[Warning: there are spoilers below for the entire The X-Files episode, "Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-monster"]
Editor At Large Aaron Sagers and Contributing Editor Tara Bennett talk about the mini-event's first monster episode and how it fared compared to X-Files creatures of yore.
Tara: Rhys Darby ... present. In what will surely go down as one of the best comedic performances in the history of The X-Files, Kiwi comedian (and unabashed cryptozoology freak) Darby attacks his role as Guy Mann (come on!), the creature-turned-human, with the perfect measures of incredulity, physicality and poignancy. His exasperated reactions to his human compulsions are laugh-out-loud funny, and I can only hope this role rockets the comedian to a whole new level of exposure and appreciation in the U.S. (watch his Short Poppies on Netflix for a great window into his range).
The Mulder and Scully of it all is pretty damn perfect, too. From Mulder opening the show with a meltdown about his life's pursuits, followed by his motor-mouth monologuing to Scully while she looks at him with that knowing smirk we've missed so far this season, all the way to his gravestone talk with Guy Mann, this is the Mulder we know and love. Hell, even Scully says as much, adding that he's also "bat crap crazy." Damn right he is! And how great is Scully? She tolerates his mood swings like a pro and throughout continues to run the case like a badass, solving the mystery and bringing the bad guy to justice by herself. Lesson learned: Never worry about Scully.
Aaron: I got such a kick out of this episode. It really felt like this cast was enjoying the hell out of the script. It is especially fun to see Gillian Anderson get to use her comedic chops, and she nails it by going from wry and amused by Mulder, to over-the-top with a porny sex scene. And yeah, she pretty much works the case on her own and gets a puppy in the process.
Tara: Dagooooo! (Little puppy stay away from your new mom's work environments. It didn't go well for her former pet.)
Aaron: Yes! Darin Morgan continues his theme of Scully and dogs in this ep. Whereas the agent adopted Queequeg in "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose," who then died in "Quagmire" (which Morgan lent some writing assistance to). Now Scully gets to take home Dagoo.
Otherwise, David Duchovny navigates his way through the episode playing Mulder perfectly as a now-middle-aged man having an existential crisis and a crisis of faith in everything he once believed in. He laments how much of the unexplained has been explained, and has a nearly “darn kids and their rock ‘n’ roll” moment when he complains about everyone having a camera “these days.” Mulder is a man yearning for his simpler glory days. He even trashes the replaced “I Want To Believe” poster (which now belongs to Scully), like a man discarding his childish things.
Tara: I also loved that this wasn't just a throwaway case. Mulder is really in a major funk and his mirror like experience with Guy - in all of its absurdities - is the very thing that allows him to crawl back to appreciating that not having answers to all of life's mysteries is exactly what he (and we) need.
Aaron: I, too, can’t praise Rhys Darby enough for his work in this episode. He is a joy to watch as a creature (not monster) turned into a were-man. He sells the human condition a little too well, and is hilarious doing so. It is actually touching watching him bond with Mulder and basically sounding as cuckoo as Mulder must sound to normal people. Adding to Tara’s comment about Darby’s physicality, I re-watched a few scenes with the sound off (his hotel transformation; the scene where he tries to force Mulder to stab him in the appendix with green glass), and they are perfection.
Oh, and you've got to love the creepy, crappy hotel with a giant jackalope (which are real and violent, by the way) peephole face mounted on the wall (the better for Mulder to spy Scully sleeping with). The inn felt like a budget version of the Overlook Hotel run by Norman Bates.
Tara: Please don't forget Mulder's red speedos. The innkeeper found those to be a winner per his reaction. Mulder, you kinky dog.
Aaron: And great work by drag queen comedian D.J. “Shangela” Pierce as the sassy trans hooker who is definitely on crack. Pierce made me laugh out loud, as did Mulder’s explanation of transgendered people, and how it’s entirely normal – even if gender re-assignment can’t turn one back into a scaled creature.
Tara: My only quibble was the underuse of Kumail Nanjiani as the animal control officer with a secret. I know he was never meant to be the focus of the story, a red-herring to sort of float the idea of an actual mystery, but I would have liked even a little more bite to his character. A fantastic comedian in his own right, Kumail certainly took the straight man role compared to Darby's Mann, and I'm sure he's totally content just being in an X-Files episode. Having less Kumail is the "something has to give" in a 44-minute run-time, but I wish there was more oomph to his piece of the narrative. He went down very Scooby Doo style.
Aaron: I agree that Kumail should have been used more. I expected his character to have a meatier part to play, even though I enjoyed how he had a speech prepared -- which he never was able to deliver. Still, it is a minor criticism for this episode, which is not only great, but maybe one of the greats for this series.
Best Fan Service
Aaron: I know Tara mentions this as well, but I love that Darby’s costume is a nod to Kolchak The Nightstalker (a major inspiration for this show). As someone who has a Darren McGavin Kolchak glossy on my desk, it thrilled me. The episode veered into meta territory with Mulder actually having Snow’s theme song as his ringtone.
The touching tombstone Easter Eggs to Jack Hardy and Kim Manners are poignant and well-played. The fan service continues with the excellent character actor Tyler Labine (Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, and the fun Hulu series Deadbeat) and Nicole Parker playing stoners in the pre-credits scene. Both actors had appeared in two previous X-Files episodes: “Quagmire” and “War of the Coprophages.” The third-season episodes, directed by Manners, feature Labine and Parker in the same characters as stoner teens. Brilliant X-Files callback. Similarly, the hotel owner is played by Alex Diakun, an accomplished genre actor and alum from three previous X-Files episodes, Chris Carter’s Millennium, andThe X-Files: I Want to Believe.
In addition to giving a big role to fan (and cryptid enthusiast) Darby, bringing in Kumail Nanjiani was a nice touch since the Silicon Valley actor is a huge fan and hosts The X-Files Files podcast. Oh, and how could we ignore the first reference to porn in the new X-Files. Guy Mann is scratching that itch Mulder knows all too well.
Tara: Scully teasing Mulder that she's immortal was a super sly wink at the fan theory that she's actually immortal. Mulder having The X-Files theme song as his ringtone. Guy Mann looking like he stepped out of an episode of Kolchak the Nightstalker! And speaking of which, the last episode of Kolchak had the writer investigating a lizard man (Morgan FTW). And yes, those gravestones of beloved X-Files crew members, Kim Manners and Jack Hardy (which Chris Carter explains in touching detail in our exclusive video interview)...so much beautiful fan service this week. I need to watch it over 10 more times to get all of the deep Easter Eggs Darin Morgan laid for the faithful.
Aaron: This was a comedic monster of the week episode that will become a beloved classic for the show. It is a superior piece of television. What’s more, this is The X-Files episode that is a valentine to the characters and the important players of the show’s past. What concerns me is that it also feels like one set in the show’s farewell tour. I keep hoping X-Files is here with us to stay, and we’ll see more stories starring Duchovny and Anderson very soon after the mini-series revival. Yet, “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster” makes me re-think that hope.
Tara: One of the most fun hours of the show. Inspired acting and cheek from Anderson and Duchovny. Darby burned down the guest star house with his exuberant and genuinely hilarious performance. The show absolutely feels like it found its legs in this episode, giving us a great twist on a typical monster story while also allowing Mulder to get his groove back. Hopefully, with 50 million viewers globally celebrating the return of The X-Files, Aaron and the rest of us won't have to worry about the truth fading back into the black.