The Emmy nominations were announced last week, and we’ve got…opinions. So this is just Part 1 of our conversation with fellow bloggers Jenn and Jaime about all the pity noms and egregious snubs that had our nerd blood boiling.
A few weeks ago our friend Chelsea started playing a game (though it’s not REALLY a game, it’s all part of some top-secret project) on Twitter. Every weekday morning she tweets a film related category and we reply with our top three choices. She then averages out the responses and posts the Top 3 according to Twitter and then she spotlights three individual people’s answers as well as her own. It’s all very complex and awesome.
As soon as she asked for possible category suggestions, I capslock-tweeted her: “MOVIE THEMES”. I am a gigantic movie score nerd. Back in the days when people used to buy CD’s I had loads and loads of scores. I had mix CD’s with all my favorite themes. I listened to them while I would zone out in between classes at Acting School. I often listen to my now gigantic Spotify movie music playlist while I am writing this blog or while I am reading. That scene in The Holiday where Miles embarrasses Iris in the video store by singing movie themes aloud? Yeah. I’ve been that person.
So what constitutes a good movie theme to me? It’s GOT to have a strong and recognizable melody (which is why you won’t see Inception‘s blaring horns on this list, despite what many of my friends on Twitter said) and be evocative. A good movie theme will also have a strong sense memory…as soon as you hear it, you will instantly be transported to that scene in the movie or see those characters in your mind or remember the first time you saw that movie. Music can be one of the most powerful emotional manipulators. The right music combined with the right characters and moments can make you laugh or cheer or cry or maybe all three at the same time. That’s what these 15 movie themes do for me. I’ve put them all in one playlist and embedded it here for you to listen to as you read. Enjoy!
15) “Heart Asks, Pleasure First” – The Piano (Michael Nyman)
While I am very “meh” on The Piano as a whole (I mean…it’s FINE. It’s just not one you want to watch often), I love love LOVE the score. “Heart Asks, Pleasure First” is the main theme of the score and it is just a gorgeous piano composition. I find it very soothing. The score as a whole is a great one to read by!
14) “Forrest Gump Suite” – Forrest Gump (Alan Silvestri)
I know, I know. It’s cheating to name a suite as an individual movie theme. The “Forrest Gump Suite” encompasses all the main musical themes in the score. The feather theme. The running theme. Jenny’s theme. They are all there in this beautifully arranged composition. I love it because it is all so evocative of Forrest Gump as a whole. Like I said in the intro, the best movie scores are the ones that can instantly evoke a scene from the movie. I hear the lilting piano of the feather theme and I instantly see Forrest sitting on the bench in my mind’s eye. The swelling strings of Jenny’s theme make me see Forrest at her bedside telling her that she WAS there with him as he ran across the country. It’s all so beautiful and perfect.
Plus, the score is only AVAILABLE as the entire suite. SO THERE. NOT cheating.
13) “Glasgow Love Theme” – Love Actually (Craig Armstrong)
There’s a reason the “Glasgow Love Theme” is now the go-to music for most emotional moments in romantic comedy trailers. There’s a reason How I Met Your Mother lovingly used it as the score for The Wedding Bride. And that’s because it is constructed to make your emotions swell in tune with the music itself. If you don’t heave a contented sigh when it finishes, you may need to make an appointment with a cardiologist. Because you don’t have a heart.
12) “Hedwig’s Theme” – Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone (John Williams)
The thing that makes John Williams a fucking GENIUS is his knack for creating themes that are not only instantly recognizable but are COMPLETELY evocative of the subject matter. It’s almost like…that was ALWAYS the music that was associated with that character or that moment. He just happened to write it down for us all to hear it. Williams is on this list five times and very easily could have been on it much more. I’m not even sorry.
“Hedwig’s Theme” is so perfectly Harry Potter one wonders if Williams just put a plug directly into Jo Rowling’s head and let her thoughts come out in music form. It’s whimsical. It’s magical. It’s a bit mischievous. It’s basically perfect.
11) Main Titles from Star Wars (John Williams)
I know, I know. HOW COULD I HAVE STAR WARS outside the top 10?!?! It’s iconic. It’s quite possibly Williams’ most famous score, though I will definitely argue with you there. It is probably the greatest Sci-Fi movie theme of all time. You instantly know it is Star Wars as soon as you hear those first few notes and you see that prologue text scrolling up your screen. So why is it at number 11? I just had stronger feels about my top ten, that’s all 🙂
Also Harrison Ford in that gif? Rude.
Last night I was having tacos and frozen Coronas (I KNOW right?) with some friends when the conversation subject inevitably came around to television, more specifically classic television shows that we didn’t discover till late in their runs or even after they went off the air. My friend Nicole starting talking about how she really didn’t discover/fully appreciate Friends until the repeats started airing on Nick at Nite. This naturally led to a discussion of the characters and which ones were our favorites. “I can’t decide between Chandler and Joey,” Nicole said. “But I do know one thing…and that’s that I HATE Ross.”
Excuse me? Ross Geller is AWESOME.
There has been a lot of hate directed at Ross lately, most notably with this list on Buzzfeed and that makes me sad. Much like Ted Mosby, Ross is a bit of a sad sack and a downer. He’s REALLY geeky and pretentious about it. He’s a know-it-all. He whines and complains A LOT. He’s neurotic and maybe uses a bit too much hair gel. But he’s also a devoted friend and a hopeless romantic. To borrow lyrics from the theme song, Ross is the kind of guy who will always be there for you when you need him. Ross was often the straight man/romantic lead, especially in the early seasons, which can be a tough role to handle. Despite earning an Emmy Nomination for the first season, I never felt like David Schwimmer got the credit he deserved for how good he was as Ross. Ensembles NEED a Ross to work and I can’t imagine what Friends would have been like without him.
Thus I bring you ten reasons why I love Ross Geller…
I mean…who HASN’T balked at an outrageous delivery charge? I once went to Ikea and when I found out that the delivery charge would be more than the purchase itself, I stubbornly put all my purchases on the bus and (rather disastrously I might add) hauled them back to my Upper West Side apartment with just my best friend to help me. Ross’ outrage is perfectly understandable! I would have done the same thing.
Also let’s take a moment to appreciate David Schwimmer’s fantastic vocal delivery in this scene, and in many scenes throughout the series (“It tastes like feet.” is another one that comes to mind). Because you KNOW that the script probably said “Pivot. Pivot. Pivot! PIVOT!!” But Schwimmer imbued the dialogue with creativity and pure Rossness. Yes, I just made that a word.
2) His Music
“Emotional Knapsack” would TOTALLY be a number one hit, am I right?
3) He follows beauty and fashion trends
Just remember to count “Mississippilessly” next time you get a spray tan, buddy. (And this episode has made me afraid of spray tanning booths for life, and I will never ever go to one.)
“What’s the matter with ME? You’ve got a black light! It’s 1999!”
Setting a new trend with Paste Pants:
Schwimmer rarely got credit for what a BRILLIANT physical comedian he was on this show. The paste pants sequence ranks among on of my favorite scenes of the entire series. “The lotion and the powder have made a PAAAAAASTE!!”
4) Rachel’s Birthday present in Season One
Yes, the Ross and Rachel dynamic got a bit tiresome in the later seasons with their on again/off again-ness. Yes, you wanted to scream at the TV “OMG will you make up your mind and decide if you REALLY want to be together or not?!” on a weekly basis. But come on…season one Ross? How could you not love him? How could you not root for the eternally geeky guy to finally get together with the head cheerleader? If you didn’t you were watching the show wrong.
In getting Rachel the cameo that she had offhandedly mentioned that she loved, Ross proves that he is the type of guy who remembers things. He’s thoughtful. He listens. He’s the type of guy who would get you presents just to make you happy and because he knows it is something you would love. That’s pretty dreamy in my book.
For those of you who have been living under a rock, the annual nerd-fest known as San Diego Comic-Con was this past weekend. While Sage and I were not there (SOMEDAY!!!), we WERE glued to Twitter and Tumblr all weekend to devour all the news coming out of the con since so many of our favorite life-ruining people were there. It was feels HEAVEN. Here is a list of the top eleven moments that left Sage and I screaming at each other on Twitter, Text and gChat all weekend…
1) Tom Hiddleston’s existence
Is there anyone who enjoys his life more than Hiddles? I don’t think so. The man is the living embodiment of JOY. –Kim
There are celebrities who dutifully show up to Comic-Con to half-heartedly promote their studio blockbusters. There are celebrities who swoop into Comic-Con to fanboy/girl their own projects and have meaningful interaction with fans. And then, 5-6 levels above that, there’s Tom Hiddleston, who basically embodies the SDCC spirit. If Comic-Con declared a winner, it would be him. –S
2) David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in general
HOW are we supposed to stop worshipping them when they just keep getting more charming and attractive with every passing year?
Hopefully this panel and the clearly demonstrated fan interest will further the progress of greenlighting XF3. DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING, 20TH CENTURY FOX? –Sage
3) The How I Met Your Mother cast’s general flawlessness at their first (and only) Comic-Con
There are interviews where they all collectively get choked up about this being the final season and I CAN’T HANDLE IT. Plus, a group singalong to “Let’s Go to the Mall”, which should basically just be the Canadian National Anthem by now! –Kim
HIMYM has had its ups and downs as any long-running show will, but it goes out as one of the most original network sitcoms of the past 15 years. And that’s something to celebrate in style. –Sage
4) Dan Harmon’s return to Comic-Con and the joyfulness of the Community cast
It’s been a tough summer for the Community fandom with Season Five not having a set air date and learning that Donald Glover will only be in 5 episodes (I have so many angry feelings about that, but I am not going to share them here). Aside from some iffy comments regarding Jeff and Annie (#pathological), Dan Harmon, along with most of the cast did much to calm any fears we had about the upcoming season. Being a Community fan can often feel a bit like a bad relationship (“Something always brings me back to yoooooooooou. It never taaaaaaaaakes too long”) but this panel helped remind us why we love the show so much and fought for it so hard in the first place.
Just…don’t do a second D&D episode please. Be better than that, Dan. –Kim
Whatever drama has happened behind the scenes or in the catacombs of NBC (I imagine they have catacombs), Community has always given it all up to their fans. Plus, the entire cast continues to be a lovable cartoon family come to life. Go ‘head, Human Beings. –Sage
5) Matt Smith
And thus begins Matt Smith’s farewell Doctor Who tour. From walking around the con floor in a Bart Simpson mask to being adorable with Jenna Coleman (and crashing Richard Madden’s Nerd HQ panel with her) to making ovaries everywhere explode from being precious with a shy little Whovian girl named Sydney at Nerd HQ, it seems Matthew is determined to kill us all with feels before he regenerates this Christmas. Also, I know we all freaked out when he shaved his head…but hot damn it works on him. –Kim
A haiku, for Matt Smith:
Must you torture us with charm?
Jenn: not excepted.
As Sage and I have been working on these posts, we have been discussing the lasting legacy that The X-Files has left on the television landscape. And what a legacy it is!! Bones most certainly would not exist without The X-Files. Booth even has a line in the pilot saying “What? You want me to spit in my hand? We’re Scully and Mulder.” Bones also has taken up the mantle of “show that makes me want to gag” on a weekly basis and definitely drove me crazy for YEARS with the fact the Booth and Brennan were clearly in love. You can clearly see the influence of The X-Files in the dark humor and visual storytelling of Hannibal. Rob Bowman, who received 4 consecutive directing nominations for The X-Files, is now an executive producer and director on Castle, which features another Mulder and Scully-esque pair. James Morgan writes and produces American Horror Story. Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon are currently clearing room on their shelves for all those Homeland Emmys. John Shiban went on to work on such shows as Smallville, Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries and of course Breaking Bad, which was created by Vince Gilligan. Essentially, The X-Files was a talent farm for all the shows that are winning Emmys and are in the pop culture spotlight today. It’s astounding. As Frank Spotniz said in the interview Sage linked to in yesterday’s post they were all SO YOUNG when they worked on The X-Files and Chris Carter was a showrunner that demanded nothing short of excellence. So the ones that survived that rigorous process are the ones who have endured and gone on to become visionaries themselves. Twenty years from now, people will be talking about Vince Gilligan the way they talk about Chris Carter. And the writers that worked under HIM will be the ones creating the shows that are winning Emmys in 20 years. It’s the gift that keeps on giving and it all started down in the basement with the FBI’s most unwanted.
While it was a challenge to choose the 16 X-Files stories that would represent the legacy of the series, it was even harder to rank the top 5. As we’ve said time and time again over the course of these posts, The X-Files is a show that defies the constraints of the sci-fi genre time and time again. It’s scary, it’s funny, it’s weird and gross, it’s thrilling and it’s romantic. So how do you choose? The best X-Files episodes are a combination of all of the factors that made it great and luckily Sage and I readily agreed over what episodes would be in the all important top 5 of all time. We screamed at each other all weekend about what should be number one, as we were championing different episode arcs. But that is the BEAUTY of this show, because neither one of us were wrong in our opinions (well…Sage was, but that’s okay) on the importance of these episodes. There are SO many episodes that could be called “best ever” of this show because they can mean so many different things to different people depending on what they got out of the show. These episodes are the ones that defined all the things that we got out of it and are still getting out of it all these years later. We’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on them and what the show meant to you as a television viewer and a fan.
But know this. I am right about number one.
5) “Pusher” (3 x 17)
“Pusher” has always been one of my personal favorite episodes, so I was very happy when Sage not only had it on her list, but ranked it high (though I of course fought for it to be higher, hence its inclusion in the top 5). The second episode ever written by some guy named Vince Gilligan (who would go on to have absolutely no success in his post-X-Files career), “Pusher” is an intense cat and mouse game and a great battle of wills. Robert Patrick Modell is a terrifying villain because he has absolutely nothing to lose. He kills people (but not really, cause they all do it themselves after all) for FUN and because he is bored and looking for a worthy adversary. And he finds that adversary in Fox Mulder. It’s easy to forget that for all his crazy ideas and conspiracy theories that Mulder is also just plain brilliant. He has degree in psychology from Oxford University (first class honors, no less) and before discovering the X-Files and becoming a major player in a world-wide conspiracy, he was a rising star in the Violent Crimes division as a criminal profiler. To Robert Patrick Modell…there is simply no other adversary worthy of his “talents” than Mulder.
Another thing that is astonishing about the fact that “Pusher” is Vince Gilligan’s second episode is that he has Mulder and Scully’s voices down so perfectly. A trademark of his episodes is that they are chock full of zingers and this script is no exception. The script feels like he has been writing our favorite G-Man and G-Woman for years. “Pusher” is full of great little moments between Mulder and Scully…from her falling asleep and drooling on his shoulder and the way he (oh so affectionately) touches he cheek to wake her to the quick-fire banter of the “whammy” scene to the completely unspoken conversation between them in the above gif.
Side Note: In the scene where Mulder is being fitted for his camera to go in the hospital to confront Modell, the original line was “Do you think this thing gets The Discovery Channel?”. David, knowing Mulder’s penchant for porn, ad-libbed and changed the line to “Playboy Channel”. That, my friends, is an actor who TRULY knows his character.
Let’s talk that climactic scene of Russian Roulette, shall we? In all my research on the episodes for this post, I learned that Standards and Practices tried to put the brakes on this scene, which is not surprising. Nothing like it had ever been on television before and Chris Carter and Vince Gilligan REALLY had to fight them to keep it in. Could you IMAGINE if they had lost this scene?? To me it ranks among the tensest minutes in the entire series (you can also see the roots of Breaking Bad in this scene…now many standoffs with Walter White does this scene feel like??). David, Gillian, and Robert Wisden are top-notch in this scene, and if you are not gritting your teeth along with Mulder while watching this, then there is something wrong with you. It’s nothing short of chilling to watch Mulder turn the gun on himself and pull the trigger without a moment’s hesitation. He only starts to fight against Modell’s Imperius curse (because that is TOTALLY what it is) when he has to turn the gun on Scully. Because Mulder would kill himself in heartbeat before harming one ginger hair on Scully’s head. He proves that time and time again over the course of the series. And Modell knows that too, which is why he chooses this route of torturing Mulder. Because in killing Scully, you essentially kill Mulder as well. You can see Mulder’s torment, even when he still has that terrifyingly blank look on his face. You can hear the little voice in his head saying “Not Scully. I will not hurt Scully.” And Modell, bastard that he is, keeps saying that it is justified for Mulder to shoot her. She DID shoot him once, after all! It’s only fair! Tears are glistening in both of their eyes as they stare at each other and Mulder’s strangled “I’m going to KILL you, Modell.” is heartbreaking.
And of course, we get some good old Mulder/Scully comfort and hand holding at the end of the episode as they look in on Modell in the hospital. Vince Gilligan was such a closet shipper, you guys.
Mulder: Modell psyched the guy out, he put the whammy on him!
Scully: Please explain to me the scientific nature of the Whammy.
4) “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3 x 04)
The MVPs of “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” are Darin Morgan’s impeccable script and an endearingly weary performance by guest star Peter Boyle, both of which earned Emmys. It’s a satisfying episode and so representative of the series, though I can’t think of another one quite like it. That was The X-Files at its best though, when it would finesse a jumble of disparate genres and influences into something cohesive and unforgettable. I’ve probably seen “Clyde Bruckman” dozens of times, but still felt the need during my rewatch to tweet that it’s “stone-cold genius.” And I just quoted myself, because I can.
Apparently, Morgan (who, by the by, also acted on the show as loser Eddie Van Blunt in “Small Potatoes” and the titular monster in “Flukeman”) set out to write a very dark script. In fact, he began with the idea of having the lead guest character commit suicide at the end. But somehow that seed of an idea developed into one of the wittiest, crowd-pleasing episodes of the series. It just FEELS like one of those scripts that began writing itself, in the best possible way. It’s been my experience that darkness and humor never live very far from one other anyway.
A lot of the comedy in the script comes from the rare circumstance that both Scully AND Mulder are skeptical of the otherworldly element. Most of the “psychics” Mulder meets at crime scenes are probably of the Stupendous Yappi variety. And as a believer, he’s PERSONALLY affronted by people who would fake a sixth sense for money, which is why he doesn’t know quite what to make of Mr. Bruckman, the most reluctant seer ever. Clyde Bruckman – whose occupation, hilariously, is life insurance salesman – is consumed by death. It’s the first thing he sees in every person he meets. His resignation to the inevitability of his gift is mirrored in the creepy killer, who seeks out mystical motivations for the acts that he claims not to even want to carry out. Talk about “negative energy.”
Even though Scully doesn’t believe in Bruckman’s gift, she believes that HE believes, and comes to feel sympathy and even affection for him. She still can’t resist asking him how she dies, and, adding to the enigma of the enigmatic Dr. Scully, he answers, “You don’t.” This line was actually intended as a set-up for a possible storyline where Dana Scully was found to be IMMORTAL. Instead, closure came from “Tithonus,” where she almost died and then didn’t. I like the “Tithonus” solution, not only because the immortality plotline would have completely changed the nature of this show, but because it’s true to Bruckman’s roundabout, vaguely literal predictions. Less vague is his prognostication that Mulder’s end will come via auto-erotic asphyxiation. Or maybe he planted that idea in his head as payback for the barrage of psychic tests Mulder put him through. Seems like something Clyde Bruckman – may he rest in peace – would do.
Mulder: Do you remember the first time you foresaw someone’s death?
Clyde Bruckman: 1959.
Mulder: What happened in 1959?
Clyde Bruckman: Buddy Holly’s plane crashed.
Scully: You prognosticated Buddy Holly’s death?
Clyde Bruckman: Oh, God, no. Why would I want to do that? But I did have a ticket to see him perform the next night. Actually, I was a bigger fan of the Big Bopper than Buddy Holly. “Chantilly Lace,” that was the song.
Mulder: I’m not following.
Clyde Bruckman: There’s… the Big Bopper was not supposed to be on the plane with Buddy Holly. He won the seat from somebody else by flipping a coin for it.
Mulder: I’m still not following.
Clyde Bruckman: Imagine all the things that had to occur, not only in his life, but in everybody else’s, to arrange it so on that particular night, the Big Bopper would be in a position to live or die depending on a flipping coin. I became so obsessed with that idea that I gradually became capable of seeing the specifics of everybody’s death.
Scully: Well, Mister Bruckman, I’m not one who readily believes in that kind of thing and if I was, I still wouldn’t believe that story.
Clyde Bruckman: I know it sounds crazy, but I swear it’s true: I was a bigger fan of the Big Bopper than Buddy Holly.
For those of you not suffering with us, I’ll have you know that the heat index of New York City is currently at about 3 billion degrees. This has been a summer of eschewing all those cool, free activities around the city in favor of window units, hermit-like behavior, and Netflix. So I felt not one iota of guilt for staying in for much of this weekend and crazy-marathoning the short list of finalists for our definitive favorite episodes of The X-Files.
Revisiting this series has been a complete and utter joy for me. Like Kim said in her intro to the first post in this series, The X-Files was a gateway fandom to many, myself included. It came into my life right when I needed it, too. For the ninth grade, I left behind my tiny, close-knit Catholic grade school class and moved over to the big (to me) public high school. It was the most awkward year of my existence. I didn’t know what to wear or how to talk to people, and subsequently had zero friends from 7am-3:30pm, Monday through Friday. It was tragic. I was Tai, but without Cher, Dionne, or a weed hook-up. So OBVIOUSLY, I was home on many a Friday night, where I fatefully met this show and subsequently, its fandom.
It was like coming home, you guys. We take it for granted now that there’s always a community ready and waiting to welcome us, no matter what show, book, movie, or celebrity we want to love together. But The X-Files and their fans CREATED that culture, at least in the online world. I’m sure I would have continued watching and enjoying the show even without our slow-ass dial-up connection and ye olde Usenet threads, but the connection to other fans and the ability to log-on right after an episode to dissect and flail just fueled the fire. It meant so much to me in that time to have something to care about and focus on. (I used to be able to recite every episode of the first four seasons, in order.) It distracted me from the rest of my pathetic, lonely situation. This fandom also spoiled me, because X-Philes are fucking SMART. I too know the Gossamer archive quite well and have been making myself insane for days trying to remember the title of one particularly exquisite novel-length story that I read and re-read. It’s really too bad that publishers hadn’t discovered that world yet, because 97% of X-Files fic would bring 50 Shades of Grey to even more shame than it brings itself.
During this marathon, Kim and I have been tweeting excessively about our favorite moments and our history with this show. And while we joke about being “drunk on our power,” we’re mostly just excited that we’ve inspired a few first-time watchers and re-watchers to embark on the journey. There’s so much STILL to mine from The X-Files and not just for nostalgia’s sake. I’ve been experiencing my standard feels in all the same places of course, but I’m also gaining new perspectives. For one, I’m realizing just how hard Chris Carter was trolling us for YEARS, denying at every turn that Mulder and Scully’s relationship was anything but platonic, when their love story was clearly the show’s raison d’être. More on that later.
It’s interesting too that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, both of whom have at one time or another sought to distance themselves from the show, have been enthusiastically supportive of another movie and, in Gillian’s case, actively engaging with the fandom. Of course, they’ll both be at the 20th anniversary San Diego Comic Con panel with Chris Carter and “special guests.” (All fingers and toes crossed for a cameo by bald-headed sex god, Mitch Pileggi.) Not there? US. And we’re not likely to get over it.
For now, the countdown continues with episodes #10-#6. Agreements, arguments, and conspiracy theories in the comments, please.
10) “Leonard Betts” (4 x 12)
The X-Files was at the height of its popularity in Season Four and Fox gave it the coveted Post-Super Bowl slot. Post-Super Bowl episodes tend to start big in order to hook as many of the football viewers as possible…think Grey’s Anatomy opening with its three hot female leads taking a shower together or Alias opening with a shot of Jennifer Garner in lingerie. And boy, does “Leonard Betts” open big with a spectacular ambulance crash resulting in the decapitation of mild-mannered paramedic Leonard (played by future ER star Paul McCrane, whose character would go on to lose an arm on the show in an equally spectacular manner). And if that wasn’t enough to get them interested, the HEADLESS corpse then proceeds to kick its way out the morgue, hit the attendant over the head and walk away. Football fans…welcome to the world of The X-Files. It’s spooky and gross and weird here.
For most of the episode, “Leonard Betts” plays out like the standard monster of the week type. There’s the typical Mulder/Scully banter (David is particularly delightful in the early scenes, as Mulder is positively giddy at the prospect of someone who can regrow body parts), a compelling villain (Leonard is a wonderful villain because he is driven by biological imperative as opposed to psychotic blood lust) and the kind of gross-outs that only The X-Files could pull off. And what’s wonderful is that the special effects in this episode hold up in 2013 as much as they did in 1997. I dare you to watch the scene where Leonard regenerates without wanting to gag.
And then…the rug is pulled out from underneath us. Leonard, we have learned, needs cancerous tumors to survive. He eats them and he can look at someone and tell if they have cancer. He corners our heroine Dana Scully in an ambulance, looks at her and says…”I’m sorry…but you’ve got something I need.”
EXCUSE ME?!?!?!?! WHAT DID HE JUST SAY?????
I remember watching this and feeling like I was just punched in the face. Gillian is marvelous in this scene. You see the look of realization flit across her face. She knows in that moment that she believes him and she is HORRIFIED. Then, because she is Dana Scully, Ginger Queen of the Universe, she proceeds to kick the ever-loving shit out of him (in heels no less!), finally killing him with a defibrillator. But she is shaken. You see the numbness and shock in her face in her final scene with Mulder. And then the final scene, where she wakes up in the middle of the night, coughing and blood dripping from her nose, confirms it. Our tough as nails, unflappable, enigmatic Dr. Scully has cancer.
And THAT, dear readers, is how you reveal a plot twist.
Leonard Betts: I’m sorry…but you’ve got something I need.
It’s hard to believe that The X-Files turns 20 this year.
Let that sink in for a bit.
TWENTY YEARS ago we were introduced to Fox “Spooky” Mulder, believer in extra terrestrials and all around dreamboat, and Dana Scully, skeptical scientist and flawless ginger queen of all things. Twenty years ago we were introduced to a government wide conspiracy of the highest degree, to alien bounty hunters, to liver eating mutants, to giant Flukemen, to satanic substitute teachers, to lovable conspiracy theorists, to fang-less vampires, to shadowy figures known only by monikers such as Well Manicured Man and Cigarette Smoking Man. And twenty years ago, the most epic love story of all time began.
Yes. Mulder and Scully are even more epic than Rose and The Doctor.
I didn’t discover The X-Files until it hit syndication in the spring of 1998. I had heard about it, of course, but I was a busy and overachieving high school student who was rarely at home in front of the television on a Friday Night (oh how times have changed). I started seeing previews for the movie and was intrigued…and thought that that Fox Mulder guy was AWFULLY pretty. Little did I know the rabbit hole I was about to fall down. At the time, the whole concept of releasing TV shows on video was relatively new…The X-Files started pioneering that trend by releasing select episodes (2 per tape) from the early seasons. I went to my local Blockbuster (God, I am OLD) and checked out as many tapes as they would allow and I devoured them. I then lost my mind when I got to the tape that had “Sleepless” and “Duane Barry” and Scully was abducted and I DIDN’T HAVE THE NEXT TAPE. I started recording all the episodes on FX so I could watch everything in order (even then I was a completeist). I went to the movie all by myself and ended up clutching the arm of the complete stranger sitting next to me whenever anything exciting happened. I wrote LETTERS to a college friend about how in love with the show I was. I hung up an “I Want To Believe” poster in my dorm. I bought companion books. To this day, I wish I had a picture of the look of glee on my father’s face when he presented me with a gift that he totally thought of himself…a vanity license plate that read “XFILES”.
In other words, I had discovered fandom and The X-Files was my gateway drug (as it was for many people my age). It was amazing to discover that I was not the only one who felt this way about a television show. I was astonished to learn that it was completely normal to watch The X-Files and LONG for Mulder and Scully to just kiss already. There was even a NAME for that…shipping. And I had been a “shipper” my whole life and didn’t know it until I delved into the world of The X-Files. I don’t even remember how I found it…I must have been searching for more background on the movie…but one day I stumbled upon the treasure trove that is the Gossamer Archive (that wonderful old school archive still exists today). My GOD! Fan Fiction?! People were writing STORIES about these characters…and they were GOOD!! I can’t even count the hours I spent…hours when I should have been studying…hours when I could have been out socializing…but instead I spent those hours reading stories about my favorite characters. Stories that filled in gaps in episodes, stories that stood entirely on their own and stories where Mulder and Scully FINALLY got it on. It was a marvelous time and I definitely would not be the fangirl I am today had it not been for my obsession with The X-Files.
One of the things that cemented my life partnership with Sage was the discovery that we were both X-Philes. We’ve wanted to do a series on our favorite episodes ever since we launched Head Over Feels, and with the 20th Anniversary Panel at Comic-Con this week, we realized that the time had finally come to do it. But HOW? In a genre bending show like The X-Files how in the world do we single out episodes that are both definitive to the series and ones that meant a lot to us?? Luckily, after we made a preliminary list, we found that most of them were one and the same. We both agreed that we could count two and three parters as one episode, since they encompassed the same story arc. So we set out over this past weekend and marathoned over 25 episodes to narrow our list down to 15. There was a LOT of screaming at each other over Twitter and fighting over gChat, but we emerged from the weekend with not only our friendship in tact but a list that we were both fully satisfied with. I hope you enjoy our picks. I know I do.
The truth is out there.
Honorable Mention: “Die Hand Die Verletzt” (2 x 14)
After paring down our initial list of close to 30 episodes, we were left with 17. Rather than pad the list and bring it up to 20, we opted to go to 15 and give one honorable mention. So…apologies to “Home” (losing that one hurt), but I absolutely could not have a list dedicated to the best episodes of The X-Files without mentioning “Die Hand Die Verletzt” because it was the first episode to genuinely TERRIFY me. And it terrifies me to this day. It starts out very tongue in cheek, with the witty banter that we had to come to expect from monster of the week episodes, but it then takes a VERY dark turn and never looks back.
I may not be an overtly religious person, but I AM a spiritual person (Good God, someone slap me in the face for sounding pretentious) so I firmly believe that you don’t mess with the Devil or Satan Worship. That shit is REAL. I will never forget watching this episode for the first time. I was in the middle of a marathon session, and it was relatively late at night. Everyone else in my family was asleep and our TV room is on the opposite side of the house, so I felt totally and completely ALONE. I was watching in total darkness and was getting more and more freaked out as the episode went on. And then Mulder handcuffed Jim Ausbury and left him alone in the basement, running to Scully’s aid (or so he thought). Cut to demonic substitute teacher Mrs. Paddock chanting. The basement door opens…and a giant snake slithers down the stairs…ever so slowly wraps himself around Ausbury…and then fucking EATS HIM (have I mentioned I have an absolutely crippling fear of snakes?). And then the next shot is THIS:
Cue me screaming and screaming, hitting pause, and running around the room turning on EVERY SINGLE LIGHT. I sat there for several minutes, curled up in a ball, and whispering to myself “It’s only a show, it’s only a show, it’s only a show” before eventually finishing the episode. But I definitely didn’t sleep well afterwards.
Mulder: Did you really think you could call up the Devil and ask him to behave?
15) “Squeeze/Tooms” (1 x 03, 1 x 21)
“Squeeze” was the first “monster of the week” episode of The X-Files and it introduced us to one of THE iconic monsters of the entire series, Eugene Tooms (played by Doug Hutchison, he that would grow up to be the grossest man alive and marry Courtney Stodden), a serial killer mutant who kills 5 people every 30 years, ingests their livers, and then goes into hibernation in a nest made of newspaper and bile (gross). Did I mention he can squeeze himself through the TINIEST crevices in order to get to his victims? In “Tooms”, he tries to get to a victim by coming up through the TOILET…and would have been successful had it not been for some very convenient child-proofing. Way to tap into everyone’s greatest fear, Chris Carter.
What “Squeeze” also does is establish the great cost to Scully’s professional standing by working with Mulder. Her peers don’t take her seriously. They make fun of her and feel sorry for her, calling her “Mrs. Spooky”. Any other person would bristle at this, but Scully defends Mulder right away. She may be able to roll her eyes at his outlandish theories…but if anyone else does? Forget it. They have not earned that right. By the end of the episode, Scully firmly establishes whose side she’s on and who she wants to work with…and that’s Mulder. Their partnership is firmly cemented and it’s only the THIRD episode of the series. Like I said in the intro…greatest love story of all time.
I thought it was a brilliant move to bring Tooms back at the very end of the season. “Squeeze” leaves us with image of Tooms grinning at the small door in his prison cell where his meals are delivered. It would have been very easy to leave it at that because it is always dangerous to try to attempt a “sequel” with a successful villain. But “Tooms” comes at a point where things are beginning to unravel for Mulder, Scully and their investigation of the X-Files. A sense of foreboding pervades the whole episode, and we can see that Mulder knows it…which is why his behavior starts to get erratic and desperate. He feels as if his whole career rests on this case…and as we see in the season finale, in a way it does.
As far as shippery moments, “Tooms” has the infamous iced tea/root beer scene (Oh, the fan fics I have read where there actually WAS iced tea in that bag…) that still gives me feels to this day. When Scully says she wouldn’t put herself on the line for anyone but Mulder, it is an incredibly heartfelt and honest statement. You can SEE the weight of it on both of their faces (the pause that hangs in the air after Scully says that is rife with tension) and to Mulder, there is nothing else more important for this. He is a man who has never had someone who is so unconditionally THERE for him. Until the day Dana Scully walked into his office, he was completely on his own. And now he’s not. So what does he do? He diffuses the moment with flirting. And you can see relief flit across both of their faces as she flirts right back. It’s a defining (and maddening because they are BOTH so emotionally stunted) moment of their partnership and that pure devotion to each other would be an ongoing theme for the rest of the series. Their partnership is about trust. It’s about loyalty. And yes, it’s about love…love in the purest sense of the word. It’s a love that transcends romance while still remaining deeply romantic. Anyone who doesn’t think so is watching the show wrong.
Scully: Mulder, I wouldn’t put myself on the line for anybody but you.
Mulder: If there’s an iced tea in that bag, it could be love.
Scully: Must be fate, Mulder. Root beer.