Looking Back on 'The X-Files': A Reading List

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I watched “The X-Files” in a Baltimore house I shared with eight people, at the end of days spent navigating the city’s shaky public transit system, alternating between feeling perfectly in place and wildly lost. That’s how I felt when I watch “The X-Files,” too: One moment I was perfectly attuned to Agents Mulder & Scully’s plan of attack; the next, I was baffled as the agents discovering a farm of clones or a UFO witness who also happens to be a serial killer. Confused? Intrigued? You are not alone. And the truth is out there.

(Some spoilers ahead.)

1. “The X-Files.” (Zach Handlen, The A.V. Club, October 2010)

If you’re new to “The X-Files,” Handlen’s Gateways to Geekery column will guide you. He outlines the premise of the show and suggests the best episodes to watch first:

“The concerns that lie at the heart of the show: the quest for meaning in a seemingly meaningless world, the ludicrous emptiness of conspiracy, the strange accumulations of detail that make up an individual life, and the personal connections we make that can’t save us from death, but might at least make the trip there not entirely miserable.”

2.  “Love and Other Conspiracies of ‘The X-Files.'” (Josh Fruhlinger, The Awl, January 2013)

“The X-Files” boasts two kinds of episodes: “monster-of-the-week” and conspiracy/overarching mythos.  Fruhlinger rewatches the latter, observing the shrouded linguistic tendencies of the characters, Mulder & Scully’s restrained romantic relationship, the show’s political parallels and more.

3. “I Want to Believe: Discovering the Inner Scully.” (Sarah Marshall, The Hairpin, May 2013)

Last week, I received a text from my friend Kirby: “Dana Scully is flawless: discuss.” Perfect timing: I’d just read this wonderful meandering essay by Marshall about the cliches of self-discovery in your twenties, who concludes that FBI Agent and “I’m a medical doctor!” Dana Scully is the role model for her 25th year of life.

4. “The X-Files Goes After Incest and Genetic Mutation, Way Before It Was Cool.” (David Sims, Brandon Nowalk, Pilot Viruet & Sonia Saraiya, The A.V. Club, October 2013)

The A.V. Club team discusses one of the creepiest episodes of “The X-Files,” in which Mulder & Scully encounter an incestuous, murderous family in small-town America. The writers discuss the scientific, cinematic and thematic implications of the episode.

5. “In the Dark.” (Brian Phillips, Grantland, September 2013)

September 2013 marked the 20th anniversary of “The X-Files.” Here’s a lyrical appreciation of the show, in light of the author’s small-town adolescence.

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Emily Perper writes, reads, and edits in the DC 'burbs. Her favorite subjects include faith, feminism and queer things. She is the editor-at-large of The Annual, a bimonthly humor magazine. She contributes weekly to Longreads.
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