At this point, should the series continue beyond season 11, The X-Files would do well to hand over the truth-seeking reins to longtime series writer Darin Morgan. The brains behind some of the most memorable hours during the series’ initial run — ‘Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose’ and ‘Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’’ among them — Morgan was also responsible for ‘Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster,’ the sole episode from season 10 to approach any sort of positive consensus among critics. The hour was a standout among the five others offered by the revival, a funny and clever episode that not only made great use of its guest stars Rhys Darby and Kumail Nanjiani, but also did what all good Morgan-penned episodes of The X-Files do: It put the entire premise of the series under the microscope, poking at the conventions that made the show an overwhelming force in television and pop culture in general.
That sort of thing isn’t easily done, which perhaps explains why the number of episodes credited solely to Morgan wouldn’t fill up a season of the average prestige cable drama. Like all things deemed exceptional but lacking in quantity, then, the relative scarcity of these episodes gives them a certain luster, and makes them deserving of frequent revisitation and reappraisal. Doing so, it becomes remarkably easy to find new things to appreciate, in addition to the sardonic tone, the self-referential nature, the narrative end points that turn the series’ concept on its ear, and certainly the way the episodes almost gleefully seek to deconstruct the character of Fox Mulder — something David Duchovny always seems up for taking part in.
The same is true of Morgan’s most recent effort, season 11’s ‘The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat’. A funny, blistering take on fake news and the question of “What even is the truth anymore?”, the episode introduces Reginald Murgatroyd, yet another quirky addition to the series that confirms Morgan has (perhaps inadvertently) created an enchantingly weird X-Files microcosm all his own.
The Episodes Alter The X-Files’ Structure
The most memorable of Morgan’s episodes all seem to have one thing in common: they contribute to an unexpected legacy of strange bald men, like Peter Boyle, Charles Nelson Riley, Allan Zinyk (the guy who shouts “Roswell! Roswell!”), and most recently, Brian Huskey and Stuart Margolin, as Reggie and Dr. They, respectively. But, more importantly, they pivot the series’ usual perspective until the story begins to look at, not through, Mulder and Scully. It’s a trend in Morgan’s episodes that his interest always shifts toward the new character or characters being introduced, and, moreover, the ways in which they respond to not only the craziness of their situation — they may or may not be the cause of — but also the craziness of the show’s two main FBI agents, and often, the futility of their quest.
This seems to be Morgan’s preferred way of interrogating the basic concept of show: introducing either an outsider or an extreme insider as not just a plot device but whose unique perspective within the world of the X-Files actually drives the story, taking it to unexpected places. The result of approaching the episode like this is that, regardless the story being told, it affords the writer and the viewer an opportunity to examine what The X-Files actually is as a show.
By flipping the perspective, Morgan, on the face of it all, grants an outsider control of the narrative, tacitly signifying that the narrator — Clyde Bruckman, Jose Chung, Reggie Murgatroyd, etc. — is ostensibly more reliable than Mulder or Scully, because they know things the other two simply cannot. For Clyde Bruckman it was the future, specifically everyone’s death; for Reggie it was the ‘Truth’; and for Jose Chung it was the utter ridiculousness of it all, up to and including Mulder’s peculiar preference for and use of the infamously grainy Bigfoot footage.
The X-Files works because it deliberately limits the information given to the audience, finally filtering it though the show’s primary protagonists. Morgan’s episodes approach that construction from the opposite direction, opting instead to focus on those with the knowledge sought by Mulder and Scully. By upsetting the familiar structure and narrative rhythms of the show, these episodes, taken as a whole, don’t so much deconstruct The X-Files universe as create a separate, uniquely funny one.