Leading up to The X-Files reboot/premiere (or a “re-miere,” for superfans of terrible portmanteaus) on January 24th, tvDownload’s Drew Grant and Vinnie Mancuso have challenged themselves to recap episodes of the original series from memory. (That’s right: no Googling! Because Google didn’t exist in the early 90’s! [Neither did Vinnie, but that’s beside the point.]) Then the other half of this paranormal investigation unit is charged with tracking down the episode and fact-checking our hazy fever dreams to the plot of the actual episode. Read previous episodes here.
Now let’s turn to the most racist of all X-Files episodes (in Vinnie’s mind, at least): “Shapes.”
Vinnie’s X-Filed Memory:
So let’s talk about the time The X–Files did a werewolf episode and it all turned out pretty racist.
Wellllll technically it wasn’t a werewolf episode. There was definitely a guy that turned into a shaggy wolf-beast every time the full moon came up, but The X–Files was like “No, no, it’s not a werewolf it’s this crazy Native American thing. No, no, please, ignore the tropes.” It was like if a show had someone come back from the dead and eat brains but was like “Zombies? Noooo this is just a thing Mexicans believe in.” It was pretty sketchy from the start, if I recall.
I don’t remember exactly what the werewolf-but-not-really was called, though. It definitely sounded a lot like “Manatee.” But that just brings to mind a possible X–Files episode where someone turns into a flesh-eating sea cow every month. Chris Carter, if you’re reading this (which I know you are!), that is an episode I will gladly write for nothing more than my name in the credits, an X–Files t-shirt, and between 1 and 3 million dollars.
But anyways, Mulder and Scully are investigating a murder that takes place on a Native American reservation. If I had to guess, some of the marking of the murder were probably 1) Claw marks 2) Fang marks 3) Happened under a full moon 4) Not a werewolf, though. But the way I remember it, this episode treated Native Americans like some other, mysterious case for Mulder to solve. Like there’s a definite chance that at some point in this episode Mulder pulled a folder out of the x-file drawer and was like “I don’t get it! Where do they come from?!” and the camera shows the folder just says “Native Americans” on it.
And then I think Scully responds with “they’ve been here the whole time” and Mulder freaks about aliens, completely missing the point.
But okay, okay, the werewolf. There was definitely something like a werewolf, and I think Scully sort of is attracted to the guy who is secretly a werewolf? Like not enough to get a full-moon tattooed on her arm or anything but there is definitely a point where Scully is alone with the guy who is secretly a werewolf, or manatee, or maybe just a very hairy serial killer.
I also don’t remember anything particularly interesting happening? Like the guy transforms into a werewolf and Scully is probably like “We should get you to a doctor!” as he stalks on all fours toward her. Then someone shoots the werewolf and he turns back into a person and…that’s the end? Maybe there’s a small scene toward the end where Mulder says, like, “I just feel like there’s more to this” while he gives some side-eye to a group of Native American people minding their own business.
Oh, you know what else?! The dude from Twin Peaks is in this episode. Detective Tommy Hawk (THAT IS ACTUALLY THE CHARACTER’S NAME IN TWIN PEAKS). His real name is Michael Horse, right? Man, that guy is great. There is a solid chance he plays the exact same character in this episode of The X–Files that he does in Twin Peaks. I’m not even sure that is a character. I think if you showed up at Michael Horse’s house right now he’d be casually fighting a supernatural threat with a Bowie knife while wearing a badass suede jacket and a cowboy hat. Maybe spurs if you catch him at the right time of day.
Wait. Wait wait wait. Do you think Mulder’s attitude in this episode is the reason for this???
We open in a ranch in Montana. A guy that looks like the old man from Deadwood and his son investigate some cattle that’s been “shredded” by an “animal question mark!”
The son gets slashed by the…fur…thing…with a snout, but his dad shoots it. When they turn to look at the monster, it’s reverted to the body of a young boy.
Wuh-wuh-CUE THEME SONG!
Mulder and Scully are out on the farm, because The FBI is now handing land disputes in Montana? See, the old dad shot a nearby kid from the local reservation, who he is in some fence-fight with. His argument is basically: well, if it was a kid stealing the cattle…sucks to be him. Basically admitting to a homicide he didn’t commit. Bad plan, dude! That is how you make a murderer!
Huh. Oh, very quickly it’s established why the FBI is out there: Scully expressing surprise at Mulder volunteering for this assignment, since “any bureau agent could have investigated this reservation homicide.”
Like, any guy. They could have got Dwayne, from the Department of Agriculture. Or Marcy from the CDC. Scully is like “Dwayne R. from Homeland Security could have handled this,” if Homeland Security was a thing in the 90s. (Vinnie fact-check this and the rest of article, plz.)
They investigate the barn and Scully literally this time goes “Well, there looks like there’s nothing paranormal out here!” but very loudly, so that dad and son are just WISHING it was Dwayne R.’s case.
Mulder finds a Bigfoot paw print and waves it in Scully’s face. “Nope, not a THING!” he says, gloating/flirting. Scully stares. (We’re only 7 minutes in. Come on.) Anyway, Scully thinks the footprint is SO ODD. It’s shed, like a snake! The guy who died is named Joe Goodensnake. Just FYI.
Joe’s body is brought back to the reservation. The agents at the reservation? Well, let’s just say “they blend.”
An old man yells “Go home, FBI!” And Mulder is like:
So the old man says he could smell him. Then Mulder says:
The old Man says he was at Wounded Knee fighting FBI, and that he learned that “you don’t believe in us, and we don’t believe in you.”
So Mulder goes, “I want to believe!” This is so classic Mulder! Loving it OG!
Anywhoozle, yada yada, Scully is looking for intel, Mulder is looking for “anything that can create human tracks in one step and animal tracks in the next.”
Then Joe’s sister Gwen, who was playing pool, remarks that she hates that her brother died and hates “that stupid Indian legend” but mostly she “hates suits.” She is very Canadian.
…seems racist? They are guardians of the dead (coming to a Marvel franchise near you!) but Hawk is a straight shooter. He keeps:
Also, he is not:The reservationists hate the FBI, in case you can’t tell. Also, I’m pretty sure this is the actor James Duvall from all the Gregg Araki films (and Donnie Darko).
Also he has fangs. I’d be all “vampire!” but, no, of course not. Time for an autopsy? Scully chirps she’s “fully qualified” to do one. (They are her favorite.) But Hawk says no, citing the ancient beliefs that he just claimed to have left at the door. Oy. He’s also like:
Which Scully also seems kind of into, honestly. Okay, so here is the whole next part, basically: Edgar Hoover, blah blah, first X-files, shape-shifters, blah blah.
Scully is all:
Lyle Parker is totally gonna hook up with Gwen, I predict.
I miss the next scene because I somehow lost my underwear at the gym and sort of wig out while letting this play on my iPad for a bit. The old rancher dies though, probably by a Hoover monster. Gwen is gone the next day. Scully points out that Hawk is being a terrible justice enforcer by destroying evidence and letting everyone leave town.
There is a large cat, or something, then Lyle’s naked body is in a field and needs to go to the hospital. His dad is dead and there’s a tiger tooth.
(Cool, I found my underwear.)
Scully goes to Lyle’s hospital bed, and delivers the bad news with perfect bedside manner.
God. We’re only on minute 28. Scary shows should really stick to half hours in my opinion.
“You should be running fox,” says the old Native American from before, to Mulder. “Or sleepy fox.”
“Just not spooky fox!” retorts Mulder. Gosh he hates that nickname.
Manitou is definitely what it is. It’s basically a werewolf. But apparently an every night kind of werewolf. Also it’s a snake. And happens every eight years? And can also be passed down through bloodlines. So maybe GWEN killed the old rancher? I mean, at least Scully gets to break the good news to Lyle Parker?
They catch Gwen running away, but with a convenient story about seeing the creature attack Parker.
And then Lyle has his dad’s blood in his body, but the kind you only get through ingestion, not heritage. And Scully is alone in the woods with him! God, her love life is really getting in the way of her work!
This guy def turns into a vampire but then his skin rips and he turns into…something more like Bigfoot? He’s def hairy, without scaly skin though. 😕
Mulder finds Scully in a dark room and they shuffle about awkwardly. “I think something jumped me,” she says.
“I know. I heard it come up here,” says Mulder, bumping into her accidentally.
“I lost my gun,” says Scully. Was this the show’s famed sexual tension?
Hank shoots Lyle, and Scully is like “My god, he must have gotten sick in the bathroom and then, separately, a mountain lion attacked me.”
Next day, Gwen is gone, and Scully has no return address to return this…taxidermied friendship thing.
“Maybe she saw something she wasn’t ready to understand,” Hank says, wisely.
“Maybe,” says Scully, not getting it.
Things you got right: Totally racist, Hawk, Manatee-Manitou (I cannot believe you didn’t just Google some of this.)
Things you got wrong: Irrelevant full moon, crime didn’t TECHNICALLY happen on reservation…okay fine, you got everything right. Happy now??