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After two uneven (if not outright bad, in the case of the season premiere) episodes, The X-Files returned to form with “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.” It was engaging, thanks to a great guest starring turn from Rhys Darby, fun, and it brought back the elements of our dynamic duo that have been sorely missing. Almost all of the credit for the episode’s technical merit goes to its writer and director, X-Files mainstay Darin Morgan. Always one of the stronger writers for the series (he was responsible for such classics as “Humbug” and “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”), Morgan hit a home run this time out. I’m actually sad that this will be his only outing of the series (although, his brother Glen wrote next week’s darker offering).
It was so nice to see Mulder and Scully working together with little to no angst. One of the hallmarks of the series was the relationship between these two characters. Yes, there were moments of dissension and tension, but what make the show work was that Mulder and Scully cared about each other and had each others’ backs. I have to admit, back in the show’s heyday, I was always more interested in the show’s lighter moments and chaffed a bit when things became too mired in mythology or too dark. So, for me, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” was right in my X-Files wheelhouse. Seeing Mulder act, well, Muldery, was great. And seeing Scully’s joy at watching Mulder get his faith in the paranormal back was just lovely. I laughed out loud a number of times while watching the episode, and smiled quite a bit as well. I actually didn’t want the episode to end, thanks to Morgan’s ability to create a strong episode arc and a great creature of the week in Guy.
Another thing that signifies a great episode of The X-Files to me is when I care about the guest star. And I really cared about poor Guy. While Morgan wrote him to be a sympathetic and engaging character, so much of what made Guy work came from Rhys Darby’s performance. True, a New Zealand accent tends to make anyone charming (at least to my American ears), but Darby imbued Guy with so much charisma and sad-sack charm that it was nearly impossible not to feel an emotional connection to him. I also liked the little twist on the expected with Guy really being a lizard man, rather than yet another human turning into something else (although, he did look a bit like a Doctor Who Silurian). Guy’s take on the urges that come with turning into a human was pretty hilarious as well- I never would have thought to make “getting a job” a biological imperative of humanity.
If I had one complaint about the episode, it is that Kumail Nanjiani (the actual human serial killer) wasn’t given enough to do. Nanjiani is one of the most gifted comic actors on television today (he’s spectacular on HBO’s Silicon Valley), and he was wasted in his rather throw away role. But, if that’s the one negative I have throughout an entire episode, I really can’t complain.
The question now becomes can the show continue on this even keel. The one major roadblock I see in the way is that there are only three more episodes remaining, all written by different people. Remember how mythology laden the first episode was and how out of place the season’s second episode felt after all that time spent diving back into the world of the X-Files? Well, I have a sneaking suspicion there will be similar tonal issues throughout the remaining episodes. A lot about the TV landscape has changed in the past 15 years, and one major element is that nearly all dramas with a serialized arc (which is what the mythology episodes are to The X-Files) are strictly serialized. There aren’t throw away episodes throughout that drop the complete focus on the overall story arc and jump into a fun little story or offer a chilling case that doesn’t relate back to the central mystery at the heart of the series. Imagine Breaking Bad with an episode that didn’t deal with Walter White’s drug empire, but rather looked at him trying to fit into a posh resort in Hawaii. It just wouldn’t work with the show’s tightly plotted structure.
Last week, the switch between mythology and the stand alone story was much more jarring than in this week’s outing, but there are still a number of questions left from the premiere that seem to have been completely tossed away. It’s one of the more frustrating aspects of The X-Files as a series, but the show wouldn’t work without moments of enjoyable levity like those within “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.” And I am certainly willing to put up with a little mental whiplash if it means I get to enjoy something as lovely as this episode.