A man-sized hairless animal, covered in scales and horns that shoots blood out of its eyeballs. Thiseyeballs: This creature is the primary suspect in the latest episode of “The X-Files,” entitled “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.”
When several bodies turn up in a forest near Shawan, Oregon, Special Agents Mulder and Scully are sent to investigate sightings of monster. Returning to the classic “monster-of-the-week” formula, this episode offers viewers a monster-filled comedic respite from the serious tone of the previous episodes.
The episode’s cold -open begins with two stoners huffing paint in the woods, whom keen viewers might recognize from previous seasons of the series. Actor and actress Tyler Labine and Nicole Parker-Smith reprise their roles, having previously appeared in the episodes “War of the Coprophages” and “Quagmire.” Hearing screams from within the forest, the two stoners go to investigate and discover a park ranger appearing to be attacked a bipedal horned lizard. Startled, the creature escapes into the night leaving the two stoners and the park ranger to discover a dead body nearby.
Mulder is then seen tossing sharpened pencils into the iconic “I Want to Believe” UFO poster appearing rather dejected. It would seem that in the 15 years he spent away from the X-Files, many previously supernatural cases have found rather natural explanations. Dissatisfied with chasing after monsters, he expresses to Scully his intentions to put away childish things as she hands Mulder a case file.
“We’ve been given another case Mulder… It has a monster in it,” says Scully.
“Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” introduces Guy Mann (Rhys Darby), the titular “Were-Monster.” As the episode progresses, Mulder discovers that Mann—who turns into a man-sized horny toad at night—is not actually the suspect, but the victim. The park ranger turns out to be a serial-murderer who attacked Mann the night he was sighted by the stoners. According to Mann he was bitten by the park ranger, causing him to turn into a human by day.
Episodes like these demonstrate “The X-Files’” ability to tell fresh and interesting creature-centric stories. Mann’s role as the monster-turned-man turns the “monster-of-the-week” episode structure on its head. Darby brings a wry comedic charm to the character of Mann, who is unwillingly compelled to seek out the trappings of everyday life. He seeks out job, a pet dog, and cannot help but lie about his sex life—the way a werewolf feels the urge to kill.
One of the funniest scenes comes when Mulder is questioning Mann about his involvement in the murders. In a previous scene, Scully tries to interrogate Mann at the phone store where he works and Mann suddenly quits, storming out. In Mann’s version of events, Scully uses phone troubles as pretext for a sexual rendezvous with him.
“I think maybe my phone isn’t working right because guys don’t send me pictures of their junk on it,” says Scully, flirtingly, according to Mann.
The recent episode also contains several elements of meta-humor—self-referential comedy. The park ranger is played by Kumail Nanjiani, who hosts a weekly podcast called “The X-Files Files” where he discusses classic episodes with various guests. Mulder’s face-to-face with Mann takes place in a cemetery, where a tombstone can be seen engraved with the name “Kim Manners.” Manners was a director and executive producer of the series who passed away in 2009. At one point, Mulder’s ringtone can be heard and audiences will surely recognize it as the actual theme song to “The X-Files.”
As proposed in the review of the series premiere, this episode also continues the trend of featuring LGBT characters. A prostitute who is attacked by Mann early in the episode recounts to Scully and Mulder how she used to be man, having transitioned recently. The manager of the hotel where Mulder and Scully stay throughout the episode is revealed to have peepholes in many of the rooms. Telling Mulder of his encounter with Mann the “were-monster,” we see the event from his perspective. It’s revealed that he had been using the peepholes to spy on Mulder in bed. While these characters may not have likeable traits—the prostitute outright admits to using crack and the manager is a peeping tom—their unlikeable traits are wholly unrelated to their sexual identities or preferences.
As it stands, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” is hands-down the best episode of series revival yet. Its mixture of comedy and horror showcases the best traits “The X-Files” has to offer and should leave viewers eagerly anticipating next week’s episode.
The next episode “Home Again,” airs Monday, February 8th and looks to be another “monster-of-the-week” centered on a series of grizzly beheadings. Maybe it will have some ties to the Season 4 episode “Home?” “Home” was the only episode in the entirety of the series to receive of viewer discretion warning and TV-MA rating for its graphic content.
New episodes of “The X-Files” air Mondays at 7:00 p.m. central on Fox.