In the early seasons of The X-Files, so often FBI agent Dana Scully finds herself in the usual damsel-in-distress roles. In “Squeeze,” she is stalked by a shapeshifting serial killer who invades her home while she’s preparing a bath. In “Genderbender,” Mulder saves her from becoming seduced and poisoned by a member of an Amish-like religious sect. And in “Ascension,” she is kidnapped by a desperate madman, who throws her in a trunk, bound and gagged, to be offered up as an alternate sacrifice to the aliens who abducted him. Her whereabouts after this are unclear.
“One Breath” follows the events of this abduction. In this episode, Scully simply appears out of nowhere, after a period of being missing, prostrate on a hospital bed. There is no intake information on her admittance chart. Because she is unconscious, she can’t tell the story of her recent trauma, or give her family any indication whether to pull the plug as her body begins to shut down. The episode circles around Scully’s choice whether to remain alive. Symbolic visuals are employed: The image of Scully sitting in a rowboat, tethered only by a single rope to the dock, the land of the living. She waits, emotionless, neither here nor there.