With summer quickly approaching, pretty much every show worth watching is coming to an end. That makes the summer the perfect time to binge watch what you missed along with some old classics. That’s where the Multiversity Summer TV Binge comes from. One of my personal favorite shows ever is The X-Files, and it is my mission in life to make everyone ever watch it. This summer, I’ll be looking back at season one. This week we look at “Shapes,” one of the most straight forward and unfortunately generic “monster of the week” episodes.
1. The Premise
“Shapes” is one of the most straightforward cases that Mulder and Scully get called on. A rancher and his son suspect that someone or something is killing their cattle. One night, they hear something and when they go outside, Jim Parker (the father) shoots a young Native American man, Joseph Goodensnake, whom he believed was an animal of some sort. That’s what he saw and that’s what he believes. Mulder and Scully take the assignment and are there to get his account because the Parkers are also involved in a dispute with the neighboring Native American tribe. His land is beginning to intrude on theirs and this is why he and Goodensnake are at odds. This is supposed to be a very simple case but Mulder stumbles upon some kind of snake skin looking material and footprints and this becomes a whole different experience for our favorite F.B.I. agents.
2. Twin Peaks Expanded Universe
Here’s the thing: David Lynch decided in the last seconds of Twin Peaks that alternate realities and time travel were a thing so I now feel even more comfortable in saying that Twin Peaks and The X-Files exist in the same world. Because we’ve now established this, it’s super great that Michael Horse a.k.a Deputy Hawk is in this episode as his doppelganger Sheriff Charles Tsukany (his name is never pronounced the same). Tsukany doesn’t get nearly enough screen time but his interactions with Mulder are great. At this point, the actors aren’t strangers and that comes through so nicely. Tsukany and Mulder could have a cute little spin off where they are best friends and also investigate monster attacks.
3. A Valid Distrust
Here’s the thing, America has been absolutely horrid towards Native Americans since the first settlers just showed up here and said “this is ours now.” “Shapes” sort of wants to get into that and brings up Wounded Knee and to its credit, the episode doesn’t make light of their factual struggles. It does avoid gross appropriation but the show does rely on this fictional werewolf like monster instead of the people in this tribe and reservation. Things are mentioned and there’s distrust from the get go but it’s all very surface level. This hands off approach does leave this setting feeling a little empty but ultimately this was the safest route to take. “Shapes” doesn’t get weird when it incorporates the customs of this tribe but again, it’s all very surface level. Mulder and Scully don’t feel very involved and that brings me to my next point.
4. Where Is The Heart?
One of the most interesting things about “Shapes” is that it brings up the very first X-Files which involved werewolves. That’s why Mulder is now really interested in the case. However, the episode lacks heart. There’s something that feels so distant about Mulder and Scully and the case. They don’t feel like a part of it but simply observers. The best cases on the shows are the ones that push these two and challenge them in various ways. All this unfolds with or without them and that kind of sucks? I don’t like these cases and the thing about this one is that it shouldn’t be boring. You have werewolves, a very personal storyline and the inclusion of this being the very first X-File yet this just feels very boring.
5. Eight Years
The end of the “Shapes” has a strange message for Mulder as one of the townspeople who helped him tell him that they’ll see him in about eight years. As he learns this, he and Scully both find out that Gwen Goodensnake has left town. “Shapes” ends just as confusing as it began but ultimately doesn’t mean a lot. I have to admit, I found it tough to get through this one despite having seen it before. In fact, that probably makes it harder to watch again. I will say this though as a teaser, if you’ve never seen the show, it may not be 8 years but this won’t be the last time that The X-Files mentions Native American legends that it makes up.