A time traveler is sent back in time to 1997 with one mission: Infiltrate the The X-Files writers room to make sure Agent Dana Scully and Agent Fox Mulder do not, under any circumstances, allow their slow-boiling, series-long sexual tension develop into a full-blown relationship.
You know about this time traveler. You have the power to stop him. But you also have the power to let it happen, to ensure that Scully and Mulder never consummate their will-they-won’t-they relationship.
After last night’s season premiere (the second part of which airs tonight), I hope we can all agree on the correct choice: Let the time traveler alter the course of TV history so that Scully and Mulder remain forever in a charged but totally platonic relationship.
Now, before you send a horse’s head to my mother’s house or something, I understand that Scully + Mulder were shipped before shipping was a thing. And I get it. They were a wildly attractive couple: Dana Scully with her ‘90s-babe fluffy red hair and Fox Mulder with his slightly antisocial scruff. Their diametrically opposed personality types clashed and complemented each other perfectly. Scully was pragmatic, shrewd, assertive, and smart; Mulder was sardonic, impulsive, willing to believe. The chemistry was out of this world (alien stuff, get it). Their relationship gave us endless barbs, banter, verbal foreplay, and pure moments, like Mulder telling Scully, “You’re my one in 5 billion,” in “Foile a Deux” (season five, episode 19).
The new season finds Scully and Mulder broken up: divorced after nine seasons, 23 years, two movies, a marriage, and a son. Mulder is in the throes of a deep post-divorce, post-career depression. The two don’t really speak. When they’re thrown back together in this episode it’s less sparky and more “trying to start a fire with some damp, mossy wood in a foggy climate.” They are basically that couple in your friend group whose breakup was so awful to watch that you wish they’d never gotten together in the first place.
The best part of Scully and Mulder was how their chemistry fueled their professional dynamic. Watching them work a case together was better than regular porn — it was mind porn. They never needed to become an official couple for their work life to be that fun to watch. But they did get together. And then they broke up. And now instead of two co-workers sparking all over each other, trying to figure out if the Truth Is Out There, we have a dull and beleaguered show about two exes learning how to tolerate each other and working out some lingering marital issues.
Now, Scully — once no-bullshit and brave — has the air of an exasperated ex-wife. In 2016, Mulder, steamy Fox Mulder, is a man-child husband who will never change. Their banter has given way to earnest lines like “I still care about you,” and speeches that feel like rehashed arguments from couples therapy. When Scully passionately says “You want to believe, Mulder” while trying to talk him down from investigating some conspiracy, it sounds like the same speech she’s been giving for 15 years, one that ends “AND I hate your mother AND you never turn off the freaking light before you come to bed. “
This will not do. While many out there might secretly hope to have a Scully and Mulder to ship again, let’s hope all further episodes of The X-Files reboot restore the couple to their former glory and make sure they never ever get back together.