As the insouciant title suggests, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” returns The X-Files to its comedic roots, referencing the Abbott and Costello series where the duo found themselves facing off with classic monsters like the Mummy, Frankenstein, and the Invisible Man. The episode brings our agents into contact with what seems to be a murderous monster that is leaving a small trail of dead in Middle America but rather than tracing the macabre existence of the monster, the episode is about the seemingly strange behavior of the beast that arises during the hunt. In other words, the main focus of the episode is personality and inner life, and subsequently, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” excels where “My Struggle” and, to a lesser extent, “Founder’s Mutation” failed to relocate the pulse of life that powered the original run.
The distinct dark humor of the episode is the trademark of writer-director Darin Morgan, who wrote some of the best episodes of the original run, including the phenomenal “Clyde Bruckman’s Finale Repose” and the classic “Humbug.” And like with the latter episode, in which a series of grotesque murders plagues a community of circus “freaks,” his goal here is to impart a correcitve to the belief that the “odd” or “monstrous” do not feel and wrestle with the same emotions as anyone else does.
The creature of the title is, in fact, Guy Mann, played by Flight of the Conchords breakout Rhys Darby, a reptilian being who finds himself randomly transforming into a normal-looking man and compulsively seeking out boring human activities – a day job, watching bad TV, etc. In the episode’s pivotal sequence, he asks Mulder to kill him out of desperation of doing what is considered everyday and normal, and Darby, who dresses like the title character from X-Files forbearer Kojak, is equal parts hilarious and heartfelt in conveying this exhaustion.
Much like in one of his other strong entries in the original run, “Blood,” Morgan is smart in subtly tying these feelings to modern black-and-white notions of gender and personality. Early into the episode, Mulder questions Annabelle (D.J. Pierce), a transgender woman, one who is clearly at self-assured in her identity, who nearly got attacked by the monster (or so she thinks), and the scene thankfully takes zero cheap shots. She acts as an early nod towards the inner conflict that Darby’s character is going through, but also comes across as a genuine character, not just a gear of the plot. Indeed, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” is the first episode of this season to not feel anchored to predictable plot points, driven by inventive characters rather than story.
The episode’s final revelation, involving Silicon Valley‘s Kumail Nanjiani as an animal control worker, underlines Morgan’s thematic concerns, alluding to the dangerous effects of repressing one’s more peculiar impulses and psychological rifts. The only thing that is palpably missing from the episode is the tint of menace that Morgan’s best episodes blend with humor and a potent love for the uncanny. The murderer in “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” is treated as a truly unhinged, scary person who cannot be swayed by pleas or fear, and yet the episode itself remains largely funny. The key to the issue is that none of the victims of the murders in “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” are given a moment to breathe, to give a fleeting yet memorable sense of who they were. They are notable for nothing more than being unlucky prey, which only sticks out because the rest of the episode is so thrillingly alive with people, creatures, and all their wondrous shades of character.
★★★★ Very Good