Shipper Track

A Shipper’s Guide to Watching The X-Files for the Mulder/Scully Romance

No filler. Just killer MSR.

Relationship: Fox Mulder and Dana Scully (a.k.a. Mulder/Scully or MSR)
Fandom: The X-Files (TV series, 1993-2018)
Where to Watch: Hulu, YouTube TV, Amazon Video
Time Investment: Depends! You can pick and choose episodes for a few hours’ worth of entertainment, or you can fully immerse yourself in the canon for up to 217 (one-hour) episodes and 2 feature films.
Recommended for: Fans of Bones‘ Booth/Brennan, Castle‘s Castle/Beckett, Sleepy Hollow‘s Ichabod/Abbie, and/or any number of will-they-or-won’t-they investigative duos who were directly inspired by the OG.

So you’re curious about The X-Files but don’t know where to start. I’m going to guess you took one look at the series’ chunky IMDB page, noped out, wound up here. Maybe you’ve heard Mulder/Scully is the ultimate OTP and want to judge for yourself, but only if you can skip to the good parts. Maybe you’re a longtime X-Phile in need of a quick fix. Who knows? Maybe you don’t know how you came to be here at all (cue the TXF theme).

Whatever the case, we can agree 217 episodes plus two feature films is a little more than you can commit to right now. All you want is a straightforward list of episodes featuring agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully at their Mulder-and-Scully-est. A distillation of the tension, angst, and romance they’re famous for, without any filler gumming up the works. Even a fanatic such as myself can recognize the value in a resource like that (especially if I can use it as bait in my years-long attempt to reel in my friends to the TXF fandom).

Thus, allow me to present a Mulder/Scully Shipper’s Field Guide to The X-Files. Depending on how much time you have, you can take one of two paths below: The fast track, or the scenic route. Both are designed to awaken your dormant passion for two touch-starved FBI agents who fell in love the day they met…but couldn’t admit it to themselves, let alone each other, for years to come. And, honestly, either path could send you spiraling into obsession, triggering a compulsion to go back and binge-watch the whole enchilada, like yours truly once did.

Ready? Let’s head on out!

The Fast Track

If you told me I only had 10 episodes to convince you of the power of Mulder and Scully’s love, well, I’d have a meltdown. Then I’d pull myself together and overthink every single choice before ultimately handing over this list that possibly maybe kinda cheats on the episode count, just a little. 

Ask anyone else in the fandom for their short list of “can’t-miss” MSR episodes and you’ll get a slightly different mix. That’s because there is absolutely no way to boil the agents’ romance arc down to 10, 15 or even 20 episodes. I’ve undoubtedly made some ~controversial~ picks based on personal preference, but I’ve done my best to give you a sampler of how M&S’s relationship evolves over the years. (Yes, I’m anticipating some flak. Don’t @ me!!!) 

The cold, hard truth is that some of the best MSR moments in the series did not make this list for one reason or another. Once you start to wonder what those could be, I highly recommend veering over onto the Scenic Route. Until then, buckle up for a quick joy ride…

“Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)

FBI agent Fox Mulder’s fate is sealed the moment his newly assigned partner, Dr. Dana Scully, walks into his basement office, holds out her hand for a businesslike shake, and gamely tells him she’s looking forward to working with him. Unexpectedly sweet moments in a graveyard and motel room quickly confirm that time isn’t a universal invariant—they are.

“Ice” (Season 1, Episode 8)

The investigation of a prehistoric parasite found buried in the ice is a perfect excuse for Mulder and Scully to fly to Antarctica and feel up each other’s necks…..for science. It’s sexier than it sounds.

“Beyond the Sea” (Season 1, Episode 13)

Scully suffers a personal loss and Mulder’s a little more demonstrative in his support than one would expect from a platonic colleague. One thing leads to another and suddenly she’s threatening a man for risking her partner’s life. As you do.

“Duane Barry” / “Ascension” / “One Breath” (Season 2, Episodes 5-6 & 8)

These three episodes, best watched back-to-back, mark the point at which X-Files’ (in)famous mytharc began in earnest. They’re also the first time one of the agents wills the other back to life, by which I mean that you’re in for some primo hurt/comfort content. (Yes, you can and should skip the episode “3.” Trust me.)

“Pusher” (Season 3, Episode 17)

Mulder uses his profiling skillz to track down an escaped convict who seems to possess a dangerous power of suggestion that can make people hurt themselves. More importantly, our guy proves that mind control is no match for his devotion to Scully

“Memento Mori” (Season 4, Episode 14)

This gripping, emotional episode (part of the “Scully cancer arc”) won Gillian Anderson her first Emmy. I’m sure a certain hallway hug didn’t hurt.

“Detour” (Season 5, Episode 4)

What’s a boring team-building conference compared to the opportunity to camp out in the Florida wilderness for an impromptu missing persons investigation?? Bonus tease: Scully’s got quips about sleeping bags, while Mulder just wants a lullaby.

The X-Files: Fight the Future

A gold mine for Mulder/Scully shippers, the first XF film contains witty banter, gratuitous hand-holding, declarations of feelings (kinda), mouth-on-mouth action, an exhilarating rescue, and cuddling “for warmth,” not necessarily in that order.

“Triangle” (Season 6, Episode 3)

Mulder moons over an Alternate Universe Scully, while his Scully braves the Bermuda Triangle to rescue his impetuous ass.

“The Rain King” (Season 6, Episode 8)

The agents vacation in Kansas. Just kidding! Mulder tricks Scully into taking a case about a man who can make it rain. Multiple people mistake the pair for a couple, including the owner of their motel. Oh, plus someone pleads “not guilty” to gazing at his partner even though he’s guilty as sin.

I know, I know—how could I stop at “The Rain King,” of all episodes??? But I love it, okay. Anyway, you obviously belong on the Scenic Route.

The Scenic Route

Have time for a more robust Mulder/Scully binge-watch? YEAH you do! Might I suggest…

“Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)

FBI agent Fox Mulder’s fate is sealed the moment his newly assigned partner, Dr. Dana Scully, walks into his basement office, holds out her hand for a businesslike shake, and gamely tells him she’s looking forward to working with him. Unexpectedly sweet moments in a graveyard and motel room quickly confirm that time isn’t a universal invariant—they are.

“Squeeze” (Season 1, Episode 3)

Scully, beginning to accept that she may be ride-or-die for Mulder, turns down an opportunity to escape the basement office and resume life as a normie. Along the way, there’s an admission of (‘professional’) jealousy and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it stroke of the arm.

“Ice” (Season 1, Episode 8)

The investigation of a prehistoric parasite found buried in the ice is a convenient excuse for Mulder and Scully to fly to Antarctica and feel up each other’s necks…..for science. It’s sexier than it sounds.

“Eve” (Season 1, Episode 11)

Watch this episode if you’d like to see what M&S might be like as young parents taking their twin girls on a road trip.

“Beyond the Sea” (Season 1, Episode 13)

Scully suffers a personal loss and Mulder’s a little more demonstrative in his support than one would expect from a platonic colleague. One thing leads to another and suddenly she’s threatening a man for risking her partner’s life. As you do.

“Duane Barry” / “Ascension” / “One Breath” (Season 2, Episodes 5-6 & 8)

These three episodes, best watched back-to-back, mark the point at which X-Files’ (in)famous mytharc began in earnest. They’re also the first time one of the agents wills the other back to life, by which I mean that you’re in for some primo hurt/comfort content. (Yes, you can and should skip the episode “3.” Trust me.)

“Irresistible” (Season 2, Episode 13)

The case, which highlights how ordinary humans can be the worst monsters of all, is a good one. What makes it even better is how it provokes an emotional reckoning: Scully worries that Mulder will see her differently if she reveals how much a gruesome case is getting to her, but he sees through her protestations of “I’m fine” anyway. A cathartic hug is the cherry on top of this ep.

“Humbug” (Season 2, Episode 20)

She pops a cricket into her mouth; he’s never loved her more.

“Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (Season 3, Episode 4)

A reluctant psychic predicts how Mulder and Scully will die…or not.

“War of the Coprophages” (Season 3, Episode 12)

A disgusting case is balanced out by how entertaining it is to see Scully become outrageously jealous of an entomologist named Bambi.

“Syzygy” (Season 3, Episode 13)

If jealous Scully is your thing, you’re in luck! Again.

“Pusher” (Season 3, Episode 17)

Mulder uses his profiling skillz to track down an escaped convict who seems to possess a dangerous power of suggestion that can make people hurt themselves. More importantly, our guy proves that mind control is no match for his devotion to Scully.

“Quagmire” (Season 3, Episode 22)

The search for a Loch Ness Monster-esque creature leads to a memorable Conversation on the Rock (COTR).

“Wetwired” (Season 3, Episode 23)

Scully isn’t sure who she can trust.

“Memento Mori” (Season 4, Episode 14)

This gripping, emotional episode (part of the Scully cancer arc) won Gillian Anderson her first Emmy. I’m sure a certain hallway hug didn’t hurt.

Gethesmane / “Redux” / “Redux II” (Season 4, Episode 24 & Season 5, Episodes 1-2)

The conclusion of the aforementioned Scully cancer arc, in which two lovestruck idiots ponder what they’re willing to sacrifice for each other. Hint: The answer is everything.

“Detour” (Season 5, Episode 4)

What’s a boring team-building conference compared to the opportunity to camp out in the Florida wilderness for an impromptu missing persons investigation?? Bonus tease: Scully’s got quips about sleeping bags, while Mulder just wants a lullaby.

“Post-Modern Prometheus” (Season 5, Episode 5)

There’s slow dancing.

“Bad Blood” (Season 5, Episode 12)

Mulder and Scully remember things differently. Hands down the funniest episode of The X-Files. It also offers a rare glimpse of a jealous Mulder.

The X-Files: Fight the Future

A gold mine for Mulder/Scully shippers, the first XF film contains witty banter, gratuitous hand-holding, declarations of feelings (kinda), mouth-on-mouth action, an exhilarating rescue, and cuddling “for warmth,” not necessarily in that order.

“Triangle” (Season 6, Episode 3)

Mulder moons over an Alternate Universe Scully, while his Scully braves the Bermuda Triangle to rescue his impetuous ass.

“How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (Season 6, Episode 6)

The agents accidentally-on-purpose spend Christmas Eve together. It’s weirdly sweet. No, wait. Correction: Sweetly weird.

“The Rain King” (Season 6, Episode 8)

The agents vacation in Kansas. Just kidding! Mulder tricks Scully into taking a case about a man who can make it rain. Multiple people mistake the pair for a couple, including the owner of their motel. Oh, plus someone pleads “not guilty” to gazing at his partner even though he’s guilty as sin.

“Monday” (Season 6, Episode 14)

Mulder and Scully get stuck in a Groundhog Day-style time loop. (In other words: Palm Springs, but make it X-Files.)

“Arcadia” (Season 6, Episode 15)

Mulder and Scully pretend to be married for a case!!!1!!!1!

“Milagro” (Season 6, Episode 18)

Some rando fixates on the idea of wooing Agent Scully only to realize she’s completely wrapped up in someone else.

“The Unnatural” (Season 6, Episode 19)

Details of the plot escapes me, but our faves tussle over a tofutti dreamsicle and play baseball, so.

“Field Trip” (Season 6, Episode 21)

Even tripping on mushrooms, our favorite agents seek out each other’s hands in the dark.

“Millennium” (Season 7, Episode 4)

The world doesn’t end; a new era dawns. (Translation: They finally, at long last, KISSSSSS!)

“all things” (Season 7, Episode 17)

Scully gets closure on a past relationship, and Mulder savors a rare opportunity to moon over admire her in peace. Later, they [Redacted].

“Je Souhaite” (Season 7, Episode 21)

Mulder gets three wishes from a genie, but realizes he already has everything he needs. (Awww.)

“Requiem” (Season 7, Episode 22)

An unexplained phenomenon (what else?!) recalls the agents to the scene of their first case. They both get protective, Scully crawls into Mulder’s bed, he cradles his sick partner (twice), something pretty bad happens, and Scully makes an earth-shaking discovery.

“Within” / “Without” / “Per Manum” / “This Is Not Happening” / “Deadalive” (Season 8, Episodes 1-2 & 13-15)

Dana Katherine Scully faces her all-time greatest fear.

Editor’s Note: As a latecomer to the TXF fandom who did not have to wait weeks or months in between Season 8 episodes, I have a soft spot for this angsty abduction storyline that many fans do not regard quite so fondly. Knock it out in one or two sittings if you can.

“Essence” / “Existence” (Season 8, Episodes 20-21)

Mulder and Scully’s universe expands.

“The Truth” (Season 9, Episode 19)

Mumbo jumbo conspiracy stuff interspersed with kissing and spooning that make it all worth it.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe

Set six years after the Season 9 finale, the second X-Files film features domestic!MSR in an Unremarkable House. That they own. Together. I guess there’s a case too.

“Home Again” (Season 10, Episode 4)

Mulder shows up for Scully when she needs him most.

“Plus One” (Season 11, Episode 3)

Scully pretends Mulder’s sofa bed is more comfortable than hers, and he lets her. Twice.

“The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” (Season 11, Episode 4)

Nostalgia threatens to overtake the agents, but Scully decides at the last minute that she’s better off just remembering how it all was. Not a bad place to end your binge-watch, especially if you want to save yourself a headache caused by trying to follow the mytharc, ’cause by this point, it’s nonsensical.


Still thirsty? Don’t miss this roundup of the 21 Times Mulder and Scully Ruined Me for All Other TV Romances.

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