“What Kind of Monster do You Think I Am?”
Did we really need a reboot of The X-Files? That was on a lot of people’s minds during the first two episodes of season 10, “My Struggle” and “Founder’s Mutation.” Those two episodes were subpar, certainly by modern television standards, and objectively by X-Files standards. Many people had wondered if perhaps this reboot was wasted, unnecessary, and devoid of original ideas.
All of that talk should end with “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.”
Honestly, most of my favorite X-Files episodes were always the light hearted, humorous ones. They usually gave the writers and actors more freedom to come up with original ideas, explore different themes, and look at the show objectively. In that regard, “The Were-Monster” is an instant X-Files classic.
This third entry did more to prove that The X-Files was relevant than both of the previous two. Mulder is frustrated with his own thinking, resigned to the fact that everything has a scientific explanation. There’s no mystery anymore, no more monsters. It’s a very modern way of thinking, where we seem to have an explanation for everything from ghosts, to aliens, and moving rocks. We live in a remarkably different age than we did in the 90’s, and finally season 10 acknowledges this in the correct manner (some jokes about Mulder not knowing how to use a smartphone notwithstanding).
“Were-Monster” is a wonderful subversion of the monster movie genre. Everything from the old-school music to the Bela Lugosi inspired performance of the psychiatrist eased us into a classic horror movie situation. The episode, written by beloved veteran Darin Morgan (“Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space,’” “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”) would have functioned well enough at this level, but instead pushes the envelope further than the show has before.
The twist is that the monster isn’t a human who transformed to a beast, but rather a monster that turned into a human. It’s a revelatory moment for the show. Darin Morgan managed to find an ounce of originality left in the X-Files universe and uses it to great effect here. The monster becomes a springboard to explore other themes in our modern world. Our dismissal of all things supernatural comes with a weariness of life, a nihilistic pressure that tells us this is indeed all there is. Stick some green glass into our appendix and put us out of our misery.
But the episode doesn’t leave us with a disparaging view of the last nine seasons. Instead, it tells us it was a great ride. Even Scully admits how much fun she has with these bizarre cases. “Were-Monster” isn’t just telling you it’s okay to relish in nostalgia, it’s telling you it’s okay to enjoy monster movies again.
With the monster tropes now turned on their heads, “Were-Monster” continues to work because the characters remain genuine to themselves.This is the most fun we’ve seen Duchovny and Anderson have all season, and it’s not hard for the audience to easily agree that this is indeed how we like our Mulder. His scene at the end, finally believing Guy Man’s story, is a beautiful moment for the show, one that will clearly keep Mulder believing in the weird and unexplained for a long time.
This deconstruction of the show’s genealogy should have happened earlier in the season. “Mulder and Scully Meet The Were-Monster,” was the perfect antidote for a show that started off plagued with ridiculous retconning and a shaky understanding of its own identity in this new age of television. Humorous from start to finish, fully committed to its premise, and confident in its style, “Were-Monster” is more than enough for me to justify bringing the show back.
Odds & Ends:
- I didn’t really talk about it in the review, but this episode had me laughing out loud pretty often, which I find difficult for shows to do when I’m watching it by myself.
- “Mulder, the internet isn’t good for you.”
- Knowing it’s an inherent part of being human to try and write a novel is both comforting and hilarious.
- The scene with the transgender prostitute was a little awkward at first, but I thought it was worth the payoff of Mulder having to explain to a lizard man that someone wanting to change their gender is no big deal. It worked within the context.
- You can leave your own comment about Gillian Anderson doing a sex scene for the first time on the show.
- The tombstones at the end were a reference to two producers who passed away. Their epitaphs read “Nothing says thank you like cash,” and “Let’s kick it in the ass.”
- “Guy Man” is a great alias.
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