The X-Files: “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” is a near-perfect deconstruction of the show

“Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” is by far the best episode of season ten so far, but it also ranks among the show’s best episodes ever. Certainly it’s one of the funniest episodes of The X-Files, but it’s also surprisingly affecting as an exploration of how Mulder and Scully have changed with age and wonderfully effective as an examination of some of the show’s bigger ideas. I love a good genre deconstruction, and this episode is a near-perfectly executed one.

It’s interesting to see the show tackling head-on some of the issues presented by the just the existence of these new episodes. Namely, what are we even doing here? Why bother after all these years? It’s definitely true that even just these last few years have made many of the original series’ mysteries much less mystifying, and government conspiracies have become somewhat less entertaining in the post-9/11 world. And the truth is, the more we know about the world the more it’s confirmed that there is no magic and that the seemingly inexplicable seldom actually is. This was always the case with The X-Files, as well, although it often tried to have it both ways, leaving many of its “mysteries” ultimately unresolved—which has always made the show something short of truly fulfilling. This week, we take a good, hard look at what that means for Mulder and Scully.

Much as in the last couple of episodes, the show continues to be primarily concerned with Mulder and his journey. We find him having a sort of midlife existential crisis as he’s digging back into the X-Files. He’s questioning not just whether his time in the department was worth anything, but whether or not this is what he wants to be doing at his age. After all, Mulder reasons, they never did find any real evidence of anything supernatural, and many of his theories have actually been made ridiculous in light of new science. It’s a fascinatingly meta argument and a bold way of addressing the show’s critics and engaging longtime fans by referencing particular past episodes.

Scully, on the other hand, seems revitalized by their return to the X-Files (it’s her “I want to believe” poster that Mulder is destroying), and she’s excited about a new case—one with a monster. Mulder’s newfound maturity has made him insecure and questioning, while Scully has grown into her skepticism and her faith so that she’s returning to work with a new confidence and fresh enthusiasm. I kind of love this sort of role reversal, and Gillian Anderson sparkles with wit throughout the hour. While the episode is largely dominated by Mulder’s problems, his crisis, and his emotional growth, Scully gets some of the best lines and she definitely gets to make the best wryly amused and affectionately indulgent faces of the night.

The actual story this week is profoundly silly, but in a good way. It injects the new season with a much-needed dose of fun and lightens up some otherwise overly serious and self-indulgent character work. Mulder has never been my favorite half of The X-Files, and it would have been far too easy for an episode focused almost entirely on examining some of his most irritating character traits to be a masturbatory disaster. Instead, this one turns out to be a charming delight that proves that the writers and actors have a good sense of humor about what they’re doing here.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • What a waste of Kumail Nanjiani. He’s so funny, but he’s tragically underused here.
  • Mulder and Scully aren’t that old. Jokes about how confused they are by smartphones are lazy.
  • The creepy motel and its weirdo owner would have been enough to carry their own episode.
  • The lizardman feels urges to get a job, worry about retirement, and lie about his sex life. I love it.
  • Awww. Queequeg.
  • Scully straight up stole a dog. That is probably the best thing that could possibly happen in this show.

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