Monday, February 1, 2016

The X-Files - S10:E3 "Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster"

[ S10:E2 "Founder's Mutation" <<< Season 10 >>>  S10:E4 "Home Again" ]

This episode marks Darin Morgan's triumphant return to The X-Files (I could just imagine the thunderous sound of applause echoing from people's homes the nation over when his name appeared on screen). And while I would rate it more on the level of a War of the Coprophages, with the goofy humor of Humbug, than a masterpiece like Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space' or Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose, I don't doubt that it will receive plenty of (mostly well-earned) accolades from critics and viewers (if the side-splitting laughter of the person I watched it with is any indication).

This is classic Darin Morgan, mixing self-referential humor and parody with depressive misanthropy (less deconstructing the series than life itself), taking clever advantage of a novel twist on the concept of the "were-monster" in order to make more than a few well-placed jabs at the inherent absurdity (and disappointing nature) of the human condition. Exploiting the opportunity to poke fun at the underlying premise of the show, Darin depicts a disillusioned Mulder almost bored of chasing phantoms that rarely hold up under scientific scrutiny (increasingly so as time and technology march forward), while Scully is finally warming up to the work and almost relishes the giddy promise of going monster-hunting.

And to all the fans who have ever complained about Mulder not just whipping out a phone and taking photographic evidence of all the paranormal phenomena he encounters (although this issue was already somewhat addressed in Quagmire), this episode sees Mulder more than wizened up, chasing after the monster with a phone camera instead of a gun (or flashlight), to humorous - but otherwise ultimately unproductive, you'll note - effect.

In-jokes abound in this episode, from a tribute to one of the series' mainstay directors (the late Kim Manners, whose "colorful phraseology" infamously inspired the character of Detective Manners in Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'), to Mulder once again appearing in a red Speedo (more than twenty years later). The two unforgettable stoners from War of the Coprophages and Quagmire ("dude, you made me drop my toad") return for another appearance, clearly demonstrating that they've been doing little else besides whittling away their entire lives getting high. And, yes, there is even a mention of Queequeg!

In one scene, Mulder carries on an entire conversation without letting Scully get a word in edgewise - because he anticipates every one of her responses. But it actually feels funny, and reverential, unlike Chris Carter's self-conscious attempt to mix up the proceedings in season 7's Fight Club, which just felt tired and uninspired. Though I still haven't gotten used to seeing David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson looking (and at times sounding) so old, their chemistry in this episode is at a seasonal high-point (even if we're only three episodes in - yet this is the halfway point). It's a shame that had to be true for the comedy episode, but the actors always did seem to enjoy themselves and let loose more than usual in those.

I'm not really one of those fans that likes the funny episodes, generally. But I freely concede that Darin Morgan is a smart guy, and I appreciate his cynical perspective on life. So with any Darin Morgan episode, for me, it's all in the balance of the wit - between the humor and the wisdom. And this episode, though brilliant, leans a little too heavily toward the goofy. In contrast, it looks like next week's episode is going to be straight-up scary (finally!), so I'm looking forward to that. Leave it to Glen Morgan to truly take us "Home Again".

Memorable quotes:

Mulder: You see one serial killer, you've seen 'em all.

Psychiatrist: It's easier to believe in monsters out there in the world, than to accept that the real monsters dwell within us.

Guy Mann: I now possess the one Darwinian advantage that humans have over other animals - the ability to BS my way through anything. I mean, it's better than camouflage!

Guy Mann: Life's hopeless. A few fleeting moments of happiness, surrounded by crushing loss and grief. Why bother?

Guy Mann: I don't know how it works; I'm not a scientist.
Mulder: I'm just looking for some kind of internal logic.
Guy Mann: Why? There isn't an external logic to any of it.

Mulder: So, Hamlet is not just calling Horatio an ignorant idiot, he's calling us all ignorant idiots?
Guy Mann: It's a comforting thought, isn't it? Because if there's nothing more to life than what we already know, then there's nothing but...worries, self-doubt, regret, and loneliness. Fox, man, you've gotta put me out of my misery. I don't wanna wake up tomorrow and have to go to work!

Mulder: I got a little taste of my old monster-huntin' ways, and then I downed the whole bottle.
Scully: I take it you found your were-lizard.
Mulder: Yeah, it turns out it wasn't a man who turns into a lizard, it was a lizard who turns into a man.
Scully: I don't see the difference.

Guy Mann: Woah, I'm not a reptile - that's racist!

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