Some time back, maybe a year or so ago, Netflix recommended The X-Files in my "watch instantly" feed. This was a reasonable suggestion, because, aside from the atrocity that was the last season, The X-Files was among my favorite TV shows once upon a time. At the time that the show was actually on, the last season kind of soured the whole experience for me, but there were still episodes and scenes that I remembered fondly. So I took Netflix's suggestion and watched an episode. And I was immediately sucked back in, because I was suddenly able to remember back before the last season to why I used to love this show so much. Despite my interest in the paranormal, it was never the sci-fi plotlines that kept me watching.
It was Mulder, of course.
If I'm being fair, it wasn't just Mulder. The whole Mulder/Scully dynamic was a big part of the show's appeal for me (and I'm guessing pretty much all of the show's other viewers), and Scully was an awesome character on her own merits as well. (Although her skepticism eventually got kind of old. I mean, questioning your assumptions is healthy, but at a certain point, if you've seen that much freaky, unexplainable shit, and you're still insisting that there must be a perfectly rational, non-paranormal explanation, you're just being stubborn.)
While I am grateful that Netflix refreshed my memory that there really was a reason that I used to adore this show, having the chance to rewatch it has made me realize a couple things.
The first is that the so-called "mytharc" episodes - the ones relating to the government conspiracy about the existence of aliens - really hold no interest for me anymore. Though these episodes once had me riveted and glued to the screen, their power was in not knowing what secrets were yet to be revealed. Now, not only do I know, I also know that Chris Carter was pulling all of it out of his ass with each episode. (I may still be a little bitter about that last season.) Now, with a few notable exceptions (most of them season finales or premieres, like Anasazi or Biogenesis, or episodes that had some kind of impact on Mulder or Scully or their relationship, like Emily), the mytharc episodes bore the hell out of me. I already know how it ended, and what's more, I hated how it ended.
So the stand-alone "monster of the week" episodes are totally where it's at for me, and honestly? Those never get old. I could watch Rain King or Post-Modern Prometheus over and over again. But that brings me to my second realization.
You see, the show's original run lasted from the time I was 14 until I was 23. That means that I was watching it during what were arguably the most formative years of my life. And I realize now that it totally fucked me up.
I have read claims from a couple different sources that the term "unresolved sexual tension" was actually first coined for this show, though I have not been able to verify this. It would make sense, though, because when you get right down to it, the show was not really about monsters and aliens at its core. It was about Mulder and Scully, and their relationship.
Or, rather, their lack of a relationship.
Because it was EIGHT. FREAKING. YEARS. of unresolved sexual tension before Mulder and Scully actually consummated their relationship.
And what episodes like Rain King and Post-Modern Prometheus had in common was that they played on that unresolved sexual tension (or UST, if you will), keeping up a constant "will they or won't they" dynamic. By the time they actually kissed onscreen for the first time, it was almost anticlimactic, because everybody already knew that they had been in love with each other for years, and that there was no way either one of them could be with anyone else.
I realize now that those eight years of UST are the reason that I actually believed for my late teens and most of my 20's that years of sexual tension really could eventually pay off and develop into an actual relationship.
This was very likely the cause of most of the misery I experienced during the first decade of my adulthood.
It's all Mulder and Scully's fault.
And here I thought that I could believe in them. It just goes to show that Mulder's philosophy was right all along: Trust no one.