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SCULLAAAAAY!!!

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Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: the cornfield chase scene in the first X-Files movie (I believe it is now known as “Fight the Future”). This is one solid minute—yes, sixty full seconds, I timed it—during which absolutely the ONLY thing that happens is Mulder and Scully running around in a cornfield yelling each other’s names at the top of their lungs.

And here’s the thing: There is no objective reason that this sequence should work. It’s the same thing, over and over, with no dialogue to speak of, and it ought to be kind of laughable that two helicopters with searchlights can’t pick out two humans in suits cowering amongst the cornstalks—especially as they are both yelling as loud as they can, all the time. 

And yet…either you find this particular sixty seconds of film riveting anyway, or you basically just don’t get the show. 

Because as silly as it got, and as much as we all make fun of it from time to time, this “SCULLAAAY!” thing is really the essence du show. Consider this particular iteration. They’ve run into this cornfield for the specific purpose of taking cover from the helicopters flying overhead and searching for them. They get separated when Scully stops to crouch down to avoid being seen by one of the helicopters as it buzzes the corn, which makes sense; Mulder, not having that much sense, just keeps on running. Now, that cornfield is eminently finite, and the smart thing for both of them to do would be take cover and wait it out until the helicopters give up and go home, at which point they can discreetly reunite on the other side of the cornfield. They’re simpatico enough at this point for each to guess what the other’s overall plan is; in fact, the joint decision to take cover in the cornfield is the result of one of those unspoken moments of communication that we all know and love.

And yet, as soon as Mulder realizes Scully isn’t following him any more, he just starts charging around yelling her name, occasionally throwing in a “Talk to me!” With the noise of the helicopter blades there’s really no chance they’re going to hear each other, and yet he’s yelling away anyhow, and she’s yelling back. There is an element of panic there that goes deeper than the immediate practical situation, which is bad but no worse than many another situation like this they have encountered together. He wants to find her, of course; they have to escape together. But really, this “SCULLAAY!!!” thing is also always about his need to be connected to her. Apart from the danger and whatnot, not being able to see/touch/talk to her just lacerates him on an existential level. Maybe every time they get separated, he relives her abduction in some diminished but still viscerally disturbing way. Whatever the reason, “SCULLAY!!!” is not just Mulder’s attempt at echolocation; it is a cry of the heart, a desperate calling-out across the abyss of loneliness to the absent beloved.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled broadcast.