“I haven’t done the blood analysis yet, but it’s probably residue from the prior attack on this victim. And animals don’t shoot blood out of their eyeballs.” — Dana Scully
“Oh no? Well, tell that to the horned lizard, which shoots blood out its eyeballs, Scully. Yes, it’s a defense mechanism. Scientific fact.” — Fox Mulder
“Mulder, the Internet is not good for you.” — Dana Scully
In which our heroes investigate a monster, have deep thoughts about the human condition and most importantly, have fun.
Radhika: And so far, the revival keeps getting better. This was the much-anticipated Darin Morgan episode, the episode that even the less-than-pleased critics have loved after previewing the first half of this six-episode event. And I loved it too, even if I’m not quite sure it lives up to the ones Morgan wrote during his original run on the series. But this episode definitely had all the zany qualities his installments are known for, comedic elements galore, along with some genuinely insightful, poignant moments that don’t drag you away from the silliness for too long. This is also the episode that feels the most like a love letter to the fans and The X-Files crew, and as a longtime X-Phile, I can really appreciate that (though I imagine some newer viewers must be wondering what the hell they just watched).
The episode starts off as many classic episodes have — a couple of stoners in the woods and the eventual appearance of a dead body possibly destroyed by an animal-like creature. Silly eyewitness accounts, goofy jokes and fight scenes, along with other Darin Morgan-penned trademarks follow, with the Monster of the Week trope inverted to show that perhaps the creatures we consider monsters aren’t monsters…. while human beings are the real monsters all along.
The thing I love the most about this episode is that Mulder and Scully are genuinely having fun, to the point where even Scully is happy to admit that she likes her Mulder crazy and rambling about zany cases. Whereas both (especially Scully) sounded tired in last week’s episode, there is an energy here that almost made me feel like I was hearing the Mulder and Scully of many seasons ago — think circa 1995. And while Scully’s styling has changed over the years, there were parts where they even managed to look like the Mulder and Scully of that era to me.
I loved the callbacks to particular X-Files moments — Scully being reminded by Daggoo the dog of her own former furry friend, Queequeg (both getting their names from Moby-Dick), though I worry about Daggoo’s well being, considering her track record with pets. Mulder chucking pencils at the “I Want to Believe” poster, which apparently is a version Scully might have purchased, is reminiscent of the pencils in the ceiling from “Chinga” — which we saw again in “My Struggle.” Mulder and Scully going on about the horny toad/lizard reminded me of Mulder’s desire to “solve the mystery of the horny beast” in “Syzgy.” Even the stoners at the beginning of this episode were familiar faces. And did we notice that Mulder’s ringtone is… The X-Files theme?
Of course, the most poignant callback of all was the gravestone marked “Kim Manners,” in honor of the man who directed many episodes that helped shape the show. The stone was merely in the background of one scene the entire time, a wonderful tribute to a man legendary enough to inspire an entire character based on him in Morgan’s “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space.” With little details like that, it’s no wonder the episode managed to blend heart with humor in the end. Mulder’s conversations with Guy Mann, a lizard-like creature who keeps turning human after getting bit by a man, are a sweet, funny and somewhat sad commentary on what it means to be human. (For instance, after getting Daggoo the dog, Mann realizes the best way to enjoy being human is to be around non-humans). This was an episode that made me think a little and it also genuinely made me smile, and I’m very grateful that we’ve had a moment to experience this side of The X-Files again at least one more time.
Max: Indeed this episode is so chock full of references, easter eggs, and callbacks that to list them that to list them all would be virtually a post all its own. I was particularly tickled to see the stoners from “Quagmire” and “War of the Coprophages” are still chasing highs after 20 years. The opening also recalled “Jose Chung,” in how the situation that unfolded kept getting bigger and weirder, until the only hope for sorting things out came from two FBI agents surfacing from their basement office.
But the episode is assuredly more than just references to red Speedos, a main character’s alleged immortality, and a were-monster who dresses a lot like a certain Night Stalker. The thing that always defines a script by Darin Morgan is his uncanny ability — and I agree with Radhika — to commingle a wealth of tiny finely observed details into a rich tapestry of the foibles and absurdities of human society. During the few days he spends as a human, Guy Mann gets a kind of crash course on how a man is “supposed” to function in society. He wears clothes, he gets a job, he watches porn (and thinks it is how sex works), and soon he gets scared by the prospect of getting a mortgage and worrying about how much money is enough to save for retirement. All of this — to be honest — is actually quite ridiculous when you think about it. We think doing all of these things is what makes a fulfilling life, and hell even Mulder questions whether or not chasing all these monsters is what he is supposed to be doing. Are we the real monsters? The episode makes a good case for that.
And yes, it is with this episode that David and Gillian seem the most at ease getting back into the headspace of Mulder and Scully. I think a lot of it has to do with the tone of the episode, which perhaps allowed the actors the room to get creative and get out from under the shadows of nine seasons and the heavy weight of audience expectations. The banter is back, “This is how I like my Mulder,” Scully said — a line that brought a big goofy grin to my face. I just felt at home in this outing, despite the fact that it still feels a bit strange to have new X-Files on my television set.
Time will tell if “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” will be regarded as one of the best episodes of The X-Files, but for now it is definitely a piece with what the original series had to offer. It was a warm bath of comedy and pathos, and while I’m sure a lot more can and will be said for this wonderful episode, I think Radhika and I make a pretty good argument for it based upon these initial reactions.
YES, IT’S THOSE GUYS
Tyler Labine — Playing a stoner in this episode, Labine also played the stoner role in past X-Files episodes, “War of the Coprophages” and “Quagmire.” Other credits include Breaker High and Boston Legal.
Nicole Parker — Playing a stoner again after also playing the stoner role in “War of the Coprophages” and “Quagmire,” Parker’s other credits include episodes of Sliders and Millennium.
Kumail Nanjiani — Seen here as the animal control officer, Nanjiani may be best known for his role on Silicon Valley and starting some podcast about The X-Files. Other credits include Portlandia and Adventure Time.
Rhys Darby — Playing Guy Mann in this episode, Darby is probably best known for his role on Flight of the Conchords. Other credits include episodes of Modern Family and How I Met Your Mother.
Shangela — Seen here as Anabelle, Shangela is a drag queen who was also a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race seasons 2 and 3.
Alex Diakun — Talk about another familiar guest star — Diakun, seen here as the motel manager, was also in prior episodes including “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space,” “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” and “Humbug,” playing different roles. While he has plenty of other credits to his name, he was also was in the second feature film, The X-Files: I Want to Believe.