The X-Files Season 3: The Hair Gel Years

Did you know that Season 3 of The X-Files was sponsored by Salon Selectives? Not really, but thank GOD they finally did something about Mulder’s hedgehog hair. Season 3 Scully looks slicker, too — minus the obligatory 1990s Jennifer Aniston-style layer cut.

It’s more of a mullet, really. Well, I guess it’s kind of both. An Aniston mullet?

But that’s enough about hair product. My love for The X-Files blossomed right around Season 3, and it was nice to recapture a little bit of my youthful enthusiasm for the show with these episodes. Frequent Lower Crust commenter Halfwatched LMN also recently went on an X-Files Netflix binge, but opted to stick to remembered favorites instead of doing the full-on soup-to-nut-warts-and-all rewatch.

I think Halfwatched LMN may be on to something; even though I love(d) the show… it IS hella uneven. There’s great stuff but the bad episodes are really bad — like Sliders bad. Now that I’m more than 50 episodes in, I’ve gotten pretty good at separating the wheat from the chaff. The rules are simple:

How to Tell if an Episode of The X-Files will be Good Based on the Netflix Description

Don’t Auto-Reject the Mytharc

The Mytharc — the long form conspiracy plot — gets a lot of hate, mainly because Chris Carter started pulling crap out of his ass in the last few seasons. But — believe it or not! — the early Mytharc episodes are kind of great. They’re well-written and successfully weave real-life depressing historical stuff (like the WWII-era atrocities of Unit 731) into supernatural storylines – and not in a corny “ancient aliens” way. Howard Zinn would be proud. Give the Mytharc a chance (at least for a few seasons).

Just Say No to Anthropology

If you see any of the following words in the description, do NOT watch the episode. Go watch @Midnight on OnDemand or something.

Ancient Culture
Native American
Archaeological Dig

Why? Because for whatever reason The X-Files just can’t do “cultural” storylines. The minute someone starts retelling a South American myth or a Native American healer shows up, the whole thing goes to Lame Town (but not before making a pit stop at Cultural Insensitivity City).

Evidence: Teso Dos Bichos (the evil housecat one) Hell Money (the goofy Chinatown one), every episode in every season that fits the above description.

Serial Killer Episodes Are Good
Season 3 is heavy on traditional cop drama plots — kidnappings, murders, and serial killings — with a side of the supernatural. Even though this kind of thing isn’t normally my bag, it works for The X-Files. Plus it’s nice to have Mulder actually solve a case every once in a while.

Offbeat Episodes are USUALLY Good

The semi-comedic episodes (typically written by Darin Morgan) are definitely worth a watch. Fan favorites Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose and Jose Chung’s From Outer Space are two of the best in the entire series.
BUT sometimes it goes wrong. Like when the writers decide it’s hilaaaarious to have Scully act like a jealous schoolgirl for no reason (Syzygy, War of the Coprophages). I suspect they started doing it to make Mulder seem like a cool sexy dude or something. Anyway, it’s really annoying and out of character. And a little bit sexist. Pro tip: Just hit the remote if Mulder starts sidling up to a sexy lady side character. You won’t miss anything.

Season 4, here I come!


  1. As an archaeologist, let me say that yes, Teso Dos Bichos saddens me on a lot of levels. It’s true, they usually don’t do a great job with those- actually, the anthropology incorporated in “Our Town” was better done.

    Also, congratulations- I am now inspired to stop avoiding the mytharc episodes. The early ones are pretty great- They led to some many-hours-long watch-a-thons in the past.

    • You’re 100% right about Our Town — that’s a great one. Especially since they could have gone super silly with that premise.
      Okay, I have to ask you…what’s the worst tv show OR movie depiction of archeology? Inquiring minds want to know.

      • That’s a tough one… I guess I have to concede that archaeology (though it definitely has exciting moments both in the actual research and in the cultural experiences of being in the field) is actually like 70% paperwork and bureaucratic crap. And the excavation parts are mostly scraping soil slowly and sifting little pieces of plants and boring pottery pieces and drawing and photographing those things, so I’d say it works out to about 3-7% glamorous excitement, depending on where you work. So I understand the way that TV and movies have to alter the way it actually works.

        I would say that anything that makes it look explicitly like grave-robbing pisses me off the most. With Indiana Jones, at least there is the excuse of the fact that it was the 1930’s, when a lot of academic archaeology wasn’t too much better than slightly slow grave-robbing.

        Teso Dos Bichos is actually the worst example I can think of off-hand right now. I think most Latin American nations don’t even let you remove human remains from the country, except as small samples for dating and testing (with a LOT of paperwork). Also in that episode, as I remember, the researchers’ treatment of the local people was pretty reprehensible, which is not an image we want out there.

        If I think of anything else, I’ll get back to you. Usually I try to hold back these kinds of comments because it massively annoys non-archaeologists trying to watch this stuff with me…Heh heh.

  2. I’ve never played this, because I know my own limitations, but I created a drinking game…take a shot whenever either Mulder or Scully shout “Federal Agent!”…when Mulder says his sister’s name (Samantha)… or when Scully says, “I’m a medical doctor.” P.S. My favorite episodes are the “cult” episodes. I wonder what that says about me.

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