The Best of Mulder and Scully
High on the list of the X-Files’ lasting legacies is the relationship between Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), the believer and skeptic whose razor-sharp rapport introduced the Internet to the concept of shipping. But behind the endless wait for Mulder and Scully to get together was the unspoken fact that they already were — and had been, in some capacity, since their first case. Ahead, look back on 17 of Mulder and Scully’s best moments (including that time when one of them shot the other).
The Cemetery in the Rain (Season 1, Episode 1)
The motel encounter launched the ship, but the rainy cemetery defined it. On their first case together, Mulder expects Scully to reject his so-crazy-it’s-true theory, but he still turns and waits for her — only to find that she’s actually considering his idea. This exchange establishes Mulder and Scully’s partnership as one based not on the need for agreement but on their refusal to dismiss each other, which does more to help them find agreement in the end. And Scully is having fun!
Mulder Wants to Trust Scully (Season 1, Episode 8)
Stranded in an Alaskan outpost, Scully worries that Mulder has been infected by a parasitic worm that causes violent outbursts. Before administering the antidote, she locks herself in a closet with her partner to determine whether he actually has the parasite, because she’d rather risk letting him hurt her than risk hurting him. The case is an early example of the way Mulder and Scully save their own lives by thinking about each other — and it’s by far the most electric exchange to ever involve checking someone for worms.
Scully Shoots Mulder (Season 2, Episode 25)
When Mulder’s tap water is dosed with what might be LSD, his erratic behavior leads him to a standoff with the man who killed his father. Scully, recognizing that Mulder could be framed for his own father’s murder if he pulls the trigger, shoots her partner in the shoulder — then dresses his wound, drugs him, and drives him across the country to save his life. Mulder, in a testament to the pair’s unconventional protectiveness, thanks her for all of it.
Mulder Can't Shoot Scully (Season 3, Episode 17)
A man who can push his will onto others pushes Mulder into a game of Russian roulette with Scully at the table. Under the influence of mind control, Mulder has no trouble aiming a gun at his own head, but he fights back when told to pull the trigger in Scully’s direction, giving her time to pull a fire alarm and snap him out of it. Their partnership was designed to position them both as pawns in the FBI’s game, and this is The X-Files’ clearest answer to Mulder and Scully’s fear that they won’t overcome it.
The Conversation on the Rock (Season 3, Episode 22)
Stuck on a rock in the middle of a lake that may or may not house a sea monster, Mulder and Scully debate the merits of cannibalism and analyze Moby Dick, which turns personal when Mulder admits that he sometimes wants an excuse to settle down. The kicker to his thoughtful consideration of his own restlessness? They’ve been just a few feet from shore the whole time.
The Hospital Hug (Season 4, Episode 14)
The first episode to face Scully’s cancer head-on finds its resolution in a hospital hallway, where Scully decides to return to work — in part because there is no conventional treatment for a disease that might be rooted in her abduction and in part because it’s the best shot she has at finding a cure. Her personal life is inseparable from her partnership with Mulder, and, going by his declaration that the truth will “save both of [them],” Mulder’s life is inseparable from hers.
Scully Builds a Campfire (Season 5, Episode 4)
When Scully and an injured Mulder have to stick it out in the woods until morning, they veer from jokes about the Flintstones to the coy offer to share a single sleeping bag to, somehow, a discussion on what it means to face your own mortality. The alternately light and heavy conversation comes to an unexpected end when Mulder asks Scully to sing to him as she cradles him in her lap — and she chooses Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World.”
Mulder Asks Scully to Dance (Season 5, Episode 5)
After catching a modern-day Frankenstein’s monster with a soft spot for Cher, the partners delay the monster’s arrest long enough to take him to a concert, where Mulder asks Scully to dance. Is the scene, which comes in a black-and-white episode bookended by comic book cover pages, real within the world of the show? Debatable. But it’s lasting.
Mulder and Scully Get Their Stories Straight (Season 5, Episode 12)
Vince Gilligan’s slapstick “Bad Blood” may not be the most romantic hour on the list, but it is one of the sharpest deconstructions of Mulder and Scully’s bond. The partners decide to settle a disagreement over a recent case by retelling it to each other, giving Duchovny and Anderson the chance to spoof their own characters as we see each version of events play out. Inspired by an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, “Bad Blood” treats Mulder and Scully like a married sitcom couple, unearthing not only how differently they see the world but how much they enjoy sparring about it.
Mulder Calls Scully His One in 5 Billion (Season 5, Episode 19)
Discredited for his belief that a corporate boss is a literal monster, Mulder begs Scully to believe him from a psychiatric hospital bed: “No one else on this whole damn planet does or ever will. You’re my one in 5 billion.” The fact that Scully eventually proves him right is tempered by the tragedy underlying their partnership: Mulder has no one else.
The Hallway (The X-Files: Fight the Future)
The franchise’s first feature film hinges on this scene, in which Mulder, faced with the possibility that Scully could leave the FBI, thanks her for all of her rational, scientific naysaying — eloquently. Their partnership corrects its own imbalance: The nature of the story means that Mulder is always right, but he’d never be able to prove it without Scully. His confession not only changes her mind but leads to an almost-kiss, which, of course, is interrupted by a bee.
Mulder Tells Scully That He Loves Her (Season 6, Episode 3)
After a Wizard of Oz-esque trip to a 1939 ocean liner populated by alternate versions of familiar faces, Mulder wakes up in the hospital and, on a cocktail of painkillers, tells Scully that he loves her. The only “I love you” ever exchanged between the pair is met on Scully’s end with a sigh and an “Oh, brother” — but, notably, no surprise. She already knew.
Mulder and Scully Exchange Gifts (Season 6, Episode 6)
On Christmas Eve, Mulder drags Scully to a haunted house, where a pair of old married ghosts (played by Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin) try to trick them into committing murder-suicide as a “lovers’ pact.” When that fails, the ghosts make the partners believe that they’ve shot each other. Mulder and Scully recover from that illusion with a gift exchange and the reassurance that wanting to spend time together does not require killing each other.
Mulder and Scully Play Baseball (Season 6, Episode 19)
Mulder takes a break for a night and calls Scully to the local baseball diamond to teach her how to swing a bat — a “very early or very late birthday present” that comes with its fair share of innuendo. The exchange, one of the series’ happiest and most overtly flirtatious, caps off Mulder’s realization that not everything has to serve a greater purpose: Enjoying something is purpose enough on its own.
Mulder and Scully Are Each Other’s Constants (Season 7, Episode 2)
When Scully stops by Mulder’s place to see how he’s recovering from an unauthorized brain surgery (not his first), he winds up talking her through a crisis of faith (not her first). Hands on each other’s faces, the partners affirm that they are each other’s “touchstones” in a job that leaves room for no other certainty.
Scully Introduces Mulder to Baby William (Season 8, Episode 21)
Maybe the most conventionally romantic scene of the bunch is also a nod to how unconventional Mulder and Scully are: They eased into having a baby (and kissing about it) without changing anything else about the way they operate. When Mulder calls their relationship “the truth [they] both know,” he might as well be refuting the idea that The X-Files has ever been about anything else.
Scully and Mulder Go on the Run (Season 9, Episode 19)
In what is no longer The X-Files’ television finale, Scully breaks Mulder out of federal custody when he’s framed for murder, and they disappear. We leave them off the grid in a Roswell motel room, in a scene that begins by echoing a similar exchange from the pilot but shifts when he joins her on the bed. Scully now shares Mulder’s belief in an alien conspiracy, but the fact that she and Mulder still insist that “maybe there’s hope” is anything but new.