Keith Uhlich is both one of “The X-Files'” most devoted fans and one of its most astute critics, which makes his ranking of all 201 episodes at Thrillist a must-read.
Uhlich explains how he approached the process:
“Here’s my rationale behind this project. First off, I considered all nine seasons equally. That was a given, and something that really needs to be done given the accepted belief by many that the later years are worthless. They are not.
Next, the ranking: I knew what I wanted the bottom entry (201) to be, and I knew that the finale had to be smack dab in the middle at #100 since I think it has some of the finest and least work of the series.
Then I went to the top 10 and bottom 10. I made sure that an episode from each season was represented in both (basically a true favorite and a true least favorite). That’s 9 titles, so that allowed me one more title of my choosing from any season in those sections. 10 total.
In between all that was fair game. I used the series finale being at 100 as a kind of dividing line. Which episodes would I say I skew more positive on (and so above 100) and which ones more negative (and so below 100), even if only slightly in either direction?
Those who know me know that I’d re-watch even the worst episode again in a heartbeat, but this was a good exercise to kind of see where I stand, critically, psychologically and emotionally, with the series.”
What’s especially intriguing about Uhlich’s method is that it forced him to include even episodes from the series’ little loved later seasons in the Top 10, although the fact that season 9’s “Improbable” — the one with Burt Reynolds as god — finishes in the last slot says a lot all the same. Even as someone who’s always favored the show’s standalone episodes, especially the “funny ones,” over the tortured mythology arcs, Uhlich’s listing of Season 2’s “End Game” is enough to make me want to go back and give it a rewatch. And at the other end, his recollections of “Fight Club” (201 out of 201) and the dire “Teso dos Bichos” (#200 with a bullet) trigger vivid enough flashbacks to remind me to give those ones a wise berth.
Sunday’s widely panned new episode, the first in over decade, is lousy enough that some critics are advising fans to skip it altogether. (Uhlich’s a defender, although his recap hasn’t published yet, and it does get better, although still not great.) But if its return spurs you to check out some of the series’ true heights, Uhlich’s list is the best place to start.
Keith Uhlich’s Top 10 “X-Files” Episodes
1. “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space”
2. “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”
3. “Beyond the Sea”
4. “Paper Hearts”
5. “End Game”
6. “Via Negativo”
9. “The Post-Modern Prometheus”
And here’s Uhlich interviewing Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny at the Paley Center in 2013. It’s a tremendously enjoyable exchange, but the extent to which Uhlich’s memory of the show’s (previously) final episode so surpasses Anderson and Duchovny also suggests how far they’d put the show behind them until Fox and Chris Carter came calling again.
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