The X-Files and the Monsters of That Week: The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat
From a strictly monster-of-the-week perspective, season eleven of The X-Files is miraculous.
The mythology is as silly and insulting to our intelligence as ever, but thanks to fresh writers and directors, the show, while not back to it’s very best (completely impossible), was at least better than seasons seven, nine, and ten. I don’t know a single X-Files fan that would complain about that. Season eleven has one genuinely bad monster of the week, which I’ll go into more detail on next time, which means that it was difficult to pick a favourite. Yet, when all else fails, pick Darin Morgan.
The last episode written and directed by Morgan was Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster: an episode that stands as one of the show’s very best. The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat isn’t as good as Were-Monster, though I think the reason for this is less to do with the differing quality between the two and more the fact that Were-Monster is a beacon of light in the darkness of season ten, whereas Forehead Sweat is the just an inch above a really good run of episodes.
The premise, as with all Darin Morgan episodes, is deceptively simple: Mulder and Scully meet some guy called Reggie who claims that he is the third member of The X-Files team and has been with them from the beginning. We know this isn’t true, Mulder and Scully know this isn’t true, but using the Mandela Effect – “shared false memory phenomenon dubbed coined by self-described ‘paranormal consultant’ Fiona Broome, in reference to her false memory of the death of South African anti-Apartheid leader Nelson Mandela in prison in the 1980s, which she claimed was shared by “perhaps thousands” of other people.” I got that off of Wikipedia, which is absurd because of how easy it is to edit the information on there. Is Wikipedia the new Syndicate?
If Were-Monster was a frank look at legacy, then Forehead Sweat is just an unadulterated celebration of the elasticity inherent in the monster of the week format. Not since Sam and Dean Winchester were thrown into an alternate reality where they were actually Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, stars of the hit Tumblr creator, Supernatural, has the very DNA a television show been used to poke fun at itself.
Whether it’s Reggie being superimposed into some of the best and worst moments of the show (if nothing else, Reggie is a true fan), the central meetings in the parking garage (how many brilliant, silly, and brutal things have happened in the FBI car park?), or Mulder’s tantrum when an alien gives him all of the answers.
This last part is particularly funny, because my relationship with the show has changed so much over the years. I started off a mythology guy, thinking that the MOTW stuff was an interesting distraction. I, like Mulder, wanted all of the answers to the alien conspiracy, but the reality is that neither I or Mulder neve got very close. And yet, here is the beauty of The X-Files. The mythology is not the point. An alien invasion can be threatened and threatened, but Chris Carter will never pull the trigger on it, hell, the season ten finale was ret-conned into a Scully premonition. The answers would mean the end, and neither Mulder or me want that.
The answers we want, the proof we are looking for, it’s all in the monster-of-the week-episodes. My last positive word on the series is this. The X-Files is not about aliens. The X-Files is about the many wonders, mysteries, and monstrosities right here on planet Earth, and the two beautiful weirdoes that search for them.
By Kevin Boyle
(header image via Entertainment Weekly)