A Darin Morgan episode of The X-Files is an event, and tonight was no exception, as I’ll explain — with spoilers for it, followed by a conversation with Morgan himself — just as soon as I have a Mengele Effect about the Mandela Effect…
“The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” was only the seventh X-Files script with Morgan’s name on it, which is half of his total TV output in a career dating back to the mid-‘90s. He is not prolific, but when he writes — particularly when he writes episodes like “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” or “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space,’” which are as much commentary on the series as they are great episodes of it — it’s with a level of artistry and thought to which few other TV writers can aspire. (Across the whole run of the original series, Vince Gilligan was the only guy in Morgan’s neighborhood.)
“The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” fit the mold of Morgan’s most famous ‘90s installments, as well as “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster,” the primary highlight of the 2016 season. It initially feels like a parody of the show — our first glimpse of Fox Mulder is him wearing a Bigfoot costume, and much of the hour is told from the point of view of Reggie (Brian Huskey), who claims to be the forgotten third member of the team, with Huskey inserted in deliberately clumsy fashion into old episode footage — but it’s really a tragedy, in this case commenting on an America where conspiracy theories have a very different connotation from Mulder’s heyday, and where the President of the United Stated has no qualms about openly feuding with the FBI or telling obvious lies in public.
By the time Mulder has gotten to know the episode’s villain, Dr. They (played by Emmy-winning Rockford Files alum Stuart Margolin), it’s enough to leave him and the audience wondering what the point of the X-Files — both the FBI unit and the show itself — is in 2018. It’s funny, it’s sad, and in its homage to Mulder’s love of The Twilight Zone, it’s also profoundly sweet.
Earlier this week, I spoke with Morgan about the inspiration for the episode, why he still finds writing scripts so difficult after all these years, whether he thinks his episodes fit into the continuity of the series, and more.
Do you remember the first Twilight Zone episode that you saw?
Yeah, I do. And I actually rewatched it this weekend, for some strange reason. It was ”The Jungle,” which isn’t really all that great of one, but that was the first one I ever saw.