So. I’ve been sick for, like, a week. Not dying, but pretty out of it. And in that time I’ve been watching a lot of X-Files episodes - some of which I haven’t seen in close to fifteen years. Which is really fun! But has also made me realize a couple of things.
1. I identified more strongly with Mulder when I was a teenager. Probably because I had a crush on him. But, as an adult, I find that it’s Scully whose side I’m always taking. It used to really frustrate me that she never believed Mulder, even after everything. But now? I realize that Mulder is quantifiably insane. His first conclusion is always ”time travel!” or “alien abduction!” or “vampire sex-bunnies!” It is no wonder that Scully’s such a stubborn rationalist, when her professional life is defined by a constant barrage of National Enquirer headlines. I would be, too.
2. My mom, herself an academic and medical professional, used to like The X-Files for a single reason: Scully dresses like a professional, in fitted but not skin-tight, super-short outfits. (Well, she thought Duchovny was hot, too.) Now, as an adult, I find I appreciate this, as well. Scully does trot around in too-high heels, but I’m willing to forgive that, considering the fact that Anderson is something like a foot shorter than Duchovny.
3. The calibre of acting on the show is really, really good. Anderson and Duchovny are amazing, absolutely, but so is almost everyone else - unlike a lot of shows, which depend too much on hot guest actors, The X-Files worked hard to rock its “ordinary folk in extraordinary situations” vibe and, I presume, cast actors based on ability first. Even weak episodes aren’t totally unwatchable, the way some weaker episodes of other shows are, because the acting is dependably good.
4. The show is funny. Like, really funny. And I don’t just mean the funny episodes, like “Bad Blood” - I mean that most episodes have a humorous moment or two in them, usually moments that reaffirm the connection between Mulder and Scully. It’s… refreshingly normal. And really helps counteract the theme of my next point…
5. That the show is really dark. I don’t know to what degree I appreciated that as a teenager, but as an adult - wow. I don’t just mean that it’s physically dark (which it is), or that lots of dark things happen (though they do). And I don’t mean only that it’s really gross. Which it undeniably is. But the show’s themes are really dark: conspiracy, isolation, paranoia, loneliness. The fear of being always alone.
6. All of which contributes to the heart of the show, and the reason it never quite found its footing after Duchovny left: it’s them. It’s about them, and their connection. Their relationship is messy, and complicated, and occasionally dysfunctional, but its profoundly meaningful. They’re partners, in a real and sincere way - beyond the will they/won’t they dance. The show is about the two of them realizing that the sum of their relationship is greater than its parts. That it’s the light in the darkness. That, at the end of the day, it is the truth they seek.
7. And a last thing: the show is smart. Scully and Mulder are smart. Even brilliant. This isn’t to say they’re not limited, because they are, each in his or her own way - that’s part of the show’s central conflict. But they’re not dumb. And man, I really like that.