Relationship: Fox Mulder and Dana Scully (a.k.a. Mulder/Scully, MSR)
Fandom: The X-Files (TV series, 1993-2018)
Where to Watch: Hulu, YouTube TV, Amazon Prime
Time Investment: 217 (one-hour) episodes over 11 seasons, plus 2 feature films
Recommended for: Masochists who can bear the unceasing pleasure/pain of an epic, decades-long romance between a pair of FBI partners and soulmates.
Spoiler warning: As the headline promises, this article describes some of the most romantic Mulder/Scully moments in The X-Files. Back away now if you’re still catching up and want to be surprised.
No matter how many days, months, or even years it’s been since I last treated myself to an episode of The X-Files, as soon as I queue one up and hit “Play,” I’m sucked right back into an all-consuming maelstrom of Mulder/Scully feels. Then only a full-on rewatch—supplemented by a steady supply of fic, vids, gifs, and meta—will do. My automatic response to seeing them on screen again is why they’re my all-time favorite OTP (one true pairing).
In fact, I would probably go so far as to say they’ve ruined me for all other TV romances. After all, the iconic duo have been together in some form or another (even they probably couldn’t tell you when they made the subtle switch from partners to partners in every sense of the word) for more than 25 years at this point, yet I’m still just as invested in their relationship status as ever. What other television romance has played out as beautifully and been allowed to flourish as long?
The series hints that Scully will never die, but I have to say I firmly believe it’s the Mulder/Scully relationship—with its unwavering trust, unbreakable bond, and unconditional love—that is actually immortal. There’s no Scully without Mulder, and vice versa. If there’s one thing I don’t doubt, it’s that those two wouldn’t have it any other way.
And so, without further ado, I present to you my MSR (Mulder/Scully Romance) magnum opus, 21 Times Mulder/Scully Ruined Me for All Other TV Romances:
#21: Cuddling in Season 7’s “Requiem”
Originally developed as a potential series finale (long story), Season 7’s “Requiem,” naturally featured some big moments. Closest to my heart is probably the way Scully goes to Mulder’s hotel room (WHY are they still keeping separate rooms?) for comfort when she feels sick and can’t get warm. He immediately welcomes her in and tucks her into bed before carefully folding himself around her (for the body heat, okay!!). Scully initially seems caught off-guard by this naked display of affection, but quickly settles in. For his part, Mulder seems 100% at home, finally.
#20: Scully grabbing Mulder’s hand in Season 3’s “Pusher”
Spontaneous, unscripted touches are part of Mulder/Scully legend by now, with good reason. (That Gillovny chemistry tho!) While Dana Scully is reserved with 95% of the people in her life, Fox Mulder has been the exception to her rule since 1993. (Remember how, during their very first case, she hugged him for confirming the bumps on her back were only mosquito bites? Classic.)
She proves it just a little bit more in the last scene of “Pusher” in Season 3. Protective instincts set to overdrive after their near-fatal encounter with psychic baddie Robert Patrick Modell, Scully searches out her partner’s hand for a quick, reassuring squeeze. (As you do! Totally Platonic and Professional, nothing to see here…) She then proceeds to tells him she’s not going to let Modell take up any more of their time. Pretty sure that’s their first instance of hand-holding, but far from their last. Awww.
#19: First(??) kiss in Season 7’s “Millennium”
The jury’s out on whether this is actually a first kiss—I go back and forth on it, myself. In any case, Mulder and Scully’s first on-screen meeting of minds and mouths was a long time coming and very, very welcome. The New Year-inspired lip-lock itself is pretty tame, but the way they look at each other afterwards melts the heart. Mulder’s wonderful post-kiss line “The world didn’t end,” which can also be read several different ways, is merely the icing on the cake.
#18: That time Mulder and Scully went to the movies in Season 7’s “Hollywood A.D.”
We hardly ever get to see the agents unwind, let alone together, so their Season 7 trip to Hollywood for the premiere of a film based on their lives is a true gift. (Let’s all say “Thank you, David Duchovny!”) The agents dress up in fancy evening wear, eat popcorn, and flirt like whoa. But the best part is when they walk off into the sunset hand-in-hand, still laughing at the idea of Scully being in love with Skinner like the film suggests. No doubt they’re about to give their boss’s Bureau credit card a workout on a romantic dinner and honeymoon suite.
#17: “You’re my one in five billion” in Season 5’s “Folie a Deux”
I don’t need “I love you” from Mulder and Scully because the sentiment’s in everything they do. That said, I’ll never turn down hearing Mulder actually use his words to call Scully his “one in five billion.” I mean, come on. Gold! Almost as important is when he tells her: “Scully, you *have* to believe me. Nobody else on this whole damn planet does, or ever will.”
The man will take absolutely any opportunity reaffirm their bond (see #15 below). Meanwhile, his soulmate likes to pretend she’s not charmed by him, even though she totally is, every time.
#16: “I owe you everything, Scully, and you owe me nothing” in The X-Files: Fight the Future
What could get Agent Scully to change her mind about quitting the FBI? Only a plea from her partner and best friend. And boy does Mulder play dirty, telling her that she MADE HIM A WHOLE PERSON (!!!) and that he doesn’t know if he wants to or even could continue his life’s work without her. No pressure! If they didn’t BOTH exhibit an unhealthy need for each other on a regular basis, this would be uncomfortable to watch. Let’s be real, though—Scully would’ve lost her mind without him in a matter of days. She was never going anywhere he couldn’t follow.
BONUS: There’s a deleted scene on the Fight the Future Blu-ray where that pesky bee never interrupts them. If you have not yet seen it, this Mulder/Scully kiss will blow your mind.
#15: Exchanging vows in Season 7’s “The Sixth Extinction, Part II: Amor Fati”
Okay, so they don’t literally exchange vows, nor do they need to, but this conversation after Scully rescues her man from unwilling brain surgery is a watershed moment. It’s arguably the closest Mulder and Scully ever come to bothering to even trying to describe the indescribable scope of their feelings for one other.
Mulder: “You were my friend and you told me the truth… Even when the world was falling apart, you were my constant. My touchstone.”
Scully: “And you are mine.”
Cue the tears! No, but seriously, this point in Mulder and Scully’s relationship ranks high up there in my this-is-totally-when-they-started-sleeping-together list of potential consummation dates. (What?! Figuring that out, definitively, is Very Important!)
#14: Scratchy beard scene in The X-Files: I Want to Believe
TXF2 is far from a perfect film, but I’ll defend its place in the canon ’til my last breath for this domestic fluff scene alone. Six years after the events of the series finds them together, obviously. The happy surprise is that they’re officially sharing a home, and a bed. Living like a coupla old marrieds must agree with them, because they’re just as magnetic together as they were before their UST became RST.
Unable to fall asleep one night, they end up discussing everything from Scully’s guilt over giving William up for adoption to her new patient to…the size of Mulder’s package??? Yep, they’ve got jokes! And Mulder’s got game. The way Scully giggles and tries to squirm away when Mulder rubs his “scratchy beard” against her is positively delightful. So is the tiny kiss he bestows on her neck just after. Swoon.
#13: Scully breaks down in Mulder’s arms in Season 2’s “Irresistible”
The Donnie Pfaster case gets to our tough-as-nails Agent Scully from the start. Her horror at the brutality of his victims’ deaths, layered on top of stress from her own recent abduction, makes her doubt herself and her place in the FBI. During a session with a Bureau psychologist, Scully confesses that while she trusts Mulder with her life, she finds she cannot share this with him for fear he’ll treat her differently. But what she seems to understand by the end of the episode—as she finally, finally allows herself to cry and take comfort in Mulder’s arms—is that he’ll never, ever see her anything less than his equal. Furthermore, he wants to help carry her emotional burdens as well as to watch her back. This hug marks a huge turning point in their early-days relationship, is what I’m saying.
#12: Scully wants to “remember how it all was” in Season 11’s “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat.”
Is The X-Files revival (a.k.a. Seasons 10 and 11) disappointing overall? Undoubtedly. Do I wish I could un-see “My Struggle” parts I, II, III, and IV? I sure do. None of that lessens my gratitude for a few more hours with my loves, though, or the reminder that they’re still out there, doing their thing. Plus, hey, several of the casefile episodes are good and a few are downright fantastic, not least because they prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that Mulder and Scully’s magic will never fade.
In writer/director Darin Morgan’s superb “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat,” the agents are forced to reckon with the subjective nature of memory, reality, and possibly even Truth itself. Scully comes away from the case with a whole new appreciation for her life with Mulder, built as it is on a foundation of shared experiences she wouldn’t trade for anything. It doesn’t fully hit her, though, until she’s sitting next to him on the couch, a Bigfoot-shaped pan of Jello on the coffee table before them. Just like she doesn’t want to face the possibility that the brand of dessert she loved as a child doesn’t taste the same now, Scully realizes that she doesn’t want anything to change the way she views her history with Mulder either. “I want to remember how it was,” she tells him, putting down her spoon without taking a single bite. “I want to remember how it all was.”
Longtime X-Philes know exactly what she means, and that’s why this touching nod to fans’ nostalgia for the show and this pairing works so beautifully. Is this…is this what contentment feels like?!
#11: Mulder and Scully cling together in Season 4’s “Memento Mori”
If you enjoy gut-wrenching angst, the cancer arc of Seasons 4 and 5 is probably right up your… Oh, who am I kidding? We’re all angst whores here, right?! Look, hurt-comfort is a shipping staple, and this storyline gave MSR fans sustenance for years. Years! Still does, really. Why? Well, I don’t know, maybe because she calls him and only him when she gets the diagnosis, and he goes berserk when she’s in the hospital and he can’t get to her? Or because he sobs at her bedside, and she insists on taking a murder rap for him before she died? Or maybe it’s because he won’t stop until he finds a cure, and when he does just that, she believes in him enough to try it, despite the ridicule from her family. All I know for sure is that the hug they share when Scully decides to return to work and keep fighting by his side SENDS ME.
#10: Protective!Mulder in Season 7’s “Requiem”
There aren’t a lot of examples of Mulder getting protective of Scully, with good reason: He knows she can take care of herself, and respects that. It’s part of why Scully loves him so much. But I’m weak and turn into a puddle every time I watch this particular hallway scene, in which Mulder begs Scully to go home in the middle of a case:
“Scully, you have to understand: They’re taking abductees. You’re an abductee. I’m not gonna risk…losing you.”
For a guy who once thought finding his sister was the only thing that mattered in life, Fox William Mulder has come a long way. And most of the credit for this growth must go to the woman who was once sent to debunk his work. This exchange and the hug that follows (in the halls of the J. Edgar Hoover Building where anyone they know could walk by, no less—Mr. and Mrs. Spooky, indeed) illustrate exactly how far they’ve come in seven years. Basically, it says everything that doesn’t need to be said about what they mean to each other.
#9: Mulder sits vigil with Scully in Season 10’s “Home Again”
Maggie Scully didn’t fully understand her daughter’s unconventional relationship with her FBI partner. What outsider could? That said, she seemed to perceive and accept that Dana wouldn’t be happy with anyone else. Unlike Bill Scully, who blamed Mulder for Dana’s abduction and cancer (not to mention their sister Missy’s death), Maggie welcomed “Fox” into the family. She saw how wrecked he was by Dana’s disappearance in Season 2, and they bonded over their shared grief at nearly losing her for good.
The lasting connection between the three of them is evident in “Home Again,” in which Scully rushes to her mom’s hospital bedside after learning she’s suffered a stroke. Mulder joins Scully as soon as he can break away from their case; he’s already standing at the doors to the ICU by the time she picks up the phone to hear him say “I’m here.” Then something really amazing happens, something that a younger, more frenetic Mulder struggled to do—he stays.
Mulder’s there to brace Scully as her mom’s taken off life support. He’s there to reminisce with her as they keep vigil at Maggie’s bedside. And he’s there to hold Maggie’s hand when she wakes up one last time to tell him: “My son is named William too.” To be sure, her passing is heartbreaking, but in a banal, true-to-life way, with no x-file to solve. Here, at last, is our peek at Mulder and Scully as an everyday, average couple. We only waited decades to see it.
#8: Mulder asks Scully to dance in Season 5’s “Post-Modern Prometheus”
There are iconic Mulder and Scully scenes and there are ICONIC Mulder and Scully scenes. Their slow dance to Cher’s cover of “Walking in Memphis” falls unquestionably into the latter camp, not least because the moment comes, as all the best ones do, out of nowhere. The mix of surprise and pleasure on Scully’s face as she takes his outstretched hand is sublime, and god do they look amazing together. Then there’s the gazing as they sway together. Perfection.
David Duchovny said at Paleyfest in 2013 that he views the last few seconds of “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (in which a dancing Mulder and Scully turn into a comic-book version of themselves) as a fitting final image for the duo. I couldn’t agree more.
#7: “Never give up on a miracle” in Season 8’s “Per Manum”
I’m just say it: “Per Manum” is pure retcon and merely adds to the confusion of the already messy William storyline. What should’ve been a massive deal (Scully concludes that only Mulder could be the father of her children! She asks him to be her IVF donor! AND HE SAYS YES!!!!) gets short shrift as a so-called flashback. BUT. But whatever Mulder and Scully are selling, I’m buying, so this particular scene, in which Mulder comforts Scully after learning their IVF treatment didn’t take, still ranks as a (guilty) favorite.
Plus, that “Don’t give up on a miracle” line contributes to my theory they were sleeping together anyway and conceived the old-fashioned way. (My headcanon remains that William is Mulder’s biological son and that his alien powers are a side effect of whatever restored Scully’s fertility. NO, I don’t want to talk about how “My Struggle IV” destroyed my long-held belief.)
#6: Mulder teaches Scully to play baseball in Season 6’s “The Unnatural”
I can take or leave the bulk of this episode, but credit where it’s due, David Duchovny wrote and directed two amaaaaazing Mulder/Scully scenes. The first, I’ll save for an honorable mention* because the one we HAVE to talk about is Mulder “teaching” Scully to play baseball. (Please note: I am not at all convinced she actually needed a lesson in how to swing a bat. She grew up with two brothers!) We both know they actually just wanted an excuse to indulge in a little foreplay. It’s one of those rare, lovely evenings when our beloved feds have nothing more pressing on their minds than how fast they can get home to have lots and lots of sex.
Oh, oops, maybe that’s just another one of my headcanons?
#5: ATTHS…twice! in Season 11’s “Plus One”
I vaguely recall enjoying the plot of this Monster of the Week episode, something something doppelgangers. Seared into my brain, however, is the pure joy that suffused my very being at witnessing Mulder sweetly spoon Scully in a motel pull-out couch, cheekily order her to “put a dimmer on [her] afterglow” some hours later, and then smugly anticipate her request for an encore performance. Priorities!
I confess I’m puzzled by their kink about pretending they’re just friends with occasional benefits (thanks, Chris Carter), but, I mean, whatever makes them happy.
#4: Baby talk in Season 8’s “Existence”
As insane as the show gets there toward the end of its original run, TXF is never bad, in my eyes, ’cause I’d happily watch Mulder and Scully do…pretty much anything. The closest it gets to unwatchable is when the pair are at odds, and there’s no better example of this than the period immediately following Mulder’s return from the dead, when acts like, for lack of a better description, a dick. Chalk it up to PTSD, I guess, but he’s distant and callous and even rather cold toward his “friend” (a.k.a. codependent lifemate) and especially toward “her” (a.k.a. THEIR) baby.
Luckily for us all, Mulder snaps out of it in “Existence,” where he holds his son for the first time. Gently cradling the newborn, he reassures Scully that while he had feared the “possibilities” of William’s conception, “The truth, we both know.” Now, this is infuriatingly vague even for The X-Files, but I translate his meaning loosely as, “William, I am your father.” And sure enough, Mulder refers to William as “our son” or “my son” from this point forward.
#3: The kiss to end all kisses in Season 9’s “The Truth”
Season 9 had its moments, but The X-Files is not the same without Fox William Mulder. The good news is that he finally returns in the original run’s series finale. The bad news is that, after spending 20+ episodes on the run from the government, he’s now in federal custody awaiting trial for…something (I forget). And while his initial conversation with Scully in his prison cell is stilted (he calls her “Dana” to warn her they’re being watched), their first semi-private reunion is something else. Let’s just say Assistant Director Skinner gets an eyeful as Mulder walks right up to Scully and kisses her and she immediately kisses him back.
Easily their most passionate on-screen kiss, it may also be their one instance of hardcore PDA. But Skinner hardly counts by this point, right? Their boss has known what’s up for ages. I adore the way he looks anywhere but at his agents as they kiss and stroke and hug. Mulder, the snot, can’t stop while he’s ahead, either, and kisses Scully’s hand (!!!!) as he turns back to Skinner. Lest there be any lingering doubt: Mulder + Scully 5ever. Guh.
#2: Scully wonders “What if there was only one choice? And all the other ones were wrong?” in Season 7’s “all things”
How fitting that it’s Gillian Anderson’s debut as an X-Files writer/director that cements Mulder and Scully as canonically romantic. After much soul-searching, courtesy of a blast from her past and the “what might have been” of it all, Scully consciously chooses Mulder and her life with him over everything else. More than that, she accepts this path as her destiny. This is SO important, guys. I’m happy. Are you happy?
What, you want more? How about the way Mulder tenderly brushes back Scully’s hair and covers her with a blanket when she falls asleep on his couch? Or the fact that this evening is very likely when Mulder and Scully FINALLY succumb to years of pent-up desire and
start banging making love on the regular?!!! (Not during working hours, of course, because have you met them?)
#1: Real talk AND snuggling in Season 9’s series finale “The Truth”
For all the show’s faults, I honestly cannot imagine a more perfect conclusion to its original run than the last scene of “The Truth.” This blatant callback to the pilot episode sees the agents once more taking refuge in a quiet motel room, sitting in the same positions, discussing much the same topics. The only thing that’s really changed is…them. Sure, they’re currently fugitives, but they’re finally secure in who they are to each other and what they value most. In confirmation of this, they deviate from the pilot script to curl up together on that motel bed. It’s them vs. the world again, forever and always. The way Scully, swimming in Mulder’s shirt, nuzzles him as he pulls her even closer and the camera pans out one last time is…just…I DIE.
Once, while undercover in “Arcadia,” Mulder joked that he and Scully “just spooned up and fell asleep like little baby cats.” Now we know THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT THEY DO. GoodNIGHT.
*Honorable Mention: The first MSR scene in “The Unnatural” is straight-up adorable and deserving of at least an honorable mention; Scully teases Mulder with her ice cream until he rushes her and takes a bite as she’s still holding it. Scully howls and Mulder drips ice cream on his research book. Mmmm…
I could go on (and on, and on), but this list will do to start. Now tell me: What Mulder/Scully moments ruined you for all other TV romances?
If you enjoyed this article, you may also like 8 Clues Ellery/Reed Belong Together in the Ellery Hathaway Books (author Joanna Schaffhausen is a fellow Phile!) and my other MR lists, including:
- 20 Deeply Romantic Mulder/Scully Quotes from X-Files Fanfic
- A Shipper’s Guide to Watching X-Files for the Mulder/Scully Romance
- How to Say “I Love You” in X-Files by Fox Mulder and Dana Scully
- 8 Clues Ellery/Reed Belong Together in the Ellery Hathaway Books (or: Why MSR Fans Simply Must Read the Ellery Hathaway Mystery Series—Just Trust Me on This)
The first edition of this article was published on November 18, 2014, at HeroesandHeartbreakers.com.