With every episode of The X-Files available on Netflix, there's no excuse not to catch up. And where better to start than the very first episode? The X-Files pilot sets the tone for the entire series, establishing the playful chemistry between Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) as well as many themes that continue to define the series in the 2016 revival. The episode is also the first to introduce the mystery of Mulder's abducted sister Samantha and the villainous Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis).
The very first monster-of-the-week episodes features Courtney Stodden's husband Doug Hutchinson as Tooms, a serial killer who can squeeze through any space. Tooms made such an impression on X-Files fans that he even returned for a follow-up episode later that season. "Squeeze" also helps develop Mulder and Scully's strong partnership when Tooms sets his sights on Scully as his next victim.
This episode marks an important turning point for Scully, who finally becomes a believer when the death of her father coincides with an investigation involving a psychic serial killer. This is also the first time that Mulder and Scully's roles are reversed, with Mulder becoming the skeptic on the case. This reversal gives viewers a deeper, different perspective on Scully, who is both incredibly scientific but also extremely religious.
This episode features one of The X-Files most memorable monsters, the Flukeman. A product of the Chernobyl disaster, the monster appears to be a mutant flukeworm-human hybrid who finds its victims through toilets, septic tanks and sewers. The Flukeman is genuinely creepy and all these years later, we still haven't forgotten his face.
The X-Files was always the scariest when the villains were more tangible than aliens or paranormal creatures. This is exactly what makes "Irresistible" such a standout. In the episode, Mulder and Scully investigate a death fetishist Donnie Pfaster (Nick Chinlund) who kidnaps and kills women. Scully, who is struggling with PTSD after an earlier abduction, is once against targeted, resulting in a truly terrifying escape.
One of The X-Files' best ideas was to connect the alien conspiracies to real-world conspiracies following World War II, a theme picked up in the revival. In this episode, those conspiracies begin to come together for the first time. It also delivers one of the more striking and terrifying visuals of the series - when Mulder and Scully finding a warehouse full of secret government files - that strikes a little too close to home, if you ask us.
The darkly comic episode, largely considered one of the best of the series, won Emmys for drama writing and guest actor for Peter Boyle. In it, Mulder and Scully investigate a series of murders of psychics and fortune tellers aided by the reluctant Clyde Bruckman (Boyle), who has the ability to predict how people will die.
One of the weirdest and funniest X-Files episodes, "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" tells the story of an alien abduction from several perspectives, all stitched together by author Jose Chung (Charles Nelson Reilly). The episode mines slapstick humor from every angle and features a ridiculous guest cast, including Jesse Ventura and Alex Trebek.
Maybe the most famous X-Files episode, "Home" finds Mulder and Scully facing off against a family of inbred killers who present an appalling take on traditional family values. The episode was so horrifying, in fact, that after its first broadcast, Fox declared it would never broadcast the episode again.
This episode explores a darker side of Scully when she takes a solo trip to Philadelphia after becoming disillusioned with her life. There, she meets Ed Jerse (Rodney Rowland), a divorcé who convinces her to get a back tattoo and spend the night at his apartment. However, Scully soon learns Ed is being controlled by his own murderous tattoo. But even more so than the case itself, this episode is remarkable for the way it allows Scully to be flawed and more human than we'd seen her before.
During the particularly mythos-heavy fourth season, "Small Potatoes" was a delightfully playful bright spot. A small town janitor Eddie (X-Files writer Darin Morgan), who has a vestigial tail and ability to shape shift, uses his powers to dupe women into having sex with him, thus fathering a handful of children with tails. When Mulder and Scully get called onto the case, Eddie begins impersonating Mulder, which leads to a hilarious critical examination of Mulder's lifestyle. Best of all, however, is the scene where Eddie as Mulder attempts to seduce Scully in her apartment only to be interrupted by the actual Mulder.
Though not everyone loves "Detour," we'll never forget the incredibly creepy monster who can seamlessly camouflage itself into its surroundings. Plus, Mulder and Scully's relationship in this episode is extremely strong, particularly when Scully holds an injured Mulder and sings Three Dog Night.
One of the best parts of The X-Files was the way it took risks. Creator Chris Carter was never afraid to see just how oddball the show could get and in this black-and-white standalone episode, inspired heavily by Frankenstein and B movies, he really went for it. And underneath all the quirkiness and bold stylistic choices, "The Post-Modern Prometheus" also features one of the greatest Mulder-Scully moments of all time when they slow dance at a Cher concert.
"Bad Blood" is the perfect example of subversion and parody done right. As Mulder and Scully each recount their version of events -- which involve the show's version of vampires and Luke Wilson as a hilarious small town sheriff - their characterizations of one another are taken to the extreme, giving Duchovny and Anderson free reign to exaggerate their already quirky characters.
Bryan Cranston stars in this episode as a cantankerous bigot who must continually drive west or die. While the episode is stellar in its own right, it's also fascinating on a whole other level for Breaking Bad fans. It was Cranston's performance in this episode that inspired "Drive" writer Vince Gilligan to later cast the actor as Walter White in Gilligan's AMC series.
At first blush, the idea of an X-Files and Cops crossover sounds like a terrible idea. However, "X-Cops" turned out to be one of the more inventive premises for a typical monster-of-the-week episode. The entire episode is filmed as though it were a regular episode of Cops, complete with the reality show's opening credits, and is told in real time. Seeing the ways Mulder and Scully react differently to appearing on the reality show is hysterical, and the unique presentation makes it one of The X-Files most memorable episodes.
If you only have two hours to catch up on all nine seasons of The X-Files, this is the simplest means. When Mulder is put on trial, his acting attorney Walter Skinner runs through every major plot point in the series' history as his defense, even calling notable guest stars and recurring characters to the stand to testify. Narratively, the episode is a mess. But as a succinct recap of 202 episodes, it more than does its job.