The X-Files

Season 3 Episode 14

Grotesque

1
Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Feb 02, 1996 on FOX
SUBMIT REVIEW

Episode Fan Reviews (14)

8.3
out of 10
Average
284 votes
  • 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!!!!!!!!!
  • "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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mulder descends.

    9.8
    Continuing a run of exemplary episodes, "Grotesque" is the antithesis of the lighter stories we have been enjoying lately. It is a dark excursion into an insane mind. And with its electric blue tone, gargoyle imagery and, more disturbingly, severed heads encased in clay, it's also one of the most frightening and genuinely unsettling episodes we've had in quite a while. It is in fact the stuff of nightmares. Primarily "Grotesque" acts as an insight into Mulder's mind. Underneath his normally light-hearted exterior, Mulder was once of course a star pupil at the Behavioural Science Unit. Given that he was often knocking heads with the indomitable presence of Kurtwood Smith as his boss, George Patterson, it's little wonder that he opted for light relief in the basement office. It's a combative relationship ("I wouldn't want to disappoint you by not disappointing you"), and one that Scully responds to by defending Mulder in front of Patterson wherever possible. But often Mulder's behaviour is very hard to defend. His distance, and his seeming involvement in the removal of crucial evidence, all gives Scully cause for concern (and in a paternal way, Skinner too), but frankly, when Mulder descends into the abyss, there isn't an awful lot that Scully can do to help him. Unable to physically break through to him, she backs him up in the only way she knows, by tackling Patterson directly. But what a dark place Mulder unflinchingly goes to. And the further into the recesses of the insane mind that he goes, the bluer the lighting becomes. There have rarely been episodes of this show that look this stunning – the depths of the blues, the flashing red lights of the police cars – and it's little wonder that cinematographer John S. Bartley won an Emmy for his outstanding work here. Couple that with a dissonant score from Mark Snow and the mood of the piece is well established. Wonderful to see that David Duchovny is well up to the challenge of portraying this tortured Mulder. Gone are the glib witticisms and in their place is a haunted man, sinking ever deeper into a place he doesn't want to visit but is compelled to. The actor too seems as unafraid as his character in going down into the murky depths, and it certainly marks a refreshing change in what we usually expect from Duchovny. But his director Kim Manners is well up to the task too. This kind of material is ideally suited to his stylistic talents. And he is certainly very empathetic to the goings on in the episode. In the latter stages, you can see that he resorts to a much greater use of handheld camera to symbolise the shakiness of both Mulder's and Patterson's minds. And let's not forget Howard Gordon's script. Its level of insight into Mulder's character, as well as the fact that it is a riveting story, means that this journey "into the dark…[to stare] into the abyss, into the laughing face of madness" must rank as one of the highpoints of the season, let alone the series. 10/10
  • Mulder...OOC? Or Did We Learn Something About Him?

    10
    I absolutely LOVE this episode. I don't believe this was Out of Character. I belive that is lead us to a darker, more disturbed side of the one we love, yes, Fox Mulder.

    He seriously went out on a limb, got into the mind of the killer and morphed into someone else. It was intriguing to watch him. Looking back, it scared the hell out of Scully. It was a completely different Mulder. Yes, still dedicated to the job but to the extreme. Agent Patterson, the killer? Wow! He requested Mulder for the case. Why you ask? Of course Mulder (and he knew this) would be the one to solve this horrid case. Possibly scared of himself and what he was capable of...he called in the best. The crimes committed were something typical but the way the writers played with it...and the reasons they gave for the act of these crimes is why I love it. The clay that Mulder tainted as he mused about the case...wow! Such a strong scene. Even more so, the scene when, Scully, walked into Mulders apartment and saw all the new pictures...Mulders "wallpaper" covering his...well, wall. It wasn't the normal Mulder that we're use to. It was something new and I loved it!

    Not sure why people rated this in the 6's. Huh? Don't know what they were watching but it was a deeper side of Mulder that typically doesn't not shine through and he did a superb job of pulling it off. Loved the anguish role in this...

    ~Snyder~
  • It's always fun when Mulder is acting crazy.

    8.5
    This was the first episode of th X Files I have ever watched, and I thought it was pretty scary. I was suprised how dark it was and it was well written. We learn a little about Mulder's past. It is an example of one of the many X Files epsiodes that could easily stand alone as a movie. It was very cinematic and well made. It could have used more Scully.
  • This episode is really good, but not for everyone.

    8.5
    As darkness goes on the X-Files, it usually comes from the outside, in the form of extraterrestrials, CSM, a nasty Syndicate, or some illwilled paranormal nasty. In 'Grotesque' the darkness explored is the darkness that lies within. The story of this episode, where Mulder attempts to gain the respect of a former mentor by delving into the mind of a serial killer who is plagued by a monster. This is one of the first highly stylized episodes of the first four seasons, it is filmed with a sort of blueish filter, and it really takes place really within Mulder's mind. Now, this episode is really good, but it isn't for everyone. It is very different from any other X-files episode and it really doesn't rely at all on the characters of Mulder and Scully. That is, perhaps, its only real failing. 'Grotesque' does involve the Mulder/Scully relationship, but it isn't rooted firmly in character development. The 'monster' Mulder chases gets more and more realistic, until he finally realizes who it is, which is a very stylistic way of approaching this storyline. This episode is one of my favorites, but it must be noted that it is not going to please all the x-philes out there.
  • Mulder's Heart of Darkness

    6.5
    The storyline is a mess and we never really find out much about the killer (other than he really, really likes to draw gargoyle faces). The meat of the story is really concerned with the relationship between Mulder and his old teacher, who has been investigating the murders for three years. Mulder dives into the investigation and immerses himself so deeply into it that he literally breaks into the locked, secret room that the killer uses to hide his victims (symbolically perhaps the killer's tormented inner soul). Mulder gives us some fine acting here, much better than most of the previous few episodes. Eventually, Mulder confronts his old mentor (who has turned to the dark side) and by defeating him is able to emerge into the light (kind of like how Luke defeats Vader in the original Star Wars).
  • too many coincidences

    6.0
    “Grotesque” is about gargoyles. Some guy murders people, claiming to be possessed by a gargoyle. Mulder and Skully investigate. Mulder goes all nut job for half and episode, and Skully just pisses me off. Anyhow, this episode tried my patience- and it amazing that Im even writing a review for it. Ok, it wasn’t crap but it was just one of those episodes that get under the skin and goes all the way. I would say it was an average episode but there are too many coincidences and at the end I was like WTF??? I don’t know what else to say. 5 out of 10

  • An killer/artist claims he was possessed, and then Mulder starts acting all strange...

    6.0
    So, some artist is arrested for killing people, but claims he was possessed. Then the killings continue even when he's in prison, so obviously Mulder and Scully get involved. But it seems as though Mulder is getting too involved with the case, and people start the suspect him as the new killer...

    Although this episode wasn't really terrible, I didn't like it. The whole 'demon/devil possession' was all a bit too familiar, and I felt the storyline just didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. I thought it was totally out of character that Mulder was using the methods of some-one he didn't like, and I felt that his obsessive nature towards the case was just plain silly. Not my favourite.
  • The one with the Gargoyles

    8.7
    ‘Grotesque’ was a good episode with a dark undertown and surprising twist. But it’s still not one of the X-files highlights.

    It begins with a naked guy being painted, he noticed that a perve is watching him, but not for the reasons he thinks. The one who is drawing him is having like, a weird attack and he draws a gargoyle on his painting, well the young man ends up dead and maimed.

    Soon the weird guy is caught and taken to jail, Mulder and Scully have been send to investigate the crime but the detective (who doesn’t like Mulder, or so it seems) acts strangely, he wants to get the case behind him because he has been working on it for a while now. What I don’t like or get about his character is that he is standing in Mulder’s way at the beginning but apparently he is the one who made Skinner give this job and he is the one who tells Sully to back off and let Mulder do his work, then why was he being such a pain in the ass at first?

    Anyway, so I’m also not sure if it were really gargoyles the ones doing the murders. Also in the clay gargoyles are put on heads of men.

    Then they find Mulder’s hand prints on a murder weapon and both Scully and Skinner are concerned. When Mulder goes to a clay space he finds the guy who worked with the detective dead, the murderer was the detective. Because he went into the killer’s shoes and became it. Then Scully walks in again and miss screw-face lets the detective escape.

    When Mulder is able to get him he shoots but not kills, the detective goes out of his mind and in jail he paints the face of a gargoyle.
  • David Duchovny provides an unnerving performance in this solid episode.

    8.5
    Grotesque is appropriately named in terms of atmospheric storytelling but is not at all applicable in terms of episode quality. This hauntingly dark and nerve-wracking episode makes for a most enjoyable hour in the realms of The X-Files universe.

    When a string of murders involving the de-facing of several male youths appears to be solved, the paranormal does not seem to be involved in the episode. Except for one thing...what was that artist drawing?

    It turns out to be a gargoyle, a creature drawn to rid the surroundings of an evil spirit. And when the string of murders appears to continue even after the suspected serial killer is arrested, Mulder and Scully begin to investigate. What transpires afterward is an interesting analysis into the violent crimes investigative persona. Agent Bill Patterson (played convincingly by Kurtwood Smith) and Mulder have a history -- an unpleasant one. Mulder is convinced that Patterson believes that to understand the monster (i.e., criminal) you must become the monster.

    This is the theme of the episode. Mulder's open-mindedness comes in direct conflict (and strangely complement) to Patterson's mental connection to those he investigates. The hour culminates in a cat-and-mouse sequence that is convincingly taut and emphasized with personal conflict. Duchovny is superb in this episode, bringing a most believable combination of insanity and fear into his role.

    When Mulder's behavior becomes unstable, Scully finds an ally in Skinner. Scully finds Mulder investigating sculpted gargoyles -- together they learn that Patterson has indeed become the monster.

    This episode is appropriately dark. Very little light is found in the episode (and is appropriate when found -- take Skinner's scene, for example). The X-Files has always been known for its effective (and often disorienting) use of light and dark -- this episode is certainly evidence of that talent in action.

    What I like more about the episode is the eerie darkness and quiet of the characters. Everyone's performance seems subdued, almost to the point of paralysis in some cases. This characteristic adds to the suspense.

    While Howard Gordon episodes are occasionally disorganized to the point of incoherence (which occasionally occurs in this episode), he often provides taut and unnerving suspense. He does so here in fine method and manner. Grotesque is aptly named in style but not in substance.
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