The X-Files Episode 4: Scully's Tragic Loss Has Repercussions
Spoiler alert! Do not read further if you haven't watched the "Home Again" hour of The X-Files.
Scully (Gillian Anderson) faced a devastating loss in Monday's episode of The X-Files, "Home Again."
After her mother, Maggie (Sheila Larken), suffers a heart attack, Scully goes to her bedside in the ICU—and learns her mom has been requesting her estranged son, Charlie.
Unbeknownst to Scully, Maggie changed her living will and requested no extraordinary measures be taken to save her life. Mulder (David Duchovny) joins his partner in time to be there for Scully when the hospital extubates Maggie. Scully's brother Bill tracks down Charlie, who talks to their unconscious mother via speakerphone. Maggie wakes up just long enough to say "My son is named William, too," before she dies.
For writer/director Glen Morgan, the hour was a deeply personal one. "My mom passed away a few years ago," he shares. "I didn't know if I'd ever get the chance to talk about that."
"It's always hard to deal with the loss of a parent," The X-Files creator Chris Carter acknowledges. "It was a bold move [to put it in the show]."
The challenge became trying to fit Maggie's death in with the Band-Aid Nose Man case that Morgan had been wanting to tell for more than a decade. "If we didn't have [only] six, I would have [split them up]," he says. "But I merged them together."
Morgan spoke with TV Insider about balancing the two tales in "Home Again," Scully's unresolved mysteries, and more.
What was the writing process like, especially time-wise, trying to balance Scully's ordeal with the supernatural case?
It can't be one is 10 minutes and one is 30 minutes, so I tried to really concentrate on finding that balance, and most importantly, to find a thematic tie in for the two of them. I had read some things and talked to some people that had been adopted or put kids up. That Scully might feel that way, that she had discarded [William]; honestly, this election season, I feel like there's a lot of people saying, "Keep them out. Get them out. Keep them off the street." They treat people like trash. So thematically, I tried to tie the monster into Scully that way.
Had this hour aired in the original order, Mulder and Scully would have been split up almost instantly on their first case back. What kind of challenges did that present while you were writing the episode, and how did the shift in airing order alter that?
I'm not a fan of moving them. I had to cut some things. [We kept] the shot with the badges. [But] that would have been the first time David was cleaned up again, in a suit [in his FBI garb]. A guy comes over and is like, "I hear you work on spooky cases." And he goes, "Yeah" [and Scully says, "We used to."] I had to cut that, because they've already worked on spooky cases. I was very conscious of that [first shot of] the suited FBI agents. I'm disappointed to not have that.
You know what things people want to see. They want to see the flashlights. David and Gillian were like, "The flashlights!" [In the first episode they want to see] the suit and tie, and his smartass jokes.
What other notable X-Files things did you strive to get into the hour?
First and foremost is giving David and Gillian something worthwhile. You try and push yourself because of where they've been [with the show]. Then after that, get the flashlights in, get a good history, get a good joke. I used the technique of killing somebody to a song, which we've done before. But trying to do it for 2016, rather than have it be a replay.
Scully lost her father in Season 1 to a heart attack, whereas her sister was killed as a side effect of the conspiracy. Was there any kind of debate about tying Maggie's death to something supernatural?
Her phone call, I got that phone call. The necklace [made out of a quarter] is an exact prop recreation to my mom's necklace. My dad says he knows what it is…I don't know what it is.
People always want to know, is the government involved and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But all of us have mysteries that are never going to be answered. There are so many things I'm never going to find out from my mom or my grandparents. I think a lot of people feel that way. These are two characters involved in these [big questions]: is there other life, are we being manipulated? [Scully] just wants to know why [her mom] mentioned [William] on her last breath.
I know you don't know what the real necklace represents, but do you know what Scully's mother's necklace represents?
Chris said he came up with something, but we didn't talk about it. We'll see if he knows, or if he has a good idea. Not to be morbid, but I look around my office, and I think, "What are [my family members] not going to know?" ... For 50-something years, [my mother and I] were very close, and there's all this stuff I didn't know.
How did everyone handle the news that Maggie would be dying?
I called [Sheila], and she's [The X-Files producer/director] Bob Goodwin's wife, and we're all friends. [Morgan's frequent co-writer] Jim [Wong] and I cast her in [Season 1's] "Beyond the Sea." I called her, and she didn't like it. She didn't like it. Chris called and said, "No one's ever dead on X-Files." That's right. But she also didn't want to lay in bed in a coma for two days. But then she did.
There was some moments where Gillian was trying to find it, she couldn't find it, the crew was great and quiet, and I went up to her, and I was like, what can I do to help you? And she said, "Go get Sheila." I go get Sheila out of her trailer, put her in a chair, and Gillian just looked at her face, and said, "Okay, let's go." There was this mother she's had for 20 years.
How did you land on Maggie's last words?
[It had to be] something to be a real puzzle to Scully, and fuel another mystery. Why did she say that? It was to help her to drive [insight into] her mother, herself and her kid.
The episode made use of the show's history by inserting flashbacks into the hour. How many of those scenes did you have in mind as you were writing the script?
I wasn't there and I can admit I didn't see a lot of the last few years. So I did my homework and went through it. ... I'll fess up: I didn't know the Lone Gunmen were dead until we started doing this.
Charlie was mentioned, but never seen in present day in the original series. Who did you ultimately get to play him?
I was going to make it Chris! [Editor's note: Instead, Charlie was voiced by The X-Files' ADR mixer Andrew Morgado.]
Mulder and Scully are romantically split, but aside from the premiere, their dynamic hasn't really changed. What balance were you trying to strike as he was there for Scully in her time of need, but they're not in a clear relationship space?
I think it's complicated. A show that has a small but vocal [fan base saying], "They have to be together and I hate you for not having them together." You have another [group], "I don't care about them [together]." You can't make everybody happy right off the bat. You have to be yourself. I think Chris was never interested in them being domesticated, but them being spiritual partners. And I like that. Also, all of us were like, we're married, and sometimes you're really close, and sometimes you're mad at them. That's life. I see some friends every day and some I don't see for six months. That's life.
Both "Home Again" and "Founder's Mutation" touched on Scully's grief over giving up William. What did you and Jim talk about to make sure you didn't play on the same beats? And was anything altered since your episode now airs after his?
In "Home Again," she goes, "Do you ever think of William?" And [Mulder] never answers. And then you go show 5, and [the audience] would go, "Oh my God, he does."
[Jim] had to cut out in his episode, "Ever since my mom died, I can't stop thinking about William." [Everything else that was cut] was all in that first part. I had cut out the part where David found the band-aid on his foot, and I put that back in because I had to put back in 17 seconds.
The episodes are longer than most shows currently on the air. What kind of discussions were had with the network to get that longer run time?
They're shorter than what we had back in the day. They wanted eight-minute teasers ... We asked, "Can we make it three minutes like we used to?" And they let us do that.
Speaking of what they let you do, the episode was very graphic. What pushback did you get from that?
[Laughs] I was like,"Whoa." They went a little far, but I'll go with it. ... It's kind of weird being on at 8 o'clock.I haven't been on network for a while, but I don't know. They never gave us grief, even on "Home."
Speaking of "Home," how much feedback do you still hear about that hour? Do you often hear about other shows drawing inspiration from it?
When you start doing this, a lot. I did a remake of a movie, Black Christmas. I use Karin Konoval a lot, and she's got the same thing. It's Ma Peacock, people figure it out. It's a weird thing. It's not really my favorite. I don't really see why people go so crazy for it. I mean, I'm proud of it. But there's other shows where it's like, "How come I'm not asked about that one?" But it's an honor. We're all influenced by Kolchak: The Night Stalker. If another show [is influenced], I have no complaints.
Is there an episode you think is particularly underrated?
Personally, there was "The Field Where I Died," which a lot of people don't like, but it was close for [Morgan's wife] Kristen [Cloke, who appeared in the episode as Melissa] and I. Jim did a great job directing the Cancer Man [flashback], and David and Gillian weren't even in that.
The X-Files airs Mondays at 8/7c on Fox.