Sunday, February 07, 2016

X-Files: Mulder and Scully Meet The Were-Monster (TV 2016)

The second episode of the re-launched X-Files was a bit iffy. It was a mytharc-style episode, and it seemed kinda odd to start a new mytharc when the old one was never really finished, in a six-episode season that may not be picked up next year for any further elaboration.  Called Founder's Mutation (a sort of X-Filian pun on the 'founder' of a charitable foundation that looks after mutant kids and the founder mutation, which is the mutation that precipitates a speciation event), it went everywhere from telekinesis through telepathy, mutant kids with cronenbergian bodies, Mulder and Scully's separate fears over what may have happened to their adopted-out child William, to ice-pick suicides and good old-fashioned male terror at the concept (sorry) of pregnancy.  

It was a decent X-Files episode but seven hundred years of Orphan Black (at least) have aired since X-Files went off the air, and in that we've seen so many foundations and founders and children in orphanages and mutations that the original source has been eclipsed by its...clones. (Sorry again.)

Scully mentions a paper on Founder Effects by Batini and Hallast - which says that 64% of the population of Europe can be traced to three male ancestors in the Bronze Age. This is a real paper. You can read it here. 

Now, the third episode, Mulder and Scully Meet The Were-Monster was helmed by one of the best of the original writers, Darin Morgan, and is a perfect X-File. A monster-of-the-week episode, it trotted along nicely with all the eye candy of a good episode and all the clever-dickery of the very best episodes.  The poor editing and iffy acting of the pilot and second-aired-episode failed to make an appearance.

Almost all the lines were quotable and it was all I could do not to pause every couple of minutes to write them down and put them here. Scully's "Mulder, the internet isn't good for you," was one of the best delivered, and the scene where the game warden and Mulder stop in mid-screaming-and-running to find "settings" on Mulder's newfangled cellphone was another memorable moment. Oh, and I must mention Mulder saying, "I'm a middle-aged man - no, Scully, I am!" followed by a cut to Scully, who hadn't said a word in protest. 

 - spoilers everywhere below -
Not for the first time this was an episode where the peaks came from reversing the normal course of things. In the prologue, Mulder is going through old files and throwing them out, as they've been solved since he was last in the office. Student pranks, advertising gimmicks and in the case of mysteriously moving rocks on a 'racetrack', simple ice-formation, have now been shown to be the explanations of the 'mysteries'. He's no longer the believer. He's throwing pencil-darts not at the ceiling tiles, but at the I Want To Believe poster, which Scully, when she comes in, declares is actually hers

The monster, when today's mystery is finally solved, is a lizard who was bitten by a man and therefore becomes a man each full moon, much to his disgust. This reversal is used to great comedic effect as the were-man gets an opportunity to show how absurd much of human culture actually is. After his transformation he found himself compelled to...get a job. So he could qualify for a mortgage, whatever that is.  He was worried it was too late for him to write a novel. 

The bad guy (doing the murders and the biting) is the game warden. The babes in the woods who stumble across the murders are huffing paint fumes and the man who runs the motel with the creepy hidden corridor and peeping-tom holes into every room (which are full of animal skins and weird-ass stuffed heads, including a jackalope) drinks rubbing alcohol. Mulder sympathizes with him - that's what he expects in a motel-keeper.  The motel keeper tells him to go away, in quite a friendly fashion and adds, without malice, "Or I'll kill ya."

Although it sounds depressing, an entire hour of hearing that humanity is crap and everything anyone cares about is meaningless, completely-arbitrary hooey, the writing is light and funny.  The were-man (yes, I'm aware that 'were' means 'man' and so that means 'man-man' but what else would you call him?) is played by Rhys Darby, the New Zealand comedian. You may remember him from such films as What We Do In The Shadows, a vampire mockumentary in which he played a polite were-wolf. "I'm a were-wolf, not a swear-wolf!" He has exactly the right touch for a role in which he's called on to wave his arms and point out the ridiculousness of human existence, much of it expounded while standing around a gravestone named for Kim Manners

He's also wearing clothes in the style of Kolchak, the Night Stalker (having taken them from the corpse of one of the people murdered by the game warden) and there's a story behind that. The whole script is taken from an unfilmed episode of the latterday Kolchak and repurposed for the X-Files. The full story is here.

One thing I'm always interested in is how a story is put together, how the scenes are written to cover the story adequately. The following is just a set of notes to myself. 

I was particularly taken with this sequence: Mulder finds some pills in the were-man's motel room and of course pills have the prescriber's name on them. He goes to see the psychiatrist named and presumably asks about the patient. We don't hear about the patient. The scene opens with the psychiatrist telling the story of a man who was tormented by a lizard dragon and eventually finds a gypsy who tells him to stab it in the appendix with a shard of green glass.  He stabs the creature and as it dies he realizes he's looking in a mirror and it is himself.  The psychiatrist says the moral is it's easier to believe that there are monsters out there than to look inside yourself.  

This 'legend' turns out to be the actual story. Without any connecting 'real story logic' being offered, it seems the only way you can kill this creature is to stab him with a broken bottle. Or did the lizard-man just believe that because the trick cyclist told him the story? Why is the psychiatrist telling this story to people anyway? (Whenever a question about the were-man's life-cycle comes up, both the lizard-man and Mulder agree there's no logic to it, and yet, overall, it works in the story.)  

The psychiatrist also tells Mulder he told the lizard-man to go to a cemetery, because if nothing else, it'll bring home the fact that all one's troubles are temporary. Mulder questions this, but the doctor says, "It's what I do."  That gives Mulder enough information to find the lizard-man. He's going to be in a cemetery.  How-to-write columns always say that each scene should not solve the mystery, but should give sufficient information for the next step to take place but I've never seen two togeher that are so pure.  In the motel room the bottle. From the psychiatrist, the location. When Mulder finds the were-man by the gravestone, he explains that until a few days ago he had no idea he could die, so I guess the psychiatrist has his uses. 

For equally illogical, but strong story reasons, the were-man is due to hibernate for 10,000 years soon and hopes to wake up cured. As endings go, it's total bollocks, but it solves all the story problems. No one now alive will be around and so you don't have to think of a happy ending. It's out of our hands. Assume all live happily ever after. 

I've seen a couple of comments on the interwebs asking why a lizard-man in America who hibernates for 10,000 years at a time would have a New Zealand accent.  What accent should he have had? The mind boggles.
(Edited for clarity.)

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin
I sometimes mention a product on this blog, and I give a URL to Amazon or similar sites. Just to reassure you, I don't get paid to advertise anything here and I don't get any money from your clicks. Everything I say here is because I feel like saying it.