We are now into the top half of my rankings of the first season of The X-Files. All of the remaining episodes are thoroughly watchable and enjoyable to varying degrees. However, with higher quality episodes comes less for me to make fun of so be prepared for a dip in the quality of my writing. Such is life…
#12. Episode 23 – Roland (65/100)
You know when you see an episode that feels like it should suck but something about it keeps it not only from not sucking but actually being quite enjoyable? That’s the Roland experience. Sure I could chalk up these dissonant feelings I have to some great, creative death scenes or a strong Mark Snow score but there is one obvious thing that makes this episode better than it should be.
Zeljko freakin Ivanek…
Everyone talks about Peter Boyle, Brad Dourif, Giovanni Ribisi or any number of quality guest stars the show has had. However, it always feels like Zeljko Ivanek doesn’t get enough credit for how amazing he is in Roland. He single-handedly elevates an other-wise mediocre episode with his performance as the mentally handicapped Roland. Roland is one of the most sympathetic one-off characters we would get and his story is all the more effective due to the performance. That final scene of him saying goodbye to his girlfriend is genuinely heartbreaking and none of it would have worked as well without Ivanek. You almost don’t care that Mulder and Scully are pretty meaningless to the overall story because Roland himself is so captivating.
#11. Episode 1 – Pilot (67/100)
Ahhh the very first episode of the show. Unpopular opinion here but I don’t really find The Pilot to be that great of an episode. What it does well, it does extremely well and that is establishing the tone and framework for the show as a whole. We get some fantastic character moments between Mulder and Scully, a solid introduction to major characters/plots that are huge parts of the show, and dammit if they don’t nail that atmosphere right from the start. The Pilot already feels like The X-Files which is a huge compliment. Plus, gotta love that “we lost nine minutes!” sequence.
However, when focusing on the immediate plot of this episode, I’ve never found The Pilot to be particularly well executed. It’s a lot of ideas but executed haphazardly. The scene at the graveyard where they solve the case in the rain seems good but its got some really bizarre lines from Scully where it seems like Gillian Anderson flubbed her lines but they didn’t catch it. The plot as a whole doesn’t seem to make much sense; Mulder’s leap to figuring out that Billy Miles was responsible doesn’t feel earned. And that ending…what the hell happened there? Why did Theresa survive that final abduction scene when Cara Swenson and Peggy O’dell both didn’t survive theirs? Why did Billy Miles suddenly snap out of his waking coma? It felt like Chris Carter had some great ideas but didn’t know how to bring it all together.
Plus, normally I’m willing to write certain things off due to it being the first episode but David Duchovny is painfully off this episode. He high-talks his way through most of his scenes and over-emphasizes or under-emphasizes the wrong lines and its completely distracting.
Still, all of the world and character building brings The Pilot in at #11 for the first season.
#10. Episode 3 – Squeeze (72/100)
Here’s another episode that I find perplexing when people regularly list it in their favorites of the entire show. Squeeze is a solid episode but nothing more than that, IMO. I’m sure some of the love it gets is for being the first Monster of the Week ever but I don’t think that’s a legitimate reason to gloss over it’s weaknesses.
Squeeze is legitimately scary and contains the first iconic villain the show would do in Eugene Victor Tooms. The opening sequence when Tooms kills George Usher as well as the scene when Mulder and Scully traverse through the dilapidated building are great early examples of what The X-Files can do well. The partnership between Mulder and Scully is also solidified here with Scully showing early signs of her dogged loyalty…
However (and this is me being picky), there’s a certain lack of polish to everything which makes it tough for me to rate this higher. The direction is lackluster, the lighting feels overly warm (and isn’t helped by Scully’s choice of outfits), and I’m not a fan of Mark Snow’s music in this episode (other than that “stringy” sound he plays when Tooms is doing his thing). There are several aesthetic aspects that are lacking here that I just take for granted when I watch The X-Files.
#9. Episode 10 – Fallen Angel (73/100)
Fallen Angel is a very steady episode of The X-Files. It is well paced, has some fun imagery (that’s an impressive crash site they managed on such a small budget), introduces a strong side character in Max Fenig (who is criminally underused in the show), and reveals some more layers to the character of Deep Throat. The final climactic scene at the warehouse, despite being a bit silly (why does the alien roast everyone it comes into contact with except for Mulder who just gets shoved out of the way), feels like a small-budget action sequence in a way that the show had not really done (and wouldn’t really master until episodes like Ascension and Nisei). And, unlike Squeeze, this episode has that extra level of polish to it.
However, as good and fun as all of those things are, nothing really stands when I think back on Fallen Angel. Mulder and Scully have some good dialogue but none of it is all that memorable. Deep Throat is fun as always but there isn’t enough interplay between him and Mulder here for it to really resonate. Mulder has a (first of many) tirade against a superior at the end but its lost among a sea of similar scenes Mulder has in later episodes.
Overall, Fallen Angel is fun but it lacks that extra oomph to really be any higher.