“You’re really enjoying yourself, aren’t you, Scully?”
“Yeah, I am. I forgot how much fun these cases can be.”
If last week’s “Founder’s Mutation” was The X-Files proving that it could still produce a solid episode of television and that its concept still has legs in 2016, then this week’s “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” is proof that this show can still produce an all-time classic at this late stage.
“Were-Monster” is written and directed by Darin Morgan, a writer whose attachment to the miniseries produced significant excitement from fans of the show. Morgan only wrote four episodes of the show in the second and third seasons, but all of them are fan favorites – his “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” is a common answer for the best episode of the entire series. Those four episodes display Morgan’s darkly comic take on the X-Files that play on the show’s often self-serious nature while still being true to its concept. Fans of Morgan’s episodes will be pleased to hear that this episode is just as good as them. In fact, “Were-Monster” is so good that even if the remaining three episodes turn out to be duds (and I don’t think they will), this miniseries will have been worth it just for this one episode.
After a cold open in which two paint-huffing stoners save an animal control officer (Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjiani) being attacked by a monster – only for the three of them to discover a dead body – the episode opens proper with Mulder throwing pencils (!) at his “I Want to Believe” poster (now $12 and hanging in a college dorm room near you). There’s a great Morgan gag here where Mulder recalls to Scully that he once investigated the famous Death Valley sailing stones believing they were the work of some rock monster….that turned out to be a promotional stunt by a car dealer in Colorado (as Mulder correctly points out there’s nothing extraterrestrial about those rocks, and his explanation is true: it was really was just ice!). This early bit sets the tone of the episode: wry, quick, engaging, funny and true to the series.
Mulder has become disillusioned with hunting cryptozoological phenomena and is annoyed that his new case, as Scully puts it, “has a monster in it.” Mulder opines, in one of the miniseries’ many nods to the advances in technology since the show first went off the air, that no one took a photo of this monster. When they arrive in one of the show’s very familiar forest settings, Mulder is dismissive. He believes it to be animal attacks or a serial killer; for once he is the skeptic that needs to be convinced there is something worth investigating.
Soon however, Mulder is running around with his camera phone with nutty abandon trying to get a photograph of the monster, which he eventually – and clumsily – runs into. After the encounter, Mulder is convinced it’s something – man-sized, hairless, certainly not a Sasquatch – he posits some sort of horned lizard humanoid thing. Sure enough, he’s right, and catch a glimpse of its human form before the commercial in the form of New Zealand comedian Rhys Darby (of Flight of the Conchords fame) who dressed in the costume of the lead character of X-Files forebearer Kolchak: The Night Stalker.
As game as David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are in this episode, it’s Darby that walks away with the hour. He’s refreshing, incredibly funny and – most importantly – believable as the inconspicuously named “Guy Mann.”
Mulder is reinvigorated in his love for the supernatural after running into Guy/Lizard (Lizard Guy? Guy!Lizard? Carl Kolchak? I don’t know.) and begins to snoop around town looking for clues. He finds them in a damaged room that is literally the motel the duo checked into. In fact, he stumbles onto the room after finding a Scooby-Doo esque secret passage system hidden behind a Jackalope head that the manager uses to snoop on his guests. When confronted, the manager – who acts like a character from Hausu – claims that he saw Guy turn into a lizard creature before his eyes.
This is where we get the full reveal of the Lizard costume, which looks not unlike something from the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers discard bin, which I think might be Morgan’s point. The episode kind of feels like a commentary on the supernatural science fantasy shows that have cropped up in The X-Files wake, some of which are as unconvincing as my old nemesis Heroes.
After talking to Scully in a mostly one-sided and very goofy conversation where he anticipates most of her skepticisms, Mulder visits a zany psychiatrist who prescribed Guy with an anti-psychotic he doubts even worked. To wit: “He seemed pretty crazy.”
Scully visits Guy’s cellphone store to ask him a few questions. We cut to her a bit later and seems he literally flipped a table and ran. Eventually Mulder catches up to Guy in a cemetery. After a botched attempt to get Mulder to kill him (he has heard the psychiatrist’s story of a werewolf killed with green glass, it seems), Guy relents and tells him his story: Turns out he’s a were-lizard thing, but not the way you’re thinking of. Guy’s regular form is a lizard humanoid thing and he was….”bitten” by a human, and turns into one at the light of day. The story – in which he is repulsed by his urges to put on clothes (shock!), get a job (horror!) and buy a puppy – is a riot. This segment of the story is the kind of rapid-fire supernatural humor that exhibits Darin Morgan’s writing at its best. It’s very funny, but it never falls into an outright sketch comedy parody of The X-Files. It all seems right at home.
Guy’s big reveal is that he didn’t kill anyone, he merely kept stumbling onto murder scenes and every other encounter with him is explained away with innocuous reasons like him being distraught by losing his puppy or his horror at a murder scene.
Mulder encounters Guy one last time in the forest, he claims he’s going into hibernation for 10,000 years. As Guy shakes Mulder’s hand in gratitude, he turns into the lizard thing. For what seems like the first time in his career, Mulder has real, first hand proof of a cryptozoological being. And he lets him be.
“Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” is a zippy, goofy and self-referential hour of magical realism. And an honest-to-goodness funny one to boot. It’s one of the best episodes the series has ever done. It will be hard for the rest of the miniseries to be this good, but I hope we get more of this revival after it so we can get more episodes as great as this one.