Aspects of Love: Mulder and Scully and ‘The X-Files’

Mulder and Scully

Post the “201 Days of The X-Files” experiment, ADTV takes a look at the legendary love between Mulder and Scully

It’s taken me a really long time to wrap my head around this piece about Mulder and Scully. There’s no doubt that all manners of love exist between the two characters. It absolutely does. But it’s more complicated than that. How do you capture, in honor of Valentine’s Day, a relationship that’s now 20-odd years in the making? How do you write about a relationship between two characters that works on such deeply emotional core that it’s rarely explored outright?

I would argue that there is a deep, abiding love between Mulder and Scully, Fox and Dana. It’s often buried in protocol and alien abductions and conspiracies and flippancy and exasperation. But it’s definitely there. It is in every glance David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson share. It is in Mulder’s immense respect for Scully’s raw intelligence. It is in Scully’s playful banter with Mulder as his seemingly casual flippancy counteracts her Type A dominance. Yes, there’s the much-anticipated Big Kiss from the “Millennium” episode (read my reaction here). But their connection goes way back before that.

Mulder and ScullyIn the first episode (“Pilot“), Scully is added to the X-Files to keep tabs on the seemingly disconnected Mulder. On first impression, she is immediately bemused by him. He’s an odd creature, one potentially deserving of the FBI Academy nickname of “Spooky.” Yet, as the episodes progress, Scully becomes more and more infatuated by Mulder. Initially, she needs to protect him – the mother figure becoming mindful of the petulant and wayward child. Quickly though, the attraction morphs into something more. Something based on admiration and respect. It takes a while for Scully to fully give herself into Mulder’s wild conspiracy theories, and their playful banter based in intensely palpable chemistry is the stuff of legends. By the second or third seasons, you begin to understand her attraction for Mulder. She’s infatuated with his love of the X-Files. She’s been gob-smacked by his passion for the truth. To Scully, Mulder’s quest is an intoxication. It’s something she harbors for decades.

Mulder’s affection for Scully is far more clear. He’s an awkward geek, and she is a geek goddess. That’s about as plain and simple as it gets. As Scully tries to grow a personal life outside of her relationship with Mulder, he casts off flares of jealousy. It’s a jealousy that is entirely reciprocated as Mulder explores relationships of his own. However, neither is able to sustain a long-term relationship. Their attentions are focused elsewhere. They’re obsessed with each other.

There are countless examples through the series of the blossoming love between the two characters. There’s “Arcadia” where they pretend to be a married couple buying a house in suburbia. There’s “Requiem” where Mulder cuddles affectionately with a sick Scully. She squeezes his hand for reassurance in “Pusher.” He teaches her to switch a baseball bat in “The Unnatural.” They slow dance, gazing into each other’s eyes in “The Post-Modern Prometheus.” They share an intimate moment over their newborn son, William, in “Existence.” By the time we reach the proper series finale in “The Truth,” the dozens of “meet cute” moments shared between the two culminate in a clinging hotel room embrace as the scene fades to black. The series has accepted the two as a couple, and they venture out into that dark night as one.

Mulder and Scully

That is until The X-Files returned with its limited run this January. After spending years together as a couple, Mulder and Scully have separated and gone their separate ways. Granted, they seem to remain sparingly in contact with each other. The estrangement is reflected by the absence of the X-Files in Mulder’s life: he’s lost his passion, and she has lost her passion for him. When the two are yet again thrown together with the reopening of the X-Files, their connection grows to be as strong as in the heyday of their relationship. They have fun again. They enjoy rekindling their deep friendship – one that, I suspect, never truly went away. Even the strongest of fires eventually fades into simmering ashes. But there is no doubt the passions are still there between the two.

In “Home Again,” Scully’s mother has a heart attack. Scully rushes to her side, but the prospects appear hopeless. Mulder continues working their case (the Trashman episode that poorly mixes monster-of-the-week horror with dying parent pathos), but he cannot stay away from his partner in pain. As Scully stands heartbroken near Margaret Scully’s death bed, she receives a phone call from Mulder. All he says is “I’m here.” She looks up, and there he is at the door. He embraces her, and she melts into his arms. It may all sound very dime store love story, but the truth is that their long-standing passion may have waned but has never been snuffed out. They need to be needed by each other the way any great romantic pair would. They are two sides of the same coin, fused together eternally like the coin from “Dreamland” that stayed in Mulder’s desk until the end of the series.

In all of television romances, there isn’t one as perhaps as humanely real as Mulder and Scully. Their central story isn’t always a happy one. They flirt. They acknowledge their connection. They even connect for a brief period. They break up. They revolve around each other like the Earth and its moon. They are an intoxicating pair of lovers whose deep affection goes beyond hookups and one-night stands. They are eternal and immortal, the pair of them.

Mulder says it best…

“Scully, you have to believe me. Nobody else on this whole damn planet ever does or will. You’re my one in… five billion.”

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