Filling the Gaps

One thing I love about The X-Files is that it often leaves questions unanswered. Not everything is wrapped up in a neat little package at the end of an episode, or season, or ever. I think the ambiguities make the show more interesting. It feels natural to have questions, and I love that the show doesn’t shy away from that.

One benefit to all these unanswered questions is they leave room for viewers to come up with head canons to fill in the gaps. This is especially true when it comes to the Mulder Scully Relationship. Almost every Shipper I know has a favorite MSR head canon or two. I’m no exception.

A lot of fans express their ideas through fanfic. I’ve spent uncounted hours reading and re-reading and loving these stories. I’m constantly blown away by the talent in this fandom, and I am extremely grateful that these fan/writers generously share their work with all of us. I’m also in awe of their ability to create situations for such well known characters in a way that makes them completely recognizable. I love how fanfic expands the universe of The X-Files.

I don’t write fanfic. I don’t know how to construct a story or develop a plot, and the idea of trying to create dialogue causes me endless amounts of stress. But for some reason lately I’ve felt compelled to write out some of my favorite head canons as sort of “non-fic fanfiction.” They’re almost completely lacking in story, plot, and dialogue. They’re more descriptions of what I think happened based on clues we see in the show, or in one case maybe just wishful thinking. They’re simply my attempts at filling the gaps.

My Most Unfortunate Head Canon

This theory solidified in my mind during my last rewatch and I had to write it down. Coincidentally, it was just before Admiralty posted her extraordinary fic, The Whole Truth Although we reach some of the same conclusions, there’s really no comparison. Her story is a brilliant work of art, intricately detailed, thoughtful, and completely true to the characters. If you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s truly beautiful.

I think Mulder had sex with Diana Fowley during The Beginning in Season 6. I know, I KNOW! It’s a horrible thought. I didn’t want to believe it, but the more I think about it the more evidence I find to support it. I wouldn’t characterize it as proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but certainly to my mind it’s established by a preponderance of the evidence. The good news is that it’s never explicitly mentioned in the show. So if you want to go on thinking it never happened, that’s perfectly legit. But here’s why I think it makes sense.

As background, I have to look at Fight the Future. In the hallway scene after Scully tells Mulder she has resigned from the FBI and argues that he never really needed her, Mulder makes a beautiful speech telling her how wrong she is. She’s kept him honest, she’s made him a whole person. As moving and heartfelt as his speech is, I don’t think it’s a declaration of love. It’s more of a declaration of “I don’t know exactly how I feel, but I don’t want to find out by losing you.” It was a reaction to the thought of losing Scully as a partner, as someone he has come to depend on. I think it’s significant that they were talking about their work, and when Mulder said “I owe you everything Scully, and you owe me nothing,” he was telling Scully what she’s meant to him in that work. It was an emotionally charged moment, and it would have led to kissing and sex if the bee hadn’t interfered. But they really weren’t ready for that step, because they hadn’t come to terms with how they felt about each other, and they certainly had never discussed it. The aftermath would not have gone smoothly in the long run.

But the bee interrupted them and Scully was abducted, and Mulder went to the ends of the earth to rescue her. And in doing so he found undeniable proof of the existence of aliens. But then Scully denied that they had proof! Mulder was pissed, and he felt utterly betrayed. Not just by Scully, but by Skinner, who voted against reinstating Mulder and Scully on the X-Files, and by Diana, who got the assignment.

But mostly, he was frustrated with Scully’s refusal to believe what he saw in Antarctica. He reminded Scully that he had saved her (“You would have seen them too, but you were passed out over my shoulder.”) I think at that point Mulder was thinking that before Antarctica he owed Scully everything and she owed him nothing, but now they’re even. Out of frustration and anger he also questioned whether he really needed Scully, since she never believed him anyway. Scully reminded Mulder that he said her science has kept him honest, and he responded that this time her science is wrong.

Just when Mulder is feeling his most frustrated, Diana Fowley reappears. She tells Mulder that she’s making sure someone on the X-Files is serving his interests, someone who believes in him. She reminds him that she and Mulder found the X-Files together, and she offers to work with him. Fowley tells Mulder she wants to help him find proof, not because she doesn’t believe but because she does and she wants to help him prove it. This is music to Mulder’s ears. So Mulder makes his choice to go with Diana, leaving Scully to care for Gibson Praise.  And Diana listens to him and agrees with his theories, and it feels so good to be deferred to for a change.

When Mulder and Diana are at the power plant, the situation gets a little scary, a little dangerous. Then they find the creature and Mulder is proven right. It’s exciting and validating, and there’s this huge adrenaline rush. Mulder is feeling really good right now, and that feeling gets associated with Diana.

It’s telling that in the middle of this scene Scully calls Mulder to tell him about the virus she found in Gibson Praise. Scully sees the virus as a step toward the proof they need, but Mulder doesn’t need any more proof. He shuts her out without telling her what he’s found.

After the power plant incident there’s a cut, and the next scene is back in Washington D.C. I think the sex happened between those two scenes. Mulder had just had this extremely exciting experience with Diana. She’s also told him she believes him and believes in him. They have a romantic history together and she’s showing signs that she’d like to rekindle that. I think they go back to her hotel and have sex.

Back in D.C., though, Mulder and Scully are ordered to cease all material association with the X-Files. And the next scene we see between Mulder and Scully is really tense and awkward. Scully tells Mulder that Fowley’s report makes no mention of Gibson, that it seems to protect everything but Mulder. Mulder defends Diana, pitting her against Scully, accusing Scully of asking him to make a choice between her and Diana. I don’t think that’s at all what Scully was doing, but I think Mulder is reacting this way because that’s what he’s going through in his head.

Scully hands Mulder a file and tells him what she found in the virus and in Gibson and apparently we’re all part extra-terrestrial, whatever. But then Mulder finally gets it. He understands that Scully never gave up on him, that she kept looking for proof because she wants the truth, which is the same thing he wants.

After this Mulder comes to his senses. I think it was this conversation with Scully, but I’m not really sure. I’ll have to think about that some more, or let someone else think about that. But he only had sex with Diana that one time in Arizona. (I think what Mulder says to Diana in his dream in Amor Fati supports this: “I sleep with you one time and you lay all this on me?”) At some point Mulder told Diana he wasn’t interested in resuming their relationship, and there was never going to be anything between them other than the past.

Then Mulder went to the Bermuda Triangle. His experience on the 1939 ship, the thought of never seeing Scully again, made him realize what he had to do. When he woke up and told Scully he loved her, he meant it, completely.

When Scully confronted Mulder with her suspicions about Diana in One Son, Mulder reacted childishly. He lashed out at Scully because he was embarrassed and even guilty that he had slept with Diana. Not because he wasn’t free to make that choice, but because he knew he made it for the wrong reasons and he regretted it. So in his childish response, he tried to shift “blame” to Scully, telling her she was making this personal, which was a really bonehead thing to say. The man may know he’s in love with Scully, but he hasn’t figured out how to convince her of that yet.

I haven’t come to any conclusions about Diana’s motivations. Like Scully, I don’t trust her. I don’t know if she had real feelings for Mulder at this point, or any point, or if he was just a means to an end. The show doesn’t give us enough information to go on, so I’ll leave that to the fandom’s talented fanfic writers.

What the Shadow Man Doesn’t Know

I’ve had this theory for quite a while but just recently put it into words in response to a conversation on Twitter.

After Mulder and Scully have sex for the first time in all things they fall asleep together in Mulder’s bed. When Scully wakes up a couple hours later she has a moment of panic. Not regret, just a need to process on her own before facing him. So she gets out of bed, goes to the bathroom to get dressed. Mulder is awake but doesn’t let her know this. He knows her, knows she has to process. He’s content to let this proceed at her pace. To him it’s just like her “oh brother” when he told her he loves her in Triangle. As she’s leaving she can’t help a little feeling of triumph. She did this. But she has to think about what it means, by herself, so she leaves.

They don’t see each other at work the next day, each called to separate duties. Maybe there’s a brief awkward moment in the office, but there’s not really time to say anything.

By the time Scully gets home, she has regrets. Not that they slept together, but that she left without saying goodbye, without talking. She’s restless. She decides she can’t let this wait a moment longer, so she calls Mulder. She stammers on the phone and wonders why it’s so awkward, it’s just Mulder. She manages to ask if he can come over, and he’s on the way before she even hangs up the phone.

Mulder arrives, still determined to follow Scully’s lead, so he doesn’t say anything about last night. He probably makes a stupid joke which falls flat. She starts talking a couple of times, but she can’t get to the point. He reaches out and touches her hand in encouragement. That’s all it takes. They end up in her bed, yadda yadda yadda.

Through all of this there is no mention of the night before. There’s still no talk of the future. They leave together the next morning, but there is no repeat performance in her apartment before Mulder is abducted.

When the Shadow Man tells Scully he knows that one lonely night she invited Mulder to her bed, Scully realizes that he has in fact been watching, but she also realizes that there’s a limit to his knowledge. He doesn’t know that that wasn’t their first time, and he doesn’t know there were other times after that.

You’re My Sweetheart

I came up with this post-Babylon head canon between seasons 10 and 11 as way of leaving Mulder and Scully reconciled. I altered it just a bit in light of Plus One, but I still think it works. It’s what I want to believe anyway.

The case wrapped up, and Mulder invited Scully over for dinner. Things have felt more comfortable between them since they started working together again. They’re on their way back to being them. There’s still so much to work through, but they’re both feeling like they’ll get there. It seems natural to spend some time together after work, so he asks and she says yes.

He waits for her on the porch listening to some music. The Lumineers aren’t his typical choice, but there’s something about this song, on this day, that just speaks to him.

Scully arrives and they start right away with their banter, and it’s so familiar and so comforting. Underneath it there’s a sense of reconciliation, of understanding, of connection. This, whatever it is, is right. They belong with each other.

Mulder invites Scully to walk with him. This was always something they loved about being out in the country, away from prying eyes. It was something they could share even when she could venture out into the world and he couldn’t. Again, this feels right, it feels like them.

They’re speaking from the heart, and though they’re not yet talking about their relationship, in their own way they’re acknowledging it. Mulder hears music. Not the trumpets of angels. No, it’s that song again. “I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart.” If there was ever a song that summed up in a trite phrase how he felt about Scully, that was it. He’s a little embarrassed about that sappy thought, but then he doesn’t care. He just wants to enjoy this moment. She wraps her arms around him, and he knows she feels the same.

They wander back to the house and she stops at her car to get the bottle of wine she brought. Inside, dinner smells delicious, but Mulder tells Scully it still has to cook for about an hour. He takes the wine from Scully to open it. “So we could…” he starts. Scully shocks herself by blurting out “we’ll think of something.” That was their little joke when they were on the run, filling countless hours by exploring each other’s bodies. Mulder stills, looks at Scully. He doesn’t want to presume that was her intent, is willing to let the comment pass as just a slip of the tongue. But Scully realizes she doesn’t want to let it pass. This is exactly what she wants. She reaches for Mulder, and they kiss passionately. He leads her up the stairs.

After, they both understand without saying that there’s a lot more work to do on their relationship. This was wonderful, and it was right, but it was right now. It’s a step in the direction they both want to head, even if they’re not sure how or when they’ll take the next one.

What I Want To Believe

I want to believe that I can talk meaningfully about The X-Files in any situation, that I can find something to say about the show that’s relevant to any conversation. I recently put that belief to the test.

I’ve been part of a Bible study group for over 10 years. In that time my group has seen me become increasingly obsessed with The X-Files. These friends have learned that I can come up with an X-Files reference for almost every conversation (they have no idea how many times I’ve held back), and I’ve learned that the themes in the show are often particularly relevant to the discussions we have in our group. I’ve joked for a while that I could come up with an X-Files themed Bible study for us to do, and my group kept encouraging me to do it. So finally I decided to give it a try.

None of the other members of my group are X-Philes. A few are casual fans with some familiarity with the show, others have never seen a single episode. Instead of using clips from various episodes, which might require more knowledge of the show than my friends had, I chose to focus my study on I Want To Believe. I love the movie for what it shows us about Mulder and Scully at that time in their lives, but more importantly for this purpose, it’s a stand alone story which doesn’t require a vast amount of prior knowledge.

This is always the appropriate gif

I wrote a brief X-Files primer to get everyone up to speed. Then I wrote a series of discussion questions focusing on themes I saw in the movie: purpose, justice, forgiveness, and perseverance. My discussion questions are written from a Christian perspective, because that’s who I am and that was my audience, but I think those themes can be relevant to anyone regardless of belief and background. I got inspiration from John Kenneth Muir’s review of IWTB, We Want To Believe: Faith and Gospel in The X-Files by Amy Donaldson, and Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber.

I wanted some feedback before leading my group in this study, so I shared my study guide with a few people. I showed it to a pastor friend who knows nothing about The X-Files, an X-Phile friend who is not religious, an X-Phile friend who’s an expert on the Bible, and an X-Phile friend who’s an expert on the movie. I felt like that covered the bases! I incorporated their suggestions and felt very encouraged about my project.

Screencap from The X-Files Archive

Finally the big night arrived (there was a snow delay, and while a trek through the snow would have set the tone for the movie, it wasn’t worth the risky drive). I introduced the study by going through the primer and then asked if there were any questions before we started the movie. There was a bit of confusion: “wait I thought it was a TV show” and “was this actually shown in theaters?” Oops! Apparently my primer wasn’t quite thorough enough. I’ve revised it a bit in response.

The X-Files aired on television for nine regular seasons in its original run, from September 1993 through May 2002. There were two motion pictures, The X-Files: Fight the Future, which was released in June 1998 between seasons 5 and 6 of the show, and The X-Files: I Want To Believe, which was released in July 2008. The television series continued with two revival seasons, airing in 2016 (6 episodes) and 2018 (10 episodes).

The main characters of The X-Files are FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Mulder and Scully worked together on the X-Files, a unit investigating unsolved cases and paranormal phenomena. Mulder is an Oxford-educated psychologist recognized as a brilliant profiler who had a promising future at the FBI when he discovered the X-Files and managed to get assigned to them. He was the only agent working the X-Files until his superiors assigned Scully to work with him, expecting her to debunk his work so that the unit could be shut down. Scully is a medical doctor with a background in hard science, who was recruited out of medical school by the FBI. She’s also a Catholic who struggles with her faith.

Instead of finding reasons to shut down the X-Files, Scully helped Mulder keep them open, lending scientific credibility to the investigations. During most of their investigations Mulder was the believer in paranormal phenomena, while Scully was the skeptic who looked for scientific proof. They were sometimes seen as a bit of a joke because of the kind of cases they investigated, but their combination of knowledge, intuition, persistence, and integrity led them to solve cases no one else could.

One of the reasons Mulder wanted to work on the X-Files was to find his sister. She had been abducted from their home when she was 8 and he was 12, and Mulder came to believe she was abducted by aliens. Mulder finally learned what happened to her and gained some closure, but he has always been motivated by a desire to search for and save the lost.

There’s a huge storyline involving government/global conspiracy and aliens, which you don’t need to know about for this discussion. But both Mulder and Scully were often in grave danger as they worked to uncover the truth behind this conspiracy.

Mulder and Scully eventually developed a romantic relationship (it took 7 years to get there) and they had a son together (William). Scully had to give their son up for adoption to protect him at a time when Mulder was in hiding.

When Mulder came out of hiding he was placed on trial (not a real trial but a military/FBI trial, it was stupid) on a falsified murder charge and sentenced to death. His friends at the FBI helped him escape, and he and Scully went on the run.

I Want To Believe opens six years after Mulder and Scully disappeared. Scully is again working as a doctor, but Mulder, still technically a wanted man, is living as a recluse.

My X-Files Primer

After we cleared that up, one friend asked what it was I loved about the show. I really appreciated that question. It was a lovely reminder that we were doing this because this group of friends wanted to share something I was passionate about.

As we were watching the movie, though, it occurred to me that I Want To Believe doesn’t contain much of what I love about the show. The humor is there, and the chemistry between Mulder and Scully, both of which came across even to new viewers. But one aspect of the show I really love is that Mulder and Scully are working together as FBI agents to investigate cases within the system and to uncover the truth that goes beyond the system. The movie doesn’t show us that at all. So I found myself sort of defending my love of the show a bit and wishing I could get my group to watch Pusher or E.B.E. But the point was to lead an interesting discussion, not recruit new members to the fandom, and IWTB is much better suited to that.

Although the movie wasn’t to everyone’s liking, it was, as I suspected it would be, a great catalyst for discussion. I introduced topics using four quotes from the movie.

  • “There’s a question of credibility.” Scully can’t accept that Father Joe’s visions come from God, because of the crimes Father Joe has committed. She can’t trust him and can’t believe God would use him.
  • “Cursing God for all his cruelties.” Scully is troubled by the suffering of her young patient, for whom there doesn’t seem to be a cure. She’s equally troubled by Father Joe’s crimes and his attempts to atone for them. Mulder is concerned for the missing FBI agent and the other kidnapping victims. They can’t make sense of the pain and injustice.
  • “All is forgiven.” There’s nothing comfortable or easy about how this film portrays the central moral dilemma. The crimes Father Joe committed against the innocent are utterly monstrous, as Scully rightly points out. Father Joe knows that society will never forgive him, but wonders if God can do so.
  • “Don’t give up.” Father Joe’s exhortation to Scully can be applied to many aspects of the story: Mulder and Scully in their relationship, Scully in treating Christian, Mulder in searching for the missing agent, the villain in finding a way to save his husband, Father Joe in seeking forgiveness/redemption.

We discussed a series of questions on each topic. The movie manages to show different perspectives on themes relevant to the human condition, and it got us thinking and talking about relating to others with different experiences and beliefs. I think anything that gets us to look outside our own limited worldview, that can lead to greater understanding, compassion, and acceptance, is worth the effort. It thrills me that the show I love so much can be so relevant to these kinds of conversations.

I found this entire project very fulfilling. I’ve always enjoyed leading group discussions, but this was my first time writing the study guide. Being able to use that guide to lead a thoughtful discussion about challenging issues, set in the context of The X-Files was not only meaningful but also just plain fun. I felt honored that my group indulged me, encouraged me, and responded with enthusiasm.

it’s all about the random touch

I’ve been doing a complete rewatch of The X-Files, using a spreadsheet to track how often 57 specific details appear in each episode. I wrote about how and why I started the project here: I’ve finished the first three seasons, and I thought it was a good time to look at the data I’ve gathered and make some observations.

episode scores

I assign a score to every episode by counting one point for each of the details I find. I don’t track when a detail occurs more than once, because that just gets too difficult. The highest score in Season 1 is the Pilot, with 23 points. In fact, that remains the highest scoring episode in the first three seasons. I’m currently in the middle of Season 4 and I haven’t found an episode that scores higher. I’m still blown away by this fact: so many of the details we find iconic were present in the very first episode! Space and Roland both scored 3 points, the lowest for the season. The remaining episodes averaged about 10 points.

In Season 2 End Game, the first episode penned by Frank Spotnitz, takes the high score at 22 points. The lowest score is F. Emasculata, with 3 points. In between there’s a greater range of scores than in Season 1, from 4 to 17 points, but again the average score is 10 points.

Apocrypha scores the highest in Season 3, with 17 points. Three episodes come in a close second with 15 points each: Nisei, War of the Coprophages, and Grotesque. Hell Money scores the lowest, with 5 points. The average score of the remaining episodes is 8.5 points.

Okay, I’m boring myself with these numbers, so let’s talk about the good stuff.

iconic phrases

Scully doesn’t say “Mulder it’s me” even once in the first season, and Mulder says “Scully it’s me” only twice. This trope starts to take off in season 2, though, and we see Scully using it more often than Mulder. Mulder tends to start talking as soon as Scully answers the phone, whereas Scully will occasionally even say “Mulder it’s me” in person. If you throw in the number of times Mulder calls “Scullaayyy!” they’re about even.

agents in peril

I think the show often gets knocked for over-using the “Scully in peril” scenario, so I found the numbers very interesting. In Season 1 Mulder and Scully are each attacked 8 times, Scully saves Mulder 3 times, and Mulder saves Scully 3 times. Mulder is attacked more often than Scully in Season 2, 12 times to her 10, although her abduction is more significant than anything that happens to him in the season. Scully rescues Mulder twice, and he rescues her 4 times. And then in Season 3, Mulder is attacked 9 times and Scully only 3, and they save each other 1 time a piece. I’m just not seeing a trend that places one agent in danger over the other, although that could change moving forward.

clothing, places, and things

Mulder rolls up his sleeves so often that I get distressed in episodes where he wears a jacket or overcoat the whole time. I know he’s got to be uncomfortable! For Scully, there are quite a few episodes in Season 1 that show her in casual wear (10), usually while she’s writing reports in her apartment. As the show moves away from Scully voiceovers, though, we see less of Scully away from the office and therefore less of casual!Scully (5 times each in Seasons 2 and 3).

Aside from the basement office, we see Mulder and Scully most often in rental cars. I had to make a call in tracking this detail. In many episodes you can see the “Lariat” sticker on the car, and so that clearly counts. (Yes, I have been known to freeze the episode, take a screen cap, and enlarge, just to check for that “Lariat” sticker!) In other episodes we see them driving, but there’s no clear indication that the car is a rental. I count that detail if the case is far enough away from Washington D.C. that they wouldn’t have driven but not if they’re within driving distance of their office.

Flashlights appear too often to be interesting, and I’m almost sorry I included that detail in the spreadsheet. Although the count just solidifies why the flashlights make such an iconic image.

last, but not least, the touches

This category held some surprises for me as well. When I think of Mulder and Scully, I think of him placing his hand on her lower back as they walk out of a room or down a hall. I expect to see that in every scene, or at least every episode. So I was really kind of surprised how seldom that actually happens. It’s fairly common in Season 1, occurring in 13 episodes. But it happens only 6 times in Season 2 and only twice in Season 3!

But that’s okay, because we’ve got the random touch. This is by far my favorite detail to track because there are so many variations on this theme, from a shoulder grab, to an arm squeeze, to a cheek tap, and more. Mulder touches Scully, Scully touches Mulder, in almost every episode. These two are just really touchy, and I’m here for it. Moving into Season 4 and beyond, as their relationship grows, we’ll start to see some of the more personal touches, and those are wonderful too. But these little random touches, which often serve no purpose other than a quick connection, are really the heart of the show for me.

Here’s a link to my spreadsheet if you want to follow along:

And I tweet #randomtouch pictures almost daily, so check them out. On Twitter I’m CathyG@CatherineGlins2

The Spreadsheet

A couple of weeks ago I was watching D.P.O., when I noticed that Scully was wearing sunglasses. It occurred to me that we don’t see that very often, so I took this pic and posted it on Twitter, commenting about how unusual it was.

Scully wearing sunglasses, in D.P.O.

That started a discussion about the many recurring details in The X-Files, and a lot of folks chimed in about the ways they’ve tracked them. Some use a journal or their phones to jot down noteworthy details as they watch. Some look for recurrence of just one or two specific items. A few of us suggested that a spreadsheet would be an effective way to keep track of all this data, and I decided that was exactly what I needed for my next rewatch.

I should mention that I’ve never created a spreadsheet before in my life. My brain isn’t really wired for that kind of information organization, and my eyes typically glaze over when I come across charts and graphs. So I guess that’s why this seems like a pretty big deal for me and why I felt compelled to blog about it (writing about my experience comes much more naturally).

I began collecting details to include and got LOTS of suggestions. I had over a hundred items on my list! I knew I’d never be able to track that many details in a single viewing, so I had to narrow it down a bit. I took out details that were sufficiently tracked elsewhere, such as recurring characters, and others that occurred too often to be considered noteworthy, like Scully’s cross (although times that Scully wasn’t wearing her cross could be an interesting detail to track…). Since my goal was to create a list of items I could track while watching every episode without stopping to analyze each scene, I removed items such as facial expressions (Scully’s eyebrow lift and Mulder’s eyebrow wag, various lip/tongue activities), tone of voice, and innuendo, which would take a closer examination or were subject to interpretation.

I ended up with 56 details on my list. That’s a lot, I know, but they’re all easy enough to spot so I think it’s manageable. I grouped them into categories to make tracking easier as I watch. Here’s the list:

Mulder it’s me
Scully it’s me
Mulder voiceover
Scully voiceover
Mulder “Dana”
Scully “Fox”
Medical doctor
Spooky Mulder    
sunflower seeds
Mulder’s porn
green acid blood
Scully autopsy
Scully doesn’t see
Mulder profiling
Mulder is shot/attacked
Scully is shot/attacked
Mulder in hospital
Scully in hospital
Scully saves Mulder
Mulder saves Scully
Mulder sport
Mulder touch/taste evidence
Mulder cries
Scully cries
sharing umbrella
Mulder loses gun
slide show
Mulder ditch
Mulder’s rolled sleeves
Mulder sunglasses
Scully sunglasses
Scully’s robe/pjs
Mulder’s pjs/sweats
Mulder turtleneck
Scully turtleneck
Mulder leather jacket
Scully leather jacket
Mulder t-shirt
Scully casual wear
Mulder topless
Mulder shorts/boxers  
Platonic activity
hand on lower back
forehead touch
forehead kiss
hair touches
random touches
Mulder’s apartment
Scully’s apartment
basement office
rental car
parking garage  

I scored a few random episodes to test out the spreadsheet, and I was able to track everything pretty easily. Moreover, it was really, really fun to do (admittedly I don’t get out much). So I’ve started my complete rewatch. I’m about halfway through Season 1, and one initial observation I’ve made is that the two most commonly occurring details are “random touches” and “Mulder’s rolled sleeves”. That’s really no surprise. I mean Mulder touches Scully a lot. A lot a lot a lot. And Mulder’s rolled sleeves are almost as ubiquitous as Scully’s cross. In fact, that’s a difficult detail to track since it’s so common.

Random touch, in Shadows

Mulder’s rolled sleeves, in Deep Throat

I’ve also thought of some details I wish I’d included in the spreadsheet, such as “1013” or “1121”, Mulder telling Scully “always”, a call to Danny, a trip to the forest, anyone saying “I want to believe”, a scene in a cemetery, an Elvis reference, a scene in a stairwell, and a reference to cattle mutilation. I guess those will go in a spreadsheet for my next rewatch!

So what will I do with all this data once it’s collected? The possibilities are endless!!! First thing that comes to mind is creating episode- or season-specific drinking games. That’s always fun. And imagine being able to answer whether Scully saved Mulder more often than Mulder saved Scully, or whether Mulder really lost his gun often enough to justify the ankle holster, or whether there was ever an episode where they DIDN’T touch in some way. Seems like essential information for an obsessed Phile, so it’s high time I started collecting it!

I’ll post periodic updates and share observations as I go along. I might even make some predictions and then report on how accurate they were. My goal for Season 1 is to see whether these details can be used to pinpoint the moment Mulder and Scully went from being just professional colleagues to friends. I’m also interested in identifying any details that seem iconic but really don’t occur very often. I’ll let you know what I find out.

I’d love some feedback on this project, so if you have thoughts or suggestions please let me know, either here or on Twitter!

Here’s a link to the spreadsheet for anyone who wants to follow my progress:

What’s That Supposed to Mean?

Mulder and Scully have a history of speaking in riddles. Their words often don’t express what they’re really feeling, leaving us to ask one of Mulder’s favorite questions, “What’s that supposed to mean?” I find this an endearing quality for the most part. These are complicated characters, and it wouldn’t make sense if their innermost thoughts and feelings came pouring out of their mouths in a way that left no room for us, or them, to question what they mean. But sometimes I need a little more clarity. Sometimes I wish they would just come out and say what they really mean!

This feeling struck me the hardest after THAT SCENE in Plus One. You know which one I mean. The scene with a conversation that just seemed so off, so wrong, so confusing and unsatisfying but then led to a very satisfying reunion. So what did I miss? What were they really saying to each other? I actually had to sit down and translate the scene for myself to make any sense of it, focusing on their facial expressions and body language. And I found it helped. In fact it was really kind of cathartic. So I decided to give it a shot for some of their more enigmatic exchanges. I’ve chosen some lighter moments, just for a bit of fun. Maybe I’ll do an angstier version later.


What they said

Mulder: They’re out to put an end to the X-Files, Scully. I don’t know why, but any excuse will do. I don’t really care about my record, but you’d be in trouble just sitting in this car, and I’d hate to see you carry an official reprimand in your career file because of me.

Scully: Fox. …

Mulder: (chuckles) I, I even made my parents call me Mulder, so … Mulder.

Scully: Mulder, I wouldn’t put myself on the line for anybody but you.

Mulder: If there’s an iced tea in that bag, could be love.

What they meant

Mulder: I’d hate to see you carry an official reprimand in your career file because of me. I meant it when I said you could be head of the Bureau someday. I don’t want to stand in your way.

Scully: Our work is more important to me than any career advancement; you’re more important. I need to make you understand that, Fox …

Mulder: That look on your face is scaring me, so I’m going to back off a bit. I need to keep you at arm’s length for now because I may be getting too attached to you, and that won’t do you any good.

Scully: I don’t scare that easily MULDER. I need you to understand, so I’m going to be very clear. I wouldn’t put myself on the line for anybody but you.

Mulder: I’m a little overwhelmed by my feelings and your honesty, so I need to make a joke, but I hope you understand. Iced tea or not, it could be love.


What they said

Mulder: Scully, I love you.

Scully: Oh brother.

Mulder: *enigmatic smile*

What they meant

Mulder: I know this isn’t the best time, and maybe you’re not ready to hear it, but I can’t stand the thought that something could happen and I missed my chance to tell you. So you’re going to laugh this off or pretend you think I’m delirious, and that’s okay. You do what you need to do. But what I need to do right now, without waiting another minute, is tell you that I love you.

Scully: Now? You’re going to tell me that right now? When I don’t even know if you’re lucid? But that look on your face, the tone of your voice, I could almost believe you mean it…I’m not ready for this Mulder! I need to process, I need time to think. I…I…I’m not ready for this.

Mulder: *will be waiting when she’s ready*


What they said

Mulder: What are you gonna call him?

Scully: William, after your father.

Mulder: *meaningful look*

Scully: *soft smile*

Mulder: Well, I don’t know. He’s got your coloring and your eyes, but he looks suspiciously like Assistant Director Skinner.

*Both laugh softly*

Scully: I don’t understand Mulder. They came to take him from us, why they didn’t.

Mulder: I don’t quite understand that either, except that maybe he isn’t what they thought he was. That doesn’t make him any less of a miracle though, does it?

Scully: From the moment I became pregnant I feared the truth, about how, and why. And I know that you feared it too.

Mulder: I think that what we feared were the possibilities. The truth we both know.

Scully: Which is what?

Mulder: *Leans in to kiss Scully*

Mulder and Scully: *Kiss, softly at first but then digging in*

What they meant

Mulder: What are you gonna call him?

Scully: William. That should be sufficiently frustrating to those idiots at the Bureau betting on who’s the father, with all the Williams in both our families. But we’ll be sure anyone who needs to know understands he’s named after your father.

Mulder: *It’s up to you whether you want to tell anyone Scully. It always has been.*

Scully: *It’s been nice keeping this to ourselves, but we can let others in on the secret now.*

Mulder: I don’t know, he looks a little like Skinner. I wonder if anyone bet on him in the pool.

*Both chuckle softly. They’ve been joking about this for a while.*

Scully: I don’t understand Mulder. They came to take him from us, why they didn’t.

Mulder: I don’t quite understand that either, except that maybe he isn’t what they thought he was. That doesn’t make him any less of a miracle though, does it?

Scully: From the moment I became pregnant I feared the truth, about how, and why. And I know that you feared it too.

Mulder: We’d been told this wasn’t possible for us, and we’ve been through so much that we had to wonder how it happened. But in the end, that just doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is what we already know.

Scully: Which is what? I need a little more reassurance after all we’ve been through.

Mulder: *We love each other and we have a baby*

Mulder and Scully: *That’s our truth, and no one can take that from us.*

Plus One

What they said:

Scully: Can you hold me?

Mulder: Yeah, I can do that.

Scully: What’s gonna happen?

Mulder: What’s gonna happen when?

Scully: When we’re old.

Mulder: What do you mean “when”?

Scully: I mean, sooner or later we’re gonna retire, and …

Mulder: I’ll come push your wheelchair with my wheelchair.

Scully: *chuckles* That’s not what I mean.

Mulder: Oh I’ll always be around, Scully, offering bullet proof theories of genius that you fail to assail with your inadequate rationality.

Scully: And I’ll always be around to prove you wrong. No, but that’s not what I mean.

Mulder: What do you mean?

Scully: What if you meet someone? What if you meet someone younger who wants to have kids?

Mulder: Oh, that’s what you mean. Well…you could do the same. You could meet someone and have kids.

Scully: *laughs* That’s not gonna happen.

Mulder: That’s nonsense.

Scully: No it’s not. I’m at the end of that journey.

Mulder: Do you want to have more kids?

Scully: Well, I would have liked to have had another one.

Mulder: Mm. At the risk of sounding insensitive, what’s stopping you?

Scully: Mm…besides the fact that the first time was a miracle? And besides the fact that I don’t have anyone to have one with even if I could?

Mulder: You’re a woman of science.

Scully: *laughs* Mulder, sometimes I think the world is going to hell and we’re the only two people who can save it.

Mulder: The world is going to hell Scully, the president working to bring down the FBI along with it.

Scully: What if we lose our jobs?

Mulder: Yeah, then what would we do?

Scully: We’ll think of something.

What they meant:

Scully: What would you think if I told you I wanted to come back? I don’t just want to work with you; I want to be with you. Do you still see me that way?

Mulder: That’s what I’ve been waiting for. Are you sure that’s what you want?

Scully: We make sense together. I don’t want anyone else, I never have. I think I’m ready to start over with you.

Mulder: I’ll always be here Scully. It’s your move.

Scully: Let’s get it on.

World’s Best FBI Dad

Part 3 of the Father Figure series

Design from RainKnight on Redbubble

When I decided to write a series on Mulder’s father figures I knew immediately that I would include Walter Skinner. He is the World’s Best FBI Dad after all (credit goes to Karen@rainknight on Twitter for the moniker). I wrote the first two installments, on Deep Throat and Bill Mulder/CSM, knowing I would conclude the series with a piece about Skinner. But when it came time to write that piece, I was stumped. The idea which seemed such a natural follow up just wasn’t coming together. So I had to re-examine my previous assumption. Did Skinner and Mulder really have a father/son type of relationship?

The fact is, Walter Skinner is an enigma. Not just to us, but to Mulder and Scully as well. We know almost nothing about him. In one episode (Avatar) we find out he has a wife, his marriage is on the brink of ending, they appear to have some sort of reconciliation, he puts his wedding ring back on, and then … nothing. We never see or hear about Sharon Skinner again. And while we learn a little of Skinner’s backstory in One Breath, and it’s expanded upon in Kitten, that’s really all we know. As Scully comments in that latter episode, “even after all these years, we know precious little about Walter Sergei Skinner beyond the professional.”

The last time we see Sharon Skinner, in Avatar

I like to think that Skinner would have been Uncle Walter to William, and in fact we see a deeper connection between Scully and Skinner in Mulder’s absence, but I can’t imagine William growing up thinking of Skinner as Grandpa. Skinner is more that nice man who cares for you and your parents, who shows up on holidays or the to occasional dinner. He’s not the ever present family member, giving 5 dollar bills and unsolicited advice and telling tales from the past, that your father’s father would be.

Skinner’s interactions with Mulder are almost exclusively work related. The closest we get to a personal father/son type interaction is Triangle. Skinner is no longer Mulder’s supervisor at that point, and he’s risking his career to help Mulder (who is definitely not carrying out a work assignment) or even be seen with him. But he does help Mulder, and then he shows up in Mulder’s hospital room with flowers and an offer to kick Mulder’s butt but good. There’s clearly some affection and authority which goes beyond the work realm. Similarly in I Want to Believe, Scully calls on Skinner in his capacity as a bigwig at the FBI, but it’s the personal affection for Mulder that we see as Skinner cradles Mulder to keep him warm.

Mulder demonstrates similar affection in Requiem, when he’s sure the X-Files are being shut down and he invites “Walter” to “sit a spell,” and again in The Truth when he wants to greet that “big bald beautiful man” with a kiss. These are rare moments of friendly intimacy in an otherwise professional relationship.

That’s not to denigrate Skinner’s importance to Mulder. The little we know about Skinner’s background includes the fact that he joined the military as soon as he was old enough. During his time in the service his innate honor and integrity would have been honed to the point that he understood the value of protecting those you serve with. He carried those values with him to the FBI, where his fierce loyalty led him to put himself on the line for Mulder more than once. In Memento Mori he makes a deal with the devil himself (well, CSM) to save Scully’s life so that Mulder won’t have to.

Skinner makes a deal with CSM to save Scully, and Mulder, in Memento Mori

While Skinner and Mulder don’t have much of a personal relationship, Skinner still fills the role of father figure in some respects. Quite often Skinner’s interactions with Mulder in the course of their work take on a fatherly tone. He’s certainly an authority figure. He provides wisdom, guidance, and protection. The scene in Anasazi when Mulder takes a swing at Skinner strikes me as a great example of their on-the-job father/son dynamic. Skinner lets Mulder act out for a while but then reels him in when necessary. When Mulder lashes out, Skinner puts a stop to it but doesn’t hurt him in the process.

Skinner putting Mulder in his place in Anasazi

On the job, Skinner tends to treat Mulder as a father would a son, and Mulder responds to him the way a son would a father. Skinner is on Mulder’s side, and Mulder (almost always) recognizes that, even when he defies protocol or direct orders to get what he wants. In Redux II, although Scully’s almost sure Skinner is working against them and has been from the start, Mulder doesn’t believe that. He trusts Skinner to take care of him, even though he knows Skinner has evidence which could convict him. And, as we see, Mulder’s trust is well-placed. Blevins is the Syndicate’s inside man; Skinner is just trying to help Mulder find the truth.

Mulder’s faith in Skinner proves to be justified in Redux II

This father/son dynamic doesn’t seem to exist outside of work, however. Whereas we saw Mulder seeking a personal connection with Deep Throat, wishing they could take in a ball game together, I think Mulder is always aware that Skinner is his boss, and that keeps their relationship from getting overly personal, despite the affection they feel for each other.

I can’t say Skinner is a true father figure to Mulder. But in the realm of their interactions, he’s certainly the World’s Best FBI Dad. So in his honor, I’ve made him a Father’s Day card, in traditional grade school acrostic format:

World’s Best FBI Dad

Assistant Director for life




Role Model

Skinner, still dealing with Mulder’s antics, in Babylon

Skinman…but don’t call him that

Kickass defender






Who’s Your Daddy?

Part 2 of the Father Figure series

In this installment I take a look at the two men who claim to be Mulder’s biological father: Bill Mulder and the CSM. What, if anything, did they give him besides DNA? How did their presence in Mulder’s life impact the man he became?

Bill Mulder

Colony opens with a voice-over from Mulder in which he talks about the risks he takes in pursuing the truth about his sister. Once he and Scully start investigating the deaths of identical doctors, they have an argument about the costs of pursing the case, the risks they are taking. Scully asks Mulder whatever happened to Trust No One (the advice Deep Throat gave them as he died)? Mulder quips, “I changed it to Trust Everyone, I didn’t tell you?” This is a cute line, but it’s really very true. Like a neglected child so starved for affection that he lacks appropriate boundaries, Mulder will follow just about anyone. But why? Why is Mulder willing to take these risks, to pay this price?

Enter Bill Mulder. Cold, distant, judgmental Bill Mulder, who deflects Mulder’s attempt to hug him, who withholds any sense of approval by making sure Mulder knows it was his mother who wanted him there. We start to understand Mulder’s motivation for risking everything to find the truth. He’s trying to prove to his father, and to himself, that he’s worthy of love. He wants to make up for something that wasn’t his fault. And Bill Mulder lets him struggle and condemn himself.

After Mulder trades the Samantha clone for Scully in End Game, Mulder has to tell his father what happened. It’s clear what he fears most is rejection, and that’s exactly what he receives. Mulder can’t even face Bill when he says he lost Samantha. Bill responds not with compassion but with a show of authority, demanding that Mulder consider what this will do to his mother. He leaves in disgust, as Mulder falls apart. Even if we don’t yet know the level of Bill’s involvement with Samantha’s abduction, his action here is unpardonable. We see that he long ago rejected Mulder, shifting the blame for the family’s destruction to him. Contrast this with the very next scene, in which Scully tells Mulder he can’t blame himself, and we see just how lacking the relationship between Mulder and his father is. This sort of comfort should have come naturally from father to son. We see that Mulder can go to Skinner, Scully, and X for help, but not to his father. Instead, he again risks his life to try to earn back his father’s love.

As the series continues and we get more glimpses into Mulder’s family of origin, we get the impression that Bill was a good provider in a financial sense. The family had a nice home, they had a summer house. There were some changes after Bill and Teena divorced, but Mulder was probably never left wanting, materially.

We also learn that Bill gave Mulder a sense of security. In Aubrey Mulder tells Scully that he used to have nightmares that he was the only person left in the world, but when he was lying in his bed terrified he would hear his father in his study cracking sunflower seeds. That provided the sense of reassurance Mulder needed, that he wasn’t alone. We also know Mulder has fond memories of sharing activities with Bill. He talks about being in Indian Guides with him in Detour. So, at least until Samantha’s abduction, there was nurture and warmth.

But there were also secrets. There was abuse. In Mulder’s flashback in Demons he sees his parents fighting. They’re both yelling, and Bill gets physical with Teena. Even at that young age Mulder takes it upon himself to protect Samantha.

In Travelers we learn that Mulder and Bill are estranged. There had to be a point where young Mulder rebelled against the strict authoritarian his father had become, the man who made him feel he was to blame for the family’s losses. Because their relationship was dysfunctional, the reconciliation that often comes as a child matures to adulthood was missing, and it was easier to avoid each other.

At the end of his life, Bill Mulder has regrets. Not just about his part in the Conspiracy, but about how he let it impact his relationship with his son. His desire to protect Mulder resurfaces after a confrontation with CSM in Anasazi, and he seeks assurance that CSM won’t harm Mulder. Despite CSM’s threats, Bill calls Mulder, seeking reconciliation, forgiveness, absolution. It’s telling that Mulder drops everything and comes when his father calls, and doing so saves his life, as he’s not in his apartment when a shot is fired through the window. Mulder’s quest to prove himself worthy had him on a path toward destruction, and some fatherly guidance, love, concern provided the necessary course correction.

When Mulder arrives Bill hugs him, the reverse of the situation we saw in Colony. Bill tries to make amends for the past. He starts by offering excuses (it was so complicated then, the choices that had to be made), but then he praises Mulder, assures him he’s smarter than Bill was, he’s his own person. Before he’s able to give Mulder any concrete information, though, he’s shot. With his final breath, he asks Mulder to forgive him. I think Mulder does so immediately. He still needs to find the truth, but he has no desire to hold the past against his father.

We see Bill Mulder once more in The Blessing Way. Bill tells Mulder in his vision/visitation that he is ashamed of the choices he made when Mulder was a boy. He thought he could bury the truth, but now he needs Mulder to uncover it. Bill is shifting the burden to Mulder to set right his wrongs, just as Deep Throat did in EBE. This is the family legacy, Mulder’s destiny regardless of who is playing the role of father, and he gets assurance that he will find the truth if he goes forward.

It seems clear that Bill Mulder saw himself as Mulder’s father. He doesn’t appear to be aware of the possibility that CSM is Mulder’s biological father (he calls Mulder the life to which I gave life in Blessing Way). But regardless of biology, he raised Mulder and provided for him, he loved and nurtured and comforted him, at least for a time. He abdicated his responsibilities when his decisions tore the family apart, doing damage to their relationship and Mulder’s psyche. There was damage, but not destruction. In the end, Bill Mulder sought and received forgiveness. Moving forward, Mulder focused on the good memories whenever possible, while trying to uncover and understand the truth.


I can’t really write about Mulder’s father figures without discussing CSM. I’m going to keep it brief though, because of all the various roles CSM plays (arch-nemesis, super villain, evil incarnate) the role of “father” is the least convincing. He demonstrates some characteristics of a father, but only on the surface. He’s presented more as a contrast to the other father figures in Mulder’s life.

From the start we see CSM as a vaguely menacing figure. We don’t know much about him, but we can see he’s in a position of authority. Mulder’s not working directly for him, but CSM seems to be calling the shots. In Erlenmeyer Flask, CSM ends up with the alien fetus Scully retrieved to exchange for Mulder, and we understand that he orchestrated Mulder’s kidnapping in the first place. While both Deep Throat and CSM are using Mulder for their own agendas, CSM is ruthless, rather than benevolent.

Skinner provides another contrast. He’s Mulder’s direct supervisor, and he doesn’t hesitate to reign Mulder in and redirect him when necessary. But when he does so it’s understood that he’s acting for Mulder’s own good, or at the very least for the good of the FBI. Time and again Skinner puts his neck on the line to protect Mulder and his search for the truth. CSM seeks to control Mulder as well, to guide him and his work. In Little Green Men we find out he’s been bugging Mulder’s phone, and in Sleepless we learn he’s using Krycek to control Mulder. CSM ostensibly protects Mulder, making the argument that to kill Mulder would risk turning his religion into a crusade. But it’s not fatherly devotion that motivates him. Unlike Skinner, CSM is only trying to further his own ends. He’s using Mulder, plain and simple.

Like Bill Mulder, CSM claims to be Mulder’s biological father, but we know that whatever sense of familial affection he claims to have for Mulder, it isn’t reciprocated. Regardless of any biological connection, Mulder will never see CSM as a father. As starved as Mulder is for paternal affection, he is able to see through CSM’s manipulations. CSM has shown repeatedly (in Duane Barry, Anasazi, Wetwired, One Son, Amor Fati, En Ami, and The Truth for example) that he will deceive and betray Mulder, culminating in their final scene together in My Struggle IV. In the ultimate act of betrayal, CSM shoots the man he claims is his son. Where in the end Bill Mulder was willing to lay down his life to lead Mulder to the truth, CSM shows his true colors by attempting to end Mulder’s life to keep the truth hidden. While Mulder forgives the father who raised him, he kills the father who betrayed him.