Season 4, Episode 10
Original Airdate: December 5, 1996
“Paper Hearts” isn’t only the best Mulder-centric episode, but among the strongest of the entire series. The way Gilligan pivots Mulder around Tom Noonan’s chilling John Lee Roche echoes the relationship between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter in Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon and Michael Mann’s 1986 big-screen adaptation, Manhunter. (Noonan, not coincidentally, was featured in the latter.)
Emotions pull every string loose as Mulder attempts to prove Roche kidnapped and murdered his sister Samantha, and it’s his devastating realizations that allow the viewers to dig deep into the psyche of the show’s conflicting lead. Director Rob Bowman — arguably the series’ sharpest eye — keeps you sweating alongside Mulder as he races to a conclusion that would bring Hemingway to tears.