Campfire tales don’t suit The X-Files well. The X-Files does better when it takes a frightening idea and turns it inside out, heightening its poignancy by turning it into something intelligent; making it even, dare I say, scientific.
With that said, I present to you three episodes: “3” (2×7) – Vampires, “Shapes” – Werewolves, and “Shadows“(1×5) – Ghosts. All three are consistently listed among the worst episodes of the series. What does that say? It says that, despite what one might expect based on the premise of The X-Files, traditional monsters make a hard sell on this show. (One exception is Bad Blood (5×12) where the topic of vampires was covered with much aplomb. However, the whole episode was tongue-in-cheek and therefore doesn’t count.) Very specifically, werewolves in particular can’t seem to catch a break… or a fan. The show tries one more time with “Alpha” (6×16), which may very well be the worst episode of the entire series. You have, of course, begun to notice a trend.
Maybe the types of monsters that children dress up as for Halloween are a little to kitsch for such a grown-up, sophisticated show. They’re too straightforward. These archetypes are already so ingrained in the popular imagination that it’s hard to take the story any deeper than a mindless scare. They needed a bigger twist to pull this off than just the Native American connection, though that was a large leap in the right direction. Sadly, the Manitou was in practice no different than the werewolves of TV and literature that we’re already familiar with. What the Manitou needed was a diabolical or scientific twist to set it apart. Classical horror filming techniques combined with a more modern monster could’ve made for great television.
In the plus column, the Vancouver Rain again steals the show as the not-so-surprise guest star of the week. The scene where Lyle Parker actually transforms into a werewolf is well done. We see just enough and not too much. Too clear a picture of the werewolf and the visual effects would have made him comical. Most of all, I do like seeing Mulder and Scully make their way by flashlight through a dark and foreboding interior. Any excuse to see that will do.
And the Verdict is…
Shapes isn’t one of those episodes I get the urge to watch just for the heck of it. Now that I’ve watched it for the review, it’ll probably take another four years and a marathon session before I bother to break it out again. Even the acting is lackluster and I can’t help but feel bored and sleepy every time I see it. Yet, it’s a story about a werewolf. That means I’m supposed to be bundled under my covers and jumping at imaginary noises when it’s on. I’m sorry to say that despite what one might naturally expect, traditional scares aren’t an X-Files forte.
So without further ado, Shapes in five sentences or less: Man gets attacked by werewolf. Man becomes werewolf. Man kills as a werewolf. Man is killed as a werewolf. Mulder makes friends with the Native Americans.
Let me get this straight, the rest of Joe Goodensnake’s body returned to normal after he died but his teeth remained canine?
Dude! It’s the guy from Danger Bay!
Is it insulting that Native Americans are almost always depicted as distrusting “the man”?
For the second episode in a row, autopsies are taboo. It’s getting too easy.
Mulder: How’d you know?
Ish: I could smell you a mile away.
Mulder: Well, they told me that even though my deodorant’s made for a woman it’s strong enough for a man.
Ish: I sense you are different FBI. You are more open to Native American beliefs than some Native Americans. You even have an Indian name, “Fox.” Should be Running Fox or Sneaky Fox.
Mulder: Just as long as it’s not Spooky Fox.