With the news that Fox is in talks to resurrect 1990s cult hit The X-Files, it’s the perfect time to get wrapped up in its mysteries. The truth is out there and also somewhere within its nine suspense-filled seasons.
What’s the premise? FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) investigate unexplained paranormal phenomena. Mulder wants to believe, but Scully is a skeptic.
What’s it like? Most of the episodes follow a case-of-the week (or monster-of-the-week) format, with Mulder and Scully in pursuit of strange leads in remote locations. They don’t always solve each mystery, but they often discover that truth is stranger than fiction. There are also the myth-arc episodes, which revolve around a government conspiracy to cover up the existence of an alien threat to humanity. Basically, think Criminal Minds meets The Twilight Zone and you’ll be on the right track.
How long will it take? The show ran for nine seasons, spanning 202 episodes at about 45 minutes an episode — plus two movies — which brings you to about 154 hours. If you did two episodes a night, that would take you almost a whole year. As an alternative, you can also just watch the myth-arc episodes and the first movie, which would cut your time commitment down to about 72 hours, though we’d recommend bingeing the whole show, then going back over the myth-arc episodes the second time around. You’ll get hooked enough that this won’t seem as crazy as it sounds (and it’s actually doable in one three-day weekend if you try hard enough).
What do the critics think? Although critical acclaim for the show waned towards the end of its nine-season run, the first few seasons were a hit with the critics (and won the stars several awards). When it first premiered in 1993, Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly called it “the most paranoid, subversive show on TV right now.” Todd VanDerWerff of the AV Club raved about season three, calling it, “hands down, its best season and maybe one of the greatest TV seasons of all time.”
Why should I watch this? If you’re a fan of aliens, conspiracies, unexplained phenomena, or just really good mysteries, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything as fun and twisted as The X-Files. If you want two well-defined leads who amplify the sexual tension up to eleven, Mulder and Scully are for you. Trust me, after just a few episodes, you’ll want to believe.
What’s my next step? Be sure to watch the 1998 film The X-Files: Fight the Future between seasons five and six. Then, when you’re finished, watch 2008’s The X-Files: I Want To Believe, at which point you’ll want to re-binge the whole series again to remember why you loved it. For more alien conspiracies, try the short-lived 1990s series Dark Skies and 2002’s Spielberg-produced Taken (both starring Eric Close). If you want more FBI agents solving cases involving unusual phenomena, try Twin Peaks and Fringe. For more from series creator Chris Carter, try Millenium and The Lone Gunmen. Also, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan cut his teeth writing for The X-Files, so you could always dive back into the danger (or watch the upcoming spin-off Better Call Saul).
Are you ready to delve into The X-Files? Tell us why!