An 'X-Files' Cheat Sheet For Newbies

by Caitlin Flynn

In March 2015, fans of The X-Files received pretty much the best news in the world — the sci-fi phenomena would return to the small screen for a six-episode miniseries in January 2016. Now, after an excruciatingly long wait, the premiere is finally in sight. If you haven't watched the show at all or you've only seen a few episodes here and there but you're intrigued by the dramatic trailers, don't despair. As someone who has watched all 202 episodes more than once, I've put together a cheat sheet of information for X-Files newbies that will get you caught up with all the most important aspects of the show.

Since many of the original X-Files episodes are standalones about individual cases, I promise you won't feel lost simply because you haven't seen the entire series. (Although, I highly recommend a binge session when you get the chance.) However, there are certain people and events you'll want to know about, because the show has a mythology arc that pertains to the main characters and the overall conspiracy they seek to uncover.

Here are the most important things to know before you tune in for the reboot:

First Things First — Meet Mulder & Scully


They probably look familiar even if you've never watched an episode of the show, because this pair is rightfully iconic. Mulder's life and career are centered around his belief of extraterrestrial life and a government conspiracy to hide the existence of aliens. His obsession is the result of a personal trauma — his younger sister, Samantha, was abducted when they were children and he believes she was taken by aliens. Throughout the series he works in the fictional "X-Files" unit within the FBI, which is dedicated to investigating paranormal activity. His personal and professional mission is to expose the government conspiracy to hide alien existence and, more importantly, find out what truly happened to Samantha.

Scully is assigned to work with Mulder to debunk his work — she's a scientist who bases everything on logic and is therefore extremely skeptical of her partner's beliefs. As they investigate cases, she seeks to find scientific explanations while Mulder is quick to attribute everything to paranormal activity. Although Scully remains a skeptic throughout the series, she eventually admits that she has "seen things that I cannot deny" and begins to entertain the idea that not everything has a scientific explanation. Because she is a scientist, the X-Files unit is viewed as more credible once she teams up with Mulder. They complement each other perfectly, both personally and professionally. (More on that later.)

This Is Assistant Director Skinner


Skinner, who according to IMDb will appear in every episode of the reboot, is the supervisor of the X-Files unit. When he's introduced in Season 1, Skinner has little respect or patience for Mulder and his beliefs — but he eventually becomes a believer and is an ally to both Mulder and Scully throughout the series.

Mulder & Scully's Main Adversary Is The Cigarette Smoking Man


The Cigarette Smoking Man (CSM) is Mulder's main antagonist throughout the series. He's part of "The Syndicate," a government conspiracy dedicated to hide the existence of alien life. He is presumed dead multiple times, but always seems to resurface just in time to thwart Mulder and Scully's efforts. In Season 9 it's confirmed that the CSM is Mulder's biological father. During the series finale it appears that he's killed by a rocket shot from the sky, but the CSM's presence in the revival's trailer indicates that he somehow escaped death once again.

Mulder & Scully Have Suffered Multiple Traumas Throughout The Series


To say that these two characters have been put through the wringer would be an understatement. They've both endured abductions, tragic deaths of family members, and Scully nearly dies from cancer in Season 4. Mulder admits that he feels guilty for Scully's suffering because most of it was due to their work on the X-Files.

Mulder & Scully Have A Child Together


Although Scully is declared infertile after her abduction, she desperately wants a child and eventually becomes pregnant. She names her son William and he's considered a "miracle child," but the exact cause of his conception remains mysterious. However, in both the series finale and the 2008 film I Want To Believe, she and Mulder refer to William as "our son."

Mulder and Scully's relationship shifted from platonic to romantic towards the end of the series, and they're shown living together in I Want To Believe. Scully was forced to give up William for adoption in the final season after he displayed paranormal qualities and therefore was at grave risk. Both Mulder and Scully describe the loss of their child as a void that can never be filled. (I told you these two get put through the wringer.)

Here's Where Things Stand When The Revival Kicks Off

Ed Araquel/FOX

The X-Files have been closed and Mulder and Scully are no longer together. (Excuse me while I go sob about this breakup for the fifth time today.) But, a chance meeting with an abductee named Sveta leads to the reopening of the unit and Mulder and Scully will be officially back in action as FBI agents. And, unless showrunner Chris Carter hates his fans, they will be back together by the time the miniseries concludes.

No, Seriously — Mulder & Scully Have To Rekindle Their Romance


This 'ship is endgame — period. Don't let anyone tell you any different.

Now that you're all caught up, be sure to tune in for the revival's premiere on Jan. 24. I solemnly promise that you won't regret it.