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"Shapes" is the nineteenth episode of the first season of The X-Files. The episode first aired in the United States on April 1, 1994 on the Fox network. It was written by Marilyn Osborn and directed by David Nutter, and is a "Monster-of-the-week" story, independent of the series' mythology arc.


The shooting of a Native American draws Mulder and Scully into a mystery involving lycanthropy, the phenomenon that opened the X-files.


FBI agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder travel to a remote town in Montana to investigate the killing of a Native American man, Joseph Goodensnake, by local ranch owner Jim Parker. The killing initially appears to be motivated by a dispute over the ownership of a tract of land, although Parker claims that he had fired upon a monstrous animal rather than a human. Parker's son Lyle bears scars that appear to lend credence to his father's story.

At the scene of the shooting, Scully reasons that at the short range from which Goodensnake was shot, it would have been impossible to mistake him for an animal. However, Mulder finds tracks leading to the area that appear to change from human to something more animal in nature. He also finds a large section of human skin nearby. Scully dismisses his theory. She believes that the Parkers knowingly killed Goodensnake, but neither agent believe the pair would have skinned him—and the body was not reported to have been skinned. The matter is complicated by the difficulties Mulder and Scully have with dealing with the Native American population, stemming from the Wounded Knee incident in 1973. Goodensnake's sister Gwen is also bitter that her neighbors are too frightened of native legends to confront his death.

Despite these misgivings, the agents find a seeming ally in Sheriff Charles Tskany, who permits Scully to make a cursory examination of Goodensnake's body, but following the customs of his people forbids a full autopsy. Upon investigating the body, they discover that he has elongated canine teeth, similar to those of an animal, and bears long-healed scars similar to those borne by Lyle. Mulder shares with Scully his belief that the case is connected to the first X-File officially opened, in 1946, concerning a series of savage maulings which Mulder believes are the work of werewolves. Scully dismisses this theory and instead credits the belief to clinical lycanthropy. Goodensnake's body is cremated in a traditional ceremony, while the agents watch from a distance. Lyle Parker rides to near the funeral pyre site to try to pay his respects, but is chased away by Gwen.

Later that night, the elder Parker is attacked on his front porch and ripped apart by an unseen animal. During the investigation the next morning, Scully finds Lyle lying naked and unconscious in the nearby forest. Ish, one of the elder men of the reservation, explains to Mulder the legend of the manitou, a creature which can possess and transform a man, and which can pass to a new host upon the death of the original. Ish believes he had seen the creature in his youth, but was too frightened to confront it. An examination of Lyle Parker reveals his father's blood in his stomach, making it clear that he has in fact become the manitou's new host, though not before he is released from the hospital. Scully drives him home to the Parker Ranch and he becomes ill, locking himself in the bathroom. That night Mulder and Tskany hurry to the Parker ranch, quickly finding themselves in a violent confrontation with the monster. Sheriff Tskany shoots it dead, only to see it transform back into Lyle. As the agents leave, they learn that Gwen has disappeared, whilst Ish cryptically warns that he will see the agents in "about eight years".


Joseph Goodensnake; J. Edgar Hoover; Lewis and Clark Expedition; Lycanthropy; Manitou; Native American; Wolf


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Guest Starring


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