You know how you sometimes run into someone you've almost forgotten, but not quite?
Maybe you knew them in high school or college, or that year you lived in Chicago, or when you did that semester abroad thing or took a vacation in Lincoln, Nebraska. And you liked them--in fact, you ended up hanging out with them a lot. They were funny and cool, in a way that your other friends, even the funny and cool ones, weren't. You got really interested in them and wanted to hear everything they had to say, and if it sometimes didn't track or got a little overly complicated you didn't care, because their complications were way more fascinating then other people's efforts to keep things simple.
But time passed, and the context you knew them in passed, and you kind of lost touch. You didn't forget them--the names remained fresh and crisp, the faces finely drawn--you just were in different places now and you didn't think about them very much.
And then one day you're fooling around on the internet and some site has a gossip item and you read it and those names are right there and suddenly you remember how much fun they really were, and you have this out of nowhere desire to connect with them again! Right now!
That's how it was with me and the X Files.
Man, I really haven't checked this purse in a long time.
I watched the X Files like everyone else did--on a then upstart and less overtly crazy Fox Network in the mid nineties. I laughed a bit, like everyone else, at the idea of two upper middle class conservative white people naming their kid Fox, I admired Scully's fabulous hair, I freaked the fuck out during "Home", I gradually grew invested to a somewhat unhealthy degree in their relationship. I wasn't an obsessive viewer by any means, not one of those who helped transform the then crude and nascent internet into the world devouring beast of present by starting obsessive billboard messaging systems about the show. But I liked it, a lot.
But like all shows it ended, and I moved on, and just didn't think about it very much.
But I didn't forget it, and a few months ago it suddenly sprang back into my life.
Oh, hey. Um. So. Um. How are you?
I was half assing around the Jezebel site one fine afternoon when I could have been doing something worthwhile and was reading their gossip column ( like you don't skim that pseudo "news" that comes over your MSN feed every day) and out of nowhere, there it was: a blind item that Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny were dating/banging according to completely reliable and not at all suspect random anonymous sources.
Well, while the actual item was silly and screamed "SLOWEST NEWS WEEK IN QUITE A WHILE", it triggered the readership of Jezebel into a babbling shriekfest of nostalgia, lust, and a sentimental longing for this to be true; the actual, real life relations between two former acting colleagues be damned. And I was right there with them:
ADULT ME: Heh, look at this. Well, that's silly, to think that two people who worked together nearly two decades ago on a TV show would suddenly toss their previous commitments out the window and move in together! Heh.
INNER FIFTH GRADER: YAAAY! This means they'll get MAAAARRRRIEEEED! *tosses stuffed unicorns and puffy stickers and glitter in every direction while jumping on the bed*
My unicorn is in here but you can't see him 'cause he's invisible.
And although I didn't think much of it at the time, it must have stuck with me, because I found myself adding "X Files" as a last minute addition to my Christmas list for my husband before his shopping marathon. I even wrote "just a whim!" next to it, since I truly didn't think he's actually buy it.
Well, more (happy) fool me, because lo and behold, on Christmas morning, what was under the tree!
Like this. But cooler. Because it's mine.
I couldn't believe how thrilled I was. The genuine surprise was part of it, and the notion of reconnecting with the show another, especially since I'd be watching with someone this time. We began a couple weeks after the holidays and have already burned through the first two seasons, with the third falling fast.
It's been a blast. Just a blast, mainly because there's a special and unique delight in rediscovering something you've put by, and also because the X Files is magic. Sincerely, truly, magic.
And why should this be? Glad you asked!
Now, there's been a tried and true tradition in TV of Magical Couple Chemistry: in that it wasn't very common but when it was there, there was nothing like it. Mulder and Scully were far from the first or only ones:
Remington Steele and Laura Holt from Remington Steele:
What a delightful bastard I am!
Maddie and David from Moonlighting (created by the the same guy who did Remington, and clearly learned his chemistry lesson well):
Are you having an eighties flashback now? Quick, do some cocaine!
John Crighton and Aeryn Sun in Farscape:
They're so hot, even their photos have to hold you off.
And so on.
If you watched any of these shows (or whatever show comes to mind as your personal example), you both know what I mean about chemistry and are feeling a little warm and squirmy about those couples past--maybe remembering the surprisingly deep and slightly embarrassing need you had for these two characters to realize their love, to kiss, to consummate, to represent the things you didn't usually admit to yourself that you wanted, and if you couldn't have them, wanted to exist, somewhere out there.
you're not getting...
...a little tingly.
But even in this context, Mulder and Scully, and the X files were special.
For one thing, even though the technology/f/x may seem somehwhat dated now, they were pretty cutting edge at the time, and for the most part, were cutting edge while serving the story.
This show was trying to convince us that two people from a recognizable version of the every day world were exploring things that the human collective unconscious knew but could never acknowledge, and that was the most important part of every episode. You didn't get the feeling that anything was written to showcase a newfangled piece of computer software or upgrade in CGI. When the guys in the f/x shed made a fluke boy suit, their concern was not showing off what an awesome fluke boy suit they could make. Their concern was that the audience believe in the possibility of a fluke boy (and not drowning the guy wearing the suit) so that the story would take hold of the viewers' minds without glare or interruption.
The poor bastard didn't even have a good personality.
But plenty of shows can do that, especially now, with every random laptop loaded with the basics of what you need to make a movie alongside Google Chrome and Amazon portals.
So what else was there?
Well, you could tell the writers and actors were just having a fucking blast most of the time. Finally, a show where you could have zombies, black magic, dark matter shadows, cannibals, and Men In Black as regular occurances! Hell, the UFO/conspiracy shit was background noise half the time!
"So, a pretty typical Tuesday?"
"...yeah, looks like."
Whether it was a dead serious Us against The Man episode or Jose Chung's From Outer Space, the show was a near perfect blend of humor and earnestness, that cared about what was going to happen, and how it was happening.
Two, during its initial run the internet was not a thing.
That needs to be emphasized because, the internet being the all pervading societal force that is completely taken for granted that it is today:
I own your sorry ass. Quit pretending to care, just look for more porn.it's hard to remember that there was a time when you could watch a show about the Jersey Devil and not be able to Wikipedia it within seconds. Hell, chances were quite good that this was the first time you'd even heard of the Jersey Devil, or the Tunguska Event or whatever.
Yup, that's what happened.
That lent an air of credence to the spooky "grey intelligence" of the general atmosphere. If you'd never heard of Operation Paper Clip, the idea that the government would sign such a deal with the devil was trippy and scary and grabbed your attention. And if you had heard of it, you felt all inner circle and in the know, and your attention was, again, seized tight.
Three, secondary and tertiary characters had just as much depth (plumbed or not) as the two leads.
Deep Throat (and his successor, X), the continuously put upon Skinner, mysterious Cancer Man, Alex Krychek, the Lone Gunmen--they all seemed to have more going on with them then met the eye or could fit into the running time. This is crucial, because no matter how awesome your lead characters are together or apart, if they only interact with inert bricklike people or inexplicable idiots they aren't going to be believable for long. You start wondering why these seemingly only intelligent people around don't just either throw up the whole thing or go to the papers already.
But X Files must have made its own deal with the devil to get such an awesome casting department, because every major and minor character slotted perfectly into the overall atmosphere. Mitch Pileggi as Skinner managed to project a combination of Had It Up To Here With This Bullshit, terror of the conspiracy weighing down on him , and genuine worry for two agents he cared for and felt responsible towards, in perfect ratio depending on what he was called upon for during any particular minute.
"When not at work, I like to relax by wrestling boars."
Cancer Man ashed his continual ciggies over every surface public or private with the insouciance of a man so used to power that he thinks of it as the ground beneath his feet.
"I ashed on your mom. 'Cause she's dead. 'Cause I killed her."
And it wasn't just recurring characters. X Files became one of those "hey, it's that guy!" shows of the nineties, casting many a well known actor in one of their earliest speaking roles, or showcasing a "pretty well known" person just before he/she made a real career leap.
Hey, multiple guys I've seen a lot on TV!
But isn't all this skirting the real issue? The hot, dark, buried issue? The LUUUUV issue?
Yep, it is. Because plenty of shows have talented art departments and great casts and whackadoodle conspiracy theories. And even smoky, pungent, syrup thick chemistry between the leads. So what's that magical extra that gave the glossy darkness of the X Files its ultimate allure?
"Who's the cutest?"
"You are!""No, you are!"
It's because David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Chris Carter and the rest not only twigged that they had lighting in a bottle, they deployed that lightning with more accuracy than any being since Zeus Himself.
The three luckiest people on planet Earth.
From the pilot episode, where the two agents meet for the first time, it is completely obvious to even a casual viewer that these two are soulmates. They are destined to be. But it is also obvious that the entire journey is not already over, that it has just, just now this second, begun.
The wedding portrait.
H and I have had many a boisterous and enjoyable conversation about this, and while I promised not to give away his thoughts (as he is doing his own post about it), I can tell you mine--
These two were a couple the moment they met.
My theory, which I developed in a very vague and half formed way during the show's original run, was that Mulder and Scully were in a relationship; a full blown romantic relationship, for the show's entire ten seasons. They just never showed it. They didn't canoodle in the basement office, didn't sneak kisses in the various rental cars, didn't slip in and out of each other's motel rooms because they were working. They were professionals. And half the time they were being abducted or pursued by demons or in comas, so it's not like they didn't have shit to focus on.
Plus, it was dark a lot of the time.
But, you cry, they lived in separate apartments! The excruciating slow buildup of their destined end was a huge part of why I love them, can't forget them, still sing to them in my heart!
Well, all that's true too.
You see, while it was clear to the viewer what was going on, it wasn't so much for M and S, especially and naturally early on. Just because someone's your soulmate doesn't mean you don't have to get to know him or her. And getting to know someone takes time, and these two both somehow intuited that the time taking is half the fun. Every glance, little joke, touch that you only give to someone you adore, was an addition to the love hill these two were building, to stand on and gaze out at the bizarreness of their life, shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand.
HOTTEST. SEX. SCENE. EVER.
Not even joking.
So, that's my theory. And the end of my little mash note to a show that managed to put itself on several maps, redraw the whole concept of "high concept" and generate a love story that still gets people hot and bothered twenty years after its conception. I don't care if anyone else believes me or not; I know the real deal when I see it.
As did they.
Not that anyone will care, about this idea. The truth may be out there, but mostly it's just sitting around, hanging out, waiting for someone to realize its worth. I'm sure posting this won't draw attention, won't shine a light onto something that prefers the dark, won't anger someone in a high place--
Say, someone's at the door:
We'd like to give you this Watchtower magazine.
Oh, and kill you to keep your discovery secret.
Oops. Well, I know who's coming to save me!