One Breath

One Breath
"One Breath"
The X-Files episode
Dana Scully's grave plate
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 8
Directed by R.W. Goodwin
Written by Glen Morgan
James Wong
Production code 2X08
Original air date November 11, 1994
Guest stars
Episode chronology
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List of The X-Files episodes

"One Breath" was the eighth episode of the second season of The X-Files science-fiction television series created by Chris Carter. This episode features the return of Scully from her abduction in a coma-like state.



Scully's mother (Sheila Larken) tells Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) a story about Dana (Gillian Anderson) shooting a snake with her brothers as a child and regretting what she did afterwards. She indicates she's ready to let go of Dana, and shows Mulder Scully's gravestone. Mulder, however, refuses to give up.

Scully then turns up mysteriously at a hospital in a coma. An out of control Mulder demands to know how she got there, and is escorted out by security but later calms down and meets with Dr. Daly (Jay Brazeau), who reveals that no one can figure out how she got there or what's wrong with her. He tells Mulder and Mrs. Scully that she has a living will that dictates she be taken off of life support when her condition falls to specific criteria. At Scully's bedside Mulder meets her older sister, Melissa (Melinda McGraw). A sequence shows Scully sitting in a boat, attached by rope to a dock where Mulder and Melissa stand. Frohike visits Scully and sneaks out a chart on her that the Lone Gunmen investigate. Byers finds that Scully's blood contains branched DNA that may have been used for identification but now is inactive and nothing more than a poisonous waste product in her system.

The mysterious Nurse Owens visits Scully at her bedside, trying to reach her in her coma. Later Mulder visits Scully while another nurse takes her blood. When distracted, a mysterious man steals Scully's blood sample and runs. Mulder chases him down to the parking lot where he is confronted by X, who demands that he stop pursuing what happened to Scully and let her die. He then executes the man who stole her blood. When Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) calls Mulder to his office regarding the incident, Mulder denies any involvement and claims that the Cigarette Smoking Man is responsible for what happened to Scully. Mulder, calling him "Cancer Man", demands to know where he is but Skinner refuses.

In another vision Scully sits on a table and is visited by her deceased father. Mulder, sitting with Melissa in the hospital cafeteria, is asked by a woman for change for the cigarette machine. When she says that a pack of Morleys is already there and leaves, Mulder opens it and finds the Cigarette Smoking Man's address inside. Mulder bursts into the Cigarette Smoking Man's home and holds him at gunpoint, demanding to know why Scully was taken instead of him. The Cigarette Smoking Man claims he likes the both of them, which is why she was returned. He tells Mulder that he'll never know the truth if he kills him, and Mulder decides not to.

Mulder returns to FBI headquarters and types out a resignation letter that he hands into Skinner. Skinner visits his office as Mulder is packing his things, and relates an out-of-body experience he had in Vietnam. Skinner refuses to accept Mulder's resignation and Mulder realizes that he was the one who provided him with the Cigarette Smoking Man's location. Heading to the parking garage, Mulder is met by X, telling him that he'll have a chance for revenge that night when men, believing him to have information on Scully, will search his apartment at a specific time. Mulder is waiting with his gun at his apartment when Melissa arrives. Although he initially refuses to leave, Melissa is able to convince Mulder to see Scully, where he holds Scully's hand and talks to her. Returning home to find his apartment trashed, Mulder sits on the floor and cries.

The next day, Scully awakens. Mulder is called to the hospital and sees her, returning her cross necklace, where she indicates she heard his voice while in her coma. Scully tells him she doesn't remember anything after being kidnapped by Duane Barry. Later Scully asks one of the nurses if she can see Nurse Owens, as she wants to thank her, but the nurse tells Scully that no nurse named Owens works at the hospital.[1][2]


Gillian Anderson, who had just given birth to her daughter Piper days before this episode spent the majority of the episode in a hospital bed.[3]

The episode title, One Breath comes from a line from Scully's father when he talks to her during the episode.[4] The character 'The Thinker', who later appears in person in the episode "Anasazi" was named after online X-Files fan 'DuhThinker'.[4] The episode introduces Melinda McGraw as Scully's sister Melissa. McGraw had previously worked with writers Glen Morgan and James Wong, who specifically wrote the part with her in mind.[4] Thoughts were given to having a romantic interest between Mulder and Melissa, but the concept never came to pass.[4]

Writer Glen Morgan said of the episode, "Duchovny challenged us to do a "Beyond the Sea" for him. The show had been so dark and bleak, and Jim and I feel that there is a side to the paranormal that's very hopeful. We wanted to do that side of it. I thought it would be a great opportunity for Duchovny, but then the situation came up with Gillian's pregnancy. We needed to get her off her feet anyway. There's a line in there where Scully's sister says 'Just because the belief is positive and good doesn't make it silly or trite'. It was the whole theme of the show."[5]

Chris Carter described the opening scene, where Scully discovers about death and the related sadness and sorrow, as "a way he woulnever imagined an X-Files episode to begin with", and that the related scene with Scully's tombstone was "a soft but beautiful opening" that "sets up the episode in a frightening way". The image of Scully in the boat was meant to symbolize "being tethered to something very tenuously, and that there was a chance for you to be cut adrift and slip into the unknown". Skinner facing the Smoking Man placed the character as "both an antagonistic and instutitional figure" that tries to be both an FBI agent and an ally of Mulder and Scully - as he asks for him not to smoke in his office, "speaks of [Skinner's] alliances and allegiances to Agent Scully and his hatred of this man he cannot vanquish, he cannot get rid of, but he has to tolerate".[6]


Chris Carter in 1996 declared this one of the series most popular episodes thus far.[5] Co-writer James Wong also enjoyed the episode, saying "I really love that show."[5] Director Robert Goodwin said of the episode, "What's so unusual about "One Breath" is that it had very little to do with our usual X-File stuff. It was more about human emotions, drama, relationships."[7] The episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Cinematography for a Series.[4]

The episode earned a Nielsen rating of 9.5 with a 16 share. It was viewed by 9,063,000 households.[8]


  1. ^ Lowry,Brian (1995). The Truth is Out There: The Official Guide to the X-Files. Harper Prism. pp. 179–180. 
  2. ^ Lovece, Frank (1996). The X-Files Declassified. Citadel press. pp. 126–129. 
  3. ^ Lowry,Brian (1995). The Truth is Out There: The Official Guide to the X-Files. Harper Prism. p. 180. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Lovece, Frank (1996). The X-Files Declassified. Citadel press. p. 130. 
  5. ^ a b c Edwards, Ted (1996). X-Files Confidential. Little, Brown and Company. p. 104. 
  6. ^ Chris Carter (featurette). Chris Carter Talks About Season 2: "One Breath". The X-Files: The Complete Second Season: Fox. 
  7. ^ Edwards, Ted (1996). X-Files Confidential. Little, Brown and Company. p. 105. 
  8. ^ "The X-Files Compilation: Nielsen Ratings". Compilation. Retrieved February 15, 2011. 

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