The Truth Is In There: Character=Plot

There are moments during the first two seasons of The X-Files when you can practically imagine Chris Carter writing the scene, figuring out the dynamic between Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. They are quite ingenious foils, actually--the by-the-book, sexy librarian who always colors in the lines being sent in to debunk the fringe investigations of the misunderstood boy genius who claims his sister was abducted by aliens.

Choosing two male characters for the lead roles would have actually made more stereotypical role sense, and honestly been easier to write. The sexual tension between the characters are subtle in the first couple of seasons: a smirking look, a gentle hair-straightening after a harrowing experience. Yet, it is not physical attraction that keeps these characters close after so long.

I have finally realized that the shows and movies I've always loved, however laden with explosions, intrigue, aliens, etc., hold the characters at their heart. It is no coincidence that the best scenes in seasons 1 and 2 deal directly with Mulder or Scully close to death, one of them dealing with the death of another, or consoling each other after these events. They are also the most risky. Season 3 began with Mulder being healed by a Native American ritual that leads to a ridiculously laughable sequence with Mulder being visited by the recently deceased. On the other hand, season 2's comatosed Scully led to some of the most moving depictions of a near-death experience ever captured for the small screen, Scully vaguely adrift in a still-moored small boat, staring blankly at her caregivers on the shore.

Even the large shifts in the later run of the show (Mulder's abduction, Scully's pregnancy) creating new openings into which the characters could move, creating depth and layers. In other words, what moved the plot was not the writing of arbitrary events, but the decisions, actions, and reactions of the characters.

I would also like to go on record here--officially solidifying my X-Files geekdom while going counter to common fan wisdom--by saying that the overarching conspiracy episodes are superior to the "monster of the week" (MOTW) episodes so common in the beginning of the run of the show. The writing of MOTW episodes are formulaic to the point of being laughable. Presumably, this is why a large amount of x-philes appreciate TV candy. But to envision the course of a story over the span of hundreds of episodes is simply mind-boggling to me. And since the story moves so slowly in the alien conspiracy episodes, and the writing so solid, and the MOTW episodes building a shared past between the two major characters, we as viewers can simply kick back and watch two wonderfully written characters interact with each other.

This is the dorkiest thing I've ever written in my life. I therefore leave you with a video representation of the first time Scully meets Mulder.......done with Legos. You're welcome.


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