Unresolved sexual tension is the lifeblood of TV. It’s one of the best ways to make your audience invest, and one of the best shows to ever do it was The X-Files. This week marks the 20th anniversary of The X-Files: Fight the Future, so in honor of Mulder and Scully, the king and queen of nonplatonic coworkers, we’re counting down their best ‘shipper moments in the original series and first film.
11. “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas”
What could be more romantic than a Christmas episode of The X-Files that sends Mulder and Scully on a ghost hunt in a haunted house, where the two ghosts who inhabit said house killed each other in a lover’s pact? This episode is hilarious and full of moments where the ghosts (played by the hysterical Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin) point out how much Mulder and Scully need each other. After Mulder and Scully have seemingly killed each other, the partners escape in the nick of time, and the episode ends with a poignant gift exchange. Christmas is full of twisted love, and this episode proves Mulder and Scully have plenty for each other.
10. Mulder and Scully’s first kiss in “Millennium”
I’m going to say it: Mulder and Scully’s actual, canonical, first kiss is underwhelming. For the years of simmering tension, the actual payoff of a pre-Y2K kiss is chaste and passionless. I was hoping for so much more, which is pretty indicative of how The X-Files handles the entire notion of Mulder and Scully having a romantic relationship. But the kiss is in fact a real kiss, so it still counts. And it’s New Years Eve, which invokes another classic kiss. Also, let me take this space to say that Mulder and Scully took *seven* network TV seasons to get an actual kiss, so if your OTP from a new show hasn’t kissed yet, take a seat.
9. Baseball in “The Unnatural”
David Duchovny wrote and directed a later season episode about an alien who wanted to play baseball, all an elaborate setup for the end scene of the episode, where Mulder is at a batting cage. He takes it upon himself to show Scully how to bat properly, and she slips into his arms perfectly. The whole scene screams first date, but Mulder and Scully look way too comfortable for a first date. Because they are partners for life, in all aspects, professional and romantic. It is decided.
8. The hair brush in “all things”
In an episode written and directed by Gillian Anderson, there is an implication that Mulder and Scully spend the night together. We never actually see this, or any real evidence of this, but the implication of Mulder asleep in Scully’s bed in the beginning of the episode seems to paint a picture. However, the episode is all about fate, timing, and healing–Scully has a sort of religious vision–which may throw the opening of the episode into question. Either way, the episode ends with Mulder and Scully, talking on Mulder’s couch. Scully falls asleep mid-sentence, and Mulder gently brushes her hair out of her face and covers her with a blanket. My heart is swelling.
In “Arcadia,” Mulder and Scully pose as a married couple who move into a suburban development.*Stefon voice* This episode has everything: Mulder calling Scully “honey bunch” and Scully calling Mulder “poopy head,” Mulder patting a spot next to him on the bed for Scully to get in, Mulder suggested he and Scully start working on their honeymoon video. It is a hot and cute episode, and fuels the shipper fire, with a side of domesticity.
6. The “Walking in Memphis” dance
“Post Modern Prometheus” is considered one of the best episodes of The X-Files for many reasons: the black-and-white format, the subversion of a classic Frankenstein story, a Cher impersonator, kooky side characters, and it includes one of my all time favorite X-Files moments. After the case has been solved and the story has ended, Mulder and Scully take the lonely Frankenstein’s monster to see his idol, Cher, in concert. While he celebrates, Mulder and Scully smile at each other. Mulder stands and offers Scully his hand. The pair share a brief dance under the lights, and the vibe is well more than platonic.
5. “You’re my one in five billion.”
Another classic entry on this list is when Mulder investigates an office building under attack by some bug creature. The details of the episode don’t really matter, as the most significant moment comes when Mulder is in the hospital, pleading with Scully to believe him. “You’re my one in five billion,” Mulder proclaims, echoing a common thread across X-Files continuity: that it was fate Mulder and Scully end up as partners. It’s a sentimental moment played for humor, and it totally fits the duo.
4. “Triangle” kiss + “I love you”
Ok, so this one might not actually count, as it is in an alternate Bermuda triangle-esque wormhole. When Mulder wakes up aboard a German luxury liner opposite World War 2 era versions of themselves, he teams up with Scully’s OSS doppelganger, because of course, even in a time warp, Mulder and Scully always find each other. Alt-Scully confronts Mulder, and he pulls her in for a kiss. She responds in kind with a mean right hook – a reminder that this isn’t Scully! It’s a twisted form of ‘shipper fulfillment, seeing David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson lock lips. The kicker comes at the end of the episode, when Mulder wakes up from his Wizard of Oz sea-induced coma, when he tells Scully he loves her for the first time. She rolls her eyes in response. Swoon!
3. Hands and eye contact in “Pusher”
“Pusher” offers one of the series most complex monsters, Robert Patrick Modell, who can push people with his mind. Modell tests Mulder and believes he’s found his match, and it’s all up Scully to pull Mulder back to reality. Near the episode’s end, Mulder is wired up with a camera and microphone under his bulletproof vest, and Scully and Mulder hold hands and stare into each other’s eyes with so much intensity, I need to look away.
2. Forehead kiss in “Memento Mori”
One of the most fulfilling aspects of Mulder and Scully’s relationship is the mutual respect and support they have for each other. When Scully has cancer in Season 4’s “Memento Mori,” Mulder is at the hospital with flowers and open arms. He gives her a forehead kiss that is extremely tender.
1. The almost kiss, The X-Files: Fight the Future
Is it hyperbole to call this the greatest acted scene in modern cinema? Probably. But it’s not hyperbole to describe it as one of the most sexually charged and intense scenes in all of X-Files. The face holding. The tears. The eye contact. The slow push in, only to be stopped pretty much AT EACH OTHER’S LIPS by a bee. I want to hate on that bee so badly, but BEES ARE DYING AT AN ALARMING RATE. Instead, I’ll turn my anger to the X-Files writers, who knew exactly what they were doing with that moment. This moment encapsulates what I love about Mulder and Scully’s dynamic: they love each other so much, but work and life and death is constantly getting in the way.
Also, I’d like to give a special shoutout to the bloopers from the film where Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny kiss, for real.
So happy twentieth birthday to the best almost kiss in Mulder and Scully history! I’m sure it doesn’t come close to the many, many times they’ve kissed in fan fiction across the internet. Now that The X-Files is all but officially over, I hope that Mulder and Scully can love each other forever, with no Smoking Man (or bad, retconning Smoking Man subplots) in sight.
What are your favorite Mulder/Scully moments? Are you a classic ‘shipper? And what did you think of the X-Files revival? Let’s discuss!