The X-Files #63: Grotesque

"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."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Mulder becomes obsessed with a man obsessed with gargoyles.

REVIEW: Mulder's past as a lead profiler comes back to haunt him when his would-be mentor Bill Patterson, played by - woo! - Kurtwood Smith calls on him to get into the head of a particularly disturbed serial killer who claims he was possessed. It's an interesting take on the "former colleague" element, because the relationship is antagonistic. And as with the best daddy issues-type stories, Mulder and Patterson seem to be in denial about how closely they resemble each other. Both are obsessive to the point of self-destruction, and as profilers, they tend to use empathy as a way to lose themselves into someone else's psychology. So Mulder becomes his old teacher/boss, then might be the copycat killer, but since Patterson is revealed to be that killer, Mulder really WAS just going to deep into his teacher's head after all. It's a neat play on identity, when you think about it.

So it's really too bad the episode doesn't quite work. A large part of it is the direction, which is perhaps too concerned with hiding the story's twists. Where I would normally applaud dark, moody lighting, in this case, the actions scenes just look murky and confusing. In the opener, we see a murder, then the killer getting caught, then are told a murder occurred five days after the capture, but no, not that murder, another murder. On first viewing, you'd be forgiven for wondering if scenes were in the right order. Happy to see Skinner get a scene - it's been a while - but though I appreciate his off-the-record concern for Mulder, it doesn't really lead to anything. In fact, Mulder's madness escalates rather quickly, and the audience loses track of time. Throwing demonic possession, the dark tea time of the soul (via Mulder's pretentious monologues) and gargoyles that either ward off demons, or really, hide mutilated corpses (monsters inside people, people inside monsters), doesn't do justice to any of these ideas.

But they did have an interesting serial murder case there - the gargoyled victims are pretty freaky - and something to say about the psychology of such individuals and those who track them. It'll lead to Chris Carter's second series, Millennium, which we'll get to in due course. As an X-File, it has the required ambiguity - is it profiling gone wrong or actual demonic possession? - but is frankly, a little muddled. I can't live on visceral shots of people cutting themselves on Exacto knives alone.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Thematically worthy, it fails in the editing and wannabe noir cinematography, I think.



Blog Archive


5 Things to Like Activities Advice Alien Nation Aliens Say the Darndest Things Alpha Flight Amalgam Ambush Bug Animal Man anime Aquaman Archetypes Archie Heroes Arrowed Asterix Atom Avengers Awards Babylon 5 Batman Battle Shovel Battlestar Galactica Black Canary BnB 2-in1 Books Booster Gold Buffy Canada Captain America Captain Marvel Cat CCGs Charlton Circles of Hell Comics Comics Code Approved Conan Contest Cooking Crisis Daredevil Dating Kara Zor-El Dating Lois Lane Dating Lucy Lane Dating Princess Diana DCAU Deadman Dial H Dice Dinosaur Island Dinosaurs Director Profiles Doctor Who Doom Patrol Down the Rabbit Hole Dr. Strange Encyclopedia Fantastic Four Fashion Nightmares Fiasco Films Within Films Flash Flushpoint Foldees French Friday Night Fights Fun with Covers Galleries Game design Gaming Geekly roundup Geeks Anonymous Geekwear Gimme That Star Trek Godzilla Golden Age Grant Morrison Great Match-Ups of Science Fiction Green Arrow Green Lantern Hawkman Hero Points Podcast Holidays House of Mystery Hulk Human Target Improv Inspiration Intersect Invasion Invasion Podcast Iron Man Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen JLA JSA Judge Dredd K9 the Series Kirby Motivationals Krypto Kung Fu Learning to Fly Legion Letters pages Liveblog Lonely Hearts Podcast Lord of the Rings Machine Man Motivationals Man-Thing Marquee Masters of the Universe Memes Memorable Moments Metal Men Metamorpho Micronauts Millennium Mini-Comics Monday Morning Macking Movies Mr. Terrific Music Nelvana of the Northern Lights Nightmare Fuel Number Ones Obituaries oHOTmu OR NOT? Old52 One Panel Outsiders Panels from Sheena Paper Dolls Play Podcast Polls Questionable Fridays Radio Rants Reaganocomics Recollected Red Bee Red Tornado Reign Retro-Comics Reviews Rom RPGs Sandman Sapphire & Steel Sarah Jane Adventures Saturday Morning Cartoons SBG for Girls Seasons of DWAITAS Secret Origins Podcast Secret Wars SF Silver Age Siskoid as Editor Siskoid's Mailbox Space 1999 Spectre Spider-Man Spring Cleaning ST non-fiction ST novels: DS9 ST novels: S.C.E. ST novels: The Shat ST novels: TNG ST novels: TOS Star Trek Suicide Squad Supergirl Superman Supershill Swamp Thing Tales from Earth-Prime Team Horrible Teen Titans That Franchise I Never Talk About The Prisoner The Thing Then and Now Theory Thor Thursdays of Two Worlds Time Capsule Timeslip Tintin Torchwood Tourist Traps of the Forgotten Realms Toys Turnarounds TV V Waking Life Warehouse 13 Websites What If? Who's This? Whoniverse-B Wikileaked Wonder Woman X-Files X-Men Zine