Previously on The X-Files, ‘Founder’s Mutation’
Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Rhys Darby, Kumail Nanjiani, Tyler Labine, Nicole Parker-Smith, D.J. “Shangela” Pierce, Alex Diakun, Richard Newman, Ryan Beil | Writer & Director: Darin Morgan
SKIMMING THE CASE REPORT
Scully and Mulder are given a case that takes them to Oregon, where a number of witnesses claim to have seen a monster. As the duo give chase to this supposedly murderous beast, Mulder acquaints himself with a man who shares his sadness and displacement in a world that progressively feels foreign to them.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT DARIN
Darin Morgan has a wholly distinct view of the world which has resulted in far too few episodes written by him in The X-Files’ first three seasons. Not confined by Chris Carter’s complex and wide-ranging story arc that propelled and eventually stifled the show in its later seasons, Morgan scripted the agents and their supporting players in a handful of their most bizarre assignments. Though the content was typically dismal and graphic in nature, Morgan was able to weave a spirited, almost bouncy energy within his episodes that are interspersed with snappy one-liners and biting humor that offsets the looming creepiness.
“Blood” was the first story from Morgan, as it centers on residents of a small town who are compelled to murderous acts due to subliminal messaging. From there, Morgan wrote “Humbug”, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” “War of the Coprophages” and “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space'”. Need we say more? If anyone were to recall The X-Files’ more outlandish, grotesque and haunting visuals or recite its most quotable lines, a majority will likely have Darin Morgan’s fingerprints on them.
OF SASQUATCHES, MOTHMEN AND JACKALOPES
“Meet the Were-Monster” is a creature-of-the-week throwback penned and directed by the aforementioned Morgan, as he quickly asserts the scenario is not as it seems in the wilderness of rural Oregon. “Were-Monster” focuses on the existential crisis that swirls through Mulder. Since returning to the X-Files, he frequently questions his place not only in the FBI but in the grand scheme of things. While living in his proverbial cave to study gigabytes of minutiae, other agents had been solving cases and to Mulder’s dismay, many of the X-Files were straight up bogus. With nothing else to do other than violently fling pencils at Scully’s ‘Believe’ poster, the inordinate amount of time Fox has in his hands will only plunge him further into his depression.
Mulder references Charles Hoy Fort, a noted researcher of the arcane and occult who amassed a prolific reserve of anomalous phenomena. His passion for cataloging and investigating the unexplainable called to others who formed their own Fortean societies in his honor. Ultimately, Fort’s work (and distrust of doctors) cut his life short. Unlike his idol, Mulder’s career has been blanketed by both conspirators and government agencies. Those scant few who praised his efforts years ago have either faded into obscurity or are no longer with us. Though Tad O’Malley was able to put a pep in Fox’s step in “My Struggle”, the feeling didn’t last long as Mulder reluctantly accepts his latest case about a three-eyed lizard man.
Dana does her very best to keep her partner interested in the assignment as their respective roles of believer and skeptic are juxtaposed during the first act. While Mulder rolls his eyes and mumbles under his breath about the ridiculous notion of a monster slaying three men in the woods, Scully takes the lead in interviewing the eccentric survivors of the latest attacks. Regrettably they aren’t the most reliable of witnesses; it wouldn’t be a Morgan-written episode otherwise!
The first witness interviewed is a shamelessly honest lot lizard named Annabelle, played with equal amounts of sass and candor by Shangela Pierce. What was especially great in this all too brief scene was the uncaring attitudes of Mulder and Scully when Annabelle revealed her transition. It isn’t much of a big deal now considering the advancements made in programming within the last decade. However it was welcoming to see more diversity on The X-Files. Plus there was that hilarious moment when Annabelle chastises the cops because they thought she was on crack. OK, maybe she had a rock or two BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN THE MONSTER WASN’T REAL. Look at her purse, man!
Kumail Nanjiani guests as Pasha, an easily excitable animal control employee that ‘can’t even’ with anything larger than a Jack Russell. He encounters the were-lizard twice and gets a facefull of eye-blood for his troubles. The character is basically a hot mess and always appears when you least expect Nanjiani’s portrayal of this apprehensive ninny plays off well to Duchovny’s extended blundering with newfangled apps and tech and whatnot.
ACKNOWLEDGING THE MONSTER WITHIN
Near the end of the second act, Fox finally confronts Guy Mann, the alleged “horned toad guy”. The deadpan delivery of Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords, Short Poppies, What We Do In Shadows) as the human identity of the were-lizard (who was performed in full costume by Ryan Beil) was the lynchpin to ensure all parts to this episode assembled a surprisingly profound colloquy on the human experience.
The day after being bitten by the real killer (who is easily handled by Scully on her lonesome), Guy immediately began experiencing humanity for all its wonders and doldrums. Mann hastily becomes a productive member of society, e.g. getting a job, wearing acceptable attire and eating fast food. As quickly as he began acting human, Guy promptly felt that sense of want many people – notably Mulder – experience in their everyday lives. Ambition, passion and basic contentment were drained out of him, as viewers watched Guy literally slump over the counter and stare vacantly into oblivion inside the phone store.
All of us can relate to his troubles. Guy had only been a human for no longer than a month and he’s already poorer for it. Here was an insectivore minding his own business in the dankness of the forest, when an unimaginable encounter with a bite-happy serial killer forces him into a mundane life. The only thing that appears to keep him satisfied while trapped in human form is the ability to fantasize and that he does with great aplomb in a scintillating(ly humorous) scene with Gillian Anderson. Never has lovemaking on network tv ever appeared so awkward and fantastic at the same time.
One thing The X-Files has taught its audience is a book should never be judged by its cover. In this case humans are the monsters, unwilling or unable to perceive another being’s exceptionalism beyond their appearance. While Darby plays the part of the disillusioned creature to comedic effort, it is ultimately a sad testament to the current state of “civilization”. Of course we don’t change our skin in order to fit in; what we do is worse. We are willing to suppress our true selves in the hopes that acquiring a job, building up for our 401K, buying insurance, generating ‘likes’ and taking photos of food will give our lives significance.
Finally liberated from the effects of his bite, Guy enthusiastically cast his human aside and thankful in retrospect that Mulder didn’t kill him (so he didn’t have to go to work in the morning). In the end, his final revelation reinvigorated Fox’s devotion to seek out unknown and keep an open mind. With one handshake with an ancient being, Mulder instantly knew his life’s work was worth all the effort
THAT’S SO META
What was particularly fantastic about “Meet the Were-Monster” is the sheer number of self-referential cues and appearances by actors who were regulars in Morgan’s previous episodes.
“Were-Monster” began with a pair of paint huffers contemplating their place in the world, wondering whether they’re wasting what few brain cells remain when they should appreciate the beauty surrounding them. During this brief moment of clarity, a proper X-Phile would recognize the couple as Tyler Labine and Nicole Parker-Smith, who were cast as ‘Stoner’ and ‘Chick’ from the Morgan-penned episode “War of the Coprophages”. After all these years, it’s nice to know theirs is an endless love… for getting high. Yeah, they’ve graduated from weed to carcinogenic aerosols but like most lasting relationships, you have to make adjustments in order to keep things fresh and alive. #dontjudgedude
Rather than continue writing whole chapters, the remainder of the clever easter eggs based on Darin Morgan’s past episodes will be composed in bullet form.
- As Mulder and Scully chase Guy Mann into the port-a-potty, it could be considered a callback to Morgan’s first experience on the X-Files, playing the infamous Flukeman in “The Host”. There was also heavy foreshadowing to Mann’s transformation seconds before it was revealed, thanks to the emblem emblazoned on the door of the portable dunny: a wolf howling at the moon.
- The skeevy motel manager who drank rubbing alcohol was played by Alex Diakun, who was cast in three of four Morgan episodes (“Humbug,” “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” and “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space'”).
- Scully’s new best friend Daggoo is named after a character in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, a novel that is cited a number of times by both Darin and older brother, writer/producer Glen Morgan. Dana’s last dog Queequeg made its first appearance in “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”. Sadly, her loyal pomeranian wasn’t long in this world and became a meal for an alligator in “Quagmire”. His loss segued into Scully’s perceptive criticism of Mulder’s quest, comparing him to Ahab and his costly obsession. Not surprisingly the episode was co-written by Morgan.
- The hotel rooms are situated according to animal/archetypes. For Guy Mann, a wolf pelt – representing his transformations – is adorned over his bed. The manager peeps in through the eyes of a jackalope, another mythical creature and one Fox mentioned he’s tired of chasing earlier in the episode. When Mulder looks at Scully inside the hidden hallway, he sees her behind what else than the head of a fox!
- Scully’s quip about being an immortal is yet again another reference to Clyde Bruckman, the sardonic psychic who could peer into the future to see one’s death. When Dana asked him in “Final Repose” how she’ll die, he replied “You don’t.”
Editor’s Note: These are Rex’s original ratings for this episode, however, the rating app only goes to 10.
‘Spooky’ Mulder Meter 10^27
The X-Files S10E3
Six syllables: Absolute perfection. If the remainder of the episodes somehow fail miserably, “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster” was worth the entire event.