It’s winter… and if you’re like me and you live in the Midwestern US, chances are things have been pretty gray. See, starting in November, Ohioans retreat to our homes, where we grow very pale and irritable. We long to go outside, but shudder at the idea of even crawling out of bed if it’s less than 50 degrees.
This winter has been particularly difficult on my Seasonal Affective Disorder, so I’ve been recouping with comfort media. Serialized TV is my jam when I’m feeling particularly down; it’s easy to digest, it doesn’t matter if I fall asleep for a few episodes, and I can always count on it to be there.
Among these shows, THE X-FILES will always be a go-to for me — but I have to admit, I don’t really care too much about the overarching Smoking Man/Alien conspiracy stuff. Give me the monsters!
That being said, here are just a few picks for the all-time scariest monsters, creatures and assorted beasties to appear over the course of the series… and the best part is, they’re all available to watch on Netflix right this very minute!
The Flukeman (“The Host” — Season 2, Episode 2)
Using the bathroom anywhere but your home is uncomfortable, let’s be honest… even the thought of resorting to a port-a-potty on a normal day is hell. But in the X-FILES universe, it’s life-threatening. We all know the urban legend of alligators in the sewers — but gigantic parasitic man-worms take the cake on terrifying things I don’t want to find in the toilet.
Off the coast of New Jersey lies a Russian freighter where a member of the crew is trying to fix the ship’s toilets. He’s attacked by an unseen creature who pulls him inside the septic system and devours half of him. The rest of his mangled body turns up in the sewers of Newark just a few days later. Scully discovers a flukeworm in the liver of the dead crewman, so when others begin reporting attacks in the sewers, Mulder and Scully soon realize they are dealing with a highly-evolved creature that is part man, part fluke. This episode ends with the flukeman supposedly being killed after getting cut in half… but at the very end, we get a shot of the creature’s eyes opening.
This is just one of many “Monster of the Week” episodes that end on an uncertain note, but sadly we don’t get another Flukeman episode. However, there is a conclusion if you follow the 2013 comics for Season 10… but I personally like to fear the flukeman is still out there, ruining countless fairs and sporting events.
Virgil Incanto (“2Shy” — Season 3, Episode 6)
If you were wondering if ever there was a time when internet dating wasn’t terrifying… the answer is no. Nope. In Cleveland, a killer known as “The Lonely Hearts killer” is stalking women online. He meets them in chatrooms, only to murder them later when they finally agree to meet. During an autopsy, Scully realizes the substance covering the victims’ bodies is a digestive enzyme that liquefies human flesh — Incanto is hunting through the internet to meet overweight lonely women on whom he can feed.
A serial killer episode set in my home state? Sign me up! I’ve always loved this one, and it’s stuck with me for years. I grew up with chatrooms just a click away, and as a child of the ’90s and into the new millennium, I didn’t think twice about it. It was just something that was there, and in the early days of the internet, people could easily stay hidden. Because of the ever-evolving technology, I learned where I shouldn’t be going really quickly.
Donnie Pfaster (“Irresistible” — Season 2, Episode 13)
One great thing about THE X-FILES was its frequent divergence from well-known monsters like Bigfoot. There are plenty of episodes featuring equally monstrous humans — tales which cut just a little too close to reality, while being supernatural enough for us to feel relatively safe at night.
In “Irresistible,” the agents are called in to assist in the investigation of an exhumation and desecration in a local cemetery. As several more bodies turn up, all with hair cut from their heads, Mulder begins to think they are looking for a “death fetishist.” Donnie Pfaster is given away after an encounter with a college student gets him arrested, and while in custody he takes a liking to Agent Scully — particularly her red hair. Unfortunately, charges are dropped on him and he goes free.
Donnie Pfaster is a great Monster of the Week, because he gives us a chance to see Scully shaken and not so confident. We get to know her more emotionally, and also watch the beginning of Mulder and Scully’s connection evolve from partners to something more. It’s within these episodes that the protagonists show their true colors and begin bonding.
The Darkness Mites (“Darkness Falls” — Season 1, Episode 20)
Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate a group of thirty missing loggers in the Olympic National Forest. While the agents comb the area for clues, they come upon a cabin where they discover all communication equipment destroyed and a body hanging in a tree, suspended in a kind of cocoon. The duo is forced to stay overnight in the cabin after running into an eco-terrorist, who tells them of a swarm of insects that have been awakened by deforestation.
These little mites are what my innermost nightmares are made of — they attack relentlessly and wrap their victims in cocoons, while sucking away all the moisture from their bodies. Series showrunner Chris Carter came up with this idea from his interest in analyzing tree rings as a sort of “time capsule” of the Earth. I realize now this is sort of an ongoing theme within the X-FILES universe; there are several notable instances where Mulder and Scully are trapped in the woods and have to rely on signs from nature to guide them (even when nature is also trying to kill them).
Killer Cockroaches (“War of the Coprophages” — Season 3, Episode 12)
Do you see a running theme here in what freaks me the hell out? Bugs. If I’d ever discovered a roach in the place I was living, I would have to move. No matter how many exterminators came out, I would never be satisfied.
This episode finds the agents working separately, with Mulder investigating a UFO sighting in Massachusetts. However, after encountering local law enforcement, he learns the town is being terrorized by killer cockroaches. He calls in Scully, trying to lure her out, but turns her away when she agrees. While looking into the roach problem, Mulder meets a researcher (aptly named “Bambi”) from the Department of Agriculture, and from here on we get a good catty back-and-forth between the two women.
This episode ranks high for me, because the humor and horror mesh well. I can think of no worse fate than the feeling that cockroaches are inside your skin. I would set myself on fire immediately and cut my losses. Also, at this point in the series, they have already begun kindling the Mulder/Scully “will they, won’t they” angle, and here we have Scully at odds with a woman who seems to be more Mulder’s personality type.
I think I always enjoyed X-FILES’s “Monster of the Week” episodes best — because, as I said above, they are what seemed to help Mulder and Scully grow closer. It was always the situations in which they faced actual monsters that they had a tender moment or a laugh.
So yes, the weather is nice now… but soon it will be gray again. Which show should I seek comfort in next?
*Photos: THE X-FILES; 2oth Century Fox Television