One thing THE X-FILES has been really good at is seamlessly blending serious drama — either in the form of the underlying conspiracy mythology or the many personal tragedies Fox Mulder and Dana Scully have suffered — with the absurdly hilarious. After having visited the mythology in “My Struggle” and the pain in “Founder’s Mutation,” the next logical step for THE X-FILES season 10 was to take a turn for the comedic. And Darin Morgan’s “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” delivered. Big time.
Fox Mulder’s midlife crisis. The X-files may have been reopened, but Mulder hadn’t exactly jumped back into them as gleefully as he would have done when he was a younger, more believing man. After a brief interlude in the woods to introduce viewers to the monster of the week, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” opened with Scully entering a basement office in disarray.
No, Mulder hadn’t destroyed the place to finally get his partner, who had actually worked in the place more recently, her own desk or her name on the door. He had been going through old case files and discovering that most of his life’s work was made up of nothing more than a bunch of carefully orchestrated hoaxes…and throwing pencils at the “I want to believe” poster. Scully’s poster, to be exact.
In 2016, Scully wants to believe, but Mulder just wants to rant about how the Hairy Whatsit of Walla Walla was never a real thing (the folks at HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS would tend to disagree) because cases involving monsters just aren’t his thing anymore. Because despite looking just as good in a red Speedo as ever, as is revealed later in the episode, Mulder sees himself as getting too old for this stuff: “I’m a middle-aged man, Scully. No, I am. I am. I’m thinking maybe it’s time to put away childish things…the Sasquatches and Mothmen, and jackelopes. I thought it would be great getting back to work, but is this really how I want to spend the rest of my days?”
Yes, Mulder. It is. Now, get to work. You have a monster case to solve with the lovely Skepticus-Maximus-turned-Believer sitting across the desk from you.
“So, we’re looking for a man-sized horned lizard with human teeth. Sounds a bit silly, doesn’t it?” Scully and Mulder’s work on the case of the were-monster took so many bizarre twists and turns, it felt like the hallucinations of a fever-addled brain. That’s actually a compliment, even though it may seem to be the opposite. Interviewing an eyewitness led to some sort of discussion about the monster’s horn, causing Scully to ask if it was a unicorn; and then they needed to know whether the thing was wearing boxers or briefs, I guess? But that’s just the beginning.
Fitting with his description of himself as a middle-aged man, Mulder spent most of the early moments of his investigation failing to understand how the camera app on his phone worked. When he and Pasha the animal control officer were attacked by the monster, he tried to record the whole thing, only to find out later than he’d had the lens facing the wrong way and therefore had no video evidence of the monster’s existence.
Mulder did, however, discover that the monster had spewed blood at him out of its eyeballs, which he discovered via the internet was something done by horned lizards. By this point, Mulder was starting to show a little bit of that old excitement for dealing with these kinds of cases, and Scully was openly admitting that she’d forgotten how much fun they could be. Gone were the trademarked Scully eyerolls and sighs, meant to (poorly) cover up her own amusement.
The real enjoyment for both partners came later, after Mulder discovered the motel manager had methods of peeping on guests. There was the return of the red Speedo, which Mulder apparently sleeps in these days, and then Fox used the head of an actual fox to spy on his partner in bed. Ok, those bits were actually thrown in for viewers’ enjoyment, but the big Mulder and Scully moment came when Mulder went to Scully’s room in the middle of the night. (No, not for that.)
As Mulder ranted and raved his way through his latest bout of speculation, complete with the inclusion of appropriate Scully interjections, it seemed as if the real Special Agent Fox Mulder was back on the case. Gone was the guy who had no interest in going on another wild goose chase to fall for some monster hoax. Scully took note, delivering one of the most memorable lines of THE X-FILES to date in “yeah, this is how I like my Mulder.”
She was, however, not buying Mulder’s story, no matter how much she liked him like this. If the series of hilariously on point and eerily familiar facial reactions weren’t enough to get that across, the assertion that her partner was “batcrap crazy” certainly ought to have been.
Mulder’s plan of action: Check out of the Peeping Tom Motel or whatever it was called, then get to work on solving the case.
Take a walk in the graveyard? Mulder’s next interview was with a psychiatrist. Observation number one: Mulder was offered a prescription for anti-psychotics because he believed that a monster could exist and therefore was just as crazy as, if not crazier than, the patient who believed himself to be said monster. Earlier, Scully had asked Mulder if he’d taken his meds when he came to her room to do his hyper dialogue dump (shoutout to the superhuman David Duchovny for surviving that), so the general consensus would seem to be that Mulder needs to be medicated.
Observation two. As absurd as this entire episode is, there were some pretty interesting things happening between Mulder and that shrink. While Mulder believed “not everything can be reduced to Psychology,” the psychiatrist made an incredibly valid point himself: “It’s easier to believe in monsters out there in the world than to accept that the real monsters dwell within us, here.” Now, if Sveta’s mind-reading trick in “My Sruggle” is to be believed, Mulder’s mental health is what ruined his relationship with Scully. Piecing that together with this is rather telling indeed. Or, you know, it’s just a commentary on how crazy is as crazy does.
Either way, Mulder got the bright idea to visit the cemetery from Dr. Rumanovitch because, apparently, the best advice to give your patient who thinks he’s a monster is to tell him to go for a stroll amongst the graves when he feels an episode coming on. Before he could make it to the graveyard, though, Mulder got a phone call from Scully, complete with the classic, “Mulder, it’s me” greeting. She was pretty sure she’d found their suspect in a worker at a cell phone store, but her attempt to ask questions was thwarted when the guy destroyed the place and ran off. Mulder arrived at the scene just in time to ask Scully why she’d gone after a potentially dangerous suspect by herself — I think it might be the first time either of them has admitted how stupid their tendency to do this is — then execute his own disappearing act.
Off to the graveyard Mulder went, where he met Guy Mann and listened to his — to steal Scully’s phrase — batcrap crazy story. Guy Mann was a monster in his natural state, who’d been bitten by a human, forcing him to turn into a human. And then it just got weirder from there. It was a strange, yet somehow perfectly natural, reversal of the typical werewolf myth. Rather than a man becoming aware that he was a monster, a monster became aware that he was a man. Maybe men are the real monsters?
Guy’s story involved everything from calling his psychiatrist a “witch doctor,” to getting a puppy, to a scandalous lie about Scully coming on to him, which (thankfully) Mulder wasn’t buying. Even within the insanity of Guy’s story about himself in all his 90s tv monster makeup glory, the plot took a turn for the serious, when Mulder had to explain to the were-monster himself (ok, so it didn’t turn too serious) what a transgender is.
I want to believe. After Guy Mann finished his ridiculous tale, we found Mulder passed out on the grave of Kim Manners (lovely tribute), only to be awoken by a phone call from Scully. People, this is important: Fox Mulder’s ringtone for Scully is theme for THE X-FILES. That’s so meta.
Scully was busy getting herself potentially trapped by Pasha the animal control guy, all while in the process of not only cracking the case wide open but also reminiscing about the long-dead Queequeg. As Mulder rushed off to the Animal Control Office to save his partner, she was busy saving herself because Dana Katherine Scully needs no rescuing; and when Mulder yet again reprimanded her for going off on her own without backup, she patted him on the chest and reminded him that she’s immortal.
The plot thickens with yet another throwback.
So, as the case came to a close with Scully stealing a puppy — because Mulder’s obviously been a terrible influence on her — and Mulder continuing to argue with Guy Mann about the absurdity of his story, Fox Mulder finally admitted the most important thing of all: “I want to believe.” The discouraged and disenchanted man we met at the beginning of the latest episode of THE X-FILES wasn’t exactly long-gone, but after having a lot of fun with his partner on the most unbelievable of cases, he somehow remembered that he could want to believe without actually being there yet.
Perhaps it’s because there were so many reminders of old times; perhaps it was just a matter of remembering himself. Either way, Fox Mulder wants to believe again, so all is about as right in the world of THE X-FILES as it can get.
The bottom line. “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” is bound to go down in history as a favorite episode of THE X-FILES. Seeing both partners regain their joy in investigating these cases would have been enough to make this an instant classic. But it’s in the multiple references to beloved moments from the original series (like the Speedo, Queequeg, the pencils, Scully’s not at all surprising immortality, etc., etc., etc…) that really makes this story strong. Laughing one’s way through a classic monster-of-the-week case is one thing, but remembering all the little things that made THE X-FILES special in its original run is like a love letter to a dedicated base of fans, both old and new, that never stopped wanting to believe.
Don’t miss the next new episode of THE X-FILES on February 8 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.