Mulder: I’m thinking maybe it’s time to put away childish things. The sasquatches, the mothmen, the jackalopes. I thought it’s be great to get back to work. But is this really how I want to spend the rest of my days? Chasing after monsters?
Scully: We’ve been given another case, Mulder. It has a monster in it.
Now, that’s more like it. The return of writer Darin Morgan for “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” also marks a return to classic The X-Files episodes such as “Bad Blood”, “Humbug”, and “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” (the last two also written by Morgan). Morgan’s episodes rely heavily on humor, and often switch points of view, yet they also manage to include moments of connection between characters, or with the story, that elevate them to more than just a forgettable, if amusing, diversions. Instead, these episodes are some of the most enduring in the show’s history precisely because they balance the clever with the intriguing so well.
Opening on a couple of stoners (Tyler Labine and Nicole Parker), another Morgan staple, who witness an attack involving a mysterious horned creature, Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) are called in to investigate. Uncharacteristically, Mulder’s quick to dismiss the attack as having no supernatural explanation (“Scully, since we’ve been away much of the unexplained has been explained”.) and he begins to question his life’s work. Mulder’s despondency is funny, and Duchovny gleefully indulges in his chance to play his crisis for laughs. Similarly, Anderson is always delightful when having to humor or cheer up Mulder, particularly when she gives herself over to the monster chase (“I forgot how much fun these cases can be”.).
As Mulder and Scully eventually track down their suspected monster, after an especially funny sequence in a creepy motel (again, a perfect reference to “Bad Blood”) that reveals one guest as the suspect, the episode really hits its stride. Mulder eventually finds their suspect, Guy Mann (Rhys Darby), after consultation with psychiatrist, Dr. Rumanovitch (Richard Newman) identifies him a delusional man who believes himself to be a were-lizard. Once Guy begins to tell Mulder his version of the events leading to the initial attack, Darby shines in his description of what being human feels like when he’s used to being a creature instead. He’s entertaining and perfectly cast, sure to become a beloved and iconic character in The X-Files universe.
When it becomes clear that Guy’s story makes sense, and eventually reveals Pasha (Kumail Nanjiani), the seemingly innocent animal rescue worker, to be a serial killer, the return of old Mulder (“I want to believe”) is imminent. The final scene in which Guy tells Mulder he was glad to have met him and offers his hand to shake, only to transform right before Mulder’s eyes, is especially satisfying as Mulder’s reaction (“Likewise”.) is a perfect encapsulation of his belief in the unknown, and a wonderful moment for Duchovny.
Although Mulder is certainly at the center of much of the episode’s action, Scully plays a pivotal role as well. Though she stars in a particularly unbelievable flashback of Guy’s story (and one he quickly admits he made up: “Ever since I became a human I can’t help but lie about my sex life”.), she also singlehandedly discovers Pasha’s the killer and takes him down alone. Anderson’s campy performance during Guy’s telling is a hilarious contrast to her usual unflappable, no nonsense demeanor, and she’s clearly enjoying herself.
Apart from the actual monster-of-the-week plotline, the episode is packed with enough Easter eggs and callbacks to make an X-Philes swoon. Whether referencing Queequog, Scully’s previous dog in comparison to Daggoo, her new dog (both Moby Dick homages), or including Kim Manners and Jack Hardy, former producers on the show now deceased, on the headstones in the cemetery, mentioning Scully’s supposed immortality, or even including the series theme song as Mulder’s ringtone when Scully calls, the episode is a treasure trove of meta moments and acknowledgments of the show’s past. In many ways, it’s almost a tribute to the series, while also serving as a sort of template, at least for one kind of The X-Files episode.
“Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” is the best of the new episodes, and hopefully a sign of what to expect in the coming episodes. The beauty of bringing back a series like The X-Files with original writers is that they understand these characters and the series in a fundamental way that can only come with experiencing the history of the show as it originally aired. If this was the only new episode of The X-Files we got, it would be an unquestionable success, but even if the remaining three episodes don’t live up to the standard set by “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster”, there’s no doubt that it’ll stand as a new classic.