25 best standalone episodes of The X-Files

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1. “Humbug”

The X-Files always had a way with not only monsters or lights in the sky, but strange people. At its best, the show never really made fun of the strangest amongst us. Rather, it often took a more compassionate, even-handed view. It both recognized the humanity in all of us, but neither handled people with kid-gloves.

Such an ethos is prominently on display in “Humbug”, in season two. In this case, Mulder and Scully visit Gibsonton, Florida (a.k.a. “Gibtown”), a popular wintering spot for carnival and sideshow performers. Though the plot of the episode is pure fiction, Gibtown is a real location in Florida that has historically played host to circus folk over the winter.

Of course, The X-Files is rarely content to sit with real-life weirdness. In “Humbug”, the FBI duo must investigate the strange series of attacks that have plagued the small Florida community. A loving father (and “alligator man”, by the way) has become the latest victim. Mulder and Scully must investigate the killings and determine the true source of the trouble.

“Humbug” manages to strike a fine balance between remaining respectful and acknowledging the utter strangeness of Gibtown and its inhabitants. The local postmaster, Mr. Nutt (Michael J. Anderson), is a little person who frequently takes offense and offers up a series of articulate but self-important lectures. Of course, there’s also The Enigma, a self-made sideshow freak too busy eating raw fish to pontificate on his position as a “freak”. Either way, it’s highly entertaining and thoughtful television.