The X-Files S10E03 Recap: 'Mulder & Scully Meet The Were-Monster'
Over the years, The X-Files was a lot of different things to a lot of people. It was the first true genre show to take over broadcast television. It was one of the first serialized TV shows as well, to the point where it created its own term for an overarching story. It was serious, it was modern, it was funny, it was classic. Part of the magic was how you could tune in on any given week and see something entirely different from the episode that had aired the week before, thanks in large part to a fledgling network willing to take programming risks, and an eclectic group of writers willing to take them up on that offer.
Going into this new, unlikely season, we knew that, if it were to be successful, a lot of those circumstances would have to be recreated. A lot of those writers would have to come back, Fox would have to be open-minded and willing to try some weird, different things, and most importantly, the show, as well as the fans, would have to embrace the idea that The X-Files could be a lot of different things; the one difference being that this new series only has six episodes to accomplish that.
So forget everything we talked about last week. Forget the idea that the show had to reestablish itself, reset its characters' motivations, spruce up the conspiracy and be different. You can forget all of that because this week's episode, proves that the show didn't have to change a single thing to be everything we loved about it twenty years ago.
"Mulder & Scully Meet The Were-Monster" all but abandons the new direction, the new conspiracy established in the first couple of episodes, opting instead to return to the classic comedic style of certain episodes of the old show, particularly the style of one of the show's well-known writers, Darin Morgan (who's work on the show included "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'" and "Humbug"), who returns to write and direct on this one. Morgan's hilarious style always seemed to exist outside of the show's continuity in certain ways, and this is no exception.
The episode finds Mulder and Scully investigating another small-town murder that may have been committed by a monster, all while Mulder's belief in himself and his theories has begun to wane. We already know that he's chasing a new conspiracy, one where aliens were never behind everything he experienced with the show all those years ago, but instead one perpetrated by the American government for world domination using stolen alien technology. He's questioning his life's work. To make matters worse, all the cases he left in that basement 15 years ago have been solved, debunked, mostly as hoaxes or misdirects. It's almost as if he's going through a paranormal midlife crisis.
His questions are soon put on the backburner, however, as he quickly takes to the idea of a were-lizard stalking this nondescript small town he and Scully find themselves in. But once he tracks down the man who may turn into this monster every time there's a full moon, the episode takes a drastic turn. We're subjected to the ravings of this man (played perfectly by Flight of the Conchords' Rhys Darby), who claims he was just minding his business as an antropomorphized lizard when someone bit him and turned him into a man. He quickly started feeling all the same, weird, inexplainable urges humans feel. It's a crazy, long-winded story that eventually leads Mulder to the real killer, the town's animal control dude (played by lifelong X-Files fanatic Kumail Nanjiani), who's just your run-of-the-mill serial killer who likes to bite other dudes.
Well, actually, Scully finds the killer using science, but the story is about Mulder and his beliefs. In one final encounter with this odd man, he proclaims he truly wants to believe, and he witnesses his transformation back into the were-lizard fist-hand, something he didn't often get to say he did back during the days of the original series.
"Were-Monster" will ultimately have no effect on Mulder's new conspiracy theory. If you're only interested in that Mythology, then this isn't necessarily an episode you need to watch. But new series or old, it's an essential X-Files episode. It's the perfect example of what always made the show great. It's creative, it's different, it's hilarious and subversive. And it's a reminder of what broadcast TV had been missing all these years.
On a more subtle level, it was also an example of the tremendous character work that this show was capable of. In terms of its story, "Were-Monster" is definitely a Monster-of-the-Week episode, but those were still often very important to characterization, to establishing and building Mulder and Scully's motivations. In this case, Mulder is questioning not only what he's doing back in that FBI basement, but what he had been doing all those years. Whether he was even ever right about anything. Of course, in typical Mulder fashion, he quickly falls back into his old habits when he's chasing a monster, but it's what comes at the end that's important, as he sticks to his convictions and gets the payoff. In the first episode, characters yelling "I want to believe" felt contrived and cheesy. In this case, it's a huge character moment for Mulder and it sets the pace for him for the rest of the season.
However you want to interpret the episode and what it means for the series, the most important part is actually how entertaining and hilarious it was. I laughed more at that hour of television than I have most shows in the last few years. I was absorbed by this mini-world the show had created, between were-lizards and murderous animal-control dudes. An outsider might not understand how this fits into what's often a self-important science fiction drama, but how absurd it is is what makes it so great.
Don't let the score fool you. It's not necessarily perfect. The dialog is still a little wonky, it felt like a couple of scenes were missing and David Duchovny still looks about 20% too bored (and apparently unable to jog), but everything else about it more than makes up for it. That may be my rose-colored goggles speaking, as they were for the first two episodes, but it doesn't matter. "Mulder & Scully Meet The Were-Monster" proves perfectly why The X-Files still works in 2016, and why we need more of it, and it gets 10 paranormal mid-life crises out of 10.
Notes & Quotes:
- Mulder's ringtone is the theme song from the show. I need help reacting to something.
- I will say though, the one thing that the show needs to work on if it is to get more seasons is fitting into the 21st century more than it has in these three episodes. Every time Mulder or Scully talk about cellphones or the internet they wink one too many times at the camera. Sure, Mulder not being able to figure out his phone is pretty funny, and that scene where he's running around taking a bunch of pictures is memorable, but if we're going to get more episodes, those moments are going to eventually wear thin.
- Big props to Kumail Nanjiani, who fulfills a lifelong dream of being on the show and playing a great, subversive villain, but he was overshadowed in this episode by the incredible Rhys Darby. Also a nice little cameo from Tyler Labine at the top of the episode, lots of funny people in this one.
- "We've been given another case, Mulder. It has a monster in it."
- "The thing I saw only had two eyes, and it was wearing underwear." "Boxers or briefs?"
- "Mulder, the internet is not good for you."
- "When one checks into an establishment such as this one, he expects the manager to be a peeping Tom."
- "I know what you're going to say. 'But Mulder, that only happens in werewolf myths that were originally concocted to explain away the violent behavior of people who had been bitten by rabid animals before the medical discovery of rabies."
- "I'm sorry, I meant were-lizard. Werewolf was my patient on Monday."
- "Now, this model comes with 3000 gigaberts of pixelbits."
- "You see, now I possess the one Darwinian advantage humans have over oher animals, the ability to BS my way through anything."
- "If I haven't written my novel by now, I'm never going to write it, you know?"
- "Woah, I'm not a reptile, that's racist!"