The X-Files

Season 2 Episode 8

One Breath

Aired Wednesday 8:00 PM Nov 11, 1994 on FOX

Episode Fan Reviews (18)

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  • Don't try and threaten me Mulder, I've watched presidents die.

    I've watched every episode in the series at least 5 times (yes, I'm pretty hardcore), and "One Breath" is by far the best. Heavy emotion, pace, desperation and intensity. The purgatorial scene between Scully and her father has made me cry several times, Skinner's Vietnam account heavily endeared himself to the audience and finally, Mulder's exchange with the Cancer Man was probably the series' most defining scene.
  • Scully is back but fighting for her life.

    A conclusion to an excellent storyline when Scully returns to the hospital and the doctors have no idea how she has got there but they know she is dying and it is unlikely she will come back.In the beginning I thought they had got Scully's tombstone too early its like her mother just lost hope.Mulder who wishes he can do something to bring her back but he can't.Mulder tries to go to X who saves Mulder when he attacked by a unknown man who had stole Scull'y blood.When Mulder figures out about the cancer man he asks Skinner about him but he gives him his location later on.Mulder goes there but has a chance to shoot him bot he doesn't when the cancer man persuades him but I don't think Mulder would have shot him anyway but the cancer man is definitely right in the middle of all of this.I was so glad when Scully miraculously woke up but she tells the nurse to thank nurse Owen's the nurse says that no one works here by that name.This was really weird because you see her throughout the episode praying for Scully and you see her when Scully is sitting in the boat.
  • One Breath

    One Breath was a perfectly riveting episode of the X-Files. I really enjoyed watching because the story was full of suspense, drama, intrigue and action. Scully mysteriously reappears in a comatose state at a hospital and Mulder tries to find out what happened to her. It was nice seeing how passionate he was and how far he would go for her. It was interesting to meet her sister and see her mother again. I liked learning a little more about the cigarette smoking man and X, both of whom had some excellent scenes. I liked the ending when Scully discovers the nurse who had been whispering in her ear wasn't really from the hospital which was neat. I liked the character development and depth of context explored. I look forward to watching what happens next!!!!!!!!!
  • Nerve-wracking in a beautiful, perfect way. Mulder slowly becomes a disaster without Scully, while Scully makes a decision whether to live or die, based upon reasons that we may not be fully privy to.

    This is one of the best hours of entertainment I've ever had the privilege to consume. Everything is superb. Mulder is such a believable disaster, Scully's story is well told, the mytharc has never felt so interesting or significant, and the geust performances added so much. I wonder what would have become of Mulder if he'd never met Scully? Is he losing it because he's losing Scully, or because the conspiracy is making him lose Scully, or because it's just his time to lose it? Or is it because he's not making any progess, and Scully is a symptom of that? I don't know, but I love that the episode is so rich I can ask such questions.
  • Everything I wanted to see - happened.

    The most perfect episode. Now when I think about it - so many things happened! I was waiting for three things: Mulder's resignation, Skinner's character development and the confrontation with the Cigarette Smoking Man. And all of them happened in one episode. Wow... If just Mulder would have pulled the trigger... There would have been less bad guys left. I really start to hate "Cancer Man" as Mulder called him, though the actor is terrific. Then, I really liked how the crossroads between life and death were made. Especially the boat.
    Also Scully - Mulder storyline moved on. Fox even cried - I didn't expect that. Though the very end of the episode could have been a little better. Mulder should have stayed with Dana.
  • "Don't try to threaten me, Mulder. I've watched Presidents die." The Cigarette-Smoking Man


    The Cigarette Smoking Man's sneer to Fox Mulder sums up the cold-blooded arrogance of the forces arrayed against Mulder and Scully. In "One Breath" we finally see the face of the real enemy--not some laughable little extraterrestrial or sideshow freak, but the ruthless amorality of a government that holds honor and justice and truth in contempt.

    Not that I give a damn, but there wasn't much about the X- Files in "One Breath": no pyrokinetics, no werewolves, no little green men, even by implication. As I suspected, Duane Barry was hallucinating. Whoever took Agent Dana Scully from Barry, they did not ride in flying saucers and they probably hold Social Security numbers. It is pretty clear from Mr. X (Steven Williams) and the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) that there is a plot here, but it is a tangled human plot manipulated by humans. Extraterrestrials need not apply. Rather, we got a good look at the human relationships involved in this series.

    There were no bad, not even any mediocre performances in this episode. Mitch Pileggi's star turn when Deputy Director Walter Skinner opens up to Mulder was believable, in character, and very humanizing. Sheila Larken as Dana Scully's mother turned in a fine-honed, low-keyed performance. Even Tom Braidwood's touching protrayal of the gnome Frohike gave us a new dimension on that marginal character. And how typical of "The X-Files" that one of the most revealing and emotional speeches is spoken by a dead man--Admiral Scully's (Don Davis) monologue to his dying daughter is eloquent and moving.

    David Duchovny has delivered no more passionate line as Fox Mulder than his "I owe her more!" to Plot Device--excuse me--Mr. X. During the scene with Mr. X in the hospital garage, Fox Mulder's rage and frustration nearly reach spontaneous combustion. Almost, almost, Mulder succumbs to the temptation of violence as an antidote to his baffled grief: Mr. X provides the opportunity, and Mulder waits in his darkened apartment to ambush, and probably murder, the men who abducted his partner. But Scully saves him from this fatal mistake--not Dana Scully but her sister Melissa.

    There are so many echoes in her character: like Mulder, Melissa Scully (Melinda McGraw) is a believer--but from the heart, not the head. Like Mulder, she is about to lose a beloved younger sister. Like Mulder, she is estranged from her family--her own mother is surprised to see her at Dana's bedside. Best of all, she sees straight through Fox Mulder to the heart; her confrontation with him in his apartment awakens Mulder to the best that is in him . This scene--Mulder edgy, bitter, tense as a coiled spring, and Melissa Scully resolute, caring, and strong--is excellent. Beneath the trendy New-Age babble is a shrewd judge of character and a heart of gold. If Fox Mulder has any brains at all, he will get this woman's phone number.

    This episode works on several levels, but it works best as a morality play. The men who hold temporal power--Mr. X, the Cigarette Smoking Man--are revealed as cardboard cutouts: shallow, corrupt, full of fear. Fox Mulder, on the other hand, even in the depths of despair, can find courage, faith and resolution. His decision to forgo revenge in order to stand by his dying partner in her need imbues the character with a power his antagonists will never know. This is a profoundly more interesting story than who kidnaped whom and why. We are learning a lot about Fox Mulder this season: Friday night he learned something about himself as well.

    As Lord John Whorfin said in Buckaroo Banzai, character is what you are in the dark. In the dark, we find that Fox Mulder is a man not only of passionate intensity, but of fundamental integrity. He will not stoop to cold-blooded murder. The struggle embodied in the X-Files is recast into a struggle for the soul of one man.

    Bravo, bravo, bravissimo.

    This one gets a perfect 10. The best yet.

  • Mulder's Dark Night

    Ostensibly “One Breath” is about the return of Dana Scully. But actually it serves as a deeper examination of Mulder’s long dark night of the soul. This is an episode all about faith. About having it (as witnessed by Mrs Scully’s and Melissa’s bedside vigil), keeping it (Mulder struggles to do precisely that, despite the cards being stacked against him) and losing it (Skinner’s tale of his Vietnam experience detailing this). And if you can get past the rather disconcerting sight of Gillian Anderson’s ginormous boobs – she’d just given birth to her daughter days before – the episode takes us down some interesting avenues and throws up as many questions as there are answers.

    With the return of Scully, albeit in a vegetative state, we are forced to ask a very difficult question. Is it better to have her returned like this? Or was it better not knowing her fate? For in her current condition (and to borrow a phrase from Season 8’s “This is Not Happening”) she is circling the drain. Is it any wonder that Mulder freaks out, demanding to know where she came from and who found her? Then, of course, the terms of Scully’s living will ups the dramatic ante, making this less an episode about watching over someone in a coma, and more a race against time to save her before she gets taken off life support. And although the appearance of the mystical Melissa is a nice touch (talk about 2 sisters being very different), we know that her chants and charms are powerless against the fate awaiting Scully. (Also quite interesting to note a coolness between mother and elder daughter, hinting at some kind of rift.)

    So Scully is poised to leave us, and the use of the boat analogy is a very simplistic but effective way of showing that. The amassed ranks of friends and family initially don’t seem to be enough to pull her back in, with even Frohike getting a little upset at seeing her in this condition. The introduction of the Lone Gunmen not only injects a welcome dose of humour into a very dark episode, but it also opens a really sinister door – that Scully’s DNA has been messed around with, and by something of a non-human strain. This too paves the way for the conspiracy angle, first really hinted at by the appearance of a mysterious man loitering by Scully’s bed, and then by the abrupt and very violent appearance of X. This character is a very different one from his predecessor, Deep Throat. When X is about, people tend to get killed, although he proves to be just as infuriatingly inconclusive about giving Mulder any real clues about what is really going on. This in turn leads us to Skinner’s office and his apparent complicity with the Cigarette Smoking Man, who here steps out of the shadows really for the first time and starts to reveal more of his agenda. The scene when Mulder confronts him in his home is a very powerful one in that it truly reveals that CSM’s involvement is all the more insidious in that he has nothing to lose. It also clarifies (we think) Skinner’s position. Not content with re-opening the X Files, he also gave Mulder the whereabouts of CSM. If Skinner isn’t an ally, then Mulder’s even more paranoid than we all think. But the crux of this episode is less the conspiracies surrounding it, and more the issue of faith. While Mrs Scully wrestles with the agonising decision of terminating Dana’s life support (something that Mulder simply cannot face at all, either at the decision making end or in terms of watching it being done), we have to wonder what it is that eventually brings Scully back. Is it her own faith? Is it Mulder’s, never so passionate as it is here? Is it the visitation from her father, and the dutiful daughter complying with his wishes that it’s too soon for her to join him? Or, most interesting of all, is it the disappeared Nurse Owens? Is she some kind of angel? Is she the physical representation of Scully’s Christian faith that leads her back into the light? Who knows? The only thing we do know for certain is that Mark Snow can deliver the goods with a subtly evocative and ethereal score. I feel though that “One Breath” is essentially an episode about Mulder. He learns many truths throughout the episode, like Skinner’s Vietnam experience making him more sympathetic to Mulder’s quest and beliefs than he’d previously thought. He learns the true natures of CSM and X. In “3” he was suppressing his loss but he really lets rip with it now, as you can tell by his outbursts at the hospital, his increasing frustration with the doctor and his angry confrontation with CSM. But what separates CSM from Mulder is the latter’s humane streak. Given the chance to exact justice on the men who did this to Scully, he ultimately chooses to sit with his partner and finally talk to her, in the vague hope that she’ll hear him. Melissa astutely recognises that he is in a very dark place.

    For many, the key imagery of “One Breath” is the one of Scully sitting in a boat which ultimately drifts away. And lots of people love the reunion scene when he returns her cross to her. But for me the key image of this deep episode is of Mulder, returning from his bedside vigil to a ransacked flat, sinking to the floor, with his head in his hands, finally succumbing to the pain that he’s carried inside him for so long. That, and the subsequent phone call he receives in the darkness informing him that she’s woken up. And his tentative smile at the news he’s been longing to receive. 8/10
  • One of the best

    This is a very sad episode. And this is the first episode where Mulder is going from here to there so he can find answers to what happened to Scully. He listens to everyone and is trying to make up his mind and make a decision that could change his life. It's very nice to see the Scully family together, even in this very sad moment. I like the vulnerability Mulder shows in this episode. He would've sank in his sadness and indecision if it hadn't been for Melissa. She was right, if Scully had died, she would've known that Mulder had been there for her.
    Very nice touch when Mulder hands Scully the famous necklace, the necklace that was a key in certain situations when these two were separated. Scully's skepticism is put to the test. And I wish we could've seen more of Melissa Scully and her interaction with her sister. It would've been nice to see two women who are completely different.
  • Another one of my favourites.

    So in this episode Scully comes back. But its not great news as she is in very poor heath and could well die. So Mulder begins his quest for asnwers about what happened to her. But as X points out these men are above the law and they will not be punished. But it is in this episode that it is confirmed that CSM was responsible for Scully's disappearance. The first time you watch this episode you really do believe that Mulder might kill CSM but he does not... Also Skinner finally opens up for the first time in this episode. I really loved the emotional scenes between Mulder and Scully. But who was the nurse Scully claimed to have seen? I really cannot prase this episode enough. It is so well written. Wellcome back Scully you were sadly missed.
  • “This high-capacity compact SigSaver .40 caliber weapon is pointed at your head to stress my insistence that your search for who put your partner on that respirator desist immediately!”

    One Breath is the perfect conclusion to one of the best story arcs of the entire series. One Breath returns a comatose Scully to Mulder, the most tangible feel in this episode is that of change, we know that something incredible has happened, something which will forever affect the series and its characters, and yet, we are not, at this point in time, quite sure of what that is. This is the true foundation on which the series comes to rest, Samantha’s abduction was a detached event, our emotional connection to her came from our emotional attachment to Mulder. In the case of Scully’s abduction we have a first-hand attachment and, as such, we are invested in her well-being. Mulder’s fragile emotional state is explored in this episode, as is his willingness to sacrifice everything for Scully who has become the most important person in his life. Although the viewer assumes Scully will be all right, we sense and willingly participate in Mulder’s intense fear and anxiety, we are now emotionally connected to the conspiracy in a drastic way. Another compelling side of these episode is the spiritual content. Nurse Owens, who watches over Scully in intensive care, is obviously intended to be an angel, or a force of a similar nature. This is the first of several episodes with connotations of a spiritual nature. Scully’s religious convictions, her strong sense of faith in the spiritual, are in direct contrast to Mulder’s material world pursuits. Both characters are subsequently moving towards a middle ground, Scully must learn to balance her faith with the paranormal phenomena she encounters and Mulder must come to change his view of spiritual things. Unlike many mythology episodes in which Mulder’s apparent lack of concern for the affect his decisions have on others is actually addressed in One Breath as is his view that short-term gains are more important than considering the long-term ramifications of his actions. In this episode it seems that they are trying to bring Mulder to a point where he realizes the full impact of his choices and that acting without thought can get those he cares about killed. He also admits that his cavalier attitude is partially to blame for Scully’s abduction and near-death. Unfortunately, any lessons he learns in this episode are quickly dismissed, and his reckless behavior is actually encouraged, despite the many negative consequences of Scully’s abduction which come into play throughout the rest of the seasons. All-in-all this is an excellent, entertaining and gripping episode.
  • Poor Mulder....

    In this episode you can really tell how much Mulder cares for Scully, even though he's only known her for a year. When he starts shouting at the doctors, you can tell he's really desperate to find out who did this to Scully.

    Mulder's break down in his apartment was sad. He's just sort of hopeless at that point; he doesn't know quite what to do. He's afraid of losing Scully forever, and he wants to save her, but he doesn't know how.

    Scully's dreams were very well done. The symbolism was strong. She's sitting in a boat tied to the dock, the rope breaks, and she starts to float away; she's on the verge of death, and she's about to go over to the afterlife.

    The last scene with Mulder coming to visit her was sweet. He gives her a present: "Superstars Of The Superbowl." Of course there was a reason to live, Scully!

    In my opinion, this was the best episode of season two. Well acted, well written... Nearly flawless.
  • Christmas in July

    Wow, a truly superlative episode so jam-packed with stuff that one could easily confuse it with a season finale episode. Great writing, great acting (especially from Mulder) and lots and lots of mythological goodness.

    Scully's sister was hot, hot, hot! Just incendiary. Weird that the writers had her make a move on Mulder (the late night visit to his apartment while he waited for those who were responsible for Scully's predicament). It was a little creepy. I loved his response to her question as to why it was so dark in his apartment..."Because the lights are off" LOL!

    I was bowled over by the monologue that Scully's father gave her while she was in her coma. Fabulous writing that put a lump in my throat.
  • Mulder's downward spiral.

    This episode was an amazing installment. Perfect! Beyond the fact that it was the closure of Scully's abduction, it was an incredibly accurate depiction of the psychological turmoil a character such as Mulder would experience having been beset by all these tragic circumstances. I loved every moment of his downfall. I thought it was especially interesting that people seemed to fall over themselves to give him opportunities to exact revenge on the men who put Scully in that bed. Skinner, then X. When X approached him, the resignation on his face spoke so clearly of what was going on in his head - he no longer had any control over the events, he was just letting himself be pulled by the momentum and his willful blindness. The confrontation between CSM and Mulder was so well written as well. The picture of the sad little man in his tiny apartment and his black and white tv almost made you feel like he was humanized. Wonderful directing. I also enjoyed GA's performance in this episode. Haha. Well, it was certainly physically clear that she had just given birth. Just fun trivia to know. Anyway, I was so inspired by this episode that I wanted to rewrite it, so I did the recap for it. Enjoy.
  • “Do you ever feel like you’ve been cheated?”


    When Skully returned I expected a great dramatic episode that was exciting to watch. Instead I got “One Breath”. This episode sucks. Its Boring and just a waste of time, I think the writers wanted to get Skully back in as quick as possible and return to the normal X-file story lines. So Basically- Skully is found in a critical condition, Mulder meets Danas family, we see what’s going on inside her head, Mulder stressed and that about it really. Skully wakes up at the end of the episode and can’t remember a thing. To quote the Sex Pistols- “Do you ever feel like you’ve been cheated?” Well you have now. Poor.

  • The one where death almost takes Scully

    Another Scully episode even though she only had like, 5 lines.

    The teaser was perfect, the mother of Scully tells about her youth. One day Scully killed a snake and that made her very guilty because she had taken a life.

    So anyway, Scully is finally found and Mulder wants to find the people who did that to her and punish them, you go Mulder!

    None of the doctors know what happened to her, Mulder doesn’t even know what to do anymore and who to trust. He suspects everyone.
    Mulder meets Scully’s sister who can feel Scully’s soul and she says that Scully doesn’t want to live in that condition.

    Also The Lone Gunmen are back but they don’t know what to do to save her, When Scully’s blood get stolen, Mulder goes nuts and after that guy. But X stops him and says that this isn’t the job for Mulder. X eventually kills the other guy, hmm I don’t really like ‘X’ and I hope they try to make him a bit more interesting.

    Also Mulder knows that CSM aka Cancer Man was behind it and he goes to his house but CSM says that Scully is back because of him, and he thinks he’s doing the right thing. Everything would fall apart if they knew the truth.

    Another fantastic scene was with Scully lying on a table and her dad talking to her. His little star buck. He tells her that they will be together one day, but not now.

    Also even Skinner has character development and he tells Mulder that in the Vietnam, he had died once and he was looking at his body and his dead buddies but he got back in his body. He doesn’t accept Mulder from quitting. Skinner knows he’s in danger now that he told Mulder where CSM was but he says that everyone is in danger all the time.

    When X comes back to help Mulder, he gives him flight tickets to his home because he knows the government is going to trash his apartment and that those were the people who took Scully

    When Scully’s sister warns Mulder about Scully’s dying, she tells him that he won’t bring her back with revenge. He eventually goes to the hospital and when he goes back home, his apartment has been trashed and he collapse (which was a very emotional scene).

    But when Scully comes back out the woods, she tells Mulder that his believes were her strength.

    There was also a nurse looking out for Scully all the time, but when she asks for her. Another nurse tells her that the woman Scully believes to know doesn’t exist.

    The episode was very well written and almost had no flaws. This one is one of the best so far.

    My favourite scenes were the Scully coma scenes, where she was on a boat and looking at the people around her. Those were very well done.

  • thee is more to scully, but not as we know it.

    Scully is found and the result will be fatal to her. On the thread of death she walks, and as we get through the evidence, it is clear that her body was a vessel for more then one thing. It also opens a door that Mulder had not considered, and it is Dana's sister that opens the door for him.

    This is also a clear episode where cancer man 'the cigarette smoking man' finds a clear weakness in Mulder, one that he must use to survive himself. In the meantime, the paranoid three go through anything that they can find only to learn even more things do not add up.

    This all would explode during a fewe episode down the line, but the opening of these plots are well written.

  • Wow, Mulder has revealing encounters with Scully's Mom and Sister, Mr. X, CSM, Skinner, and himself.

    This was an awesome episode. It was an emotional rollercoaster to follow Mulder as he negotiated each encounter.

    Scully's mom set him straight about respecting Scully rather than continue to feed his need to know.

    When he gets weirded out by Melissa's crystals and "harmonic convergence" we find that Mulder has a complicated mix of cynicism thrown in with his belief in the paranormal.

    It's frightening and perplexing when Mr. X accosts Mulder and holds him at gun-point, entreating (not demanding) that Mulder "cease and desist". Deep Throat wasn't so complicated... but perhaps that's what got him killed.

    What a moment of triumph and adrenaline when Mulder confronts Cigarette-Smoking Man in his home! Go, Mulder! Yeah! And then he realizes the sickening catch-22... If he wants to get the truth, then he has to keep CSM alive. And ooh... creepy, when CSM tells Mulder that he's got more respect for him: "You're becoming a player."

    His response to the CSM encounter is to resign, but Skinner won't let him. He gives Mulder a pep talk (which I'm guessing didn't change his mind, because he still proceeded to clear out his desk.)

    It seems, Mr. X is resigned to the fact that Mulder will not let it go... so he gives Mulder a chance to get revenge on the men responsible for Scully's condition.

    After Melissa gives Mulder a wake-up call that Scully needs him at her bedside, he leaves the path of "darkness" for the night and goes to Scully, thus giving up his chance to confront the baddies (who consequently ransack his home).

    Sobbing in the doorway of his home...

    Wow, what a nightmarish day. Can it get any worse?!

    She wakes up!!!!!
  • As Mrs. Scully gives up on the search for her daughter, Scully mysteriously appears at a hospital extremely ill and in a comatose state. Mulder is led by Skinner to the Cigarette Smoking Man in his search for what really happened to Scully.

    'One Breath' didn't really wow me in the way I expected it to. In reality, it served as a precursor for so much of what was too come in the series. For instance, Skinner beginning to help Mulder in his search for the truth and taking on the role of a trusted friend. And most importantly, Mulder finally confronting the Cigarette Smoking Man face-to-face and having meaningful dialogue with him. At that moment Mulder could have very well pulled the trigger, as he knew that CSM had something to do with Scully's kidnapping, but rather he was convinced to let him live in order to go on in his quest for the truth.