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The Well-Manicured Man is a fictional character in the American science fiction television series The X-Files. He serves as an antagonist to FBI special agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), being a member of the sinister Syndicate the agents seek to foil. Introduced in the third season, the Well-Manicured Man served to highlight discord within the ranks of the Syndicate, and ultimately betrayed them by leaking information to Mulder before committing suicide in the series' first feature film.

Well-Manicured Man
The X-Files character
First appearance"The Blessing Way"
Last appearanceThe X-Files
Created byChris Carter
Portrayed byJohn Neville
Affiliated withThe Syndicate

The character of the Well-Manicured Man was portrayed by John Neville in all his appearances (eight episodes, and the feature film). According to the series' writers, the character represents a non-violent "voice of reason" amongst the series' antagonists. Neville's portrayal of the Well-Manicured Man has been positively received by critics, who have noted his "moral ambivalence" and "unnervingly genteel" manner.


Character arcEdit

Introduced at the beginning of the third season, the Well-Manicured Man is an English member of the Syndicate, a shadow organization within the United States government that exists to hide from the public the fact that aliens are planning to colonize the Earth. He is an important member of the Syndicate, along with The Smoking Man (William B. Davis) and The Elder, and was a friend of William Mulder earlier in his life.[1][2]

The Well-Manicured Man prefers subtlety to brute force, and will attempt to manipulate those in his way before using physical violence. Although the Syndicate's goals are opposed to those of Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), the Well-Manicured Man will, at times, aid them with clues or information, believing that letting out a certain amount of information would help to keep the two close, and consequently allow for them to be controlled.[1] The Well-Manicured Man openly despises The Smoking Man, seeing him as impulsive and unprofessional. The two maintain a bitter relationship within the Syndicate throughout the series. The Well-Manicured Man is instrumental in the Syndicate's secondary agenda, to develop a vaccination against the black oil used by the aliens as a means of mind control.[3][4][5] To this end, he works with Russian double agent Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea) to develop a vaccine, eventually testing it—successfully—on a Syndicate mole, Marita Covarrubias (Laurie Holden).[6][7]

In the 1998 feature film The X-Files, when Scully is infected with the black oil and taken to Antarctica, it is the Well-Manicured Man who, having grown disillusioned with the Syndicate, gives Mulder the coordinates needed to find her and a sample of the vaccine needed to cure Scully. The colonists had kept secret a secondary characteristic of the black oil—that those infected with it for prolonged periods would gestate a new colonist lifeform, killing the host. Upon discovering this, the Syndicate vowed to work more closely with the colonists in the hope of being spared this fate, while only the Well-Manicured Man wished to continue working on a vaccination for resistance. This rejection led to his betrayal of the Syndicate, and to him committing suicide by car bomb before his duplicity was discovered.[8][9]

Conceptual historyEdit

John Neville has stated that he was originally hired for just two episodes of the series, but that his character "was regularly brought back, because the audience simply doesn't know if he stands for good or evil".[10] Series creator Chris Carter has described the character in terms of his relationship with The Smoking Man, noting that the two characters can be seen as "differing in approach, differing in philosophy and differing in personality".[11] Writer Frank Spotnitz has described the Well-Manicured Man as "sort of the white knight to the Cigarette-Smoking Man's black knight in this chess game that we were playing".[12]

The character has also been described by Carter and Spotnitz as the "voice of reason" within the Syndicate, who "believes that violence is the wrong way to protect the secret" which they guard.[9] The Well-Manicured Man's suicide scene in the series' film adaptation went through several conceptual iterations, with outcomes being considered including an imploding car or suicide by concussion grenade, although ultimately a car bomb scene was decided upon.[9]


The character of the Well-Manicured Man has been positively received by critics. MTV's Tami Katzoff has called him a "legendary TV character", noting his "moral ambivalence about the work of his shadow organization" and his ability to show "empathy for Mulder and Scully".[13] Writing for The A.V. Club, Sean O'Neal praised the character's "unnervingly genteel" manner, noting that he represented the polar opposite of The Smoking Man.[14] Fellow A.V. Club writer Todd VanDerWerff has also been positive towards the Well-Manicured Man, feeling that the series would have benefited from making more use of the character.[15] The San Francisco Chronicle's Bob Graham has praised Neville's portrayal of the character in the feature film, calling his expository monologue "a Wagnerian demonstration of the art of declamation".[16] Writing for the Los Angeles Daily News, Michael Liedtke and George Avalos described the character as "white-haired, urbane, genteel[—]and dangerous", noting that he was "equally at ease in Virginia's horse country, the tony rooms of Manhattan's Upper West Side and the antiseptic halls of facilities that house bizarre medical experiments".[17] Den of Geek's countdown of "The Top 10 X-Files Baddies" described the Well-Manicured Man as a "super-smooth, super-creep Brit", noting that he served as "a 'boss' of sorts" for the Smoking Man.[18] Speaking of how the role eclipsed his other acting work, Neville has been quoted as saying "It's OK, though. [The X-Files] gave me a kind of profile that I didn't have before, and one shouldn't grumble about that".[19]


  1. ^ a b R.W. Goodwin (director); Chris Carter (writer) (September 22, 1995). "The Blessing Way". The X-Files. Season 3. Episode 1. Fox.
  2. ^ Lowry, pp. 231–233
  3. ^ Kim Manners (director); Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz (writers) (November 24, 1996). "Tunguska". The X-Files. Season 4. Episode 8. Fox.
  4. ^ Rob Bowman (director); Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz (writers) (December 1, 1996). "Terma". The X-Files. Season 4. Episode 9. Fox.
  5. ^ Meisler (1998), pp. 95–110
  6. ^ Chris Carter (writer and director); Frank Spotnitz (writer) (March 8, 1998). "The Red and the Black". The X-Files. Season 5. Episode 14. Fox.
  7. ^ Meisler (1999), pp. 187–196
  8. ^ Rob Bowman (director); Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz (writers) (June 19, 1998). The X-Files: Fight the Future (Motion picture). 20th Century Fox.
  9. ^ a b c Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz (narrators). The X-Files: Commentary (DVD). The X-Files: Fox.
  10. ^ Rosenthal, Daniel (March 8, 1999). "The one that got away". The Independent. Archived from the original on January 26, 2013. Retrieved April 14, 2012. (subscription required)
  11. ^ Chris Carter (narrator). Deleted Scenes: Tunguska (DVD). The X-Files: The Complete Fourth Season: Fox.
  12. ^ Hurwitz and Knowles, p. 73
  13. ^ Katzoff, Tami (November 22, 2011). "'X-Files' Actor John Neville Dies: Remembering The Well-Manicured Man". MTV. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
  14. ^ O'Neal, Sean (November 21, 2011). "R.I.P. John Neville, star of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen". The A.V. Club. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  15. ^ VanDerWerff, Todd (November 13, 2010). ""Tunguska"/"The Well-Worn Lock" | The X-Files/Millennium". The A.V. Club. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
  16. ^ Graham, Bob (October 16, 1998). "Conspiracy Marks the Spot / 'The X-Files' proves an intriguing thrill". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
  17. ^ Liedtke, Michael; Avalos, George (June 14, 1998). "Who's Who in 'X' World". Los Angeles Daily News. Archived from the original on March 29, 2015. Retrieved June 23, 2012. (subscription required)
  18. ^ "The Top 10 X-Files Baddies". Den of Geek. July 20, 2008. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
  19. ^ "Obituaries: John Neville, George Gallup Jr., Irving Geller". Los Angeles Times. November 24, 2011. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  • Hurwitz, Matt; Knowles, Chris (2008). The Complete X-Files. Insight Editions. ISBN 1-933784-80-6.
  • Lowry, Brian (1996). Trust No One: The Official Guide to the X-Files. Harper Prism. ISBN 0-06-105353-8.
  • Meisler, Andy (1998). I Want to Believe: The Official Guide to the X-Files Volume 3. Harper Prism. ISBN 0-06-105386-4.
  • Meisler, Andy (1999). Resist or Serve: The Official Guide to the X-Files Volume 4. Harper Prism. ISBN 0-06-107309-1.