In part 1, I discussed how Scully’s adventures in random hook-ups from season 4’s “Never Again” signal that her all-consuming devotion to her partner might have its limits, namely the consumption of all. Maybe we should blame her for that, in the name of ‘shipperdom and the power of unconditional love.
On the other hand, maybe we should take a step back and blame Mulder for not getting his shit together.
There was a surprise SQUEE moment in the first part of the 2nd movie, X-Files: I Want to Believe (currently rated 3.5 of 5 stars on Amazon, so buy your copy while they last). Scully is lying in bed, “cursing God for all his cruelties,” when all of a sudden —
And why was this such a surprise? Part of it was that, in true Chris Carter style, the first half hour of the movie was spent trying to convince the viewer that Mulder and Scully had no such sleeping arrangement. Scully’s passing remarks about Mulder not locking the door to his office, their general lack of PDAs…
But I suspect at least part of it is because when we are reintroduced to our moody hero after 6 years of on-screen absence, we’re greeted by this:
Far be it from me to suggest that when your loved one grows a scruffy beard, it’s time to dump his ass. But what we’re looking at here isn’t just someone letting himself go because he’s already got the woman of his dreams. This is Mulder in an unemployed, directionless slump.
We’ve seen his slumps before, generally paired with radiating rage:
- Skipping Scully’s removal from life support in lieu of seeking revenge on the conspirators (“One Breath”)
- Deciding to spend a free weekend getting his brain drilled so he can relive his sister’s abduction, and then doing it again even after other people who bought this Groupon blow their heads off (“Demons”)
- Crying alone in his apartment, in between learning that aliens aren’t real and murder-blasting a man in the face for spying (“Redux”)
- Moping his heart out by watching an old Christmas movie alone. On Christmas. (“How the Ghosts Stole Christmas”)
This 2008 slump sets those other slumps to shame, though. Quite possibly, Mulder has been hunched over his desk, cutting out newspaper clippings 12 hours a day since 2002. Meanwhile, Scully has been working as a doctor, saving lives. One of these people met with adversity and euthanized it with an intramuscular injection, and one of these people was probably disappointed when the world didn’t end in 2012.
When offered the chance to go splashing around in the dregs of society again, Mulder perks right up. It doesn’t matter that the matter at hand bears little resemblance to an X-File. He jumps out of bed, shaves off the scruff, and starts clawing at any and every paranormal theory he can get his hands on. For old times’ sake, he makes an emotional connection between the missing woman and his sister, even though he now knows full well that Santa buried his sister in the woods several decades prior.
The story ends as most stories do, with the interruption of a head transplant. The fog clears for Mulder, and for once, he decides to make the correct choice that one makes when presented with the options of a) a life of misery and b) Gillian Anderson.
Mulder: If you have any doubts, any doubts at all, just call off that surgery this morning, and then we’ll get out of here. Just me and you.
Scully: As far away from the darkness as we can get?
Mulder: I’m not sure it works that way. I think maybe the darkness finds you and me.
Scully: I know it does.
Mulder: … but let it try.
Well then, we’re all set for the continuation of their fairytale in the X-Files revival, yes? Of course not. Surely we haven’t forgotten the lesson that Agent Mulder himself taught us in season 6’s “Field Trip”:
“Can you name me one drug that loses its effect once the user realizes it’s in his system?”
At long last, Mulder has realized that someone like Scully is worth giving up on his journey of reckless endangerment and self-torture. But while I believe in every ‘shipper-riddled bone in my body that Mulder and Scully are meant to be together forever, it’s probably going to take more than one promise to reverse 15+ years of destructive behavior, sealed with a kiss though the promise may be.
I’m more inclined to believe Mulder for something he says earlier in the movie…
Scully: I don’t want that darkness in my home.
Mulder: Scully, this is who I am. It’s who I’ve always been. This is who I was before I met you. It’s what I do. It’s everything I know.
So this is what we have: Scully can move on, and Mulder can’t. Scully is inherently high-functioning and Mulder is dysfunctional.
It’s possible that the purported estrangement of Mulder and Scully in the new mini-series is just another round of Chris Carter’s favorite game, “Crush All the ‘Shippers’ Dreams.” But it’s also possible that it’s the logical progression of their relationship, the break-up that they’ve been hurtling toward once the FBI wasn’t there to lock them in the basement together.
After all, what does Mulder do in the hospital scene when Scully asks him to look away from the darkness?
He leaves her.