It’s a clear case of “when your partner’s away, the Agent will play” in the X-Files episode “Never Again.” Mulder, forced to take some accrued vacation time, goes to Graceland for an Elvis experience. Special Agent Dana Scully goes and gets a tattoo. Ok, it’s the X-Files, so it’s more complex than that, but that’s the basic premise.
Compared to other episodes, the character of Scully in this episode seemed a bit “out of character.” Then again, who doesn’t try unexpected things sometimes when given the chance? That’s how we learn about ourselves. This is one of the only episodes where Scully is on her own and she clearly experiments with Mulder out of the picture. The more extreme of her choices is to sleep with the main suspect in the new case. Her more sensible choice, really, is to get an Ouroboros tattoo on her lower back.
The Ouroboros, most often shown as a snake biting its own tail, is a complex symbol. It is used to show the cycle of life or continuity. Some think of it as a variation on a yin/yang symbol, showing light and dark. There is symbolism connecting it to the character’s abduction and return within the show story lines. It was also an in-joke as “Millennium,” X-Files writer/producer Chris Carter’s other tv show, used a variation of this design as its logo.
The Russian tattooist in the show says a line I first read in an interview with famed tattoo artist Don Ed Hardy, “You get the tattoo you deserve.” Why does anyone choose the art they choose? It both speaks to them and says something about them. Ed feels he’s been burned by women in the past, and his tattoo cynically celebrates this fact. Sailors and soldiers have had women tattooed on their arms as symbolic of a girl who will never leave you, and Ed’s Betty falls into this same group. She’s with him do or die now.
The tattoo is a pinup girl, a style that has solidly existed since the 1940s. Whereas the portrait isn’t exactly an image of Bettie Page, it is of style that pays homage to that image. The voice of the tattoo was done by actress Jodi Foster. Whether Ed has a psychotic condition as a result of ergot poisoning brought on by homemade tattoo ink or genuine mental illness is left somewhat open. He does choose a very permanent removal method when he decides the tattoo has to go however.
The favorite Halloween episode “Humbug” also features some tattooing by way of the Enigma then of the Jim Rose Circus. Mulder sees “The Conundrum” as he jogs by the river in the morning, rising from the water, a large fish clenched in his teeth. The scene showcases the all-over tattooing that the Enigma wears: large-scale, blue puzzle pieces cover his entire body surface.
TheThe complexity of this full-body tattoo can be seen shortly thereafter as the agents talk with Dr. Blockhead (Jim Rose) at his trailer site. The Enigma pops up in a large cauldron of water, and then eats live crickets in a demonstration of his Geek Act. He eats ANYTHING.... To Mulder’s amazement, Scully then eats (ok, fakes eating) a cricket.
Later in this episode, a bed of nails is inadvertently demonstrated by Mulder. (“It’s more comfortable than a futon.”) Dr. Blockhead also demonstrates flesh hooks, or simulates them. No details have been provided to verify if this stunt was real or done with makeup for the cameras.
At the end of the run of the X-Files series, Agent Mulder was replaced by Special Agent Doggett, played by actor Robert Patrick. He took on the role of the skeptic, with Scully changing over to be the believer. Agent Doggett also brought a piece of skin art with him. The character bore a Special Forces tattoo, from his previous days as a Marine soldier. Watch for it during scenes at home when he's in a t-shirt, viewing his beloved NASCAR.