02nd Feb2016

‘The X-Files 10×03: Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

 “It’s a reminder that no matter how overwhelming our anxieties might be, they will soon be resolved when we are dead and buried for all eternity.”

Thus does the preposterously Teutonic psychiatrist prescribe a walk in the graveyard as a cure for life’s angst. Even life’s most terrifying and mysterious questions, he asserts, have answers. That answer is that nonsense reigns and the grave is inevitable. In ‘Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster,’ the show takes a hard right into the cornfield to spend an hour dissecting Mulder’s lifelong quest not to find the truth but to believe, to experience faith, to place value not just in the unknown but in the pursuit thereof. Silly, dreamlike, and almost certainly non-canon, the episode cuts closer to what makes The X-Files special and worthwhile than either of Season 10′s previous entries. If last week’s ‘Founder’s Mutation’ was the show trotting through a by-the-numbers episode with polish and flare, this week’s is a risky swing for something a little more essential.

It’s not without its flaws, and there are times when it feels like the episode is just rehashing its themes while the characters mug at each other, but moments like Kumail Nanjiani’s dead-eyed serial killer getting trotted away to prison in the middle of his rote origin story make it all worthwhile. The episode treats the idea of the procedural crime drama with intense disdain, mirroring the genre’s workaday lack of ambition with the abject horror experienced by a lizard monster who finds himself transformed into a manager at a cellular phone boutique. The absurd bait and switch were-lizard plot is enormously enjoyable, any threat of over-explanation or wordiness deflated by Rhys Darby’s unparalleled ability to look and sound like he’s hauling his lines directly out of his ass.

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Skewering the idea that there could be anything interesting between the ears of someone who strangles people and then rips out their throats with his teeth, the episode serves up arguably the funniest series of murders in the show’s run. Every victim is some indistinguishable white guy, every murder occurs almost instantaneously, and we never learn any names or details about any of the slain. The killings are so banal that at first they just kind of fade into the background, the violence assigned no special import or pride of place. The focus is mostly on Mulder trying to grapple with whether or not his life’s work means anything and with he and the were-lizard drinking in front of the grave of Kim Manners upon which is engraved the phrase, “Let’s Kick It In the Ass!” It’s an exploration of the idea that the search for the impossible is more rich and compelling than the discovery of answers themselves.

The episode is packed with memorable supporting characters, from the murderous peeping tom motel owner to the were-lizard himself, whose extremely detail-oriented attempt to commit Suicide by Mulder is a real treat of a scene. Like the were-lizard’s story, the characters don’t really add up to anything or contribute to a larger plot, but then that’s the point of the whole outing. Past the “Man’s inhumanity to Man” chestnut, Mulder’s midlife crisis of faith, Scully’s detached amusement, and all the stage play existentialism, there’s a note of primal desire here. We all want to believe in things, to open ourselves to the possibility of untouchable truths, to take the were-lizard by the hand before he scurries off to hibernate for 10,000 years.

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In some ways, the truth is immaterial. Seeking out the holes in the universe is inherently worthwhile, and whether or not we look through them, it’s good to believe that they’re there. Mulder, situated directly in David Duchovny’s resting state of Extremely Deadpan, is the perfect mope to deliver the message, and hearing it, taking our ungainly heroes out of mothballs finally feels justified.

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