Why The X-Files Doesn't Play Up Mulder And Scully's Romance

mulder and scully the x files season 11 plus one
(Image credit: Image courtesy of Fox)

Warning: spoilers ahead for the third episode of The X-Files Season 11, called "Plus One."

The partnership of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully has become one of the most iconic in television history, and The X-Files has developed their dynamic over nearly a quarter of a century now. The two started out as two FBI agents who were thrown together as part of a shadowy government agenda, but they progressed to become the closest of friends, most trusted of allies, and romantic partners. Now, any longtime fan of The X-Files knows very well that the intimacy between Mulder and Scully has remained almost entirely off-screen. In fact, they've only kissed a handful of times on screen in 20+ years, and the show has never definitively revealed when their relationship changed.

The X-Files creator Chris Carter spoke with CinemaBlend about Mulder and Scully's dynamic in Season 11, and he had this to say when asked if keeping romance off-screen is a deliberate choice:

Yes. When you do a network television show, you're limited to the kind of imagery you can show. And to be honest, I think that those things are always best left off-screen anyway... Most importantly, their bond is really about ultimately a deeper kind of platonic love and mutual respect.

There are certain elements of romance that simply can't be done with too much heat on network television. Mulder and Scully can't get too steamy with each other on screen in an 8 p.m. time slot on Fox even if they're feeling especially amorous, as they seemed to be a couple of times in "Plus One." Whether The X-Files really does end for good after Season 11 or comes back at some later date, we can be confident that Mulder and Scully won't be engaging in any brightly lit HBO-esque shenanigans together.

Given how successful The X-Files has been over the years, it's understandable why the recipe for their romance -- or non-romance, depending on your point of view -- wouldn't have been changed by the folks behind the scenes. Besides, who could argue that Mulder and Scully's bond is more about physical attraction than emotional attachment?

Of course, there's no doubt that Mulder and Scully have been romantic at points during their long relationship, accursed bees notwithstanding. Fans will remember Scully leaving Mulder's apartment one morning back in Season 7, and they were pretty cozy for a lot of that season. Both were confident by the end of Season 8 that Mulder was the father of Scully's child, and that couldn't have happened except by the old-fashioned way.

Yes, the Season 11 premiere ended on a bombshell confession by the Cigarette-Smoking Man that he actually drugged and impregnated Scully in Season 7, but that doesn't change the fact that Mulder and Scully believed William to be theirs. Then there's their living situation in I Want to Believe. Obviously they have been romantic; the question is (as always) whether they're still romantic aside from motel room moments.

In our chat, Chris Carter provided an explanation for their nighttime activities in "Plus One," saying this:

I wouldn't call them romantic now. In Episode 3 there was a moment, a night, possibly a second night. Does that make them romantic or does that make them human? I think it just makes them human.

Does this count as Chris Carter debunking the possibility that one of them has been replaced by an alien or super soldier at some point? In all seriousness, Carter stated that Mulder and Scully may have simply spent their night(s) together in "Plus One" because they needed to feel human. Scully was going through a period of self-doubt throughout the episode, and Mulder didn't exactly shy away from getting close. We'll have to wait and see if anything between them changes in the rest of Season 11 or we're in for more of the same classic bond that has been powering this series for so many years.

New episodes of The X-Files air on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox. For your other viewing options, take a look at our midseason TV premiere guide.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).