So when I rewatched Season 1 on Netflix recently, I looked forward to a new, adult appreciation of the long-praised, nuanced relationship between Mulder and Scully. And, well, I ended up as disappointed as Eugene Tooms in a hepatitis ward. The relationship, which the world remembers as steamy enough to get mainstream audiences interested in a show featuring extraterrestrial Amish sex-killers, mostly just comes off as awkward. Mulder knocks on Scully's motel door late at night to invite her out running, calls her in the middle of the night for personal reasons, constantly gets in her personal space, and actually reaches out and grabs a necklace that's resting between her boobs because she's trying to turn away and he's not done talking.
OK, so from the viewpoint of the X-Files' creators, this is understandable: They had to show a distractible television audience that their leads were into each other, even though they're not hooking up just yet. From within the context of the show's universe, though, Mulder comes off like a guy who wouldn't be able to investigate a single alien before he was brought in by Assistant Director Skinner to discuss a dozen different sexual-harassment lawsuits.
So why is this behavior so much more obvious now? I think partially because TV shows have gotten so much better at the "sexual tension" thing. Before 1993, shows with male-female leads who weren't doing it were relatively rare. Then the X-Files format took off, and now you can't flip on the TV without seeing a whole lineup of Sexy Opposite-Sex Partners Who Fight Crime But Who Aren't Partners In That Way, Just So You Know. Shows like Bones and Castle are traveling through familiar territory and know how to build slow-burn sex-tension naturally. After a decade or two of that, it's no wonder Mulder now seems like the type of co-worker you would cross FBI headquarters to avoid talking to.
But that's just the start. There's also the fact that ...