I have been loving the “revival” of The X-Files, or, technically, season 10. There’s been a mythology episode (My Struggle), a monster one (Founder’s Mutation), a funny one (Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster) and a heart breaker (Home Again). But even with two episodes left in this run, it will be hard for them to top this quiet moment in Home Again as they sit together in the hospital with Scully’s dying mother:
Scully: Back in the day did we ever come across the ability to just, wish someone back to life?Mulder: I invented it. When you were in the hospital. Like this.Scully: You’re a dark wizard MulderMulder: What else is new (laughs)
There is a LOT going on in this brief exchange. Writer Glen Morgan knows these characters well, and these actors know their characters incredibly well. So much of Mulder and Scully’s entire relationship both professional and non has hinged on all the looks they exchange and what those gazes are saying, oftentimes without them having to speak a word. These 30 seconds intimately capture a shared history of pain, loss, struggle and understanding with exactly the right level of understatement in the performances.
Which brings me to a surprising aspect of the revival that I hadn’t expected which is the interesting new chemistry between Mulder and Scully. The show is famous for creating the “shipper” mentality in TV fandom and that’s because the leads had such incredible, lightening in a bottle on-screen chemistry together. Many viewers were like me and my friend Sarah shouting “JUST KISS ALREADY!!” at them in the 90s. But that was two decades ago and since then there have been a lot of kidnappings, near death experiences, monsters, creepy children, alien conspiracies, shadow governments, comas, dead parents, talking tattoos, buck toothed vampires, shape shifters, black oil eyes, ghost ships, inbred hillbillies, virus carrying bees, and cancer that these two have survived together.
Even with all that our favorite special agents found time to finally get it on, have a kid, give the kid away, go on the run together, settle down together, break up and reunite (at least professionally) to re-open the division that brought them to one another in the first place. And while that’s all fantastical and made-for-TV, in many ways it mirrors a marriage or any long term relationship. There are ups and downs, there are disappointments and joys, celebrations and sorrows, sometimes you want to throttle the other person and other times you could kill anyone who has hurt them.
And in the same way the actors probably feel that they are in a long term relationship of sorts that will always keep pulling them back together. It wasn’t much of a secret during the original run that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson didn’t always have the best off-screen relationship. They worked very long hours on an extremely intense show and both have said at various points they were just sick of each other. I tend to think that their off-screen prickliness may have been what lent their on-screen dynamics such an undeniable spark, because now that they clearly are quite close in real life (they seemed to be having a ball doing press together for this season), their on-screen chemistry is less hot and more cozy.
And isn’t that what happens in a real relationship as well? You ease into something comfortable and familiar. It isn’t as exciting or sexy but it’s deeper and more interesting because there are years and layers to it. This new Mulder and Scully dynamic seems lived in and because fans have watched it unfold in all it’s mysterious complexities over the last 23 years, it feels earned. Scully seems more appreciative of Mulder and he seems a lot more respectful of her and together they are just as interesting to watch as they ever were. It’s made me want to see how they develop further into another season, one in which they hopefully would find their son William, now a lanky red-haired teenager with (possibly alien) superpowers and an eye-rolling attitude about his parents who are sooooo lame.