“This is how I like my Mulder.” – The X-Files Recap – Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster

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.

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“Someone has to stop these sons of bitches.” – The X-Files Recap – My Struggle

The X-Files Season 10 (!!!!!!!!!!!), Episode 1
“My Struggle” 

Posted by Kim

Confession time. The first time I saw “My Struggle”, I was in a room with several thousand X-Philes at New York Comic Con. The energy in the room was ELECTRIC. It was Day Three of the Con and everyone was slightly delirious thanks to the combination of very little sleep, pop culture over-stimulation, and the fact that OMG WE WERE SEEING AN ACTUAL NEW EPISODE OF THE X-FILES AND GETTING TO TALK TO CHRIS CARTER, DAVID DUCHOVNY, AND MITCH PILEGGI AFTERWARDS. It was insane and I will NEVER forget that emotional high.  Between that high and the fact that my expectations for “My Struggle” had been drastically lowered thanks to the response from the TCAs, I walked away from the screening having thoroughly enjoyed the episode. Now that I have some distance, I can see “My Struggle” for what it is: a poorly written mess that banks on you being too excited to see Fox Mulder and Dana Scully on your screen to really care.

Don’t get me wrong. When the voiceover began with “My name is Fox Mulder…”, I got chills.  When the theme song and the original credits (with the deserved addition of Mitch Pileggi) rolled, I had tears of joy in my eyes. As a fandom, we have waited SO LONG for this. But we can’t let our joy cloud our judgement and this episode was sloppy as hell. Look, I am forever grateful to Chris Carter for the world he created. But like George Lucas, his genius is often best left to ideas rather than execution. The writing of “My Struggle” was awkward and overly expositioned at its best and downright awful at its worst. The porch scene between Mulder and Scully was like bad fan fiction. Did you really have to insert all those catchphrases? I worship at the altar of Gillian Anderson’s acting but even she couldn’t make that scene work. David and Gillian were so disconnected in that scene and it just felt like they were spouting lines at maximum intensity rather than believing in their words. And the whole new conspiracy? To borrow from Sage’s tweets, it felt like Carter just went to Wikipedia and searched for conspiracies for the basis of the plot. Basically, the government is shady as fuck, using alien technology to fuel a planned and calculated Armageddon. People (women mainly) have been repeatedly abducted to be part of experiments and MAYBE their DNA has been fused with aliens for whatever reason. Any proof vanishes when it’s needed most. It’s really a means to an end and that end is getting The X-Files re-opened, because there is no way this arc can be resolved in less than 6 episodes.  Alrighty? So let’s just talk about what “My Struggle” did with our beloved characters, shall we? Because really…that’s why we are all here.

Another similarity between George Lucas and Chris Carter is that they both like to rewrite history. Lucas does it by adding Jabba the Hut into A New Hope and Hayden Christensen into Return of the Jedi, both of which are insulting to the original films. Chris Carter does it by ignoring character growth and regressing relationships to a point that is insulting to long time fans. Carter is/was notoriously against the Mulder/Scully romance, despite accidentally writing the greatest and deepest love story of all time, so I’m not SURPRISED that they are broken up. I’m just disappointed. Not that I expected/wanted everything to be puppies and rainbows with Mulder and Scully. They’ve been through and seen too much for that. But what I did expect was for them to be a united front. They are each other’s constants, they are each other’s touchstones. That is CANON. Hell, even at the end of I Want To Believe we had them choosing each other, once again. The movie ended with them LITERALLY sailing off into the sunset. So this “estrangement” nonsense is just that. It’s nonsense. It’s insulting to the characters he created. Are you really telling me that after EVERYTHING they have been through that Scully’s self-diagnosis of Mulder’s depression is the straw that broke their relationship? Sure, Jan.

(Also, I SEE YOU trolling with that “for better, for worse” line, Chris Carter. I don’t appreciate it.)

Look. When you look at it objectively, Scully has every reason to walk away from Mulder. He’s no picnic even without the weight of a massive global conspiracy bringing him down. Scully has lost so much thanks to the fact that on a dreary night in Oregon, she chose to trust Fox Mulder. She’s lost her sister. She’s lost TWO children. She’s lost her fertility. (Yeah, I know those contradict each other BUT THIS IS THE SHOW.) She’s become estranged from siblings, she’s had her career in shambles, and she’s had her personal faith tested. It’s too much for any person to bear. But this is what I love about Dana Katherine Scully. In the face of all of that, time and time again she charged into the darkness after Mulder. She’s ALWAYS chosen him and she’s always chosen the fight that they were in together. Having her estranged from him now is an insult to the character’s legacy. To quote Scully herself, SHE WOULDN’T CHANGE A DAY OF HER RELATIONSHIP WITH MULDER. Except for Flukeman. Again, that’s CANON. So why all of a sudden has Scully decided it’s all too much for her?

Don’t get me started on the Scully/Tad O’Malley dynamic. First of all, Joel McHale, ILYSM but I would love for you to talk to your agent about playing a non-smarmy character for once. It’s a good performance but it basically felt like Jeff Winger in one of his Goldblummy meltdowns. Secondly, are you really telling me that Dana Scully, who can make men wilt with a single arch of her eyebrow, would fall prey to Tad’s “charms” and insincere flattery? Okay. Everything about Scully and Tad is off from the very beginning. He goes straight to calling her Dana as opposed to maintaining a professional distance (Mulder’s FACE though. And I love how he mocks her for that later in the episode). He shows up AT HER WORK just to chat because he wants to see her again and he somehow gets Scully to join him in his car for Champagne. THEN he goes off about her wonderful (I mean it is wonderful, but still) work at the hospital for no apparent reason.  It’s all SO WEIRD. The Scully *I* know would have just given him a bitch face from the very first “Dana” and wouldn’t have let him get near her. So I really don’t get what Carter was going for here. Do they have a past? Does Scully DATE? Why are you doing this?

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