25 best standalone episodes of The X-Files

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20. “Pusher”

It must be difficult to be on the receiving end of a serial killer’s attentions, especially if you’re somehow constructed as his long-awaited nemesis. At least, that must be how Agent Mulder felt when he encountered Robert Patrick Modell, or “Pusher”.

What’s with the name? Pusher has a kind of mind control. Instead of going all Professor X and working for good, however, Modell has decided to strike out for the easy money of contract killings. He’s especially good at it, since he can make his victims kills themselves, therefore leaving little evidence of his presence.

There would be no evidence of Pusher, in fact, if he weren’t such a self-aggrandizing person. At one crime scene, Mulder spots the word “ronin,” which leads him to Modell’s classified ad and Modell himself. Naturally, Mulder arrests him.

While in custody, Modell “pushes” various people to commit suicide in grotesque and painful ways. He’s also able to escape jail, walk into the FBI headquarters, and make someone pull Mulder’s file. It soon becomes clear that Modell believes Mulder to be a worthy opponent, something he has not encountered before.

But enough about Pusher. The real heart of the episode lies between Scully and Mulder. A pivotal scene near the end of the episode, in which Mulder himself is under Modell’s control, shows just how strong the bond between agents has become.