Well, last week, the “X-Files is BACK!” piece was written with glee. This week was like a blind date set up by a friend, and she turns out to be a size zero in a denim skirt who drinks beer and screams at the football game on TV. She exceeds all expectations.
“Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” was parts fantastical, comedic, mentally dystopian, and without question, nostalgic.
The X-Files has always been able to toe the line of comedic value mixed with absurdity, but still makes you think in the end. This third episode of the revival sets that tone right away with two eccentric spray-paint huffers talking about being werewolves who get high before stumbling upon the “Were-Monster.” The beast flees without so much as scratching anyone out of violence.
Meanwhile, the series is slowly detaching the last threads of “Skeptic Mulder,” showing Agent Mulder in his office lamenting over the idiocy of some of the original X-Files cases that were investigated. Skeptic Mulder is pretty much the fictional incarnation of Steven Tyler’s new foray into country music; it isn’t meant to be and will die a quick death. For Mulder, that happens when he meets the Were-Monster as a human.
That human, by the way, is named “Guy Mann” (played by Rhys Darby), earning that handle from a pill-popping psychiatrist (whom Mann refers to as a witch doctor) who convinces Mann that hanging out in a cemetery will help alleviate his sorrows. It’s supposed to reassure him that he’ll die one day. If that isn’t the most emo psychology you can find…
The nostalgia in this episode was more subtle. Agent Scully declared herself immortal, a kickback to season four’s “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” in which a tortured soul played by Peter Boyle has the misfortune of seeing how people died right before their actual deaths. That included his own death in the end.
More clarity is also provided on Mulder and Scully’s relationship, one that’s quickly evolved from cantankerous at best to back where we started. Multiple scenes display Scully being thrilled to have the old, crazy-theoried Mulder back. “This is how I like my Mulder,” she says, echoing the sentiments of every lifetime X-Phile.
A later scene has a fun tribute, showing Mulder and Mann chumming it up over a bottle of knockoff Glenfiddich while drinking on the headstones of Kim Manners and Jack Hardy. Manners was a producer and director on The X-Files through season four, while Hardy was an assistant director on The X-Files: I Want to Believe.
But the episode was at its most sagacious with the humor overlaying a psychological, thought-provoking storyline. There’s a children’s book called The Three Billy Goats Fluff, a spin-off of The Three Billy Goats Gruff, the iconic tale of a troll that has been looking to eat billy goats crossing a bridge he lived under. In “Fluff,” it’s revealed that the story was all “wrong.” The troll was just some ambivalent soul trying to get some sleep as these three goats tromped across the bridge, keeping him awake.
In the end, the goats’ mother makes them mittens to keep it quiet for the troll, and all moves on happily ever after.
It’s a reversal of a fable, similar to this X-Files case. The Were-Monster” is bitten by a human (who we learn actually kills people and eats their flesh, with no supernatural tie) and reversing a werewolf or vampire story, the monster is forced to become a human.
Cursed to be human, the Were-Monster goes through the immense sadness of humanity, where a few random, brilliant and wonderful moments are opiates for what is mostly a depressing, forced, dull existence that ends in inevitable death. He goes through this while taking various artificial distractions (liquor, pills) to mask the immense sourness of human life.
Mann goes to work at a meaningless retail job he hates, gets promoted instantly because it’s a meaningless retail job that people hate, watches porn and lives what’s painted as a mostly regular and miserable existence. He also gets a dog and jokes that the only thing people can do to be happy is to be around anything other than humans.
We never know what animals really think, but there’s something blissfully sardonic about how the episode lobs insults at things that would probably seem odd to them if they suddenly became human. For instance, the charmingly hilarious scene with Mulder trying to explain the transgender prostitute on crack that the Were-Monster encountered.
In the end, Mann gives Mulder a mea culpa of sorts, showing that he can seemingly change back into the monster at will. (We never really find out what triggers the change for certain.) That gives Mulder a glimpse of what he had sworn was no longer realistic during his sabbatical from the X-Files.
“Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” leaves you laughing, thinking, a little sad and a little happy, but completely entertained. Maybe all we’re doing in this life is being laughed at by monsters deep in the woods as we plod on through mostly mechanical days, pumping vices into ourselves, and clinging to small moments of happiness, all while knowing what the end road holds for us.
But probably not. After all, as Mulder says, there aren’t monsters. Until… there are.