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Recap / The X-Files S02 E08 "One Breath"

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Season 2, Episode 08:

One Breath
"Then my life felt as if it had been the length of one breath, one heartbeat."
Written by Glen Morgan & James Wong
Directed by R. W. Goodwin

"My apologies but... no one here can determine how Dana arrived at the hospital, administered and how she was attended to in such critical condition."
Dr. Daly

When Scully is mysteriously returned to a hospital, Mulder seeks answers for this sudden turn in events, not only going to X, but also a mysterious chainsmoker who has been lurking in the FBI's offices. He must do so quickly, as Scully's life is suspended in limbo with a slim chance of survival.


  • Accentuate the Negative:
    Melissa: I don't have to be psychic to see that you're in a very dark place. Much darker than where my sister is. Willingly walking deeper into darkness cannot help her at all. Only the light...
    Mulder (Disgustedly) Oh, enough with the harmonic convergence crap, okay! You're not saying anything to me.
    Melissa: (Angrily) Why don't you just drop your cynicism and your paranoia and your defeat. You know, just because it's positive and good, doesn't mean it's silly or trite. Why is it so much easier for you to run around trying to get even than just expressing to her how you feel? I expect more from you. Dana expects more. Even if it doesn’t bring her back, at least she’ll know. And so will you.
  • Adventures In Coma Land: Scully spends the entire episode in her hospitalised state, having several visions of her being on a boat and on a bed, surrounded by her loved ones.
  • Angel Unaware: Nurse Owens. It turns out she never existed in real life for Scully, implying that this trope is the case.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: From an unexpected source:
    Mulder: Who are you to decide what's right?
    Cigarette Smoking Man: Who are you?
  • Badass Boast: The Cigarette Smoking Man is unfazed by Mulder pointing a gun in his face, because "I've watched presidents die."
  • Berserk Button: Scully is in a coma and Mulder wants answers about what's wrong and where she's been, which people are either unwilling or unable to give him. And he does not take it well.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Mr X swoops in just in the nick of time to save Mulder from a Syndicate Agent who tried to steal a blood sample of Scully's. Executing the agent in cold blood.
  • Convenient Coma: When Scully is returned to Mulder, she happens to be in a coma, spanning this episode.
  • Converse with the Unconscious: Scully's sister does this constantly. Her Establishing Character Moment has her hovering her hands above Dana and communicating with her; she informs Mulder that Dana just told her not to call him "Fox."
    • Mulder sits by Scully's bedside later in the episode and tells her he doesn't believe she's ready to go. When she wakes up, she tells him she "had the strength of [Mulder's] beliefs."
  • Despair Event Horizon: Near the end of the episode, Mulder has seen Scully for what he thinks is the last time. He comes home to find his house ransacked, causing the impact of all these misfortunes to hit him very hard. All he can do is slump on a wall and cry.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The Thinker will become a little bit more important later on.
  • Flashback: Dana's mother narrates as we're shown an incident in Scully's past: the first time she held a gun and killed something (a garden snake).
  • Granola Girl: Melissa Scully
  • Guardian Angel: Scully seems to have one while she's in her coma, who takes the form of a nurse and talks to her at her bedside.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Skinner takes a stand against his conspirator overlords for the first time, covertly slipping CSM's location to Mulder. He also refuses to accept Mulder's resignation.
  • Heroic BSoD: Mulder suffers one after his confrontation with CSM, prompting him to type a letter of resignation that Skinner refuses to accept.
    Skinner: I know you feel responsible for Agent Scully, but I will not accept resignation and defeat as self-punishment.
    Mulder: All the forensics, the field investigations, the eyewitness accounts... to still know nothing. To lose myself... and Scully. I hate what I’ve become.
  • Holding Hands: Mulder to Scully while she's in her coma.
  • Irony: In relation to CSM lying to Skinner about Mulder shooting the guy in the parking garage.
    "I didn't really believe it and here you are with a gun to my head."
  • It's All My Fault: Mulder blames himself for Scully's abduction and coma.
    Skinner: We all know the field we play on and we all know what can happen in the course of a game. If you were unprepared for all the potentials, then you shouldn’t step on the field.
    Mulder: What if I knew the potential consequences but I never told her?
    Skinner: Then you're as much to blame for her condition as the Cancer Man.
  • It Is Not Your Time: Scully is urged back into consciousness by the ghost of her father.
    William Scully Sr: I never knew how much I loved my daughter until I could never tell her. At that moment I would have traded every medal, every commendation, every promotion for one more second with you. We'll be together again, Starbuck. But not now.
  • Knight Templar: X and CSM are revealed to have crossed this line long ago. Mulder finds himself in danger of becoming one, but he realizes this and turns away from this path.
    Mulder: You can have my badge, you can have the X-Files. Just tell me where he is.
    Skinner: And Then What? He sleeps with the fishes? We're NOT the Mafia, Agent Mulder. I know it’s easy to forget but we work for the Department of Justice.
  • Manly Tears: Mulder sheds these after seeing Scully and arriving at his ransacked home.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: There are at least two in this episode and both are directed at Mulder.
    • First, there's X in the parking garage.
      "You got him killed! You got her killed. That's not going to happen to me. You're my tool, you understand?! I come to you when I need you!"
    • Later, Melissa Scully calls Mulder out pretty spectacularly when he refuses to come to the hospital for what could be Scully's last night (see Accentuate the Negative entry).
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: It's heavily hinted that Mulder is heading towards this, and X even arranges for it to happen, when he fools the people responsible for Scully's state into thinking that Mulder's out of town, so that they go to his place and he can have his revenge on them. Ultimately averted, when Mulder passes up the opportunity after deciding that being by Scully's side and supporting her during what could be her last moments is more important than vengeance.
  • Shadow Archetype: X says he used to be Mulder, but that he had the heart to do the things that Mulder can't and won't do.
    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.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Skinner talks about how he lost his faith in everything after shooting a child covered with grenades in Vietnam. He also reflects on a later near-death experience and how he's afraid to look beyond it.
    "When I was eighteen, I, uh... I went to Vietnam. I wasn't drafted, Mulder, I... I enlisted in the Marine Corps the day of my eighteenth birthday. I did it on a blind faith. I did it because I believed it was the right thing to do. I don't know, maybe I still do. Three months into my tour, a ten-year-old North Vietnamese boy walked into camp covered with grenades and I, uh... I blew his head off from a distance of ten yards. I lost my faith. Not in my country or in myself, but in everything. There was just no point to anything anymore. One night on patrol, we were, uh... caught... and everyone... everyone fell. I mean, everyone. I looked down... at my body... from outside of it. I didn't recognize it at first. I watched the V.C. strip my uniform, take my weapon and I remained... in this thick jungle... peaceful... unafraid... watching my... my dead friends. Watching myself. In the morning, the corpsmen arrived and put me in a bodybag until... I guess they found a pulse. I woke in a Saigon hospital two weeks later. I'm afraid to look any further beyond that experience. You? You are not. Your resignation is unacceptable."
  • Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!: Skinner chews out Mulder for him succumbing to despair and willing to quit his job due to Scully's impending death and the Cigarette Smoking Man's words.
  • Take That!:
    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.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Mulder returns Scully's cross necklace to her, which he's been carrying around in her absence.
  • Unusual Euphemism: X tells Mulder that he later needs to be prepared to "defend [himself] with terminal intensity".
  • Villain Respect: CSM admits he actually likes Mulder and Scully. He also believes Mulder is becoming "a player" in the overall game.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Subverted with Agent Scully. Her mother tells a story how her daughter felt guilty for shooting a snake with her new BB gun. Although deathly afraid of snakes, she held the snake and it died in her hands. When Mulder and Scully investigate cases involving snakes, she isn't exactly on edge ("Die Hand die Verletzt") and she even gets a tattoo of a snake eating its own tail in "Never Again". On the other hand, it's played straight in "Signs and Wonders", which features lots of snakes, although even Mulder who doesn't suffer from this phobia is uneased by them there.
  • The World Is Not Ready: CSM says everything would fall apart if people knew what he knew.

"I had the strength of your beliefs."