Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

The X-Files: Shapes

Case: The death of Joseph Goodensnake, a Native American who may have been murdered by Jim Parker, a white rancher with whom Joseph had a reservation boundary dispute.

Destination: Northwest Montana

‘Shapes’ finds Mulder and Scully traveling to Montana to investigate a reservation homicide, which Mulder suspects may be linked to the very first X-file, initiated by J. Edgar Hoover in 1946. The original case involved a series of murders in which the victims were seemingly ripped to shreds by an animal, but when investigators trapped, shot, and attempted to recover the carcass of the suspected animal, they only found the body of a man. In the current case, Jim Parker claims to have been shooting at what he believed was an animal, only to discover he actually shot and killed Joseph Goodensnake. In both cases, Mulder believes the deceased men were shapeshifters who could change into wolf-like creatures.

The X-Files finally delivers the obligatory werewolf episode, with an unintentionally campy nod to Native American legend. This Season One classic is chock full of goofy special effects, moody settings, and fairly predictable plot turns. And yet, for all that, I’ve always found it rather memorable. I don’t know if I’ve randomly caught it in reruns too many times, or if it’s the highly comical wolf-man visuals, but ‘Shapes’ has always stuck in my mind.

The various werewolf attacks, from the opening teaser to the hairy growling monster running through the Parker’s darkened living room, were seriously cheesy. The rubber wolf mask was entirely unconvincing. I was actually laughing out loud at times, and it completely undermined the serious, rain-drenched, “creepy” atmosphere the creative team was trying to build. I realize special effects have gotten pretty advanced in recent years, but my guess is that this werewolf was pretty lame even back in the day.

That said, the X-Files take on the werewolf legend was kind of interesting. I liked that the creature was the result of possession by an “evil spirit” capable of turning a man into beast when its blood lust reaches the boiling point. Plus, no full moon or silver bullets. The possessed man would turn into a wolf every night until death, and could be taken down by standard ammunition. I don’t know if this version accurately reflects Native American myth, but special effects aside, ‘Shapes’ does offer a nice variation on the typical werewolf story.

Other Thoughts

Jim Parker was played by Donnelly Rhodes!!! How exciting to see the actor I’ve come to know and love as Doc Cottle on Battlestar Galactica. Sporting an awesome Sam Elliot circa Tombstone mustache, no less. Awesome!

And Lyle Parker was played by Ty Miller, whom I always remember from this episode and the Young Riders (does anyone else remember that series?). More recently, he did a 21-episode stretch as a nameless tech agent on Without a Trace.

I was very much on Charlie’s side in the “can we autopsy the body?” debate. Mulder too often lets his passion for the truth steamroll the legitimate concerns of others. “If they want Joe at rest, rather than used as a piece of evidence, that’s the way it’s gonna be. [...] All I know is, tomorrow... the day after, you’re gonna leave. But I have to stay here. I’ve gotta answer to these people.”

I appreciated the nod to series continuity when Scully referenced her dad’s recent death while trying to offer support to Lyle after his father was killed.

The lingering shot of the bear head on the wall as Scully helps Lyle up to the bathroom was rather conspicuous. It came as no surprise when Mulder mistakenly shot it to hell.

So does Scully believe Lyle was actually a werewolf? Or did she “see something she wasn’t ready to understand”?


Lyle: “But I could feel it. Something not human. Out there. Watching me. The air was more still, the night animals more quiet. It was like nature herself was terrified.”

Ish: “Go home, FBI.”
Mulder: “How’d you know?”
Ish: “I could smell you a mile away.”
Mulder: “Well they told me that even though my deodorant’s made for a woman, it’s strong enough for a man.”

Scully: “Mulder, even if you’re right, and Joe Goodensnake did somehow have the ability to transform physically into an animal, he’s dead. Jim Parker shot him. And in a couple of moments, his body will be burned. End of mystery.”

Ish: “I sense you are different, FBI. You’re more open to Native American belief than some Native Americans. You even have an Indian name: Fox. You should be Running Fox or Sneaky Fox.”
Mulder: “Just as long as it’s not Spooky Fox.”

Final Analysis: ‘Shapes’ is an average episode with some fairly weak visuals, but, for some reason, it is one I’ve always remembered.

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.


  1. This is one I am always tempted to skip when I do a re-watch. Thought it was predictable and dull, not to mention a tad cheesy with the whole Native American folktale thing.

    The last time I watched this, I had not seen BSG, so I jumped when Doc Cottle came on the screen. Made me grin.

  2. Hey everyone! First time commenting on here (really long time reader!) before I get into X talk let me just say how much I love this site and how it's been such a fun companion to me while watching (and rewatching of course) my favourite shows. Shoutout to Billie for Alias and shoutout to Josie for Fringe in particular.

    I'm a newbie to Files (started because the #201Days bandwagon seemed as good a reason as any!) and this first season has been an interesting and, at times, enthralling introduction to Mulder and Scully's world. The main aspect I've loved is the characterisation and building relationship of our heroes. In terms of the mythology I'm in a tough place of being intrigued, confused, overanalysing and forgetting it's relevance (since it's brought up only every few episodes)

    This episode in particular was interesting because like Jess mentioned, it's a definite slant on the overdone warewolf tale. Enjoyable again mostly for the character moments. I think this show really hooked me with "Beyond The Sea" which turned Scully from an agent I wanted to see kick some ass into a woman I cared about.

    All in all thus far I've definitely experienced stronger first seasons of a show but I don't think I've ever felt so excited to see things really get started. Finale here we come!

  3. Congratulations on your first comment, justsomekid33! I'm looking forward to more, and thanks for the Alias shoutout. :)

  4. Oh nice, that was Doc Cottle?
    I liked the bear head getting shot in a panic
    Otherwise I loathe episodes with Native Americans with a passion, and this is no different

    And haha it's @Unknown's first comment here, look at how fresh-faced the typing style is.

  5. What the hell? I've just discovered, after nearly 30 years, that people don't like this episode. As far as I can remember, it made waves in the UK, given that we have very little experience with Native American mythology, so as far as I know this story was considered somewhat original and quite scary. It's always been one of my favourite episodes. It acts as a critique of the divisions within sections of the USA's population and the trouble this causes, but maybe that's only obvious if you're not a part of that population - this kind of hard divide doesn't really exist in the UK, so it is really noticeable to us when watching this episode.


We love comments! We moderate because of spam and trolls, but don't let that stop you! It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.