25 best standalone episodes of The X-Files

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5. “Darkness Falls”

Environmentalism has never been quite so creepy as in “Darkness Falls”. Thankfully, given that this is a first season episode, both Scully and Mulder manage to make it out alive. It would have made the next 182 episodes a little awkward.

The story begins in Washington state’s Olympic National Forest. Loggers have been killed by a mysterious swarm of glowing, green bugs. FBI agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder are called in to investigate, of course. They’re accompanied by Larry Moore, a park ranger, and Steve Humphreys, head of security for a local logging company.

Humphreys maintains that this is all the work of eco-terrorists, who have been in the area recently. This hypothesis begins to crack when the group finds a gigantic cocoon suspended in a tree containing a corpse. Later, when one of the said eco-terrorists, a man named Doug Spinney, crosses their path, he says the danger is from a different source. Those glowing bugs are to blame, you see. This is difficult to believe, or at least until the same bugs begin to descend upon their cabin as the sunlight fades.

“Darkness Falls” is admittedly campy. It’s from the first season, after all, when the series was still finding its legs (though already making a considerable mark). However, it strikes a good balance between the goofy strangeness and genuine menace. The remote woods of the Olympic National Forest do become terribly dark and menacing once the sun sets, after all.