Friday, April 24, 2009

Repositioning Scully

I'm pretty far into The X Files' penultimate season. Specifically, I've just watched "Three Words," where Mulder tries to reclaim his old job only to run afoul of Doggett (because Doggett is being set up by still-mysterious forces). These are fairly decent episodes, although they show pretty clearly that Mulder and Scully have gobs more chemistry than Scully and Doggett.

Between Mulder's absence and Doggett's struggle to prove himself (to the viewers, that is), Scully is Season 8's constant. Accordingly, Scully steps into Mulder's shoes as the agent "open to extreme possibilities." However, Scully also takes on Mulder's quest for a lost loved one. Mulder was searching for his sister, and for the first part of S8, Scully searches for Mulder.

Naturally, Scully's quest plays into her not-quite-romance with Mulder. She has given up a normal life to stay with the X Files -- not exactly to stay with him, because she has her own reasons for wanting to uncover the truth -- and he is therefore her touchstone. She can't abandon him, even if she weren't carrying their child. All her eggs, as it were, are in his basket. The show has told us more than once that, in a very real sense, she has no other life to go to. (I haven't seen the second movie yet, but I think that statement is still true as of Season 8.)

I suppose my question is this: does all of that make Scully so dependent on Mulder that it hurts her as a character? Certainly Scully isn't a bad character without Mulder -- the "Roadrunners" episode finds her stranded in a sinister little town, and she handles herself well for the most part -- but so far through Season 8, Mulder has been the elephant in the room. The reverse was not necessarily true for Mulder, who got more than a few episodes where Scully was either out of the picture or reduced to a supporting role. To be fair, the show tried to balance its solo stories, with M & S each getting an episode opposite the Lone Gunmen, and each having to play phone-tag while the other was in the field.

Regardless, there's only five episodes left in the season before Mulder leaves for all but the last two hours of the show; and I am left feeling like Scully isn't quite playing off Doggett or Skinner as much as she's still paired with Mulder's ghost. When all is said and done I think this is unfair to her; but the show seems to have been pointing her in this direction for a while, so it's not unexpected either. I don't know if it's sexist, but that aspect of it nags me too: Scully needs to find Mulder because she loves him, in a way quite different from Mulder's need to find his sister.

So, is Scully diminished for standing by her man? Thoughts?
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