Mulder’s Microexpressions

A few months ago I was going through the camera roll on my phone, intending to delete unneeded pictures to free up storage space…for more pictures. You know how it goes. Anyway, I came across a gif I had made of Mulder when he first sees Diana Fowley in The End. With just a tiny tilt of the jaw and a blink, we can see that Mulder is surprised and intrigued. We see recognition but also a bit of caution. The look conveys so much; it’s really quite artful.

And I had several other gifs showing tiny movements which speak louder than words, so I decided to make a Twitter thread. My intent was to draw attention to David Duchovny’s acting abilities. By focusing on Mulder I am in no way discounting the importance or quality of Gillian Anderson’s skills as an actor and her ability to deliver withering glares, poignant glances, a perfect single tear, and Scully’s patented skeptical eyebrow lift. But Gillian’s acting brilliance is more universally recognized, while David gets criticized for being wooden and expressionless. I strongly disagree with that criticism and wanted to highlight just how much he’s able to communicate with his face.

My thread took on a life of its own and I ended up including some rather broad facial gestures in addition to the microexpressions, just because they’re so fun and really show David’s comedic bent. But here I want to focus on the truly small details that say so much. So, in no particular order, here are 15 of my favorite of Mulder’s Microexpressions.


This expression in Alpha might be my favorite. Mulder is feeling unsure of himself and slightly embarrassed. He misjudged a situation, was really sort of blindsided, and he’s still not sure what happened. And we get all that from the crease between his eyebrows.


They’ve just kissed for the first time in Millennium. They’ve been dancing around their feelings for each other for a long time and Mulder took a bold leap forward. He’s pleased with himself, but he needs to know Scully’s on the same page. His eyes search her face even as his lips can’t help but lift into the slightest smile.


At this moment in the Pilot, Scully seems to be all in. She agrees with Mulder’s theory and declares that she’s willing to put it in her report. He wants to believe, but he hesitates just long enough to search her face for any sign that he shouldn’t trust her. His eyes return to hers as he makes his decision.


In Fight the Future, Mulder is in the middle of a conversation with the evidence custodian when he spots Scully. His eyes lock on her, he lifts his face, and he takes a breath, letting us know he’s found the answer he’s looking for. (This one might make me a little emotional and melodramatic. Sorry)


At the end of Fight the Future, Mulder realizes that Scully knows they can’t be defeated as long as they’re in it together. You see it in his eyes and the little tilt of his lips.


Mulder visits Arthur Dales in The Unnatural with questions about aliens and government conspiracies. Dales seems…prone to confabulation…but Mulder can’t quite bring himself to dismiss the man’s stories. As strange as they seem, there might be something to them. So, as we see with this expression, he’ll go along for the ride and see what comes of it.


Mulder finally learns Samantha’s fate in Closure. This moment when he’s reading her journal is so painful for him. He doesn’t express that pain in words. He doesn’t need to. The way he purses his lips, clenches his jaw, and swallows communicates his struggle to process all the emotions he’s feeling.


In Chimera, Ellen Adderly asks Mulder if he has a significant other, encouraging him not to miss out on home and family. Mulder can’t hope to explain his relationship with Scully, and he really has no intention of trying. He averts his eyes and draws in his lips, conveying his intent to keep this information to himself.


In Je Souhaite, Mulder has one final wish, and he wants to use it to solve all the world’s problems. Scully gently suggests that maybe that struggle is the point of our existence and he shouldn’t try to wish that away. Her words hit him profoundly, and we see in Mulder’s expression not only frustration that he can’t achieve what he wants to but also realization that Scully is right.


In this scene from Two Fathers, Scully is trying to convince Mulder to look into what happened to Cassandra Spender. Mulder believes Jeffrey Spender’s request for assistance is a set up, but there’s also a chance to learn what happened to Scully on the bridge. He doesn’t respond to Scully with words, but we see the conflict play out across his face.


In Three Words, Mulder has returned from the dead to a life he’s not sure he recognizes. He’s uncertain whether Scully will be at his side or even on his side, so he’s taking matters into his own hands, searching for evidence in his typical unsanctioned way. We can see from the way he has his lips pulled in and the questioning, almost sarcastic lift of his eyebrows and tilt of his chin that he’s shutting Scully out, trying to protect himself until he has more answers.


This look in Folie a Deux might be a bit broad to classify as a microexpression, but I had to include it here because it’s so fun. Mulder thinks this investigation is a waste of time and he’s being none too subtle about that opinion.


We see a more seasoned Mulder in This. He’s a man who’s been through a lot with his partner and he knows what he likes. The forehead crease, narrowed eyes, and hint of a grin as he tells Scully she’s “adorbs” show us that he’s completely enamored of her and really kind of enjoying their adventure.


In this scene from F. Emasculata Mulder’s tired and extremely frustrated, and that sideways tilt of his eyes before he closes them and throws his head back show he’s resigned to the logic of what Scully is telling him, even if he doesn’t like it. It’s a bunch of microexpressions strung together into one gorgeous moment….And I didn’t even mention what his mouth is doing.


I don’t know about you, but this eyebrow wag in Drive could convince me to make all sorts of bad decisions. It sure works on Scully, and this smug SOB knows it.

If you want to check out my entire microexpressions thread, you can find it here:

Anyway…I never did clear out any storage space in my camera roll.