s one thing about it that makes it hard for me to see it dismissed so easily.

    Also on our monster show playlist is the old TV series “Kolchak”, the original “Monster of the Week” show, that ran for one season back in the 70s. Newspaper reporter Karl Kolchak seems to encounter no normal news story; all he gets are vampires, werewolves, zombies, crazed shamans, golems, etc. It’s probably the biggest single influence on the X-Files, and I think Chris Carter has said so many times. Karl Kolchak is played by Darren McGavin who, in Travelers, also plays our spooked retired FBI agent, spending his sunset years peeking through the blinds, wondering when the monsters from his past will come creeping up his drive– EXACTLY as Karl Kolchak would be doing.

    IMO, every X-Files fan should have a soft spot for that episode, because without that guy peeking through the blinds, there may never have been an X-Files at all. 🙂

  29. I love this guide & recommend it to friends watching the series. I do have to respectfully disagree with your assessment of “Soft Light” with Tony Shaloub. It involves an interesting storyline with Mulder & X, as well as amazing acting from Shaloub. It’s a good episode in my book & shows a side of X we hadn’t been able to see before.

  30. i always forget what the shadows rule is, but then i remember.

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