The X-Files S1, E19: “Shapes”

I’ve been delving into the popular sci-fi series The X-Files for a while now, making many attempts and failures to engage with its first season. Since the summer, and I’ve been weaving in and out through the series’ various episodes, trying to piece the gigantic enterprise together. It may seem strange for me to go back and recap an over two decades old television show, in some ways that type of thing is what the blog was built for. Join me this week for the David Nutter directed and Marilyn Osborn written ninteenth episode!

…and so is an American Werewolf in Montana!

There’s a thing that The X-Files does that always makes me a little uneasy when it happens. The X-Files “Monster of the Week” episodes usually travel into some fringe element, whether it be old rural legends of a particular area (“The Jersey Devil”), or some out of the way religious sect (“Gender Bender” or last week’s “Miracle Man”), or even a particular nationality or ethnic group of people (this episode and many more to come). The X-Files usually resides in that gray area, where they usually handle whatever thing they’re looking into pretty well, but one has to wonder if treating, say, Native American lore on the same level as Bigfoot legends or crazy super computers is really a good idea.

I can think of at least one episode later on when this method of looking into a specific group is NOT handled well, and while I can’t really be the judge of the treatment of Native Americans in this episode, it seems mostly okay to me. Mulder and Scully get called in to investigate a mysterious mauling/shooting on a ranch next to a Trego reservation. The victim is Joseph Goodensnake, whom the rancher Jim Parker (Donnelly Rhodes) mistook for a large animal attacking his son, Lyle (Ty Miller). This would be a crazy story to justify murder except Lyle’s got the scars to prove that he was attacked. Later, the Sheriff Charlie Tskany (Twin Peaks regular Michael Horse!) reveals that Goodensnake and his sister Gwen (Renae Morriseau) were engaged in a court case against the Parkers for grazing their cattle on reservation lands.

The people on the reservation are not very happy to see Mulder and Scully. They are not really convinced that representatives of the Federal government would actually be there to help them and have any part in solving Goodensnake’s murder. Sheriff Tskany allows them to examine the body, which shows that Goodensnake possessed fangs that match up pretty well with Lyle’s injuries, but refuses to let them desecrate the body with Scully’s autopsy. Later Mulder, with his characteristic openness to new ideas, gains the respect of Ish (Jimmy Herman), who relates to him the legend of the manitou. The manitou is a creature which possess a man every eight years and turns him into an animal, and can be passed through a bite from the creature. In other words, we got ourselves a werewolf.

Mulder and Scully naturally disagree about what’s going on here. At first, Scully dismisses Mulder’s analysis of the Goodensnake’s footprints. Then dismisses the strip of Goodensnake’s skin left behind. Mulder then reveals that what he believes to be the other appearances of the manitou make up the very first x-file, investigated by J. Edgar Hoover himself. Not much is really made of any of this though. It’s clearly revealed that there are werewolves running around the area, Mulder believes it and Scully doesn’t, and the case is also the start of the x-files but the implications of that aren’t really felt at all.

It feels pretty paint-by-numbers, but it’s an enjoyable enough episode. I have to appreciate the casting of another actor from Twin Peaks, and it’s nice to see Hawk get a promotion in this episode (ha ha ha). It’s good that they acknowledge that there’s really no reason the people on the reservation would be happy to see the Bureau, but with Ish’s acceptance of Mulder they don’t really make that potential conflict personal at all (which is fine I guess). It really is a routine episode of The X-Files, but not a bad one really either.

Long story short: 3/4 stars

Click here to read my review of next week’s episode, “Darkness Falls”

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2 responses to “The X-Files S1, E19: “Shapes”

    • It’s true that we didn’t really see that much of the werewolf… I felt that the whole concept was very underwhelming overall. I was not surprised in the least to read on Wikipedia that the werewolf concept was an attempt to mollify Fox executives who wanted a more traditional monster story. I mostly like this episode for Michael Horse because I’m a huge Twin Peaks fan ha ha 🙂

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