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Recap / The X-Files S06 E16 "Alpha"

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Season 6, Episode 16:

"That's an Asian dog. Supposed to have been extinct for the last 150 years."
Written by Jeffrey Bell
Directed by Peter Markle

Karin: Classic dominant-alpha territorial behaviour.
Mulder: No. This animal seems to have ranged many miles to make its attacks. In each case it seems to have outsmarted or at least tricked its victims.

Mulder and Scully, with the help of an introverted canine expert (Melinda Culea) and an enigmatic cryptozoologist (Andrew Robinson), investigate the Wanshang Dhole, a shapeshifting killer canine.


  • Bittersweet Ending: Karin lies to Mulder so he will be safely far away while she kills the Wanshang Dhole herself. She succeeds at the cost of her own life, ending the Dhole's murders. The episode ends with a saddened, contemplative Mulder receiving Karin's "I Want To Believe" poster and hanging it up in his office.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Scully gets noticeably territorial over Mulder towards Karin Berquist through the episode.
  • Danger Takes A Back Seat: The Dhole, to kill Cahn. It doesn't succeed in killing him, but, as seen below, it probably managed to curse him.
  • Glowing Eyes: The Wanshang Dhole has a pair of glowing orange eyes.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Karin lies to Mulder, saying that the Wanshang Dhole will be in the Los Angeles County Hospital. This is because she wants to face the creature at her own home, and give up her life to put it down for good.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The Washang Dhole ends up impaled on a pole after it crashes through a window with its last victim.
  • It's Personal: Cahn, after his partner's killed by the dhole, defies his orders and tries to kill rather than capture the animal. Of course, the dhole winds up getting to him first.
  • The Killer in Me: Dr. Dettweiler. He initially feigns ignorance, but Mulder and Berquist both figure out fairly quickly that he's known for a while.
  • Tragic Keepsake: The second "I Want To Believe" poster Mulder hangs up in the X-Files office, which used to belong to Karin.
  • Monster of the Week: A shapeshifting cryptid from China. It is loosely based on real Chinese legends of shapeshifting wolves and foxes, though non-Wanshang dholes are relatively small and mostly harmless-to-human canids.note 
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Its bite turns people into were-dholes.
  • Pungeon Master: Mulder throughout the episode, thanks to that doggone Wanshang Dhole. Even Scully gets in on it a bit.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Dhole's eyes turn bright orange right before it goes in for the kill.
  • Shapeshifting: The Dhole can impersonate both humans and other dogs, apparently.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The alternate ending shows Cahn turning over in bed with glowing eyes, indicating that he was cursed.

"Maybe what she did was the highest form of compliment."