Whenever I wish that Season 10 of The X-Files was a one serialised mythology story, I remember that this crystal gem of an episode would never exist. And that would be totally unacceptable.
While the prospect of Darren Morgan coming back was exciting, at the same time I was unsure. Here’s a man who wrote five legendary episodes of the original series that stood out from the crowd. His unique brand of tragic-comedy worked as one-offs in Season 3, but in a season of only six episodes, would a Morgan episode potentially throw the tone completely off balance?
The answer yes, but it’s not a problem. Because while this episode could have been made in the 90’s, like the classic X-Files episodes that have aged the best, it’s a story that transcends era and TV genre in a way that puts it in a league of its own and is unlike anything else on TV either now or then.
And like Morgan’s other episodes, its premise of Mulder’s mid-life crisis and meeting a traditional ‘monster’ to get him back on track is so simple. Morgan gives this monster a twist by subverting the Full Moon Legend with it now being a monster bitten by a human and turning into one at night, which is nothing short of genius. It’s a concept that has legs with lots to explore and in the hands of the wrong writer, could potentially be overlooked. But this is Darren Morgan we’re talking about.
The idea of a monster or aliens having to learn about Earth, the human race and its idiosyncrasies has been done before, but there’s something unique in the way Morgan writes the character of the monster, whose human name is Guy Mann. Ten points to Morgan! When Mulder finally confronts him, convinced he’s the suspect in the ongoing case, Morgan uses a monologues and montage to depict Guy’s life showing his regular lizard like appearance and how he himself feels and what he does when he transforms into human. His description of his own primordial instinct is well mapped out and illogical, but that’s what he understands. He gets a job, enjoys food, watches porn, stays in a motel and gets a dog as if it were easy. But as he puts it, he can BS his way through everything believing it to be the one Darwinian advantage that humans have over other animals. That’s priceless!
However, he also feels human fears and emotions. As he states, if he doesn’t write his novel now, he never will. How many of us can relate to that?
Rhys Darby gives what I believe is an award winning performance in this episode, as he approaches the character with a great sense of uncertainty as if he genuinely seems like a human who has just be born and you can believe him being, as he puts it, conscious of his own self-conciseness and articulates words that he doesn’t really understand but says them anyway. It’s a brilliant balancing act. The conclusion Guy comes to about how the human race are the real monsters is very truthful and an example of The X-Files using the genre to shine a light on the real world. This concept of who the real monsters are based upon appearance or personality brings a depth to this episode that stays with you long after the credits roll and gives a clear sense of Morgan’s thought process.
Morgan is known for including his own depression and insecurities in his writing. Having written this script originally for the Night Stalker reboot in 2005, he admitted uncertainty about returning to The X-Files and this inspired the Mulder arc for the episode. For all the philosophy, this is an episode about change and while Mulder learns that it was in fact a human who committed the crimes, meeting Guy Mann and reminding him of the wonders that are out there, his vitality is reinvigorated and returns on his quest for the truth.
And while thought provoking, it’s never dreary and includes some hilarious dialogue and comic moments that are typical Darrin Morgan, with jokes that other writers should have done by now but haven’t. The prime example is when Guy stands outside a drive thru and requests a burger and is told he needs to be in a car. It’s simple, completely random and played so hilariously straight, why can’t sitcoms be this good!
The comic interplay and banter between Mulder and Scully was always special and here is a throwback to the old times, especially the scenes in the motel and autopsy where Scully wryly affirms that the ‘internet is not good’ for Mulder. And while I’m still not keen on this idea of Mulder and Scully being technologically rattled, the recurring gag of Mulder struggling with his smartphone camera app never out stays it’s welcome. Gillian Anderson in particular is a much underused comedy actress and the fantasy sex scene between Scully and Guy will undoubtedly go down as a classic. And long-time fan Kumail Nanjiani lives every X-Philes dream, giving a great performance in this episode as the initial witness and ultimate baddie with his style of awkward humour and priceless facial expressions.
For all its meaning and philosophy, this is also a fun episode for us X-Philes that’s jam-packed full of Easter eggs and meta moments for us to spot; the poster, the red speedos, Kim Manners, Mark Snow’s theme tune as Mulder’s ringtone, Queequeg, and Guy wearing the Kolchak Night Stalker costume to name but a few. This was unashamed fan service, but it didn’t matter.
This episode reaffirms that Morgan hasn’t lost his style and why he is an underrated writer. His plot is simple but very complex, and shows The X-Files hasn’t lost its ability to tell unusual stories with something to say – god knows we need those kind of stories now more than ever. While a part of me wants another Darrin Morgan episode in Season 11, this episode was so exceptional, perhaps it should be his X-Files swan song. But if it happens, it’ll be amazing I’m sure.
Looking back, whether an episode this subversive should have been made for Season 10 is up for debate.But as a stand alone, it’s nothing short of brilliant. I would say in Morgan’s repertoire, I rank this just below Clyde Brockman, and above Jose Chung. A true X-Files classic.