With mere weeks to go before the official return of The X-Files, let's be blunt: You no longer have time to watch all 201 episodes (not to mention two feature-length films) before the show premieres on Jan. 24.
But as TV Editor at Indiewire (and a fan of the show going back decades), I feel fairly confident in recommending some key installments that newcomers or those wishing to refresh their memories might check out."
Trying to create an episodic guide to the show's incredibly complicated (and at times contradictory) mythology is a pretty impossible task, so instead, let's focus on some key episodes that represent some themes we know that the new series will incorporate, as well as episodes that showcase the returning writers.
The first episode of The X-Files does a nice job of balancing the essential set-up of the show's premise and its characters with a compelling mystery. Not only that, but it almost immediately sets the show's persistently eerie and captivating tone, as well as establishes the crackerjack chemistry between stars Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny.
2. "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose"
"Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" isn't an essential episode that deal's with the show's overarching mythology, but it does represent one of the series's finest stand-alone hours of mystery. It won two Emmys -- for guest star Peter Boyle's work and for outstanding writing -- and the winner of that Emmy for writing was Darin Morgan, whose contributions to the series were minimal (he only wrote four episodes over the course of the series' run) but incredibly influential. This heartbreakingly beautiful, sad and funny story about psychics and serial killers is quintessential X-Files, and the perfect thing to get you excited for Darin Morgan's upcoming episode of the miniseries, lovingly entitled "Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster."
The second episode of the new season happens to be entitled "Home Again," but that's not why this episode made this list. No, the reason we're talking about "Home" is because of Glen Morgan and James Wong, the other two writer/directors who have come back to join Chris Carter for an episode apiece in the reboot. Together, the duo wrote this fourth season installment that was so gross and disturbing, it was banned from the airwaves for years after its initial airing. Now it's on Netflix, giving whole new generations nightmares.
The set-up is simple: Mulder and Scully investigate a town that seems like a perfect example of small town Americana, except for one very weird family. While "Home" alleged bears no official relationship to "Home Again," it should get you excited for whatever the depraved minds of Morgan and Wong bring to the new series.
4. "Memoirs of a Cigarette-Smoking Man"
Mulder and Scully don't even appear once, but instead we learn an awful lot about Cancer Man, the mysterious chain-smoker pulling the strings behind the scenes...or do we? However truthful this episode may or may not be, "Memoirs" (also written by Morgan and Wong) is a major cornerstone of the government conspiracy narrative that The X-Files was best known for (and will be returning to in 2016). It's also, oddly enough, a Forrest Gump homage. It shouldn't work, but gosh darn it, it does.
5. "Memento Mori"
Over the course of the years, some terrible stuff happened to Mulder during his pursuit of the truth -- but it's arguably Scully who really suffered over the course of the series. "Memento Mori" is known essentially as "the episode where Scully gets cancer," but what it really does is set up how connected her illness is to the conspiracy that surrounds them. By the end of the episode, it's been made clear just how incredibly personal Mulder's quest is for the both of them, a key emotional undercurrent underlying the entire series (including the new season).
This is a pretty dramatic leap forward into the show's run, but an essential one thanks to some advance intel that at least one episode of the new season will deal directly with the fact that, once upon a time, Mulder and Scully had a son and that he is no longer in their lives. This is the episode that basically explains what happened there, and while Mulder does not appear on screen, it is directed by Duchovny, who'd proven his talents behind the camera earlier with "The Unnatural" (Season 6) and "Hollywood A.D." (Season 7).
Below, watch the Mulder-Scully smooch that probably resulted in thousands of fanfics.