Examining ‘The X-Files’: Which Episodes Work Better, Mythology Or Monster Of The Week?

With the six-episode X-Files revival upon us, an old division has resurfaced, the one between those who prefer episodes dealing with the show’s overarching mythology, and those who primarily enjoy the monster-of-the-week episodes. To shed further light on these factions, Uproxx writers Jamie Frevele and Andrew Husband discuss the merits of both.

Andrew: Many fans of The X-Files like the mythology and monster-of-the-week episodes equally, but I’ve always preferred the former. It’s not that I dislike one-offs like “Squeeze” or “X-Cops,” but I guess I’m way too fascinated with Chris Carter’s fictionalized alien conspiracies and little green men.

Jamie: I definitely acknowledge that the ongoing stories about Scully and Mulder give the characters depth and take us into more intimate, emotional territory. But I love the “monsters of the week” — “Home,” for starters. They get to head into really creepy territory and tell a unique — or classic — story. We could be watching an urban legend come to life, or something truly original.

Andrew: Sure, but did you ever get the impression that one-off episodes like “The Jersey Devil” were just a bit too far removed from the central arc of the show? I always felt like they were more of a distraction than an addition to the central story of the series. Maybe they added to Mulder and Scully’s character development, but at what cost to the former’s search for his sister, the conspiracy and so on?

Jamie: Eh, if we had never known about Mulder’s sister, I would have been fine with that. I’m kidding. That was, yes, a very intriguing part of the series. But I think what happens with serialized plots like that is that they become so convoluted and complicated that it loses people. I specifically remember towards the end of the series, around the time Mulder left, that I couldn’t keep track of what was happening when I missed a week. You know, back in ye olden tymes of having to record a show on a VHS tape and watch it in between reports, drama rehearsals, fan-fiction writing, etc. Otherwise you missed that episode until summer reruns.

Andrew: That’s a good point, especially with so much new television being about binge-watching — whether it’s all of Jessica Jones being dumped on Netflix at once, or the first season of Angie Tribeca airing on TBS in a single day. The X-Files stems from an older era of television in which viewers — be it the hardcore fans or semi-regular watchers — weren’t always able to follow along every week. Then again, this begs the question: Does the mythology become too much to keep up with when we try to bingewatch it today, or was it manageable when it originally aired week-to-week?

Jamie: I definitely think I’d be singing a different tune if I was binge-watching today. A great example is Lost, which had ridiculous mythology involved, but makes for a fantastic bingewatch. You didn’t have to wait or commit anything to memory — it was all happening right when you needed it to. I think the same thing would happen with The X-Files today, and we would be treated to a really interesting story. But I will still stand by the one-off episodes. Plus, those episodes let Scully and Mulder lighten up a bit. Like the episode told from a witness’ perspective: “Her hair was red… a little too red.” That episode has stood out for me since I watched it on the air.

Andrew: You’re talking about “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space,'” which is totally unfair because it’s a fantastic episode, one of the best episodes ever written for the series. Besides, where else will we ever see Jesse Ventura and Alex Trebek partnered together as nefarious men in black? But, I digress… standalone episodes like “Jose Chung’s” really do add a significant amount of panache to The X-Files.