Best less-scary X-Files episodes?
February 8, 2015 11:00 AM   Subscribe

My wife (and I) would like to catch up on the X-Files. However, she doesn't really like things that are too scary. However! One of her favorite shows of all time is Fringe, which had its own fair share of scary moments. Fringe never really scared her too much. So, with that in mind...what are the best X-Files episodes which won't give her nightmares?
posted by Sticherbeast to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
My favorite episode is "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose". Should be good for her. I also like "Ice" but that's kind of scary.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:19 AM on February 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

The abovementioned plus:

Bad Blood
Small Potatoes
Hollywood A.D.
Dreamland (2 parts)
Je Souhaite
How the Ghosts Stole Christmas
War of the Coprophages

Those are the lightest, funniest ones, in my opinion.

Seconding that Ice is scary.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 11:22 AM on February 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

Non-gore "banality of human evil" scary:
Beyond the Sea
Pusher and its sequel Kitsunegari
Paper Hearts

Darin Morgan Quadfecta of Genius:
Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose
War of the Coprophages
Jose Chung's From Outer Space

Comedic insanity:
Small Potatoes

posted by Flannery Culp at 11:39 AM on February 8, 2015 [8 favorites]

Seconding Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space' and Bad Blood.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:42 AM on February 8, 2015

Bad blood is my fave
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:48 AM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Never, ever, ever watch Home. OMG , it's awful (in a completely great way.)

Never Again is one of my favorite episodes and it's not really paranormal.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:55 AM on February 8, 2015

Don't watch Ice. It totally grossed me out.
posted by essexjan at 12:30 PM on February 8, 2015

Nthing the no-go on "Home."

"One Breath" may be a good option - the biggest "supernatural" stuff is the near-death-experience hallucinations Scully has while she's in a coma in the hospital.

"The Unnatural" may also be good - there's one startle-shot of an alien gray, and then the shapeshifting alien morphing into his alien form, but that's it - the rest of it is an absolutely gorgeous story that's ultimately about pursuing joy and beauty for their own sakes. (Plus a few moments where they actually let Scully LAUGH.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:31 PM on February 8, 2015

Having recently acquired the box set, I've been working my way through them from the start. Even though I have been known to describe Fringe as a modern-day X-Files, it still surprises me how much Fringe territory the X-Files covered first. Anyway, I think overall it is much less gory and scary than Fringe, so if you wanted to start from the beginning I think you'd be fine.

Ice is scary, but it's a thriller kind of tension rather than a scary monster kind of tension. So I guess it depends what your wife tends to find scary. I actually found Squeeze to be utterly creepy.

It also depends if you want to include episodes that are part of the overall conspiracy themes, which don't tend to be terribly scary but usually aren't incredibly satisfying on their own, since they naturally leave you with more questions than you began with - so their classification as "best" is dubious, even though watching only standalone episodes would give you a completely erroneous idea of what the X-Files is all about.

So with those long-winded caveats, the ones I'd recommend from S1 are:
- Deep Throat (e1) (sets up the whispers of sekrit govt stuff)
- Squeeze (e2) (though as mentioned, I thought this one was pretty scary)
- Conduit (e3) (Mulder's personal fascination with alien abductions)
- Ice (e7) (as mentioned, excellent but potentially quite scary)
- Fallen Angel (e9) (Mulder being dumb about UFO cover-up, features a very young and long-haired Seth Green)
- Eve (e10) (I can't say anything without spoilers)
- Beyond the Sea (e12) (Does Scully believe after all?)
- Young at Heart (e15) (creepy medical experimentation/Mulder being stalked)
- EBE (e16) (conspiracy episode, possibly the best one in S1)
- Darkness Falls (e19) (missing loggers and strange things happen in the woods at night)

That's as far as I've gotten in my re-watch, though I seem to recall that Tooms (e20) and The Erlenmeyer Flask (e23, season final) are also quite good. If you started with those, might give you an idea of whether/how to proceed.
posted by Athanassiel at 3:05 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Since the top three I came here to suggest had already been mentioned, let me add that I always liked the Lone Gunmen backstory episode Unusual Suspects
posted by cali59 at 3:18 PM on February 8, 2015

Also never watch Sanguinarium. God, remembering the intro scene still skeeves me out.

Definitely add Triangle to the to-watch list though!
posted by sldownard at 11:21 PM on February 8, 2015

Stay away from Home and Irresistible. Other than that, it's mostly on par with Fringe's level of scariness.
posted by lovecrafty at 1:27 AM on February 9, 2015

Post-Modern Prometheus is one of my all-time favorites. It may have some scary-ish elements but the resolution is so sweet and silly that it fixes everything.

I'd also recommend Triangle, because I can't even remember if it's scary, I just remember Mulder has to wear an SS Uniform for a second.

And definitely, definitely Bad Blood.
posted by mibo at 3:50 AM on February 9, 2015

That's as far as I've gotten in my re-watch, though I seem to recall that Tooms (e20) and The Erlenmeyer Flask (e23, season final) are also quite good. If you started with those, might give you an idea of whether/how to proceed.

I thought Tooms was one of the scariest episodes of the first couple of seasons.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 7:53 AM on February 9, 2015

Don't watch Ice. It totally grossed me out.

"Ice" is basically a knockoff of The Thing anyways. Not one of the series' finer moments.

As a general rule, X-Files is too goofy to be truly scary. Usually the squicky moments are in the cold open where someone gets killed in a nasty way.

Definitely stay away from "Home" and "Sanguinarium" (which, it turns out, is the other particularly nasty episode I was thinking of).
posted by neckro23 at 9:42 AM on February 9, 2015

If we're warning off episodes, then also stay way from "The Host." It still freaks me out, but maybe it's just a fluke.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:01 AM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Some of the lighthearted episodes are great, but I don't think they represent The X-Files well on their own. Here's a few of my recommendations:

Eve: My second favorite episode. Unsettling, but definitely not scarier than Fringe.
Arcadia: It has a "monster" but it's also quite funny and amusing. But probably not a great introduction to the X-files.
The Unnatural: Not very scary, but harsh racism is depicted. Great kinda-heartwarming episode.

In a lot of cases, it depends on what she finds scary or not-scary! Insects? Blood? Hostage situations? Evil religious cults? Necrophilia? etc...
posted by kidbritish at 10:19 AM on February 9, 2015

The series does seem to specialise in creepy-looking guys who stare menacingly or meaningfully, projecting an atmosphere that is very unsettled even though sometimes that's the worst thing that happens. I've made it sound facile but it's usually quite effective, for me anyway.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:45 PM on February 9, 2015

Oh, and to be fair, sometimes creepy-looking women and children too.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:49 PM on February 9, 2015

I think "The Rain King" in Season 6 (the agents invesitgate a small town sleazeball who appears to control the weather) is a very sweetly romantic episode, more supernatural than scary, and with many comedic moments. Nothing gory and nothing jumping out unexpectedly.

Another really good supernatural one with a touch of romance and comedy, but with a few mildly scary moments, would be "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas" (the agents investigate a haunted house looking for signs of the ghostly occupants on Christmas Eve). I think it might also be in season 6.

I would also recommend "The Post Modern Prometheus" in season 5 (the agents investigate reports of a Frankensteinian monster). It's a bit more of a sci-fi episode with a nod to classic horror and science fiction. There are a few scares when you see a "monster" but it's nothing revolting like flukeman.

All three of the above episodes are very heartwarming and have great plot twists that hold up to repeat viewings.

If you're looking for less warm and fuzzy, "War of the Coprophages" (are cockroaches responsible for a string of gruesome deaths?) in season 3 has some possibly "gross" moments depending on how you feel about insects, but is a good bet. Also I would add the hilarious"Humbug" (the agents investigate a series of killings at a travelling circus sideshow) from season 2.

If you would like something more serious, with decent scares and a bit of gore, but without being as horrifying as "Home", I really like "Our Town" (mysterious illnesses plague townsfolk, possibly caused by the local factory) from season 2. Mind you there are some blood-filled scenes.

"Paper Hearts" (about a cold case involving a serial killer who targeted children) in season 4, "The Field Where I Died" (involving cults and reincarnation theories) also in season 4 and "4D" (parallel universes and their implications) in season 9 are very sad and depressing episodes. I think they can be considered scary in that sense, even without gore and freaky-looking monsters.

Every title I have suggested above is a strong standalone episode, and would be suitable for someone unfamiliar with the overarching story lines in the series. Fans have a lot of hate for "The Field Where I Died" (the plot is unevenly paced; possibly it upsets shippers) and "4-D" (because it's got a lot of John Doggett) but I personally really like them. The other suggestions are solid fan favorites and good picks for someone more iffy about the series.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 4:29 PM on February 9, 2015

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