The X-Files

Season 3 Episode 14

Grotesque

1
Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Feb 02, 1996 on FOX
8.3
out of 10
User Rating
286 votes
14

EPISODE REVIEWS
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Episode Summary

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A serial killer is captured after a three year manhunt and he claims an evil spirit is responsible for the crimes. When the killings continue as he sits in jail, Mulder's battle with a former colleague gets more heated when he suggests that something more paranormal may be involved.moreless

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • Grotesque

    10
    Grotesque was another perfect and entertaining episode of The X-Files. I really enjoyed watching because there was a lot of character development for Mulder and Scully as they investigated a peculiar case. The story was interesting and engaging and I liked how the case was one from Mulder's past. The guest cast was amazing and very talented as usual. Certain scenes were pretty scary and the sets were very suitable for the story. I liked how every thing played out in typical X-Files fashion. I look forward to watching what happens next!!!!!!!!!moreless
  • "Is this the monster called Madness?" No, Mulder, it's much scarier than that: It's Red Forman!!

    8.0
    Howard Gordon turns in a beautiful portrait of evil and madness intertwined in "Grotesque", where we see Mulder finally demonstrating the skills that made him a legend in the Bureau's Behavioral Sciences Unit even as he earned the nickname "Spooky". His foray into this heart of darkness reminds us that, until recently, society did not distinguish between madness and evil, and that even today we ignore the terrible price some must pay in tracking the monsters among us.

    "If you want to catch a monster, you must become one yourself." Mulder remembers Patterson's lessons all too well, and in the next half hour descends through the circles of Hell, taking on the camouflage of his prey in an almost shamanic journey. He covers his walls with diabolical icons so he can see through the killer's eyes. He puts his hands where the killer's have been--on the murder weapon, on the concealing clay, on the walls and furniture of his home. He sleeps where the killer has slept, summoning into himself not only the spirit of the murderer's surroundings but the spirit of murder itself. Kim Manners poses him like one of the leering gargoyles in Mostow's studio, bathing Mulder in a cold and dispassionate light, as one who has ceased to look on his fellow humans as brothers but has joined the ranks of the predators. His one concession to sanity, the one lifeline Mulder leaves himself, is Dana Scully. He shuts her out deliberately, sparing her as much as possible the ugly trip into madness he must make, letting her rescue him as Patterson has tried to make Mulder rescue him from the descent into corruption.

    Mulder sinks into the heart of madness almost without the use of dialogue. His defiant attitude toward Patterson shows us a disappointed Mulder, a man whose hero worship was cracked by confronting the reality of the man himself, who has never really learned how to deal with hostile authority figures. I loved the soft bewilderment in his voice as Mulder tells Scully, "But I didn't take it!", the subtle shifts during his conversations with Scully about Patterson, the sorrow on his face as he realizes he has shot his idol and guru. Best of all, the confrontation scene between Mulder and Patterson shows Mulder's fundamental ability to keep his head even in the eye of a nightmare, and find his way out of a maze that has brought low a man of more experience and expertise. Applause to David Duchovny for a very subtle performance.

    Kurtwood Smith (aka Red Forman, dumbasses!) turns in a wonderful performance as the hard-nosed investigator who does not see the trap his prey has sprung on him. Poor pitiful Patterson, who realizes too late that Mulder is right, knowing in the deepest reaches of his soul, where he refuses to look, that the demon has moved in and taken over. Because Mulder is not afraid to look into the eye of the gargoyle, he survives: Patterson's refusal to admit the danger in his investigation makes him easy prey. The confrontation scene between Mulder and Patterson in the warehouse was stunning: Mulder finds compassion even in the midst of his anger ("I'm sorry!") and Patterson comes up short as his anger gives way to sudden realization ("Look at your hands. Now tell me what you're doing here."). How terrible to find yourself at last gazing on your own reflection--and recognize the demon looking out of your own eyes.

    "Grotesque" could have turned out flat and cartoonish, but magnificent cinematic work add layers of meaning to a shaft of light, a shadow, a ripple of rainwater down a windowpane. Images like surrealist portraits play across the screen: Mulder's face superimposed on a gargoyle outside a window, the almost palpable darkness of Mostow's secret studio, the tortured features of a gallery of gargoyles contrasting with Mulder's closed, abstracted face. When Mulder and Scully pass back and forth before the projected images, the blood and bruises play across their faces, turning them both into living gargoyles for a moment.

    The combination of all three talents in the service of one story is dynamite. The red herring of the agent's bitten hand, the subtle clue in the mutilation victim's reaction to seeing his attacker in his own hospital room, the barely-glimpsed demon mask of the attacking Patterson all added up to a tense and suspenseful hour. A well-done, exciting episode.moreless
  • Mulder goes insane

    7.5
    For the second episode in a row, I found myself not necessarily believing in Mulder's motives and actions. The episode gets points from me for being intense and not exactly revealing to us what happened until the very end, but the whole point of the episode (Mulder doing everything the killer does to find the actual killer) felt a little over the top. I know that Mulder wants the truth, but I always saw him as going for the truth in terms of extraterrestrial life and figuring out where his sister is. It was also the second episode in a row where the dynamic between Mulder and Scully felt strained, and I always thought their relationship was a lot better than that.



    The guy who plays Red in That 70's Show made a guest appearance here, as did Skinner in a brief scene with Scully, and although it was nice to see the guy who plays Red here, he didn't really add anything and I was a little confused at what was actually going on with him.



    But I can't give enough kudos to David Duchovney here. His character and his acting have been superb in this third season, and it definitely seems as if the show is going out of its way to show the cracks in his demeanor. He's usually a pretty level-headed guy but it seems the stress of everything has been getting to him lately. Another good stand-alone episode, although I would've liked it if we got a little bit more explanation. The writers of the show do a great job of setting us up and an awful job at explaining everything in the end.moreless
  • Is this what really happens when you get so obssessed?

    8.5
    And the question goes for both Mulder and the agent. Mulder's behavior is understandable because we know the guy. He is paranoid and yes, he is obssessive and when he is trying to find out the truth, nothing or nobody can stop him, even Scully.



    I share Scully's concern for Mulder. At this point of the season, she knows him enough to notice any strange behavior and she also knows what he is capable of doing, to solve a case. How awful it must've been for her to see his fingerprints on that knife.



    It was creepy to see Mulder's apartment covered in those drawings. But he needed to be in the mind of the assassin in order to find him.moreless
  • Nietzsche Files

    9.4
    "He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."-Nietzsche



    One of the best x files episodes and it deals with the above quote directly. You doubt Mulder for most of the episode as it seems the above is happening to him, but rest assured it isn't so. The episode is one of the darkest, most frightening episodes I've seen of the x-files, and one of the most well shot. It's definitely the stand out episode in season 3, not counting the mythology episodes.moreless
Susan Bain

Susan Bain

Agent Sheherlis

Guest Star

Kasper Michaels

Kasper Michaels

Young Agent

Guest Star

Zoran Vukelic

Zoran Vukelic

Peter (The Model)

Guest Star

Mitch Pileggi

Mitch Pileggi

Assistant Director Walter Skinner

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

FILTER BY TYPE

  • TRIVIA (4)

    • Principal Setting:
      Washington, D.C.

    • As the medic said "you're all set" the butterfly bandages on Mulder's eyes are set so one is pointed upward and the other is pointed to the top of his ear 24:06, but when Scully mentions his new "wallpaper" the bandages are set different, they are slightly overlapped and both are now pointing the same way 25:01.

    • I don't know what sources Mulder is looking at, but everyone else knows "gargoyle" comes from the French gargouille, which refers to the throat. Gargoyles are carved figures that cover up drain spouts and make a gargling sound as water flows out of their mouths.

    • When Scully and Mulder first visit John Mostow he says that he drew all the pictures of Gargoyles, which would have been a pretty good act considering he was in a strait jacket and would not have been allowed to have paper and drawing materials anyway.

  • QUOTES (5)

    • Mulder: John Mostow. Unemployed house painter, divorced, no children. He came to the US from Uzbekistan during prerystroyka. He failed to mention on his INS application that he spent the better part of his 20s in an insane asylum.
      Scully: He was arrested last week for the serial murders of at least seven men.
      Mulder: You thought all they produced were great hockey players.

    • Agent Patterson: So what is it Mulder? Little green men? Evil spirits? Hounds of Hell?
      Mulder: Scully, this is Bill Patterson. He runs the investigative support unit out of Quantico.
      Scully: Yes, I know. Behavioral Science, you wrote the book. It's an honor, sir.
      Agent Patterson: Is that what you think too? (Scully gives Patterson a questioning look) That the suspect is possessed by some dark spirit?
      Scully: No, not at all, sir.
      Agent Patterson: Strange company you keep, then.
      Mulder: That's what always amazed me about you, Bill. How you never fit your own profile. No one would ever guess how really mean-spirited you are.

    • Patterson: I have to tell you. I am really disappointed in you.
      Mulder: Well, I wouldn't want to disappoint you by not disappointing you.

    • Mulder: Patterson had this saying about tracking a killer: If you wanted to know an artist, you had to look at his art. What he really meant was if you wanted to catch a monster, you had to become one yourself.

    • Scully: You're not going to tell me when your love affair with Patterson ended?
      Mulder: Patterson never liked me.
      Scully: I thought you were considered his fair-haired boy when you joined the bureau.
      Mulder: Not by Patterson.
      Scully: Why not?
      Mulder: Didn't want to get my knees dirty.

  • NOTES (4)

  • ALLUSIONS (1)

    • The concept of a man coating human corpses with clay to make sculpture was used prominently in the 1959 Roger Corman film, A Bucket of Blood, written by the late Charles B. Griffith.

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