Thursday, September 3, 2015

The X-Files - S3:E14 "Grotesque"

[ S3:E13 "Syzygy" <<< Season 3 >>> S3:E15 "Piper Maru" ]

After all these experimental and comedic episodes, it's nice to have a traditional monster-of-the-week episode again, just to remind you that this is still The X-Files you're watching. I would say that even if this wasn't necessarily one of the best episodes of the season, but I do indeed think it is The X-Files at its darkest, and yet most brilliant. Kurtwood Smith (whom you'll remember as Red Forman on That '70s Show) guest stars as an investigator who specializes in behavioral science - and has some history with Mulder - in this gothic noir about an artist/serial killer who claims to be possessed by a gargoyle.

Scully presumes it to be simply a case of madness, until a copycat murder occurs after the prime suspect has been taken into custody. Mulder goes on a psychological hunt to determine what dark force is involved, but he goes too deep, and risks implicating himself in the murders. Mark Snow's musical score once again deserves mention in this episode. The only point where the episode falters is in its usage of the "throw a cat at the camera" tactic for a cheap scare - but maybe that wasn't as clichéd back in 1996 as it is now. If you want an example of the monster-of-the-week formula perfected, look no further than this episode. It's what people mean when they say that the monster-of-the-week episodes are like mini-horror films made for TV.

Memorable quotes:

John Mostow: It laughs at fools like you. And you - fools who would pretend evil can be brought to heel like a brindle bitch, or be held by your pathetic gulags. While with a snap of its finger, it makes men lick the greasy floor of hell. Just to see its reflection.

Bill Patterson: So what is it, Mulder? Little green men? Evil spirits? Hounds of Hell?

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.

Mulder: The name is from the French - "gargouille" - the name of a medieval dragon that prowled the river Seine, whose horrible image became the symbol of the souls of the condemned, turned to stone. Or of the devils and demons of the underworld spared eternal damnation. The embodiment of the lesser forces of the universe who inspired dread, and the threat of our own damnation. Ushers into hell or into the realm of our own dark fears and imagination. For over 1200 years the grotesque image has found its expression in stone, clay, wood, oil, and charcoal, born again and again as if resurrecting itself by its own will through tortured human expression, almost as if it existed, haunting men inwardly, so that it might haunt mankind for eternity - as it must have haunted John Mostow. But what impulses moved him to kill? Could this be the same dark force at work, its ultimate expression the destruction of the flesh? Of the very hand that creates it? Is this evil something born in each of us, crouching in the shadow of every human soul, waiting to emerge - a monster that violates our bodies and twists our will to do its bidding? Is this the monster called madness?

Bill 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.

(This is the kind of drama this series needs - Mulder & Scully against the world, not Mulder & Scully against each other).

Bill Patterson: My advice to you, Scully: let Mulder do what he has to do. Don't get in his way, and don't try to hold him back. Because you won't be able to.

(Surprisingly, this is a man who really understands Mulder (and respects his talents) - maybe even better than Scully herself - although it's not obvious from the way he outwardly treats him. On the other hand, he's using him to solve a case, and what Scully understands is that sometimes, if left to his own devices, Mulder would destroy himself in pursuit of answers, and so he needs that tempering influence. That's why Mulder and Scully work so well together).

John Mostow: You have felt its hunger, felt your bones rattled by its frozen breath. So you know, nothing can be done.

John Mostow: You can't find it. Only it can find you. already has.

Mulder: We work in the dark. We do what we can to battle the evil that would otherwise destroy us. But if a man's character is his fate, this fight is not a choice, but a calling. Yet sometimes the weight of this burden causes us to falter, breaching the fragile fortress of our mind, allowing the monsters without to turn within. And we are left alone, staring into the abyss - into the laughing face of madness.

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