Air date: 04-01-94
Writer: Marilyn Osborn
Director: David Nutter
Editor: James Coblentz
Director of Photography: John S. Bartley, C.S.C.
Documented Phenomenon: Werewolves, Manitou legend
Lightning illuminates the poised fangs of a bear, its stuffed frame permanently frozen in a moment of attack. While the storm rages outside, a shotgun is loaded. An eerie howling overrides the peals of thunder, and Jim and Lyle Parker head out into the night to face the creature.
At Two Medicine Ranch in Browning, Montana, the father and son, armed with guns and flashlights, check on their spooked livestock. A bull lies dead outside the barn. Lyle leans down to examine it, then hears a noise behind him. Inhuman eyes stare back; the creature attacks. Jim hears the commotion and comes to his son's rescue, downing the creature with a shot and rushing to Lyle's side. But as Jim looks back at the fallen attacker, lightning flashes again, revealing the body not of a beast, but of a young Native American man.
Daylight. The bear is still poised to attack. Over this tableau, Jim Parker asserts that he is not a killer. Mulder and Scully, in the presence of Parker's lawyer, David Gates, are interviewing the Parkers about the attack. Jim informs them that he's tired of his cattle being slaughtered, like this one, which looked like it had been through a paper shredder--he doesn't know of any kind of animal capable of that. Mulder asks if Jim thinks a person was responsible, which prompts Gates to jump in with the qualification that the Parkers are only free to discuss this incident, not any pending cases. Scully adeptly cuts through his lawyer-speak: he's referring to the lawsuit between the Parkers and the Trego Indian Reservation about a land dispute. But heedless of his lawyer's cautions, Jim is adamant that just because he's having an argument with some Indians doesn't mean he killed one of them. He recounts what they experienced that night, pointing out that what he saw didn't seem human; it had red eyes and fangs. At Jim's suggestion, Mulder takes a look at Lyle's wounds as proof. Visibly upset, Jim contends that no one was more shocked than he to discover that the attacker was that young Indian boy, but if that's who was killing the cattle, then as far as Jim's concerned, this is the end of the matter.
At Mulder's request, Lyle escorts the agents outside to see the corral, grateful to have a moment alone with them to share a more reasoned version of his father's account. He claims there are things about their story that he doesn't fully understand himself, such as the creepy feeling he's had lately when checking on the animals--the feeling that something was watching him, the air too still and the animals too quiet, like nature herself was terrified. Mulder and Scully share a look. Lyle tells them that it gave him the creeps, which Scully repeats questioningly. He asks rhetorically if she ever gets the creeps. Scully avoids answering, but Mulder watches closely, wanting to hear her response.
The two agents, toting black umbrellas, check out the crime scene. Scully determines that having fired his shotgun from only three meters away, Jim Parker could not have mistaken the victim, Joseph Goodensnake, for an animal. She inquires why Mulder was interested in this reservation homicide, which any agent could have handled. Mulder, however, is preoccupied with the footprints he has discovered: bare human feet transforming, step by step, into something inhuman. Walking away from the barn, Scully concludes that there seems to be nothing unexplainable about the case. Joining her, Mulder agrees--but holds up a large piece of molted skin.
In their rental car, Scully is examining the skin through an evidence bag. She still thinks that the Parkers knowingly killed Goodensnake but doubts that they're the type to skin their victim. Mulder points out further that no such act was noted in the police report. They want to examine the body for themselves, but it has been transferred to the reservation, where they will need to speak to Sheriff Charley Tskany.
At the Trego Indian Reservation, Mulder maneuvers their car through the mud and trailers of the shantytown. The agents enter a dim tavern, where they stick out like sore thumbs and aren't immediately welcomed. Their inquiries about Sheriff Tskany go unanswered. The only response is from the shadowy corner as an older man, Ish, tells them, Go home, FBI. Mulder asks how he knew who they were. Ish responds that he could smell them a mile away, and Mulder quips that even though his deodorant was made for a woman, he was told it's strong enough for a man. Ish's suspicion stems from his experience at Wounded Knee in 1973. He's learned that the FBI doesn't believe in them, and they don't believe in the FBI. Mulder says that he wants to believe. Ish asks why they're really there, what they're looking for. Scully starts to explain that they want information about the homicide of Joe Goodensnake, but Mulder interrupts, saying that they're looking for anything that can make human tracks in one step and animal in the next. When Ish tells him that Parker killed what he's looking for, a woman playing pool nearby, Gwen Goodensnake, interjects: what Parker killed was her brother, yet everyone is too scared by some Indian legend to do anything about it. However, she's equally upset by "suits" who only come by when they want something, but when they are really needed, they're nowhere to be found. She storms out, passing Sheriff Tskany on her way. The agents see him and introduce themselves. He's just as unwelcoming, but leads them to his office and the body of Joe Goodensnake.
Outside of the sheriff's office, two men in ritual face paint stand watch, representing the guardians of the dead who escort the spirits to the new world. They are not permitted inside the door, though, due to Tskany's policy that the ancient beliefs remain separate from the police work. Mulder inquires about the Indian legend that Gwen alluded to, but Tskany remains hostile, unhappy that federal help never comes when he needs it. He acknowledges FBI jurisdiction on this case and will begrudgingly cooperate. In response to Mulder's inquiries about Gwen, Tskany elaborates that she and her brother, Joe, were the primary ones responsible for fueling the border dispute with the Parkers. Scully conducts a cursory external exam of Joe's body, finding scar tissue similar to the wound on Lyle's shoulder and a shotgun wound indicating he was shot at close range. But Mulder makes a more interesting discovery: Joe has fangs.
They examine Joe's dental records, but aside from the newly pointy teeth, the dental records, showing normal canine cuspids, are a match. Tskany speculates that Jim Parker may have shined his flashlight toward Joe's mouth and mistaken his teeth for that of an animal. However, Mulder wants to investigate further and asks to conduct an autopsy. Tskany refuses; the ceremonial cremation is scheduled for that evening, and doing harm to the body would risk angering the spirit. Mulder challenges the sheriff on whether he shares these ancient beliefs, but Tskany points out that after the agents have left, he will remain to answer to these people. He'll allow them to continue their investigation, but they'll have to do so without Joe's body.
Beneath the low-hanging clouds, Joe Goodensnake lies on a funeral pyre while a man draped in a wolf skin performs a ritual to prepare for the cremation. Mulder and Scully watch from a distance, conversing in the shelter of their rental car. Scully shares her suspicion that Mulder knows more about the case than he's told her. He reaches into the back seat to show her his real motivation to investigate the case: the very first X-File, opened by J. Edgar Hoover himself back in 1946. During World War II, a number of murders occurred in the region, including seven in the local town of Browning. The deaths were violent, resembling animal attacks, although many of the victims were found within their own homes. In 1946, the animal they suspected to be responsible was cornered in a cabin in Glacier National Park. Police shot it, yet once inside, they found only the body of Richard Watkins. The murders ceased, but started again in 1954, then again in '59, '64, '78, and now 1994. Mulder, however, has traced the case back even further, to Lewis & Clark's description of Indian men who could shapeshift into wolves. Scully calmly passes this off as lycanthropy--a type of insanity in which a person believes he can turn into a wolf. After declaring that no human can physically change into an animal, she ends the conversation by climbing out the car and heading for the pyre. But Mulder won't leave it at that. Following her, he confronts her with the evidence: the tracks, the shredded skin, a man with animal fangs. In her estimation, though, the case is already solved. Regardless of whatever Joe Goodensnake may have been, Jim Parker was the one who killed him, and their evidence is about to go up in smoke.
Scully approaches Gwen to offer her condolences, but Gwen remains antagonistic. She hands Scully a trinket of Joe's made of animal teeth and claws, fulfilling the tradition of giving away the deceased's possessions as a demonstration of sorrow. Meanwhile, Sheriff Tskany has arrived. Mulder comments that he read his report and commends him for his thoroughness. However, what he really wants to know is what wasn't in the report. Mulder presses again about Tskany's beliefs, asking what he thinks really happened. But Tskany will not be moved and tells Mulder that the answers he seeks are lying on that funeral platform, and that he should accept that fact and go home.
After dark, the man in the wolf skin lights the funeral pyre. Drums and chanting send off the spirit. The agents attend the ceremony to pay their respects, as does Lyle Parker, arriving on horseback. Gwen is incensed at his presence, and he regretfully rides away. Gwen returns to her brother's side as sparks dance up toward the sky.
Meanwhile, Jim Parker lights his cigar, sitting on the porch for a quiet smoke and a drink. In the distance, a faint growl draws his attention. He steps into the yard to listen carefully for the noise, yet at the tinkle of the wind chimes, he assumes that's all he heard and shakes off his suspicions to return to the porch. But the same ferocious eyes that preceded the attack on Lyle have returned. Before Jim can make it back up the steps, he is violently assaulted. His attempts to crawl away are in vain.
The next morning, Scully lifts the sheet draped over Jim's body on the porch. Joining Sheriff Tskany, she notes that Parker appears to have been attacked by a large predator and asks if the sheriff thinks this death could be retaliation for the death of Joe Goodensnake. He isn't sure and relates that both Gwen and Lyle have gone missing since the funeral. Scully fears that Lyle may be a second victim and goes to check out the area. Elsewhere on the property, Mulder comes across a bit of fur and another shed skin. Scully, now checking around the barn, is spooked by the growl of a mountain lion, which, to her relief, is secured in a cage. But further out in the yard, she sees the body of Lyle Parker.
As the sheriff examines Jim's body on the porch, he extracts a large, curved claw. Mulder approaches and comments that it doesn't belong to a familiar animal. He again presses the sheriff on what's really going on, and what he's not telling. Scully arrives with Lyle, on his feet and wrapped in a blanket, and tells Mulder that she's taking Lyle to the hospital and will question him there. Once they leave, Tskany admits vaguely that he thought it was over, and Mulder speculates that that's why he wouldn't allow an autopsy of Joe, because he was hoping that with the cremation of the body this all would end. Tskany says that he can't tell Mulder what's going on, but he'll take him to someone who can.
At the Grove Medical Clinic in Browning, Lyle lies in bed awaiting test results on his blood, and Scully takes a seat to hear his story. He admits that after the funeral, he'd gotten into the bourbon and doesn't remember anything after that. He's embarrassed that she found him lying naked in the yard among the animals. Scully asks if he had spoken to his father after the funeral, and he says no, although he has an image of his father sitting on the porch. Scully breaks the news that his father is dead as the result of an apparent animal attack, but she suspects that it's a homicide. He asks if it was his fault because he stirred things up by going to the funeral. Scully isn't sure and offers a comforting hand on his arm at his obvious distress.
Sheriff Tskany has taken Mulder to visit Ish, the man from the pool hall. As a boy, in 1946, Ish saw the creature Mulder is looking for. Ish pauses in his story to comment that Mulder is different in that he's more open to their beliefs than some Native Americans (a not-so-veiled jab at the sheriff). Ish also notes that Mulder has an Indian name, but says that it should be Running Fox, or Sneaky Fox, to which Mulder replies, as long as it's not Spooky Fox. He then prompts Ish to describe the creature he had seen: Watkins, the suspect, had been attacked by an animal some time before the murders began, but his scars had healed and the attack had been forgotten. However, once the murders started, the Tregoes realized that Watkins had been attacked by what the Algonquins refer to as a manitou--an evil spirit that can transform a human into a beast. The manitou attacks during the night, and the victim is transformed into the likeness of the attacker. The assaults are prompted not by the full moon but by the blood lust coming to its full measure. Afterward, the person who has become a manitou returns to his true self, oblivious to what he has done. This cycle of transformation is a daily occurrence, ending only in death.
Ish recalls that when he was just 16 years old, he was returning from fishing down at the creek, taking a shortcut behind Watkins' house, when he heard a groan coming from inside. It wasn't quite animal, and yet not quite human. Ish peeked inside and saw Watkins, covered in sweat and blood, and in severe pain. Claws ripped out of his hands, and his skin fell away. Then Watkins spotted Ish through the window with eyes that were still human--eyes that begged for mercy. Had Ish been hunting and carrying a gun, he wouldn't have hesitated to shoot Watkins and put him out of his misery; but Ish was just a boy, too scared to do anything except run away. Mulder interjects that eventually the police did kill Watkins, yet the attacks began again, eight years later. Ish explains that Watkins had a son, and even with Watkins dead, the manitou lived on through his lineage. Tskany jumps to the conclusion that Gwen could have killed Parker: if Joe was a manitou by heritage rather than due to an attack, then Gwen has the same potential.
While the men consider this, a noise outside catches their attention. They rush out to find Gwen trying to flee in Ish's truck. Tskany pulls her out, ready to take her into custody, but she is obviously scared. Ish asks what she is running away from. Gwen explains that she saw the creature. She was at the Parker ranch the night Jim was attacked and saw it happen. Now she wants to get as far away as possible.
They bring Gwen inside to calm her down, and Mulder calls the clinic to contact Scully. He speaks to a Dr. Josephs, who informs him that Scully already left with Lyle and is headed back to the ranch. But before Mulder hangs up, the doctor passes on some test results that he has just received: Lyle had traces of his father's blood type in his own blood, which was only possible through ingestion. Realization washes over Mulder; he knows who the killer is.
On a muddy, rural road, Scully is driving Lyle home. He appears to be sleeping, but his eyes open eerily in the dim light of dusk With a full moon aloft, Scully and Lyle arrive at the house to find the power out and the taxidermy collection cast in shadows. Lyle intends to go start the generator but is overcome with nausea and asks Scully to help him to the bathroom. The stuffed bear looms over them as they hobble off down the hall.
Sheriff Tskany is driving down the rural road with emergency lights flashing while Mulder tries in vain to contact Scully. His call will not go through because the mountains are blocking the signal. Tskany says it's only seven more miles, and steps on the gas.
Once in the bathroom, Lyle locks himself inside, ignoring Scully's pleas to take him back to the hospital. He has already begun the painful transformation into something less than human. His pupils have dilated, and he opens his mouth in a growl, revealing his sharp fangs. Outside, Scully tries to unscrew the handle to get in to help him. A screw falls to the floor just as a claw comes smashing through the door.
Mulder and Tskany finally arrive, the sheriff checking the premises while Mulder heads into the house. Inside, all is quiet and dark. His flashlight illumines claw marks gouging the wall. Scully's flashlight is lying on the floor, but she is nowhere to be found. He whispers her name. Outside, Tskany is searching around the barn and spots the mountain lion in its cage.
Mulder continues to search inside the house. There is a growl behind him. He turns and shoots as a creature runs through the living room on its hind legs. In pursuit, Mulder starts up the stairs. There is a another growl. He turns and shoots, blowing off the head of...the stuffed bear. At the top of the stairs, a hand reaches out to grab him--it is Scully. She explains that something jumped her and she lost her gun. Together, they continue to search. The only beasts they find are the dead ones mounted on every wall. There's another growl, and something jumps out behind them. A shotgun sounds and the creature drops; the sheriff cocks his weapon, asking if the agents are okay. The three rush over to see what he shot: it is Lyle Parker. Scully is shocked. She tells them that Lyle was in the bathroom, sick, and then they were attacked by the mountain lion--but Tskany tells her that the animal is still caged outside. She stares at Lyle's body in disbelief.
The next day, Mulder and Scully exit the sheriff's office with Tskany. Mulder asks where Gwen is since she had said she'd see them off. Tskany says that she left last night; she gave away all her belongings, then took off. He speculates that maybe she saw something that she wasn't ready to understand. Scully gives him a thoughtful look and echoes, "Maybe." The agents shake hands with the sheriff and take their leave. As Mulder climbs in the car, Ish calls out to him, saying that he'll see him in about eight years. Mulder retorts that he hopes not.
The rental car departs down a rural road, under overcast skies. Low clouds hang over the tree line...just like the mysterious howl that lingers in the air.
This episode is an interesting twist on the werewolf theme and, in X-Files style, presents such a legendary creature in a plausible way. Scully touches on the werewolf connection with her mention of lycanthropy. While it is true, as Ish recounts, that �manitou� is an Algonquin term, it actually means "spirit" in a general sense. Only in popular mythology has the manitou evolved into a type of creature. After the Fox network suggested creating a more conventional monster episode, Glen Morgan and James Wong proposed building it around Native American Mythology and the Manitou legend. The idea was brought to writer Marilyn Osborn, although Morgan and Wong did an un-credited rewrite of the script. "A Horror show should be able to do these legends that have been around since the thirteen hundreds," Morgan has argued. Bellefleur / Matt Allair
Considering the limited production budget they had to work with for the first season, Toby Lindera's make-up effects work for "Shapes" is quite inventive. While not having the advantage of the massive resources that director John Landis enjoyed for American Werewolf In London, the few transformation sequences work largely due what is implied via lighting, as well as the posture of the actor. "Shapes" is a good example of the show's credo of intimating something unusual or paranormal, rather than showing it. John S. Bartley's camera work in this respect is a visual tour de force. Mr. Lindera was new to the business when he was hired for the X-Files. In fact, during the early seasons, when he had no support crew, he did most of the make-up work from the basement of his home In Vancouver.
The Indian Reservation location requirements caused some unexpected expenses when they had to travel to Bordertown in Maple Ridge on 224th Street. This classic Western town was specifically built for filming. Prior to filming, loads of gravel were dumped onto the muddy streets to ensure easy access for vehicle, equipment and people. It started to rain two days before filming. By the time the crew arrived to the location, the gravel had been absorbed into the mud, which forced them to have to wear heavy boots, as well as having equipment and vehicles getting be stuck in the mud. The only happy crew member was first assistant director, Tom Braidwood, who lived within a ten minute drive of Bordertown. Of course, the crew would face another miserable filming experience due to weather while shooting Darkness Falls.
Michael Horse who played Charlie Tskany was a regular on David Lynch's Twin Peaks, in the role of Deputy Tommy "Hawk" Hill. He also worked with David Duchovny during Twin Peak's second season. While working on the episode "Shapes", Michael Horse has related a story in the October 1995, number 25 issue of "Wrapped In Plastic", that regarded the 1996 Twin Peaks Fan Festival, explaining he had a photo of himself and Duchovny in drag from that Twin Peaks period, that he showed to the X-Files make-up artist: " 'You know, I used to date David's sister'..... David didn't say anything." Mr. Horse's feature film appearances include the animated feature Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, as well as Dirt, Navajo Blues, Passenger 57, The Avenging as well as his debut as Tonto in the much maligned The Legend of the Lone Ranger in 1981. His television appearances include JAG, Malcolm in the Middle, Roswell, Walker: Texas Ranger, Gargoyles, Amazing Stories and Knight Rider. Michael Horse is a combination Yaqui-Mescalero Apache-Zuni Indian. His jewelry, carvings, paintings, and ledger art has been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.
Donnelly Rhodes who played Jim Parker, has recently been a series regular on Ron Moore's Battlestar: Galactica, playing Dr. Cottle. Mr. Rhodes has enjoyed a long history as an actor. Born December, 1937 and raised in Winnipeg Canada, Mr. Rhodes initially had trained to be a warden in the National Park Service in Manitoba before joining the Royal Canadian Air Force as an airmen mechanic. He studied at the Manitoba Theatre Center as well as the national Theatre School in Canada. He made his professional stage debut as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. Eventually, he became a contract player for Universal, appearing as a gunslinger in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as well as a Country singer in The Hard Hat Begins. He observed in a 1988 interview for Vancouver Magazine: "I've always been kind of a hidden actor. Not that I'd turn down the high profile of a mega-bucks hit, but I think it's much healthier to be a chameleon."
Mr. Rhodes feature film work includes Pressure, Goldenrod, The Neptune Factor, and Change of Mind. His extensive television work includes appearing in The X-Files episode Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man as well as the Millennium episode's Thirteen Years Later and Broken World. Other appearances include Supernatural, Di Vinci's Inquest, The Dead Zone, American Dreams, The Chris Isaak Show, The Outer Limits, Sliders, Murder, She Wrote, Empty Nest, The Golden Girls, The Hitchhiker, Hill Street Blues, Taxi, as well as a recurring role on Soap. His 70s and 60s television appearances include Wonder Woman, Baretta, The Young and the Restless, Marcus Welby M.D., Mission: Impossible, The Wild, Wild West, It Takes A Thief, Ironside, Mannix, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., and Maverick.
Ty Miller who played Lyle Parker is primarily a television actor, even though he starred in the Trancers sequels (Trancers 5: Sudden Deth, Trancers 4: Jack of Swords) playing Prospero. He's also become a series regular on Without A Trace. His television appearances include Nip / Tuck, Melrose Place, The Young Riders, The Belles of Bleaker Street, Hotel and Growing Pains.
Jimmy Herman who played Ish appeared in Kevin Costner's feature Dances With Wolves as well as Blind Faith. His television appearances include Supernatural, The Outer Limits, North of 60, and Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years.
Renae Morriseau who played Gwen Goodensnake, lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her television appearances include Da Vinci's City Hall, Da Vinci's Inquest, North of 60, Hawkeye and Neon Rider.
* Quote source: P. 144, "The Truth Is Out There; The Official Guide to The X-Files" by Brian Lowry, © 1995 Harper Prism
Episode synopsis, review and additional production notes: Bellefleur
Review and production notes: Matt allair
Page Editor: XScribe
1x01 Deep Throat
1x04 The Jersey Devil
1x06 Ghost in the Machine
1x09 Fallen Angel
1x12 Beyond the Sea
1x13 Gender Bender
1x15 Young at Heart
1x17 Miracle Man
1x19 Darkness Falls
1x21 Born Again
1x23 The Erlenmeyer Flask
Crew Production Credits