My name is Matt Benson. Since my childhood, I have been captivated by an hour long science fiction crime drama on the Fox network. Since the show went off the air when I was 11, in what I believe was a disappointing final season. My obsession has taken me to the Agents of GUARD where I review episodes of this TV show known as, The X-Files.
It’s been twenty years since Darin Morgan last wrote an episode of the X-Files. The four he wrote in seasons two and three stand out as some of the best in the series, so the pressure was on this week’s Morgan scripted episode. If it was as lackluster as the first two, that could have spelled trouble for season 10.
“Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster” begins with Tyler Labine and Nicole Parker huffing paint in the woods. Long time Filesphiles will note that this is actually a reprise of the two stoner characters Labine and Parker played in Morgan’s own “War of the Coprophages” and later “Quagmire.” This episode does a pretty good job of paying tribute to the original run without getting in the way of the story. The stoners see a scaly monster, thankfully played by a man in a suit and not CGI, attack a park ranger, thankfully played by a man who is Kumail Nanjiani, and then the credits start. It’s a classic X-Files opening, in the best way.
Different writers have different interpretations of the Mulder/Scully relationship. Most seem to think of it as “Mulder’s a believer, Scully’s a skeptic.” It makes sense, that’s sort of the premise of the show. Darin Morgan writes them differently. He usually writes them in a “Mulder is dumb, Scully is smart” style. That style is evident here. Mulder has become bitter at the Internet age for debunking what would have been Monster of the Week cases for the X-Files. It’s a nice meta comment on the series and an interesting take on the character. Mulder’s kind of like a dog following the most recent thing that smelled interesting with a lot of passion and tenacity, but he’s not much for deep though. He’s just about ready to rage quit the bureau when Scully comes in with a reported sighting of a one to three eyed scaly monster attacking a park ranger in Oregon.
This episode has everything you’d want in a Darin Morgan script and, unfortunately, more. Comedy, stories told from shifting perspectives, sexy Mulder, it’s all there. Rhys Darby is fantastic as Guy Mann, a werelizard bitten by and cursed to become a human every time the moon isn’t out. His observations on the foibles of the human race could seem tired if you’re not willing to meet the show half-way, but Darby’s performance makes it worth it. Kumail Nanjiani also shines as a cannibalistic serial killer who’s dismayed to find that he’s not the weirdest thing the FBI is dealing with that week.
So much of this episode felt like a perfect fulfillment of what the new series could be. But then there’s the ‘more’ mentioned earlier. There are two moments that stick out like sore thumbs in “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster.” One is small and, full disclosure, perhaps just a pet peeve of mine. At a certain point, Mulder’s cell phone rings and the ringtone is the theme song of the very show we’re watching. Long running series often think this sort of thing is a good idea. I’m reminded of the snake charmer playing the James Bond theme in Octopussy. It’s just such a bizarre form of fan service. There’s no reason that music would have any significance to Mulder. We the viewer already heard it at the start of the episode. So who’s it for? What response is it supposed to get other than the cheapest, dumbest, recognition based smile?
The second moment comes when Mulder’s investigation leads him to a transexual prostitute. She’s a sex worker and she’s addicted to drugs and she’s played by a drag queen Community fans might recognize as Miss Urbana Champaign, not an actual transwoman. The character proves to be one of the more reasonable and good people in the episode and Mulder has a nice like “the more you know” moment where he explains to a werelizard that trans people are just people like the rest of us, but it’s still broadly stereotypical and further proof, in an age full of it, that if you’re a man trying to play a transwoman, you get awards and acclaim, but if you’re a transwoman trying to play a transwoman, you’re out of work. It’s the same kind of lazy attempt at progressivism we saw in the second episode.
A few weak spots notwithstanding, this is a great episode. It’s nice to see The X-Files like this again. Next week, Darin’s brother Glen writes and directs “Home Again” which looks to be a heavy hitter in the emotion department.