25 Years of The X Files: The Best Storyarcs
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Common belief among veteran fans of The X Files is that when creating the show’s iconic opening theme, producer Mark Snow had accidentally come across the echo effect when he hummed, “The X Files by Mark Snow.” (Honestly, it works, try it.) True or not, such chaotically beautiful compositions help build a show so quirky and entertaining. Of course, The X Files navigates over a decade of writing, what with the recent release of the reboot, somehow maintaining creative integrity where other long-running shows fail. I believe this comes down to one factor: it actually has personality. There’s no formula to The X Files. Sure, it has season-long story arcs of discovery and monster-of-the-week episode formats. But with The X Files, you never knew what you were getting in style, characterization, content, or even what sort of reality, in some cases. We’ve seen Agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) turn into a vampire, we’ve cringed as Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) watches Mulder with concern as he exhumes a potato, and we witnessed traumatising ‘abductions’ and violence and death, and sometimes even love, if we were lucky. Intermittedly spanning twenty-five years, The X Files has truly had some triumphant ideas, some merely entertaining moments, and some moments where it’s execution just fell flat. Here we celebrate some of its best story arcs, in my opinion. Warning: spoilers ahead, at least for the original series. 5. Roswell, he loves you. For a show that’s very premise walks along the complex precipice between enticing suspicion of governmental conspiracy and the rationality of empirical scientific investigation, The X Files does know how to instil within us a doubt: is there something else out there in the vastness of space, and do some of us already know? Simply put: Aliens, it’s aliens. Fox Mulder would – nearly does, far too many times to count – die to find answers for these questions. And where else would a curious believer, searching for answers concerning the existence of aliens and their contact with our bodies of authority than Roswell, New Mexico? Fascination with this area of New Mexico is rampant in the conspiracy circles, and has been ever since the 1940’s. It’s no wonder then that Mulder makes many references to Roswell and similar ‘evidence’ throughout the series, but it is deeply relevant to the following episodes: “Deep Throat” 1x02; “Fallen Angel” 1x10; “The Erlenmeyer Flask” 1x24; “E.B.E” 1x17; “Dod Kalm” 2x19; “Requiem” 7x22; “The Truth” 9x19. Keep an eye out for other allusions to it as you watch. 4. Scully’s implants, abductions, pregnancy, kidnappings, hospitalisations… Of course, neither Mulder nor Scully can navigate the dark web of the unexplainable without a few bumps and scrapes along the way. Dana Scully is an icon of resilience with many hailing her as a feminist figure. Over the series, Dana has been hospitalised countless times and her first experience of the spooky white-light flash occurs in the pilot: from the beginning, the stakes are high. She gains unexplained marks, small metal implants, lost time, odd memories, and a connection to a group of other women who claim abduction. The most harrowing episode that really implements Scully’s abduction storyline is “Ascension” 2x06, wherein Scully is kidnapped and taken to a mountain top where the only trace of her left behind for Mulder to find is her cross necklace – with a brilliantly unforgettable shot of Mulder’s shaking hand grabbing the silver necklace from the grass where it lay. Repercussions of the incident, one that deeply effects Scully’s almost unwavering faith in science and natural laws, are felt throughout the second and third season, with significant recurring mentions even until “William” 9x16. It is a story arc that is not only prominent, but shapes the series, with Scully’s wellbeing and need for answers often surpassing the obsessiveness of Mulder’s quest. Growing up watching Dana Scully face brutal attacks from men and monsters was certainly a stressful time, but also reassuring. Scully was our heroine and she definitely fought back. 3. The Smoking Man, aka. Cancer Man
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