The X Files - One Breath

You have heard the question often posited regarding a serious response of “If you had a gun to your head, what would be….?” I guess if I had a gun to my head and was asked what my favorite X Files episode would be, I’d probably choose One Breath. I just think the world of this episode and it has all the essentials that bring me to the show. First and foremost, the pure, aching love between Scully and Mulder and how his pursuit of the truth could endanger her. This obsession—Mulder, Ahab, after the whale, proof of extraterrestrial life and bringing that to the public—has perhaps cost both agents more than the worth of what they have sought after. I consider One Breath the Family of the X Files. Family follows the great two-part Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, Best of Both Worlds, where Picard was kidnapped and raped of his humanity, forced against his will into the Borg Collective and was responsible for the murders of Federation officers. In Family, once he was taken back to the Enterprise and returned to his somewhat rightful mind and given back his humanity, Picard felt he needed to go home again, Earth France, to see his brother, hopefully to repair old wounds. One Breath is the follow-up to Duane Barry & Ascension, somewhat concluding  Scully's own kidnapping and return to those she loves. Both One Breath and Family deal with being taken and upon return truly changed forever. One Breath, Mulder had endured the loss of Scully and death of Deep Throat. He had come so close to the truth several times, only to be denied time and again. Scully is all of a sudden discovered in a hospital CCU, with Mulder enraged at the lack of answers regarding how she got there in such a terrible condition, seemingly barely hanging onto life by a thread. Her puzzling medical chart is “slipped out” by Frohike with Mulder getting help from The Lone Gunmen regarding explanation on what it all means. Those responsible for her kidnapping had screwed around with her DNA, and what is left behind is this waste product poisoning her, certainly the chief cause behind her coma and failing health.

So you have all of this packed in the episode:

Mulder helpless to save Scully, but constantly trying to find ways to get revenge against those responsible for her condition.

Scully on her deathbed

Visions of Scully in a boat with a rope holding her to a dock that could snap (and eventually does) at anytime

A Nurse Owens visiting Scully while in her coma with words of comfort and hope (who Owens is once Scully awakens to thank her is a mystery, left up to the viewer to determine).

Mulder deciding to resign from the FBI with Skinner considering the request “unacceptable” (tearing it up before Mulder and telling him personal details about his out of body experience in Vietnam as an 18 year old Marine and his having to murder a child draped in grenades).

Mulder watching as X (Steven Williams) shoots a man in the head after he struggled to get answers from this mysterious man who was trying to snatch away Scully’s blood.

X telling Mulder that he was once like him.

X telling Mulder that he wasn’t about to suffer the same fate as Deep Throat, informing Mulder that he was merely a tool not somebody who will just answer at his beck and call.

Scully’s mother, Margaret (Sheila Larken), deciding to meet her daughter’s wishes of taking her off of life support once her condition reaches a particular critical point determining a recovery doubtful. She even has a tombstone already prepared. Mulder not willing to accept this, goes about trying to seek out “justice” for her.

Melissa (Melinda McGraw), Scully’s sister, a spiritualist, arrives to see urge Mulder towards a path of light not darkness and serves as council to his wounded heart, addressing his need to be there for his friend not off complicating matters.

Mulder getting the address of Cigarette Smoking-Man (who Mulder calls Cancer Man) from Skinner with the chance, if he so chooses, to kill him…or at the very least, get some answers. CSM is in this little apartment, an obscure war movie on, empty beer bottles and butted cigs all over the place. Never more vulnerable or pathetic, CSM appears at Mulder’s mercy…yet he finds a way to convince Mulder not to shoot him because if he dies the truth the dedicated agent seeks would remain elusive. 
The connection to Beyond the Sea where Scully’s dad, William (Don Davis, of Twin Peaks), visits his daughter, asleep on a slab in this haloed room within a vision.

Mulder given information by X to be at his home at a certain time provides him an opportunity to kill those responsible for Scully’s situation, while Melissa might just awaken him from his dark place.

Hints that Mulder was in the middle of some porn when he received word of Scully’s reemergence in the CCU!

The Lone Gunmen offering Mulder a chance to analyze mistakes during a watch of Earth 2.

Frohike arriving with flowers at the CCU out of respect for Scully (he always crushed on her). 

CSM telling Mulder that he likes him and Scully. That because he likes Mulder he “returned Scully to him”. CSM freely admits he has next to nothing. He has no family or friends, and he’s got “a little power”. Mulder has that chance to kill him once and for all. Mulder has the chance to put an end to the man that has caused such pain, a thorn in his side that is deeply embedded.

With all of that, Mulder and Scully looking into each other’s open eyes, that relief for both parties, and just the deep love, respect, and care that is shared gets me more than all of the combined elements that make up this treasure of an episode. And I do think this episode is a chest of treasures. It does open with Scully’s condition serious, a tombstone chosen, a life support measure signed (with Mulder present witness), and her visions picturing her adrift, lost, and unresponsive. While Scully’s life hangs in the balance, Mulder goes on a pursuit that puts him in the position of going down one of two paths: he can get his pound of flesh if he so desires but at what cost to his own soul? That is really why Mulder signs the resignation and packs up his shit. He doesn’t like what all of this is doing to him. Perhaps he should have walked away. But Samantha was taken from him. And now it appears Scully is or was almost taken from him. Skinner, Melissa, and X offer Mulder advice, but ultimately it is up to him. He chooses Scully.l

But Mulder finally surrendering to his repressed anguish, kneeling to the floor, accepting hesitantly the potential weight of loss of his partner, such a beloved friend, is a wrenching scene. It is the sheer volume of highs and lows, proof snatched away, evidence found and evidence lost, getting so close but not close enough, and, ultimately, the closest, most trusted companion at the doorstep of death. Duchovny sure had one hell of an episode, and his Fox Mulder suffered throughout. Yet that relief as he provided Scully that cross necklace...all was but dung to see her alive, eyes open, wit still about her.