Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by the week’s new releases or premieres. This week: The debut of The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has us thinking about our favorite TV exes.
The X-Files, “The End” (season five, episode 20; originally aired 5/17/1998)
The truth is out there that the term “shipping” was originally coined from the “will-they/won’t-they” relationship between Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. For nine seasons (and an upcoming follow-up miniseries—not to mention a pair of feature films), Chris Carter and his misfit writers tugged at the heart strings of their many, many fans by teasing the strained love between two of the FBI’s most unwanted. He saved her, she saved him, they saved each other, and so on. Over the years, their touchstone bond would be tested—by certain disbeliefs, extraterrestrial kidnappings, cancer. But few hurdles were as explicit and steamy as the one who got away: Special Agent Diana Fowley.
Long before he was an expert sperm donor and subscribed to Celebrity Skin, Mulder actually had something of a relationship—even better, she believed in his work. That’s Fowley, who makes a questionable return to the Bureau just as things are reaching a boiling point in Mulder’s pursuit of the truth. In this season-five stunner of a finale, everything is turned upside down: the Cigarette Smoking Man makes a comeback, brainiac Gibson Praise waves hello, the office gets remodeled, and Scully’s sent to the sidelines as Fowley turns the paranormal vs. science argument into a little two-against-one. “You know what to do, Diana,” Mulder says against Scully’s own assessment. Burn.
The bizarre chemistry between David Duchovny and Mimi Rogers, who portrays the new femme fatale, feels more akin to a deleted scene from his Red Shoe Diaries than, say, the organic connection he shares with Gillian Anderson. However, director R.W. Goodwin, who shoots his last episode here (which, coincidentally, marked the final episode to be shot in Vancouver before the series’ tragic move to Los Angeles in season six), has some fun with the proceedings. In the briefing room, Mulder and Fowley’s eyes connect for the first time with swift, amusing shots, a trick Goodwin later re-attempts through a rearview mirror as they’re driving in the dark together… with Scully sitting shotgun.
Fowley isn’t the most ideal stumbling block for Scully, who spends most of this episode investigating Fox and Dana’s magical past. But Fowley is an intriguing prospect for Mulder. The kooky agent was first introduced holed up in a stuffy basement office, surrounded by paraphernalia and ensconced in dim lights. The perception was that he had no social life, that his days were strictly dedicated to his work on The X-Files. So it’s something of a relief to know that he did have a chance at an alternate life, but he chose this one. As he painfully insists to Fowley late into the episode: “I’ve done okay without you.”
Of course, nothing is that simple, especially on The X-Files. Things go haywire pretty fast by the time Carter’s executive producer credit pops up: bullets whiz around, Izzy from Miami Vice pops in, The Lone Gunmen tell it like it is, and Special Agent Jeffrey Spender watches The Empire Strikes Back unfold before his eyes. In hindsight, it’s pretty wild that the show was able to go straight from this gasp of a finale into the 1998 blockbuster feature Fight The Future. Naturally, the film had to gloss over a few minor details—like Fowley—but rest assured, her fight was hardly over. Actually, her story had just begun.
Availability: “The End” is available as part of The X-Files: The Complete Fifth Season DVD set, and can be streamed on Netflix. The episode can also be purchased digitally from iTunes and Amazon.