Synopsis of Part 3 of 6: Mulder and Scully investigate a killer were-lizard, or is it were-human? Mulder questions his beliefs and the nature of possibility.
From 1993 to 2002, The X-Files aired 202 episodes, a landmark by any standard. Darin Morgan, brother of one of the show’s head writers and eventual executive producer, wrote four of those episodes. He is unquestionably, the most important and influential writer in the show’s run.
See, for the first two years of the show, Mulder and Scully almost solely investigated only the most dour, violent, mysterious, and conspiracy focused cases that fall inside the Bureau’s purview. The tone is pessimistic, paranoid, and singularly focused on an enemy that can, theoretically, be stopped.
Then Darin Morgan wrote an episode where a guy’s tumor keeps jumping out of his body and killing people.
So yes, Darin Morgan episode’s tend to fall on the more humorous end of The X-Files’ often mutable tonal spectrum but more importantly, his episodes tend to focus on something bigger than what Mulder and Scully could possibly investigate.
Morgan was fascinated by the big questions, whether we can escape our fate, whether our lives and deaths have meaning, how we’re defined by the stories we tell ourselves, how we’re rarely more than the heroes of our own stories. Yes, his scripts are often silly, filled with biting in-jokes that often point a finger at the show’s tropes as often as the characters, but they tend to ask whether we even understand or want to understand the world we occupy.
“Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” is treading well-trod ground for Morgan, his first script for the show since 1996 and his last produced script since 2014. A dissatisfied, increasingly self-loathing Mulder lets himself be dragged into the Pacific Northwest to investigate a lizard-like creature who supposedly is killing people in the woods.
The case rapidly changes, however as no one quite knows what it is they’ve seen or not seen, Scully can’t get Mulder to listen to the evidence she’s found and Mulder goes down the rabbit hole of chasing the enigmatic Guy Mann.
Guy forms the backbone of the episode and his plight is more plot device than character, but Morgan’s script clearly designed him mostly as a mouthpiece for jokes and commentary. Rhys Darby’s performance is as solid as you’d expect, constantly a little confused, a little bumbling, and a little unsure of himself but the story he tells in the graveyard is loaded with solid visual gags, amusing little observations, and the kind of too-clever-by-half Morgan dialogue he gained a reputation for. Yes, it’s a bit of an exposition dump but the main problem with Mann’s exposition is that it suffers in comparison with Morgan’s best episodes that deal with the same themes.
“Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” most closely thematically resembles “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space,’” both Morgan’s most ambitious script and, I would argue, The X-Files best episode. Both are meant as a critique of the form of the show as well as a questioning of the nature of belief and the self-imposed rules we place on our own logic and perception. However, the genius of “Jose Chung’s” is entirely in the way that it plays with differing perceptions of characters and events to get across the same points.
Mann’s speech essentially lays out Morgan’s thesis for the audience, that being a man or a monster is entirely within the perception of the viewer, while his earlier work asks more questions than it answers, forcing the audiences to deal with the way Mulder and Scully impact people’s perceptions and are impacted by those they come in contact with. Maybe this is a matter of taste but the climax here feels a little more like being spoon-fed than the deliberate trail of crumbs that Morgan once left for audiences to chase.
While the stylistic criticism is important, what’s almost more interesting here is how thoroughly Morgan seems to embrace who Mulder and Scully are at this point in the story. One thing that often gets overlooked in discussions of The X-Files is how much Scully changes as a character by series end, to the point where she’s become much more of a believer than Mulder, who’s been beaten down to the point of wanting to give up in chasing any kind of universal truth.
This episode picks up on that dynamic immediately by embracing who Scully is in the eighth and ninth season, as well as paying reference to later developments, such as her immortality. It’s odd to see the show embrace what was once a fan-theory so heartily but it’s fitting for an episode that hinges so much on belief and perception.
Honestly, if this experiment with The X-Files returning to television ended with “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster,” I would walk away satisfied and smiling. Seeing Morgan return to the show that he defined is a thrill and seeing him embrace what the show eventually became is even more satisfying.
In so many ways, this feels like a love letter to fans who weren’t sure whether they believed or not anymore, in this show or what it was capable of and it’s beyond thrilling to see it so thoroughly and completely shatter even the loftiest of expectatons.