On this week’s episode of The X-Files, the show gives us the latest in its run of comedy episodes that stretches back to season two.
As with many of the previous comedy episodes, this one contains some fantastic moments and some deeply troubling ones. Read on for our spoiler-filled recap of “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster”.
Beneath a comically oversized full moon, two stoners hang out in the woods breathing spray paint fumes from paper bags. Fans will no doubt recognise the pair, they have appeared in two other comedy episodes – “Quagmire” and “War of the Coprophages”, making them the first in a number of subtle nods to long term fans. Hearing a noise, the pair investigate and discover a lizard man wrestling with a human. Startled by their appearance, the lizard man hisses then runs off into the trees. The stoners check on the man (animal control officer Pasha played by Kumail Nanjiani – host of The X-Files Files), who appears unharmed, then spot a mutilated body lying nearby.
In the basement office, Mulder is lazily going through old files while hurling yellow pencils into the classic I Want to Believe poster on his wall. When Scully demands an explanation for why he is vandalising “her” poster, he launches straight into one of his long speeches, this time recounting how, since their previous stint at the Bureau, “much of the unexplained has been explained”. He admits, to Scully’s bemusement, that he now looks through “wiser” eyes and recognises that so many cases filed away in that basement, such as the “hairy wotsit of Walla Walla” are nonsense. “I’m thinking maybe it’s time to put away childish things,” he muses, until Scully reveals that they have a new case and it “has a monster in it.”
The pair travel to Oregon where they look at composite sketches of the lizard-man (drawn by Gillian Anderson’s daughter Piper) that have been created from the stoner’s accounts. Mulder comments, rather sarcastically, how odd it is that nobody got a picture given how everyone has a camera with them these days and groans audibly on seeing the witnesses mugshots, their faces half-covered in spray paint. He surmises that the man was attacked by a mountain lion, until Scully reveals that three more bodies have since been discovered nearby, all mutilated identically. He shifts his guess to wolves, but Scully pushes on, explaining that the wounds suggest “a human element”. He continues to moan at her, complaining that he “gave up profiling before he gave up monsters”. Scully is unimpressed, scolding Mulder that even if he is going through a “questioning phase”, the pair can help save lives. Grudgingly he agrees.
That evening, lizard man watches prostitute Annabelle (played by RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant D.J. Pierce/Shangela Laquifa Wadley) attempt to solicit a john. The truck leaves without her and the lizard man leaps out, being struck square in the face by her purse. Soon after, Mulder & Scully question Annabelle, establishing that she witnessed the same creature the stoners did only she points out that the creature was also wearing “tighty-whities”. The agents investigate the area, scaring the life out of Pasha, the same animal control officer who was attacked earlier. Scully questions Pasha, but he admits that he was only called out to look for a stray puppy and he’s “kinda hoping it’s just that”. A strange roar quickly sends him running.
Mulder & Scully head toward the sound, Scully drawing her gun and Mulder drawing.. his phone, which won’t stop flashing because he hasn’t yet figured out his new camera app. They stumble across another body, mutilated like the others, and Mulder takes off after the lizard man who emerges from the long grass and runs into the truck stop. Mulder is terrified himself by Pasha who was running from the same noises Mulder was trying to locate. Mulder’s camera flash now resembles a strobe light and the two try to figure out the app before they are both surprised by the lizard man. Scully hears their screams and runs over to find the two men both dazed on the floor. They see the lizard man appear to run into a porta potty (a nod to writer Darin Morgan’s appearance as the flukeman?) and open the door, only to find an ordinary man dressed exactly like Kolchak, the Night Stalker. The agents run off to investigate elsewhere and we see the man exit the toilet, lizard-like horns retreating back under his hair.
Scully attempts to autopsy the latest victim, Mulder constantly shoving his phone under her nose to show her the terrible, blurry photos he took of the creature. “It was definitely an animal,” he insists, “man-sized and hairless”. “Maybe it was a mangey sasquatch,” Scully retorts. The pair playfully argues over what they might be hunting, Mulder summarising their quarry as “a man-sized human lizard with human teeth.” The pair finds themselves surprisingly amused by the whole situation and Scully insists that Mulder head back to their motel for some rest.
That night at the motel, which is decorated liberally with taxidermied animal heads and looks as if it had been ripped from an episode of Twin Peaks, Mulder is startled awake by a voice screaming about a monster. He finds the manager (played by X-Files comedy episode alum Alex Diakun) shakily drinking rubbing alcohol in the lobby. The manager claims to have had a fight with an unruly guest, but Mulder is unconvinced and decides to investigate. He finds a trashed motel room where he pockets a pill bottle before discovering that a “jackalope” head that fell from the wall was concealing a hole. Investigating further, he discovers a hidden space in the walls from which the manager can look into every room through the mounted animal heads. The manager, startled by Mulder’s sudden appearance from his secret space, claims it is a “security feature” installed after 9/11. “I’m not gonna report you,” Mulder assures him, “when one checks into an establishment such as this, one expects the manager to be a peeping Tom.” Instead, he asks to know what the manager really saw earlier. In a flashback, we see the manager staring lasciviously at what is revealed to be Mulder sleeping in nothing but tiny red pants. Hearing a noise, he stitches to peep into the room of porta potty man who is shouting and trashing his own room. The man begins to transform into the lizard creature, causing the manager to scream and be revealed, but the two men simply scream at one another before running away.
Soon after, in Scully’s motel room, Mulder waxes lyrical about monster legends, never allowing Scully – who is sat on her bed in only a t-shirt – to get a word in edgeways. When he finally shuts up, Scully smiles and nods, “this is how I like my Mulder” she grins, before assuring him that she thinks he is “bat crap crazy”. The two decide on a course of action, but Mulder insists (in a bizarre stage whisper) that the first thing they need to do is check out of the motel.
The next morning Mulder speaks with Dr Rumanovitch, a Freud-esque psychologist who tells a bizarre fairytale to “prove” to Mulder that the only monsters that exist are inside our own heads. Mulder is surprised when the doctor refers to his suspect as a werewolf. “I’m sorry, I meant were-lizard,” the doctor apologises, “the werewolf was my patient on Monday”. The patient records list the suspect only as “Guy Mann”, but the doctor advises Mulder that he might try looking in the local cemetery, as this is where he advised Guy to go next time he felt an episode coming on.
Scully calls Mulder from outside ‘Smart Phones Is Us’ where she has found their “horny toad lizard man”, who appears to be an employee. She tries to tell him that the blood test results threw up discrepancies, but he has already hung up. Instead, she goes inside to question Guy. When Mulder shows up, he finds her standing alone in the trashed store, Guy having already fled. Mulder chastises Scully for approaching the suspect alone then takes off after him, once again not allowing her to reveal her lab results. He finds Guy drinking alone in the cemetery, right beside tombstones for the late Jack Hardy (assistant director on two other X-Files-verse shows and the second movie) and Kim Manners (X-Files‘ executive producer for many seasons). The inscription on Manner’s stone reads, “let’s kick it in the ass” – one of his favourite sayings! Guy moans that life is crazy, then tries to goad Mulder into a fight so he will kill him, using details Mulder recognises from Dr Rumanovitch’s fairytale. Guy begs Mulder to kill him, which Mulder agrees to only if Guy will reveal his story.
Guy’s story begins with lizard man lying alone in a forest clearing until two men, fighting with one another, break through the trees. At first, he hides, then, when the pair gets too close, he jumps up to scare them away. Instead, one of the men bites him in the throat. Mulder is confused, “I thought we were gonna start at the beginning”. “I am!” Guy insists, showing Mulder a wound on his throat from where he was bitten. “That looks like a hickey,” Mulder retorts, but Guy insists that the wound looks different, “when [he’s] normal”. The penny drops fro Mulder as he realises this is not a man who was bitten and has become a lizard, but a lizard who has become a man. Guy recounts his mental transformation, recalling how he was overcome by an instinctive need to find a job, “my craze wouldn’t be satiated until I found steady work”, he sighs. He quickly explains how his job at the phone store is perfect for him, “I have no idea what I’m saying and neither do my customers!” Continuing his story, Guy recounts to Mulder his time spent eating fast food and watching porn, until that night he began to transform back into his lizard form – only to become human again the following morning.
Guy reveals that the next day, overcome with desires to save for retirement and get a mortgage, he visited a psychiatrist. Disappointed when his medication failed to cure him, he went out and bought a puppy who he named Dagoo, realising that “the only way to be happy as a human, is to spend all of your time with non-humans”. That evening he discovered Dagoo had escaped and went looking for him, ending up at the truck stop where he witnessed the man who transformed him murdering someone else. Disgusted with humanity, he took off, only to run into the prostitute. Here we come to some awkward, and somewhat distasteful, references to trans people and the process of transformation, comparing their transformations to what Guy is experiencing. Mulder, at least, speaks rationally and fairly on the subject, but the fact that he needs to is in order to foil Guy’s comments which reduce the process of a sex change operation into little more than a punchline.
It’s now that we come to what was, for me, the worst moment of the episode. Possibly the worst moment of any episode so far. Guy reaches the point in his narrative where Scully arrives at the phone shop to question him. “I think maybe my phone isn’t working right,” she purrs at him, “cos guys don’t send me pictures of their junk on it”. Moments later she begins undoing her blouse. 70s style porn music kicks in and she heads seductively for the closet. “Come on,” she whispers, “I wanna make you say cheese.” I could have survived with just an awkward cringe up until this point, instead, we are “treated” to a sex scene with Scully in a leopard print bra up against the wall groaning and screaming, “you’re an animal!” It is almost physically painful to witness. Mulder is quick to denounce the events as the pure fantasy we know they are, but by then the damage is done & one of the most iconic and positive role models for young women on television has already been reduced to a sex object punchline. It’s one of many examples of this episode trying so hard to be funny that it ends up missing the mark by a country mile. Now at the end of his story, Guy once again begs Mulder to kill him. Mulder is unconvinced by the sheer silliness of the whole story (as are we all by this point). Guy discovers Mulder’s badge and accuses him of “taking advantage” of him, calling Mulder the monster as he storms off into the woods. Mulder produces a bottle from his jacket pocket and begins drinking.
Sometime later, Mulder wakes up in the graveyard, his phone playing the X-Files theme music in an odd failed attempt at meta. Scully is calling from the animal shelter, where she has inadvertently located Dagoo. She plays with the puppy while Mulder mutters about how foolish he is. While Scully reminisces about her old dog Queequeg, Pasha sneaks up behind her, suddenly using his lasso to throw her into a stack of empty cages. Hearing the noise, Mulder calls for backup and races to his partner.
He finds her surrounded by dogs, Pasha already in handcuffs. She reveals that Pasha’s guilt was what she was trying to tell Mulder before. Pasha starts giving the most standard serial killer background story imaginable but Scully cuts him off. “I have a whole speech prepared!” he moans. Mulder once again chastises Scully for approaching a suspect alone, but she fobs him off, claiming that she wanted to give him “more quality time with [his] lizard man”. “Besides,” she grins, “I’m immortal.” Mulder realizes that Pasha’s guilt means that Guy’s story was true, and he runs out of the building without further explanation. Dagoo whimpers and Scully, clearly smitten, scoops up the dog cage and carries it away to take home.
Mulder finds Guy stripping off and preparing to go into hibernation. “How long do you hibernate for?” he questions, Guy estimates 10,000 years and once again Mulder struggles to accept his story. Guy is disappointed with him but Mulder insists that “[he] want[s] to believe,”. Guy thanks Mulder for hearing him out and the two shake hands, Guy suddenly transforming back into a lizard. He runs off into the woods, leaving a bewildered and delighted Mulder in his wake.
For me, the positioning of Kim Manner’s honorary gravestone sums up much of what’s wrong with this episode. The stone is a wonderful tribute, a touching nod for those of us who still mourn his passing. However, having it placed so prominently throughout one of the episodes longest scenes forces viewers to constantly break their own suspension of disbelief. It’s a constant reminder that we’re looking at the set of a TV show.
If the stone was off to the side and merely touched on as the camera sweeps by, wonderful. Instead, it sits centre screen practically screaming, I’M A SUBTLE IN JOKE FOR THE FANS!!! It’s the same throughout the episode. What should have been light brushes of nostalgia are instead often shovelled on by the tonne, and funny moments so overdone that they feel forced.
With little moments such as Mulder’s phone playing the show’s theme, and Scully’s reference to her own (fan theorised) immortality, I got the distinct impression that the writing team was attempting to recreate the same kind of meta we’ve seen performed so well over multiple seasons of Supernatural. However, Supernatural has had years to build its fourth wall breaking subplot and to hone it’s meta episodes into an art form, not to mention the added benefit of being able to leap into parallel universes and other dimensions effectively at will.
Trying to shoehorn a similar style of storytelling into The X-Files at this late point in its existence, especially during a season as short as this one, feels clunky and awkward. As a result, large sections of the episode ran like the sketch we saw on Jimmy Kimmel last month. Excellent comedy for a 5 minute cutaway on a late night talk show, but bordering on painful when seen within the show proper.
Sophie is a staff writer at X-Files.News where you can find all the latest news about The X-Files, and the latest news from the show’s cast and crew.
Top image: Scully in Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster © 20th Century Fox/1013 Productions