Season 10, episode 3: “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster”
In this week’s episode of The X-Files, our ongoing conspiracy plot takes a back seat to some good, old-fashioned, Monster of the Week fun.
Unlike the last two episodes, we have no intro overview from Fox Mulder (David Duchovny). Instead, the show opens in the same way many Monster of the Week (MotW) episodes have started: a guy and a girl head in the woods to engage in not-quite-intelligent behavior and stumble on a grisly murder scene instead. After taking a hit of gold spray paint, our couple hear sounds of a struggle in a clearing nearby. When they arrive, they see a man struggling with a bipedal lizard-man with green skin, spikes, and glowing red eyes. The lizard-man hisses loudly and runs past them, leaving a stunned-looking animal control employee named Pasha (Kumail Nanjiani) and a bloody corpse behind.
Post title sequence, we enter the basement office, where Mulder is busy throwing pencils at the “I Want to Believe” poster hung on the wall. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) protests this, insisting that he leave “her poster” alone. Mulder laments the fact that many of the mysteries and monsters he sought as a younger man have now been explained as either hoaxes or natural phenomena. Mulder even wonders if it is “time to put away childish things” such as Sasquatches and jackalopes, and if he really wants to spend the rest of his life chasing such tales. Scully ends this maudlin musing by informing him that they have a case to investigate and that it does, in fact, “have a monster in it”.
In marked contrast to Mulder’s speech about a changing world, the next scene is one intimately familiar to regular X-Files viewers: Mulder and Scully, in the woods, reviewing a crime scene. Just as in so many episodes before, Scully reads from an evidence file (which includes police sketches of the lizard man) while Mulder pokes around in the undergrowth. But in this case, it is Scully who presses the monster angle while Mulder insists that there must be a less exciting and more scientific reason for the attack.
Then we cut to the monster himself, watching a prostitute try to pick up a driver at a rest stop. As the pick-up truck pulls away, the monster runs towards the woman, snarling, and she gives it a whallop with her purse. We then see Mulder and Scully examining the now-torn purse and questioning the witness. The dynamic duo move on to the still-terrified animal control agent Pasha, who states that if this monster is anything more than a dog, he will quit.
We hear snarling in the background and Mulder and Scully head towards it, Scully with her gun and Mulder with a phone firing off rapid photos with flash. The camera eventually ends up point at a freshly killed body. The agents take off in chase of the nearby beast. Mulder runs into Pasha and both of them are run into by the monster, though they escape unscathed. Pasha quits. Mulder and Scully chase the monster into a portable toilet only to find it occupied by a New Zealand man instead (Rhys Darby). They continue the search, completely oblivious to the lizard-man horns receding into the man’s skull.
The next scene is another MotW staple: Scully performing an autopsy (she is a medical doctor after all) while Mulder does his best to be annoying, showing her the less-than-stellar photos he’s captured on his “camera app”. One photo shows a human bite mark on the creature and a video shows the creature shooting blood out of its eyeballs and onto Mulder. He informs her that this is also a technique used by the Horned Lizard, prompting Scully to state, “Mulder, the internet is not good for you.” Mulder does seem, however, to be slightly more accepting of the monster theory. He also notes that Scully seems to be enjoying herself and she admits that she has missed working cases like this. We also discover that Scully’s subject appears to have been bitten by human teeth.
We move on to the typically seedy motel the agents are staying in, where Mulder hears a cry of “Help! A monster!” This turns out to be the motel owner, who tells Mulder that he was only having a fight with a guest who refused to pay up. Mulder goes to check out the guest’s trashed hotel room and finds a secret hallway through which the owner can spy on his guests. When confronted with this, the owner caves and tells Mulder the real story- he saw the mysterious man from the portable toilet trash his room and turn into a were-lizard.
Mulder shares this information with Scully and proceeds to have both sides of the conversation we have come to know so well. Mulder insists that there really is a were-lizard running around killing people, states all of the objections he expect Scully to make, and counters them himself. Spooky Mulder appears to be back.
Mulder tracks down the worst psychologist in the world using a bottle of pills stolen from the trashed hotel room. The doctor tells him a legend of the were-lizard, which apparently needs to be stabbed in the appendix by green glass in order to be killed. The doc thinks this is a metaphor for the monsters in the human soul. Completely obliterating doctor-patient confidentiality, he tells Mulder about his patient, Guy Mann, who believes he is a were-lizard, and that he told Guy to walk through a cemetery when he felt an episode coming on.
Meanwhile, Scully tracks Guy down to the cellphone store where he works. She calls Mulder and tells him so and that there are some “discrepancies” in her recent lab results. Mulder, however, has already hung up. He arrives at the store to find it wrecked and Scully tells him that Guy had quit his job and smashed up the store to emphasize the point.
Tracking Guy down at the local cemetery, Mulder engages him in conversation about the meaning of life. Guy seems despondent and unsuccessfully tries to get Mulder to stab him with a broken green glass bottle. Mulder refuses and instead demands the truth about Guy’s identity and history.
This leads to a retelling of the entire episode from Guy’s point of view. It seems he was minding his own business in the woods, when two men entered his clearing, struggling. One man bit Guy’s neck and Guy fled, waking up the next day as a human, next to three dead bodies. Over the next few days, he experiences inexplicable urges to blend into human society — wearing clothes, finding a job, getting a dog and mortgage. He also claims that all of the recent attacks were actually carried out by the same man who bit Guy in the first place. He becomes despondent over the meaningless of human life and furious that Mulder believes he would be such a monster as to murder people.
Rather sad himself, Mulder drinks himself asleep in the graveyard, waking to a call from Scully who is at the animal control building. He fills her in on his conversation with Guy after which Scully is attacked by Pasha. Mulder rushes over, to find that Scully has already taken Pasha down. It turns out that Pasha, a run of the mill serial killer, had been killing people all along. It was his blood that Scully found on the victims and it was his bite apparently turned full-time lizard man Guy into a part-time human.
Our final scene is between Guy and Mulder, as Guy heads into the forest for his species’ 10,000-year hibernation. Guy thinks that Mulder still doesn’t believe him, prompting a plaintive, “I want to believe!” from Mulder. This becomes fairly easy, however, when Mulder shakes Guy’s hand and Guy turns back into his natural form. He runs off into the forest, leaving a wondering Mulder to gaze after him.
Overall, this episode felt like coming home from a long trip and settling into your couch with your favorite blanket. That is to say, it was somewhat predictable but all the better for it. Much like in the hundreds of MotW episodes before, we are given an entertaining, easy to follow, story with a little twist at the end to make us reconsider our lives.
It also served as an excellent vehicle to remind everyone of the X-Files tropes we all know and love: Scully’s autopsy, the crappy motel, a monster that turns out to be more than it seems, etc. It certainly recalls the sillier side of The X-Files; I found myself frequently thinking back to episodes such as “Post-Modern Prometheus” and “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas”. It was also chock-a-block with Easter eggs, including the show theme music as Mulder’s ringtone, mention of Scully’s former dog Qeequeg, and two tombstones in honor of legendary X-Files producer/director Kim Manners and assistant director Jack Hardy. In addition to being fun to spot, they also served as a clever tip of the hat to long-time fans, plus fans of Kolchak (come on, you saw it, too, right?).
The story, however, was quite Mulder-centric, with Scully playing a much more supportive role. We don’t even get a chance to see her take out Pasha the serial killer (though it was nice to see her taking care of business herself). In years past, MotW episodes tended to flip between the two characters in terms of focus. I hope, then, that our next episode will give similar consideration to Scully’s journey. In the meantime, the were-lizard serves as a welcome rest before we jump back into business next week.
The X-Files airs Mondays at 8/7c on FOX.