I'd recommend two episodes that aren't very 'canon':
Jose Chung's From Outer Space. This is one of my all-time favorite X-files episodes and actually serves as a good introduction to the main characters because it portrays them so broadly.
Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man.
This is the questionably accurate backstory of a supporting character and doesn't really include the main characters except as bookends. However, it perfectly captures the general tone of the series.
In terms of 'watching every episode', X-files was shot before the current trend of overarching plots. Until Gillian Anderson (the actress, not the character Dana Scully) got pregnant (season 2), it was a pure monster-of-the-week series.
From that point on, the X-files alternated 'mythology' episodes with 'monster-of-the-week' episodes. So there are a lot of episodes you can miss without missing the overall story. The 'overall story' is also less cohesive than a Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones - it tends to be presented as a series of mysteries that never get solved, so don't expect a tight resolution pulling from every little crazy event they experience.
Some of the best episodes are difficult to jump straight into because they require greater knowledge of Scully and Mulder's character development, but my personal favorite standalone episodes are the comedic ones like "Bad Blood" and "Humbug", and other memorable ones like "Post-Modern Prometheus" and "Milagro".
I hope you love the show! Despite having seen many others after it, The X Files remains my single favorite TV show.
I'd highly recommend listening to The X-Files Files podcast along with your re-watch. Its hosted by comedian/actor Kumail Nanjiani, who is a long-time X-Files fan.
He has celebrity guests, as well as people who worked on the X-Files, come on the podcast and they talk about 2 episodes of the show each. He's on Season 5 now, but all of the old episodes are available.
Its a great way to hear some discussion about the episodes if you're re-watching on your own, as its difficult to discuss with people who haven't watched the episode you just did in 20 years. Plus he gives you a bit of a heads up on some of the less-good episodes, so you can either skip them outright or go in with lower expectations.
If you just want to see all the crazy monster of the week episodes, start with Home off of season 4. The great Mutato off season 5. But if you want to actually follow the story line start from episode 1. They usually make the seasons with about 6 episodes about the story arch and the rest of the episodes of monsters if the week, which have nothing to do with the main story line.
The first season is kinda slow but the first 2 episodes set up the whole series. In the middle of the seasons they have the monster of the week episodes, and some of them are better than some story arch episodes. But if you get into it don't watch the first movie until you finished the 5th season, watch it before you start the 6th season.
The rest of the series makes more sense.
I, and a lot of other fans, find season 8 to be an improvement over season 7 and 6. I recommend watching it entirely and make up your own opinion. The mythology episodes are interesting, and the stand alones (Roadrunners, Invocation, Via Negativa) are on par with some of the best in the series. Even the mediocre ones (Medusa) are entertaining. The show goes back to its darker roots, and it works.
Season 9 is a different beast. It feels at times like a different show, but I would definitely watch the beginning and finale, as well as the well rated episodes (John Doe, Release). I personally rank season 9 close to season 7, and nowhere near "hard to watch".
People find that ousitde of the mythology eps. Duchovny isn't in much of S8 and only 2 eps in S9. The new agents with a few Scully appearances diminished the soul of the show.
Her eyes are just mesmerizing. I liked the expression "ethereal beauty" that was used as her description in some recent article. Such phrasing suits perfectly for this picture. Though Scully's hair style in this picture isn't exactly my favorite.
I like the most her hairstyle from Season 3 and, ironically, Season 9 (ironically, because i actually hate everything about this season except Gillian's role in it and Scully's appearance).
And I like hers a little bit exaggerated, other-worldly looks. Like she is "too good for this world".
I always saw her more as a teacher than a healer but now that you say it I see what you mean. She often felt with the sick ones in all the cases. That's why she also chose to work as a doctor in the new series and she even tells Mulder that she doesn't want the darkness in her home anymore.
She actually opened up a bit and her being sceptical was only a way to see things from a dialectic point of view because she knew someone has to take the other side and defend it so the outcome can be close to the truth that way. Mulder was often right, but got his hints and clues often by Scully questioning him.
Unfortunately Mulder liked to look into the darkness so that he can feel connected to something in this life and he also needs her as a flashlight so he doesn't get lost aka he does get lost in the darkness without her.
My preferred way of watching it is watching all the episodes from beginning to end. But then again I'm a hardcore fan and someone who watches movies from the 30s. Anyway, whatever you do, the one thing you should not do is binge watching it. This is not that kind of show.
Take your time.
Listen to Kumail Nanjiani's X-Files podcast after the episodes because he's got some cool guests and insights.
You're making a huge mistake with not watching the myth-arc. It's hardly about going anywhere. It's about world-building and paranoia.
Some of the episodes like EBE, Duanne Barry, Nisei and 731 etc. are truly great episodes. What you're doing is like not watching LOST because its ending didn't make a lot of sense. It was still a damn good show for 6 years.
Anyway, below are my picks. The ones written in italics usually do not appear in this sort of list, but watch them anyway goddammit.
- Beyond the Sea
- Gender Bender
- Darkness Falls
- The Host
- Red Museum
- Die Hand Die Verletzt
- Fearful Symmetry
- F. Emasculata
- Soft Light
- Our Town
- Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose
- War of the Coprophages
- Jose Chung's From Outer Space
- The Field Where I Died
- Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man
- Leonard Betts
- Never Again
- Memento Mori
- Small Potatoes
- Unusual Suspects
- The Post-Modern Prometheus
- Kill Switch
- Bad Blood
- Folie à Deux
- Drive Triangle
- Dreamland II
- The Unnatural
I'm obviously biased, but I think my list is more rounded and shorter if you're sticking to the 13-a-season rule and saving the "supplemental" standalones for later.
It's easy get hooked, even with the first season, yet season 3, definitely. So many classic stand alone episodes, the introduction of the black oil, etc. D.P.O with Giovanni ribisi, and jack black. Was my favorite off of that season. Yet War of The Coprophages and Jose Chung alone put it on top.
Season 4, by comparison, is very drab and dreary, and almost devoid of fun.
I know many people like Home, but I can't stand that episode in particular. Mulder and Scully come off as complete assholes, throwing out stupid one-liners while watching people get hacked to death. The only thing that makes season 4 bearable for me is, weirdly, the mytharc episodes, of which there were plenty. The cancer allows for some excellent character moments for both main characters, and Mulder losing faith while Scully starts to turn around reverses the dynamic for a while.
Season 5 starts to get some decent monster of the week stuff again, though there are some clunkers as well. But Bad Blood is as good as anything in season 3, and justifies the entire thing.
Currently on my rewatch in preparation for the miniseries, and almost done season 5. I only remember smatterings of the original run, so it's been a fun romp.
For me it is season 5, 4 and 3. The Mythology was at it's strongest during season 2 and 3, they will never surpass that. And season 6 is full of really great episodes like Drive, Triangle, Monday, Tithonus, Field Trip and The Unnatural.
- Season 5 - This season has so many strong standalone episodes, such as Detour, Bad Blood, The Pine Bluff Variant and Folie à Deux. All three of the mythology two-parters were amazing. The only real weak episode in the season is Schizogeny.
- Season 4 - I think Scully's cancer arc is one of the strongest arcs in the mythology. I quite enjoyed the dark tone of this season. Again, there were very few weak points in this season.
- Season 3 - Some of the strongest episodes are in this season and I think that this season is when the mythology was at its peak. The Blessing Way/Paper Clip is the strongest opening to any season of the show. All three of Darin Morgan's episodes this season are a delight.
- Season 6 - The move of production from Vancouver to L.A. had a big impact on this season. I enjoy the majority of the comedy episodes in this season; however, due to the high amount of them I think that they lose their novelty, which is a shame, as they were more enjoyable when they were less frequent.
- Season 8 - The return to a darker tone after Seasons 6 and 7 was a welcome change, and I think that Robert Patrick as John Doggett was a breath of fresh air to the show. They mythology in this season was also a lot stronger than previous seasons due to it having a direction again with the search for Mulder and Scully's pregnancy.
- Season 1 - This season is a very mixed bag. It includes some of the best episodes in the series such as Ice, but then also includes very poor episodes such as Shapes. However, the nostalgia surrounding the season and the excitement from seeing Mulder and Scully together for the first time is why it ranks high than Season 2.
- Season 2 - The mythology episodes in this season are really strong due to everything being new and not contradicting previous facts. There are also many great episodes this season. I didn't like Scully having a smaller role in the first few episodes, but know this couldn't be avoided due to Gillian's pregnancy.
- Season 9 - I feel that the writers didn't know what to do with Scully this season since David Duchovny had left the show but Gillian Anderson had stayed. The MOTW episodes that focus on Doggett and Reyes are really strong, such as 4-D, John Doe, Hellbound, Audrey Pauley and Improbable, but the mythology suffers from a focus on Mulder when he is absent and the super soldier storyline, which wasn't well thought out. I feel the season could have been better if Gillian had just left the show too and the focus was solely on Doggett and Reyes. Season 8 finished with what I thought was a perfect emotional conclusion for Mulder and Scully.
- Season 7 - I like the majority of the episodes in this season, but there are very few that stand out as the best the show can produce. X-Cops, Je Souhaite and Requiem are the only top-tier episodes in this season. The rest are either good but don't stand out, or suffer from being dull, which makes them drag. It also includes First Person Shooter and Fight Club, two of the worst episodes in the show.
I put 7 at the end. But in truth I could have swapped with season 1. It's hard to rank these two.
They both contain some of the absolute worst episodes of the entire series and both feature more than a handful of forgetful, less-than-average-but-watchable MOTW episodes with stupid ideas or bad visual FX. Season 1 has a higher quota of great/classic episodes, Season 7 literally has one (and two that come close), but they both have their fair share of suck.
It's a trade off, honestly, I can't rank one higher than the other. Season 1 has more heart and soul, but lacks production values and direction, Season 7 feels almost soulless, but has way more production values (yet still lacks direction).
I'd probably give a slight edge to Season 1 just for nostalgia, but neither is better (or worse) than the other.
Anasazi/Blessing Way/Paper Clip were really intense episodes. Anasazi had a great cliffhanger, and I didn't like The Blessing Way but Paper Clip really made up for it. The scene where Mulder sees the UFO and the aliens are running past Scully is one of my favorites from the whole series.
- Duane Barry/Ascension
- Tempus Fugit/Max
Probably forgotten a few great ones. I only watched it through about a year and a half ago and I've already forgotten so much! At least when I rewatch it it'll seem fresh.
There weren't any two part monster of the week episodes were there? As in two consecutive episodes on the same non-mytharc case, not stuff like Tooms where he comes back a few seasons later. I wonder why they never tried that.
Among my top-rated mythology arcs are Anasazi/The Blessing Way/Paper Clip, Duane Barry/Ascension/One Breath (because even if they aren't strictly consecutive, I really prefer to consider them a 3-parter), and Gethsemane/Redux/Redux II.
But I also rate Nisei/731 very highly, and one that hasn't been mentioned here yet: Patient X/The Red and the Black, which is really, in my opinion, the last fully "satisfying" mythology arc, when it still felt like the series was going to wrap everything up. Once they started actually answering questions after the first movie, the mythology never recovered.
It's hilariously romantic. You have a dreamy Romeo who's stuck in a basement and whom everyone hates. Everyone except a babe with a handgun. They have a weird brother/sister, mother/son incest thing going on for 7 seasons, 7 hot seasons in which they stand alone against a world filled with monsters, aliens and corrupt government officials. They have each others back. They get kinky in All Things, but possibly also as early as season 2.
He gets abducted suddenly and she has his/a baby.
"You're the only one I trust." "I still have you." "You're my one in 5 billion." "You are my cornerstone."
Mulder's a total smooth-operator.
Meanwhile, I just rewatched THE HOST. Scully spends the entire episode trying to prevent Mulder from leaving the FBI. She can't function without him. Platonically.
Up until this point, the romance stuff makes sense. It's kind of beautiful. She pines for him while he's missing. It's all quite tragic.
It's all quite great.
But then he returns and they never sit down and discuss their relationship or this baby. At the precise moment the series settles upon having them together, it totally ignores that they're a couple. This is all quite unconventional, and subversive and interesting, but also bad writing. You just need one good soap-operay scene when Mulder returns to fix all these baby/relaitonship plot points, but instead he goes off onto an oil rig. lol.
Some season 9 episodes, like Trustno1 and William and The Truth, and X-Files: I want to Believe, take the Mulder/Scully romance in interesting directions.
But Mulder's return at the end of season 8 was some serious ball dropping. Dude returns from his abduction and immediately ignores his baby momma.