Hey Dragons! Have you recovered yet from last night’s episode of The X-Files, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster”? I have not, but I am tasked with recapping this glorious episode for you, so I’m taking deep breaths in a paper bag. This episode was written and directed by Darin Morgan, who wrote just four episodes during seasons 2 and 3. His episodes remain among the best: “Humbug,” “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (for which he won an Emmy), “War of the Coprophages,” and “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space'” (my favorite episode of television, ever). Morgan’s episodes are always wonderful in their ability to tell a story while balancing some deeper ideas, and this episode was no different. This ep was also PACKED with inside jokes/references to the history of the show, which I’ll list after the recap. Without further ado, let’s meet the Were-Monster.
A full moon. We see a pair of stoners sniffing spray paint, their faces covered in the stuff. They take a break to admire the moon, and the woman says, “Do you ever think life is so amazing and maybe we shouldn’t waste it by just getting high all the time?” “No,” replies her companion. “I think about how I wish I was a werewolf.” “What would you do if you were a werewolf?” she asks. “I’d get high all the time.” Well, obviously. They hear shouts nearby, and when they look through a clearing of trees, they see a man fighting what undeniably looks like a man-sized lizard. The lizard runs off, past the stoners. The stoners check on the guy – an animal control officer named Pasha played by Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley). He’s fine, but you know who isn’t? The dead guy laying right next to him.
Back in D.C., Mulder is having a midlife crisis. He throws pencils at the I Want to Believe poster (“What are you doing to MY poster?” asks Scully). Mulder explains that so many of the things they investigated, including monsters, have been debunked with scientific explanations. Mulder’s no longer looking at the unexplained with the enthusiasm we remember from the early seasons of The X-Files, eager to believe anything. “I’m a middle-aged man, Scully. I’m thinking maybe it’s time to put away childish things, the Sasquatches and mothmen and jackalopes.” Maybe this isn’t how he wants to spend his life. Well, too bad, Scully says – they’ve been given a case with a monster in it.
Witnesses have described the man-sized lizard, with a varying number of eyes – one versus four. Scully attempts professionalism, looking around the scene. Mulder’s having none of it. His rational explanation is that a mountain lion attacked the animal control officer. Good theory, Scully says, but there were three other dead bodies in a separate places. Must be wolves, Mulder says. Scully points out that the bite marks appear to show human involvement. Mulder’s even less impressed with that. “You’ve seen one serial killer, you’ve seen them all.”
At a gas station, a woman is attacked by the man-lizard. She explains to Mulder and Scully that it had two horns, in the back of its head, and it was wearing tighty-whiteys. “I told the officers it slithered off that way, but they think I’m on crack.” “Are you?” Mulder asks. “Yeah!” (I laughed out loud at this.) Mulder and Scully then meet Pasha, who’s looking around the edge of the gas station. They hear a growling, and Mulder and Scully go running toward the sound (Pasha runs in the opposite direction). Mulder whips out his phone, taking photo after photo. “It’s a new camera app,” he insists. Scully finds a dead body in the grass – “a fresh kill” – and Mulder runs back toward the gas station, his phone still malfunctioning while taking photos. He screams, and Scully runs to him, finding him on the ground, blood on his face. It’s not his blood, he explains. They track what they believe is the monster to a porta-potty, where they swing open the door, Mulder still snapping photos, to find guest star Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords). “A little privacy, please,” he says as our agents rush off, assuming they were mistaken. As Darby steps out of the bathroom, we see two horns on the back of his head.
At the county morgue, Scully autopsies the body while Mulder attempts to show her the photos on his phone. I could watch this scene all day. Mulder’s not quite back to his old self, but he’s starting to believe. The best part is when he shows Scully the video that he shot – the lens turned the wrong way the whole time, just showing Mulder yelling. “It shot blood at me. From out its eyeball. I think,” he says. Scully points out that animals don’t do that, and Mulder tells her about the “horned lizard, which shoots blood out its eyeballs!” Scully: “Mulder, the Internet is not good for you.” She tells Mulder to go back to the hotel and get some sleep – “try not to dream about monsters.”
At the motel (I wish there had been a kooky name for it), a shirtless Mulder (thanks, Darin) lays on a bed in a room with lovely animal head decor. He wakes up to hear someone yelling, “Help!” and “Monster!” Mulder goes to the front desk and finds a surly hotel manager: “Now, please go away, or I’ll kill you,” as he takes a swig of rubbing alcohol. Mulder finds the next room open and torn apart. He rummages around and finds some medication, which he pockets. An animal head – is that a jackalope? – has fallen to the floor, and as Mulder goes to put it back, he finds that there are peepholes behind all the animal heads – there’s an entire system in the hotel to allow the manager to spy on people. Mulder confronts him but isn’t concerned about the invasion of privacy. “When one checks into an establishment such as this, one expects the manager to be a Peeping Tom.” He just wants to know what happened in the trashed room. The manager recounts his tale – first, he was spying on Mulder (sporting a red speedo and nothing else), when he heard screaming. It’s Rhys Darby again, yelling into a mirror. “I can’t go on like this! I’m going insane, having to look at you every day!” He destroys the mirror and the alarm clock before he begins to transform into a lizard man, storming at the hotel manager. Mulder shows the manager the drawing from the earlier witnesses – yes, that’s the monster, he confirms, and yes, the man on the toilet is the man.
Mulder’s re-energized. “It’s a monster, Scully, plain and simple.” Mulder goes on a soliloquy about his theories – is this natural? was it an experiment? – each time cutting Scully off with what he knows she will say. He finally admits he doesn’t know what it is, but it’s definitely a monster. “Yeah, this is how I like my Mulder,” Scully says with a smirk. But she doesn’t believe him. “You’re bat-crap crazy.” They decide they need to track down the man from the toilet, but first, “we need to check out of this motel,” Mulder says quietly, eyeing the animal heads.
Mulder goes to the psychiatrist who prescribed the medication, who tells Mulder an old fable: a town is terrorized by a man-eating lizard dragon. The constable wants to stop the lizard, and he learns that to kill it, he must stab it in its appendix with a lance made of green glass (Why? Mulder asks. “Who the hell knows?” the psychiatrist responds). The constable does it, but then he realizes that he’s been looking in a mirror. “It’s easier to believe in monsters out there, in the world, then to accept that the real monsters dwell within us” is the moral of the story, says the psychiatrist. He says that he treated Guy Mann (clearly not a real name, Mulder points out) for believing that he turned into a were-lizard under a full moon and prescribed him anti-psychotics. Mulder wants to know where to find him, and the doctor says that he told Guy to go to a cemetery the next time he felt an episode coming on. Mulder stands to go, and the psychiatrist hands him his own prescription. After all, “who is in more need of an anti-psychotic? The man who believes himself to be a were-lizard? Or the man who believes that man?”
Meanwhile, Scully has found Guy at the smart phone store. Mulder says he’ll be right there and hangs up on Scully before she can finish her thought – the blood results show some discrepancies. By the time Mulder gets there, the store is trashed. “He suddenly yelled ‘I quit,’ and he went on a rampage.” Mulder tells her she shouldn’t have gone in alone and then… proceeds to go off alone to find the were-lizard man. Scully yells after him that she got the blood tests results, but he’s long gone. Mulder, never change.
Mulder travels to the cemetery, where he encounters Guy and kicks off a simply wonderful sequence of television. Mulder asks Guy if he lost someone recently, and Guy replies, “Yeah. Myself. I know this sounds weird, but until a few days ago, I didn’t know we die. I mean, I always knew we could die. I instinctively knew to avoid death. But what I didn’t know was, no matter what we do, we end up in a place like this.” Mulder tells him that it seems like something is weighing on him, and maybe he should confess – if he has something to confess to, that is. Guy says he’s not going to do anything crazy – “I’m just going to kill you.” He “attacks” Mulder in an attempt to get Mulder to kill him in self-defense, but Mulder won’t do it. Guy begs him, and finally Mulder says he will – but only if Guy explains how this happened to him first. “The whole story.”
And so we come to the wonderful twist of the episode: it was never that Guy was a man being transformed into a lizard – he’s a lizard being transformed into a man. He was bitten by a man a few nights ago, and ever since, he had been transforming into a human. “I became possessed. I fought against it as much as I could, but I lost control. I had to go on a hunt. I had to hunt down a … a…” “A human victim?” Mulder jumps in. “No, a job,” Guy says. He got a job at the cell phone store. He didn’t need a social security number, anything like that, because now he has the ability to BS his way through anything – like all humans! After his first day at work, he committed a murder… of a cow. He got a double cheeseburger from a fast food place (after trying to walk through a drive-through) and spent the evening watching porn. That night, he transformed back into a lizard, and he hoped that he was back to normal. But, no luck for Guy. In the morning, he was back to human.
“Now that I had a job, all I could think about was how much I hated my job.” But he couldn’t quit, “overcome with human fear.” He couldn’t go on, so he went to the psychiatrist. The medicine didn’t help – he did “something insane. I got a puppy!” When he came home the next day, Daggoo the puppy was gone, apparently accidentally let out by the maid. His search led him to the truck stop, where he fell into despair. “Just when I’d given up the search, I saw him” – the man who had bit him and turned him human. He wanted to attack the human, but before he could, he saw that human attack someone else. “I’d never seen such pointless brutality,” Guy says. As the moon came out, Guy fled, running into the woman who concussed him. The rest of the night was foggy, and when he got back to the motel, a jackalope head on the wall started screaming at him – “Explain that!”
That morning, he went to work again and encountered Scully. Guy proceeds to tell Mulder a tall tale about hooking up with Scully in the closet, but Mulder shuts him down. “That did not happen.” “Alright, you got me. Ever since I became human, I can’t help but lie about my sex life.” But that’s it, Guy insists. That’s the story. Will Mulder kill him now?
It’s too much for Mulder to believe. “We both want to believe in things that aren’t real. Or even possible,” he tells Guy. Guy begins to quote Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Mulder waves it off, but Guy points out that the original version said our philosophy. “So Hamlet is not just calling Horatio an ignorant idiot, he’s calling us all ignorant idiots?” “It’s a comforting thought, isn’t it? Because if there’s nothing more to life than what we already know, then there’s nothing but worries, self-doubt, regret, and loneliness.” Guy begs him again to kill him (and calls him Foxman) when Guy discovers Mulder’s badge. Irritated to find out that Mulder’s a cop, Guy runs off. “I’m not a monster. You’re the monster! J’accuse, Monsieur Mulder!” Mulder sighs, pulling out the bottle Guy previously gave him and taking a big swig.
Mulder comes to in the cemetery to his phone ringing – and it’s The X-Files theme song (there’s meta, and then there’s meta). Scully’s at the animal shelter, wondering where he is. “I fell off the wagon,” he says, referring to his “monster hunting ways.” He says he was a fool, and maybe he always has been. Scully’s petting Daggoo through a cage – though she doesn’t know he’s the were-lizard’s dog. The dog nips her, and she tells Mulder that he sort of reminds her of Queequeg. Aww. (Side note: does this mean Mulder and Scully never had a puppy when they lived together? Sad face.) While Scully talks to Mulder, Pasha sneaks up behind her, attacking her.
Mulder rushes to the animal shelter, but everything’s under control. “It wasn’t some monster running around killing people and eating their flesh, it was a normal human being.” Turns out that the autopsy showed the cause of death was strangulation, and Scully tested the pole that Pasha left behind and found blood and tissue matching the victim. Pasha tries to explain his rationale, but Scully tells him to save it for the trial. “But I have a whole speech prepared,” Pasha protests. Mulder runs off to find Guy, and in the best moment of the episode, Scully asks Daggoo if he wants to come home with her, STEALING THE DOG FROM THE ANIMAL SHELTER.
Mulder finds Guy in the woods, stripping naked. “This is the time for my kind to go into hibernation.” He tells Guy that they caught the murderer. He asks how long he hibernates for, and Guy says it’s about ten thousand years. “That’s … not possible,” Mulder says. “There you go again! Not believing me!” Guy starts off into the woods. “I want to believe,” Mulder calls after him. Guy comes back and says he’s glad to have met Mulder, reaching out to shake his hand. Mulder accepts, and as he looks back up, Guy’s fully transformed – into a man-sized lizard. Guy runs off into the woods, leaving Mulder in the headlights of the car.
Rating: 9.75/10. A near perfect episode of The X-Files. I appreciate writing that is self-aware, and Guy’s existential crisis as a human is spot on. Plus, I would have to give this episode a high rating for the autopsy scene and the hotel scenes alone. The dialogue in this episode is great – it finally sounds like Mulder and Scully are Mulder and Scully again. Also, can we talk about the fact that Mulder sleeps in a speedo and Scully’s just hanging out with him in the motel in a t-shirt and no pants? NO PANTS, GUYS.
- The stoners at the beginning of this episode are played by the same actors who played two stoners at the beginning of “Quagmire” in season 3. They also appear in “War of the Coprophages.”
- Nanjiani is a huge fan of The X-Files and hosts a podcast called “The X-Files Files,” in which he watches old episodes with guest stars. It’s great. Through that podcast, he interviewed Darin Morgan twice. See, kids. It pays to blog and do podcasts! (And it doesn’t hurt to be one of the greatest comedies on TV, but whatever.)
- The hotel manager (Alex Diakun) previously appeared in “Humbug,” as the curator of a museum, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” as a tarot card dealer, and “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space'” as the government hypnotist.
- Mulder’s red speedo is a callback to “Duane Barry,” from season 2.
- Kim Manners was a director (of 52 episodes! as in, basically a quarter of the whole show) and producer on The X-Files who passed away in 2009.
- Jack Hardy was an assistant on the second X-Files movie, as well as Millennium and The Lone Gunmen (two other TV shows by creator Chris Carter).
- Scully’s reference to Queequeg is to her Pomeranian, whom she adopted in “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” and who met an untimely end in “Quagmire.”
- Speaking of Scully’s former pup, he was named after a harpooner in Moby Dick, which is a callback to Scully and her father’s names for each other (Starbuck and Ahab, respectively). In “Quagmire,” Scully tells Mulder more in depth why she loved the novel.
- Daggoo is another harpooner from Moby Dick.
- “You forget – I’m immortal.” In “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” the titular character, who can see how people are going to die, tells Scully, “You don’t,” in response to her asking about her own end.
What did you think, readers? Did you love this episode as much as I did? Have you rebuilt your Shrine to Darin Morgan (I’m assuming everyone has one)? What other references did I miss? Leave your thoughts in the comments!