Originally posted by Vulture.com
Keith Uhlich,Vulture Mon, Feb 1 6:00 PM PST
A full moon brings out all the crazies, as proven by the opening sequence of the latest X-Files. There is the familiar pair of huffing stoners. There is the scaly monster with a seemingly murderous taste for human flesh. And behind the scenes, there is Darin Morgan one of the series' finest writers, returning after a long hiatus to give us the sublime, and aptly named, "Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster."
The episode fully exhibits the alternately sardonic and melancholic perspective that Morgan cultivated in such peak X-Files installments as "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" and "Jose Chung's From Outer Space." (To say nothing of his two astonishing, thematically dense writing-directing efforts — "Jose Chung's Doomsday Defense" and "Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me" — on creator Chris Carter's sister series Millennium.) This is the first time Morgan has directed one of his scripts for The X-Files, and his loping, leisurely rhythms pair beautifully with this tale of a beast who discovers, quite accidentally, how absurd it is to be human.
The ludicrousness of life is exactly what FBI special agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) is pondering right before this strange case crosses his desk. He's looking through old case files in his basement office, distraught at how mistaken his paranormal-leaning perspective tended to be. "It's amazing going through these archives with fresh, if not wiser eyes," Mulder says to his amused partner, Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), who openly wonders if he's been taking his medication. An exasperated Mulder then invokes the writer Charles Fort, who researched unexplained phenomena and, at the end of his life, wondered whether his work had been worth it or a complete waste of time.
"I'm a middle-aged man, Scully," Mulder says. "Is this really how I want to spend the rest of my days? Chasing after monsters?" A half-smiling Scully eyes him silently, then says, "We've been given another case, Mulder. It has a monster in it." No surprise, Mulder's inner child can't help but come gleefully alive. The agents are soon in the Oregon woods, investigating the case of a man-eating, blood-squirting, red-eyed lizard-monster.
Except that's totally not what's going on, despite many claims from a rogues' gallery of witnesses. The piecemeal clues are preposterous: Does the creature have three eyes or only one? Does it really — per a transgender prostitute (D.J. "Shangela" Pierce) at the local truck stop — wear tighty-whities? What about the Peeping Tom motel owner (Alex Diakun) who swears he saw the monster in human form? Or how about the vaguely Transylvanian psychiatrist (Richard Newman) who says he's been treating the monster for various emotional ailments? "Not everything can be reduced to psychology," Mulder says to this quack headshrinker. "That's what you think," the doc replies.
How true that sentiment is: In one of the episode's funniest and most incisive scenes, Mulder paces back and forth in front of Scully, talking out multiple theories about the case, as well as what he expects her rebuttals will be. She can't get a word in edgewise, but still seems elated by her partner's pathetic and comical display. "Yeah, this is how I like my Mulder," she says. This is their relationship in a nutshell — two people forever arguing, but all the more alive because of it. "So you're agreeing with me?" a confused Mulder finally asks. "No!" Scully shouts. "You're bat-crap crazy!"
Perhaps not so crazy, though, as the story Mulder finally gets when he approaches the lizard-monster in the local cemetery. It turns out he's not a man who turns into a monster. In a classic Darin Morgan twist, he's a monster who turns into a man. In human form, the creature assumes the hilarious nom de guerre Guy Mann, and he's played — with a brilliant mix of exasperation and desperation — by Flight of the Conchords co-star Rhys Darby. An entire act is dedicated to Mann's gut-busting and mortifying story. It plays like a companion piece to a sequence in Morgan's Millennium episode, "Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me," in which an office drone goes depressively about his day until life's little annoyances drive him to kill himself. (It's really funny, I swear.)
Since Mann isn't actually human, his emotional displeasure is more instinctual than anything else. He knows what people are supposed to do: Cover up their naked bodies, find jobs so they can pay their mortgages, keep pets to counter their loneliness. But because Mann is still a lizard at heart, he finds human behavior to be ridiculous at best and barbaric at worst. "Life's hopeless," he says. "A few fleeting moments of happiness surrounded by crushing loss and grief." This is Morgan at his finest, exploring the senselessness of existence with a potent mix of playfulness and pathos. (Again: It's really funny, I swear.)
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