In the final moments of “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space,” Mulder begged the titular author not to publish the titular book — a skeptical investigation into an alleged UFO abduction — because he feared it would “do a disservice to a field of inquiry that has always struggled for respectability” and that, despite Chung’s gifts as a writer, “no amount of talent could describe the events that occurred in any realistic way because they deal with alternative realities that we have yet to comprehend and when presented in the wrong way, in the wrong context, the incidents and the people involved in them can appear foolish, if not downright psychotic.”
Morgan’s lines, written nearly 20 years ago, ironically frame his take on the 20-years-older Mulder of the revival. We found him the basement office, poring through old crimson-jacketed case files and grieving the fact that science had explained away their extraordinary claims of exotic possibilities over the past two decades. The Amarillo Armadillo Man, The Hairy What’s-It? of Walla Walla, The Death Valley Race Track — all humbug (and taken from real-life ridiculata), all fish stories fabricated by bored, attention-seeking pranksters; no “alternate realities” to be discovered there. With every folder flung aside, Mulder punctuated his frustration by throwing a pencil at the new “I Want To Believe” poster mounted on the wall. Ever-expanding scientific knowledge had left him feeling like a fool — feeling like Charles Fort, the turn-of-the-century researcher of anomalous phenomenon who inspired generations of “Forteans” and who, according to Mulder, was so swamped with doubt late in his days that he wondered if he’d wasted his life. Mulder could already relate. “I’m a middle aged man, Scully…. I’m thinking it’s time to put away childish things.”
WANT MORE? Keep up with all the latest from last night’s television by subscribing to our newsletter. Head here for more details.
So basically “Mulder and Scully Meets the Were-Monster” was a cleverly coded complaint of behalf of philosophical skepticism and atheism. In a scene that had Mulder doubting his faith, it was ironic (a word I’ll be using a lot in the recap) that he expressed himself by pulling from the Bible. 1 Corinthians 13:11: “When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” The color of those red* case folders stuffed with silly speciousness struck me as intentional, too. The X-Files themselves were now red-herring stories, a willful distraction from true things in the world deserving and demanding our attention. Here, for a scene, at least, we have Morgan mocking the cultural values of the show? suggesting that Mulder’s worldview — which allows for gross conspiracies and magical thinking — is fundamentally immature. I think many people would agree with that perspective these days. We also have Morgan creating a metaphorical critique of religion, with Mulder perforating the “I Want To Believer” poster and Scully’s bemused line: “Have you been taking your meds, Mulder?” Think about that one. If you understand Scully’s line to mean that sober, suddenly reasonable Mulder was off his drugs, Mulder on drugs = Mulder, The Loony Believer = What Marx said about religion and opiates and all that jazz.
*The color red showed up in one other memorable instance in this episode: the shot of Mulder in bed, wearing only tight, cardinal underwear. That’s one way to illustrate Mulder’s injured manhood, deflated hero project, and spiritual impotence. I assume everyone read it the same way. Right?
The scene that opened the episode also satirized mania, misdirected yearning, and intellectual tomfoolery. We got two stoners in the forest huffing (fool’s) gold spray paint — their practice and glittering mouths reminiscent of the mad-to-the-max War Boys who served the cult leader Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road — and gazing at a full moon, that inspiration for so much great science and so much lunatic myth. One beheld the natural beauty of this celestial object and wondered if they should be doing more with their small lives. The other pined to be a werewolf. Who got high all the time. Lost in the foggy woods of their own minds, they were distracted to paralysis by an encounter with an anomaly that defied their understanding, which, in turn, left them vulnerable to an all-too-human predator… but we’re getting ahead of the twists here, aren’t we?
Scully had just the thing to cure Mulder’s crisis of confidence. “We’ve been given another case, Mulder. It has a monster in it.” So many layers here. Here was Scully, the avatar of reason, trying to rehab her ideological opposite to his worldview. But the Catholic Scully has also been the show’s representative of faith or, at least, conventional religious faith. (Mulder doesn’t believe in God; it’s the one far-out concept he can’t easily deem plausible.) Scully needs Mulder to believe because his belief is essential to their work, and that work is important to her on many levels. It keeps them together. It also allows her to keep searching for proof for a belief system she wants/hopes to be true.* And it also gives her joy. “I had forgotten how much fun these cases could be,” she would say later. Forget the tortured psychology. Forget the righteous crusades. Forget my intellectualizing. Mulder and Scully need no other motivation for investigating weird stuff than it’s fun. Of all the ideas in the episode, that very simple one might’ve been my favorite.
*Wanting to save her “I Want To Believe” poster from further abuse might have also motivated Scully. And as Scully made clear, that poster belonged to HER. (“Mulder! What are you doing to MY poster?!”) We last saw Mulder kicking and ripping the poster in the premiere during a visit to the office, which at that time was in ruins. When did they move back into their old home? When Mulder get the files back? When did Scully get a new poster? It’s possible these questions will be tackled in next week’s episode, entitled “Home Again,” written and directed by Darin’s brother, Glen. “Home Again” was supposed to follow the premiere (“Founder’s Mutation” was originally the penultimate episode) but Chris Carter and Fox decided to shuffle the order to better service a larger thematic arc for the miniseries. Personally, I think they’ve confused the show’s arc, at least here in the first half: If “Home Again” presents a Mulder still getting back to being the Mulder, then “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” — which was always supposed to air third — makes more sense as it completes Mulder’s “born again’ metamorphosis.
NEXT: “You seen one serial killer, you seen them all.”