Warning: This review of the “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” episode of The X-Files contains spoilers.
It is the ongoing paradox of The X-Files that the show’s creator, Chris Carter came up with the brilliant concept and executed the visual style that made the original run compelling, but the secret sauce was always an undercurrent of humor that Carter’s own scripts — increasingly subsumed by the show’s ever-more-knotty mythology — usually lacked.
Some of the greatest scary/funny X-Files episodes, such as “Home,” “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” and “Small Potatoes,” were written by others, most notably Darin Morgan, Vince Gilligan, Glen Morgan and James Wong. Now add to that list of great-funny-monster episodes tonight’s must-see, the Darin Morgan-written-and-directed “Mulder and Scully Meet The Were-Monster.”
Echoing the title of the comic-horror movie Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) — which, btw, featured Lon Chaney, Jr.’s. Wolf-Man — “Were-Monster” finds David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson’s intrepid investigators hunting down what Anderson’s Scully calls a “horny-toad lizard man.” The luckless monster is actually a schlubby human played by Rhys Darby with wonderful panicky dread. When he’s not the were-monster, he’s dressed exactly like Darren McGavin’s character Carl Kolchak in Kolchak the Night Stalker (1974-75), the fine cult show on which Morgan worked.
The plot is propelled by the finding and attempted apprehension of the were-monster — which includes a priceless small role for Silicon Valley co-star and intense X-Files fan Kumail Nanjiani as a hapless tracker of the creature. But Morgan also layers in some very satisfying moments in which we take in the full weight of the years that have passed since Mulder and Scully were an active team. Mulder in particular seems reflective and somewhat resigned — “Since we’ve been away, much of the unexplained has been explained,” he says early on. While Scully is energized by this monster-hunt (“I forgot how much fun these cases can be!” she chortles), Mulder is more deliberative.
There are sharp jabs at smart phones (Mulder struggles with an app) and cellphone stores — it’s nice that The X-Files is relaxed enough to admit it’s not trying to be an up-to-the-minute cool kid — and Mulder spins an elaborate, paranoid theory that could stand as a criticism of Carter’s writing of the first new, mythology-laden X-Files episode from a week ago.
Whether you’re a diehard or a newcomer, this is the X-Files episode to settle into and enjoy without any reservations.
The X-Files airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox.