Here are the best The X-Files episode that feature Fox Mulder and Dana Scully pursuing serial killers.
The X-Files is best known for its “mythology” episodes in which FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) navigate the complicated conspiracy whose perpetrators include government agents, wealthy and powerful private citizens, and visitors from other planets. But we learn that before he became obsessed with aliens, Mulder spent most of his time hunting murderers, including serial killers. Of the episodes that find the heroes taking a break from little green men to hunt serial killers, here are the best of the best.
8. “2Shy” – S3 E6
Airing back in 1995, “2Shy” capitalized on early fears about the anonymity of the Internet. When women are being found murdered with their flesh ripped from their bodies, Mulder and Scully learn the common thread between them is the online flirtation with the user who often calls himself “2Shy.” Timothy Carhart (Yellowstone) plays Virgil, the eponymous murderer, whose kills are as disturbing as they get.
7. “Irresistible/Orison” – S2 E13 + S7 E7
Few killers succeed in disturbing The X-Files fans as much as Donnie Pfaster (Nick Chinlund), a death fetishist who likes to draw baths for his victims, and keeps their fingers iced in his refrigerator. He starts off killing sex workers, but by the end of his first appearance in Season 2’s “Irresistible” he takes Scully hostage and she narrowly escapes.
Pfaster would return years later in the Season 7 episode “Orison,” in which the titular preacher (Scott Wilson) uses his supernatural abilities to arrange for the killer’s freedom from prison. By the end of the episode he’s once more captured Scully, and we learn Pfaster has a stronger connection to the supernatural world than we realized.
6. “Unruhe” – S4 E4
“Unruhe” is unique in that it’s an episode of The X-Files in which the killer’s supernatural abilities do nothing to help him, but only expose him. Women are being kidnapped and lobotomized, and the clue Mulder focuses on is the one everyone else is ignoring. Found in the locations of the kidnappings are warped, disturbing photos — which were never manually taken — of the victims being pursued by some kind of monster.
Mulder eventually learns the perpetrator, Gerry Schnauz (Pruitt Taylor Vince) has the psychic ability that is altering camera film with the images of his victims, but it’s not something he knows about.
5. “Pusher/Kitsunegari” – S3 E17, S5 E8
In “Pusher,” Robert Patrick Modell (Robert Wisden) is a killer with the perfect method of eliminating his victims: a tumor in his brain gives him an overpowering ability to suggest actions to his victims. Simply by speaking to people, Modell can get them to attack their friends, drive into the paths of trucks, or even set themselves on fire.
“Pusher” ends with the sense that Modell doesn’t have long to live, but The X-Files brings him back two seasons later in “Kitsunegari,” when someone new seems to have developed his talents.
4. “Squeeze/Tooms” – S1 E3, S1 E21
A lot of classic series take a while to really get going, but The X-Files didn’t wait very long at all to introduce one of its most infamous killers — Eugene Victor Tooms (Doug Hutchinson). This centuries-old murderer had the ability to contort his body in otherwise impossible shapes, letting him get in and out of places without giving anyone a clue as to how it could happen. He first appeared in the third episode of the series, and reappeared toward the end of that first year.
3. “Beyond the Sea” – S1 E13
On The X-Files, Mulder is usually the believer while Scully is the skeptic. The first time these roles are reversed is in “Beyond the Sea,” when death row inmate Lee Boggs (Brad Dourif) claims to be be receiving information psychically that could help the FBI agents save two kidnapped college students. In large part, Scully is swayed because being near Boggs is giving her visions of her recently departed father (Don S. Davis).
2. “Paper Hearts” – S4 E10
With “Paper Hearts,” The X-Files blurred the lines between its mythology and monster of the week episodes by playing with the disappearance of Mulder’s sister Samantha — a key piece of his obsession with aliens. In “Paper Hearts,” a series of dreams and the hints of the imprisoned child molester and serial killer John Lee Roche (Tom Noonan) begin to convince Mulder it wasn’t aliens who took his sister, but Roche.
1. “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” – S3 E4
Not only one of the best serial killer episodes of The X-Files, but one of the best episodes of the series, period — and honestly one of the best hours on TV ever — is “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose.” Peter Boyle (Everybody Loves Raymond) guest stars as the eponymous psychic who reluctantly aids Mulder and Scully hunt the killer who is murdering all sorts of fortune tellers. Burdened with only being able to foretell the moment of every person’s death, Bruckman is an unforgettably hilarious and tragic figure.