OK, so the opening teaser is too cheesetastic for my liking. “Irrevocable guilt” in a child that hasn’t even reached puberty reads melodramatic to me. But the teaser does successfully introduce the overall theme of the episode, which is about dealing with death and loss. In “One Breath” we watch Mulder come to terms with the fact that he may lose Scully. And as he runs the gamut trying to find the best way to handle this crisis, pretty much everyone in his life, friend and foe, has advice to give him on dealing with death. Interestingly enough, everyone seems to be preaching the same message to Mulder: Acceptance. It’s just that the motivations behind the message vary wildly.
We start off with Mrs. Scully’s stoic resignation in the face of loss. It’s not for her to drag hope along until it’s tattered and recognizable. Better to grieve and move forward than to wish and hope interminably. Well, Mulder has never been one to accept the word “No.” He won’t put Scully in the grave until he’s touched her cold, dead fingers and knows for certain. We can rule this coping mechanism out right off.
I have to pause here and say that I can’t believe Mulder. Pictures of Scully in bondage, struggling for her life lay strewn across his table and all he can do is rewind his porno tape back to the best part? I know he’s depressed and all, but seriously, Mulder? I almost preferred him sleeping with Kristen Kilar. Almost.
Whatever Mulder’s sentimental failings, I’ll forgive him nearly anything for that gut-wrenching scene by Scully’s hospital bed. We knew Mulder was intense but we’ve never seen him quite like this before. I can’t help but think forward to when we see him like this again in the almost parallel episode “Redux” (5×2). The most interesting part is the way that Mrs. Scully reacts, or I should say, doesn’t react at all. I get the distinct feeling that she’s not actually ignoring Mulder. I’d even go so far as to say her silence constitutes tacit agreement with his frustration. I think the difference is that she’s at a different stage of grief than Mulder. Mrs. Scully skipped anger and moved straight to acceptance. Again, that’s a place Mulder’s still unwilling to go to. Are Mulder’s rants upsetting her? Does she want him to stop? Does she want him to keep going?
Mrs. Scully keeps her opinions to herself for the most part, much unlike Melissa who irritates Mulder like static cling. Why? Mulder is an absolute believer when it comes to the paranormal but a knee-jerk skeptic of almost all things spiritual. The paranormal is something Mulder thinks he can prove; a realm that exists, that science can touch and that science will eventually be able to confirm. Mulder doesn’t believe in things he feels can’t be proven (ironic considering how little proof he actually has for his belief in the paranormal). Melissa’s New Age optimism is like sandpaper to Mulder’s cynicism. He doesn’t believe and hope, he believes and despairs. For her part, Mrs. Scully doesn’t have much patience for Melissa’s crystal-tinged speeches. Mrs. Scully is more spiritual than Scully, but not “harmonic” like Melissa. So far in the Scully family we’ve met a skeptic, a believer and a quack. I wonder what Thanksgiving dinner is like.
Melissa represents acceptance as well, but not the practical acceptance of Mrs. Scully. She’s advocating a spiritual acceptance of the natural order of things. You know, the Circle of Life and all that. Well, that won’t work for Mulder either since he doesn’t see Scully’s death as part of some greater spiritual plan but as an “unnatural act.” Scully shouldn’t be in this situation. It’s too soon. Not only that, he got her into this mess.
That’s why he can’t do what X commands and drop the whole issue for his own safety. Speaking of X, the man is bad! He’s like the Shaft of the underworld. So, what is it about Mulder that compels pity in even the hardest of hearts? X eventually turns from holding a gun to his head to aiding and abetting his cause. But now we know more about him, that he was once an idealist and possibly even a crusader like Mulder. He talks a big game about Mulder being “his tool” but if that’s the case then his tool for what? To expose the truth? Maybe he’s still an idealist after all. That would explain why he acts like a softy and gives Mulder the information on how to find the men who took Scully.
Skinner is another one who takes pity on Mulder in his desperation. Possibly against his better judgement and certantly at risk of his life, he gives Mulder the information he needs to find CSM. He also opens up to Mulder about his experience in Vietnam. Thanks to this little interchange Skinner’s transition from boss to surrogate father figure is complete. The message is clear: other people just accept death, but Mulder may actually be able to get to the bottom of it.
Finally Mulder’s self-righteousness is being challenged. Was he right to keep Scully at his side, even when he knew how ruthless these men could be? CSM asks Mulder a profound and legitimate question. If it’s not CSM’s call to judge what’s right, can Mulder truly claim it’s his own? Maybe that’s the real reason Mulder doesn’t shoot CSM; he realizes that he doesn’t have enough information to judge him. He has barely an inkling of how serious this whole conspiracy is and what it might be about.
Mulder also recognizes that his selfishness in keeping Scully close to himself and the X-Files may have cost her her life. Still, wasn’t Scully there for the events of “The Erlenmeyer Flask” (1×23)? Didn’t she give a ransom for her partner’s life and witness Deep Throat’s death? Scully’s no shrinking violet. She realized that the stakes had been raised high and she was still in the game because she wanted to be a help to Mulder. Surely she knew that both of them could end up in serious danger. Mulder may need to dial down his guilt from a 10 to an 8.
Even though I realize Melissa is meant to be a foil for Mulder to bounce off of, I’ve always wondered why she isn’t in the least bit curious as to what happened to her sister. It’s true that Mulder’s lust for vengeance won’t bring Scully back and his attempts to find answers won’t save her. But to show little to no interest in how Scully ended up in this position strikes me as unnatural.
I believe CSM is telling the truth when he says that he likes Mulder and Scully, but I can’t believe that’s why he brought her back. In fact, I don’t understand why they dropped Scully off at all unless they expected her to live, which I don’t see how they could have predicted. Could CSM have secretly treated her with something?
The verse quoted on Scully’s tombstone is actually 1 John 5:6, not 5:7. It also wouldn’t be written as 5:07. It’s a bible verse, not a digital clock readout. I’ll say it again: why didn’t anyone hire a priest as a consultant for the show?
Frohike at the hospital! He always was the sensitive Gunman. So he didn’t see Scully as merely a babe after all. Just seeing him in that suit is worth the price of admission.
The Gunmen drop a hint about branched DNA being used to graft something human to something inhuman. This is a great bit of continuity from “The Erlenmeyer Flask” and a real clue that the series is going to head deeper in the direction of merging alien and human DNA.
Byers: Good work sneaking out these charts.
Frohike: Tucked them in my pants.
Mulder: There’s plenty of room down there.
Langly: You look down, Mulder. Tell you what, you’re welcome to come over Saturday night. We’re all hopping on the Internet to nitpick the scientific inaccuracies of Earth 2.
Mulder: I’m doing my laundry.
Mulder: Get that gun out of my face.
Mr X: This high capacity compact Sig Sauer 40 calibre weapon is pointed at your head to stress my insistence that your search for who put your partner on that respirator desist immediately.
Mr X: I used to be you; I was where you are now. But, you’re not me, Mulder. I don’t think you have the heart. Walk away, grieve for Scully and then never look back. You will be able to live with yourself, Mulder, on the day you die.
Skinner: I’m afraid to look any further beyond that experience. You? You are not. Your resignation is unacceptable.
Mulder: You. You gave me Cancer Man’s location. You put your life in danger.
Skinner: Agent Mulder, every life, every day is in danger. That’s just life.
Mulder: I brought you a present. Superstars of the Super Bowls.
Scully: I knew there was a reason to live.