The X-Files Season 10, Episode 3
“Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster”
Posted by Kim
When The X-Files revival was initially announced, I was beside myself with excitement (naturally). When the news broke that Darin Morgan would be returning to pen an episode, I sat straight up and said “Oh, they are SERIOUS about this.” It’s funny how large Darin’s presence looms over the early years of The X-Files, especially when you consider the fact that he only wrote four episodes (and acted in two). But WHAT a four episodes though! All of them are beloved. There’s “Humbug”, which was the first time the show expanded into dark comedy (Scully eating a grasshopper and Mulder’s Adonis shot forever remain favorite moments). “War of the Coprophages” is a personal favorite of mine, from Mulder and Scully’s late night phone banter to the way it pokes fun at mass hysteria. But the two episodes he’s best known for are the wickedly satirical “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” and the witty but beautifully melancholic “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”, which won him an Emmy. (It also earned him the #4 slot on our Best X-Files Episodes of all time, which is the bigger honor, TBH.) “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster” combines the satire and meta of “Jose Chung” with the melancholic exploration of the human condition of “Clyde” and adds a dash of the wicked humor of Vince Gilligan’s (whose style Darin definitely influenced) “Bad Blood”. It’s a love letter to The X-Files, littered with Easter Eggs for long time Philes. Basically, it’s perfect. As Alan Sepinwall said in his review, the rest of the revival could suck and it would be okay because we got this episode.
(I mean…I would not be okay with the rest of the revival sucking, but I understand Alan’s point.)
In her recap of “Founder’s Mutation”, Sage talked about how The X-Files pioneered the use of the cold open and I have to agree with her (shocker). What I love about the cold opens is that they IMMEDIATELY set the tone for the episode and you knew what you were going to get. Shady men doing shady things? Mythology episode Midnight in the woods with ordinary people? Monster episode. My cold open notes for “Were-Monster went a little like this: “Bad blood bad blood bad blood BAD BLOOD.” In our opinion (and Gillian Anderson’s), “Bad Blood” is the single greatest standalone episode of the series, so seeing parallels made me giddy. A pair of stoners (the SAME stoners from “Quagmire”, which Darin did uncredited work on. OH THE THINGS THESE TWO HAVE SEEN.) are huffing spray paint in the woods, because where else would you go? They share some deep thoughts under the full moon. Naturally they encounter what appears to be a monster when they stumble upon Kumail Nanjiani (living every Phile’s DREAM) wrestling with a lizard man who appears to be chomping at his neck. There’s already one dead body. “Dude!” the stoners exclaim. They may as well have said “Oh Shiiiiiiiiiiii….”. Let’s get it started, Mark Snow.
Then we get a classic Mulder/Scully office scene that speaks WAY more to Mulder’s current head space than “My Struggle” could have ever dreamed to. (No, I will not stop shading the characterizations in that episode.) Mulder is feeling disillusioned but it’s a real and relatable kind of disillusionment this time. He’s feeling old and he’s feeling irrelevant in the age where the internet debunks the conspiracies he spent years taking apart in a matter of minutes. (God, someone direct Mulder to Tumblr and the way the Larries debunk things in a matter of seconds. His head would explode…and then he would become one of them.) He’s questioning his life’s work and the monsters he’s always believed in. “I’m a middle-aged man, Scully. It’s time to put away childish things,” he declares, throwing pencils into Scully’s shiny new “I want to believe” poster. (It’s okay to believe in monsters, Mulder. I’m a 30-something obsessed with boy band conspiracies. We all have our crosses to bear.) And what of Scully? I love how SHE is the one who bought the poster. (The way she says “What are you doing to MY poster?” gives me life.) SHE is the one who lovingly recreates their office, even though it’s 2016 and somehow that still doesn’t merit her having her own desk or a nameplate. (OKAY.) “We’ve been given another case, Mulder,” she says with a glorious smirk. “It has a monster in it.” I love the role reversal here. Normally, it would be Mulder cajoling a reluctant Scully to join him on yet another monster case (“I hope you brought your cowboy boots.”) but now it’s Scully. I think it’s important to note here that Scully doesn’t suddenly believe in monsters. She makes that very clear later on in the episode. What she wants is for MULDER to believe in them. She subtly (and not subtly) eggs him on both in the office and when they are investigating the crime scene in the woods and it’s so LOVING it physically hurts me. All she wants is for him to be happy and excited about life again. Everything she does in this episode undermines the whole “Scully leaves Mulder because of depression” story, but that’s none of my business.
The trail of the Were-Monster leads Mulder and Scully to an all night truck stop where a Transgender Hooker (because of course) narrowly avoided an attack by wielding her pocketbook (again because of course). Naturally, her description doesn’t match the drawing they have, lending further credence to Mulder’s “NONE OF THIS IS REAL” attitude. What I love about Darin Morgan’s stories is that he populates his universe with outlandish characters (the hooker, the shady hotel owner, the psychiatrist) that are silly on the surface but when combined they fully flesh out the world that he’s envisioned. (The “They think I’m on crack.” “Are you?” “YEAH.” exchange = comic gold.) Never ones to walk away from a scene, our heroes comb the truck stop hoping that the monster is still lurking about. They stumble upon Kumail’s Animal Control Officer (that’s two places he’s been where the monster was. FORESHADOWING.) and join forces with him casing the joint. (I imagine the moment Kumail got the script went something like this: *sees that he gets scenes with David and Gillian* “I need a moment.” *freaks out Laura Linney in Love Actually style* “Okay, I’m ready.”) They find a body with the same bite marks at the neck that previous victims had. Scully stays behind to examine the body whilst Mulder and Kumail pursue the monster. (Me: Of COURSE you stay behind, Scully. You’re going to miss it JUST LIKE ALWAYS.) Mulder tries to work a new camera app on his phone but can’t, proving he is old and out of touch. The camera keeps going off like Mulder is some sort of one man paparazzi and BOOM the monster crashes into them, knocking them to the ground as Mulder desperately tries to snap a picture. Kumail is like “Fuck this shit, I’m out.” as Scully gives Mulder the once-over, finding that he is covered in blood. Mulder declares (almost giddily) that it’s not his. The monster seemingly takes refuge in a port-a-potty but when Mulder and Scully bust the door open, they find an outraged New Zealander just trying to take a poop in peace. Of course, not all is what it seems, as we see horns popping out of the back of his head as Mulder and Scully walk away. We’ve got a shapeshifter on our hands, ladies and gents.
God, I loved everything about this autopsy scene. I love the way Mulder crowded Scully’s personal space and the way Scully allowed it. I love how Mulder pushed the phone into her face like a small child. I love the way Scully feigned annoyance with him while she barely surpressed her fondness. I love how Mulder tries to drop some science knowledge on Dana “What about the Science?” Scully. I love “Mulder, the internet is not good for you.” (Truer words have never been spoken.) I love how they bantered about the fact that the victim’s bite marks appeared to be human. (“So we’re looking for a man-sized horned lizard with human teeth?”) But what I loved the most about this scene was how it felt like Mulder and Scully were getting on the same page again, easily falling back into roles that they thought were long forgotten. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you,” Mulder asks her with a sense of wonder. “Yeah, I am,” Scully replies simply. “I forgot how much fun these cases can be.” I LOVE how Scully lets that moment hang between them before she shoos Mulder off, telling him to go back to the hotel. (“Aaaaaahhhooooooo…we had some good times, didn’t we?” RIP ME.) It’s like she’s saying “Remember this? We can have this again if only you would let it happen.” I AM FINE, I SWEAR.
Back at their hotel, which is a magic fingers away from being the hotel in “Bad Blood”, Mulder overhears the manager yelling “MONSTER” but the ole kook brushes it off as merely yelling at a customer about an overdue bill. THEN Mulder discovers a passageway that allows the manager to spy on all the rooms through the eyes of all the animal busts. (I need the “What Does the Fox Say?” video re-edited to include Mulder looking out through the fox head, thanks.) After seeing a trashed room, Mulder confronts the manager about it and that’s how we get to our prime suspect: Guy Mann (aka the guy from the Port-a-Potty). The manager claims to have seen him transforming into a monster whilst he was spying through the peepholes. Later, when Mulder shares this with Scully, we get exactly the kind of monologue David Duchovny SHOULD be delivering as Mulder (as opposed to the conspiracy word vomit in the premiere), as he perfectly executes his side of the argument, as well as Scully’s. It’s GENIUS. Also genius? Gillian Anderson’s face every time Scully tried to interrupt with logic. It’s bemused and exasperated and OH SO FOND because it’s like she’s seeing Mulder come back to life right before her very eyes. “This is how I like my Mulder,” she says. Me too, Scully. ME TOO. (Also bless you for “batcrap crazy”, Darin.)
“I just want this madness to end…”
Mulder finds Guy in the cemetery and tries to cajole him into confessing while Guy tries to trick Mulder into killing him. Mulder sees right through it and says he wants to HELP Guy. Guy adamantly claims that the only way Mulder CAN help him is by killing him. Mulder agrees…but only if Guy tells him just exactly what has happened to him. And then the episode flipped the entire story on its head and left me cackling with glee as we saw everything from Guy’s perspective. He was just your average mild-mannered lizard man chilling in the woods when a murder went down right by his resting place, scaring the shit out of him. (“I didn’t even get a chance to shoot blood out of my eyeballs!!”) The murderer (Okay, what did Kumail do when he found out he was the bad guy?) bit HIM and Guy ran away in the most Phoebe Buffay way that you can imagine. Thus, we get a werewolf story in reverse. Guy woke to find that he had taken human form. Driven by instinct, he clothed himself. He found himself with a desperate urge to find a job (“Tragically, I found something right away.”) and despite knowing absolutely nothing, he becomes manager of a cell phone store. He went against his insectivore ways and found himself “murdering a cow” aka ordering a burger at a fast food joint. He spent his night watching porn. Mulder incredulously calls him out on the ridiculous nature of his story and Guy just shrugs and says “Now I possess the one Darwinian advantage that humans have over other animals– the ability to BS my way through anything. I mean, it’s better than camouflage!” (Ain’t that the truth though?) At night, he would return to his true form and he would be OVERJOYED (this is the transformation the hotel manager witnessed) but he would always find himself back in human form in the morning. It’s quite sad, really.
My favorite thing about this whole scene is that Mulder kept trying to insert some monster-y excitement into the story, but Guy would always just sigh and add another mundane human element to his new life. “Now that I had a job, all I could think about was how much I hated my job. But I was too overcome with human fear to quit. How would I pay my bills? Without a job, I’d-I’d never get a loan and start a mortgage, whatever that is. Already I was terrified I wasn’t saving enough for my retirement. And what else was I supposed to do? If I haven’t written my novel by now, I’m never going to write it, you know?” He found that his visits to the “Witch Doctor” didn’t help him, so he got a puppy and named him Daggoo (yet another shout-out to Moby Dick.) Guy found true happiness with Daggoo (“I quickly realized that the only way to be happy as a human was to spend all of your time in the company of non-humans.”) and was sent into the depths of despair when he discovered that the maid had let his beloved companion escape. While he was on the hunt for Daggoo, he ran into Kumail and was consumed with rage for what he had done. Before he could attack him, he witnessed Kumail biting ANOTHER victim. “I’d never seen such pointless brutality. I was so transfixed by the horror that I didn’t notice the moon had come out. But having caught a glimpse of what human nature was capable of, I wanted no more part of it. I decided to shed my clothes and return to the wild!” And THAT’S how he encountered the transgender hooker. (Mulder’s explanation of transgender was a LITTLE problematic but hey, gold star for trying.) Essentially, everything we’ve thought was true about this case is a lie.
Mulder: I thought I was going to believe you, but it’s all…it’s just too…fantastic.
Guy: It’s not fantastic. It’s tragic!
Mulder: No, I mean it’s just…silly.
Guy: That’s my life you’re talking about!
Mulder: It’s my life, too. You and me, we’re the same, Guy. We both want to believe in things that aren’t real or even possible.
Guy: “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, than are dreamt of in…”
Mulder: “…your philosophy.” I know that.
Guy: Ah, but did you know the First Folio version reads– “than are dreamt of in our philosophy”?
Mulder: So Hamlet is not just calling Horatio an ignorant idiot, he’s calling us all ignorant idiots?
Guy: It’s a comforting thought, isn’t it? Because if there’s nothing more to life than what we already know, then there’s nothing but…worries, self-doubt, regret and loneliness.
My first impression of this scene was “Damn, that’s a bleak world view Darin Morgan.” But the more I marinated on it, the more I found it to be the opposite, especially given Guy’s final thoughts. “If there is nothing to life than what we already know…” is SUCH an important statement. Yeah, life is mundane and a bit silly. But EVERYONE feels that way at times. It’s just how humanity works. Does knowing that everyone, no matter what their status in life, probably wakes up and goes “Ugh, LIFE” every once in a while make you feel less alone in the world? It certainly does for me. BELIEF that there’s more than what we’re presented with is what matters. If we didn’t believe in the possibility of magic, why would we even get out of bed in the morning? I think it cuts to the very core of Mulder’s state of mind right now. He says he wants to believe…but does he really? Or has it been easier for him to think his life has been foolish because he’s just THAT tired of chasing his beliefs? No one ever said believing was easy, after all.
Mulder refuses to put Guy out of his misery by killing him and Guy runs off, calling HIM a monster for not taking pity on him. Mulder then does what any normal person would do in these circumstances: drinks until he passes out. He only wakes when Scully calls (her ringtone is the X-Files theme…META META and what is that theme in THIS universe???). Scully questions whether or not he found his monster and Mulder says that he did, but everything is the opposite of what he thought. “I was foolish to believe… well, maybe I was just a fool, Scully. Maybe I always have been.” MY HEART HURTS. Scully tells Mulder that she’s at the animal control center (RED FLAG! RED FLAG!) and then she’s attacked by Kumail, which springs Mulder into action…because nothing makes Mulder snap out of his self-pity like his Scully being jeopardized. He needn’t have worried though. By the time he gets to her, Scully has readily kicked Kumail’s ass and is in the process of hauling him away. I love that they don’t even take the time to hear his serial killer explanations. As Mulder said earlier in the episode, you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all. They engage in a little eye sex and banter about Scully being immortal (Me: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and then it’s time to go home.
Mulder tracks down Guy in the woods. “You were telling the truth,” he admits, with just a hint of wonder in his voice. “Duh” is basically what Guy says. Guy then reveals that he’s getting ready to go into hibernation for the next 10,000 years, which Mulder scoffs at. “There you go again,” Guy cries. “Not believing me!” And then…and THEN Mulder digs down WAY DEEP and says “I WANT to believe.” (Fuck you Mark Snow for having the main theme come in right after he says that.) First of all, this was so much more of an effective use of a signature catchphrase than the porch scene in “My Struggle”. Second, when he said it, I TRULY believed that he wanted to believe. You can SEE how much it took out of him to say that and you can SEE the burden of his disillusionment lift off his shoulders the moment he’s like “FUCK, Guy, I DO want to believe SO MUCH.” It’s beautiful. Guy somehow recognizes how much it took for Mulder to say that. “I don’t mean to get too personal, but… …this has been a real trying time for me. I’ve been through a lot. But just having someone like you to… Look, what I’m trying to say is… I’m glad to have met you.” And then Mulder’s willingness to believe is rewarded. Guy transforms into his true self and the proof is right there before him. He runs off leaving a stunned Mulder in his wake. “Likewise,” he says, joy and wonderment creeping into his eyes.
Welcome back, Fox Mulder. I’ve missed you.
- I’m just going to leave this here:
- I died at the way David fondly patted the gravestone for Kim Manners. What a lovely way to pay tribute to a man who gave so much to this series. He is truly missed.
- Fantasy Scully was a DAMN DELIGHT.
- I really want to make Mulder’s exclamation of “DAGGOO?” my text notification. I love how invested he got in that part of the story.
- Speaking of Daggoo, I love how much Darin Morgan wants Scully to have a dog. May Daggoo avoid Queequeg’s fate. Also, Scully STRAIGHT UP stole a dog. My queen.
- Everyone screamed at “Mulder, it’s me.” right?
- In a just world, Rhys Darby would be taking home a Guest Actor Emmy for this performance. What a lovely job he did. Speaking of Emmys, I have no idea how they will categorize this season. I guess six episodes would dictate that it’s a mini-series. Help a sister out, awards watchers.
- “I’m not a reptile! That’s racist.”
- I miss Skinner.
- “And I’m creeped out by jackalopes, ever since a friend of mine got gored by one.” “Jackalopes aren’t real. They-they were a hoax perpetrated by a Wyoming taxidermist in 1932. They… they don’t exist.” “Well, I’d like to see you explain that to my dead friend, George!”
- CANNOT. WITH. THE. WAY. SHE. PLAYS. WITH. HIS. TIE.
Does “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster” belong in the pantheon of best X-Files episodes ever? Let us know in the comments. Sage will be your guide through “Home Again”…which she has warned me is a DOOZY. Buckle up!