August 6, 2016
The X-Files 3.14, Grotesque: Who Says That Murder’s Not an Art?
Summary: An art class at George Washington University’s extension program is sketching a nude model. One of the students is super into his work, and has drawn the model as a gargoyle. When he tries to sharpen his pencil with a box-cutter, he cuts his finger, then uses his blood to color his gargoyle’s eye. As soon as class is over, he rushes off down the street under the watchful eye of a stone gargoyle. The model, Peter, heads to his car (which he’s parked in an alley, for some reason), but he can’t get in before someone attacks him.
The next morning, the artist, John Mostow, is ambushed in his apartment by the FBI. He bites one of the arresting agents, which isn’t going to help him at all. An agent stays behind to look at the gargoyle sketches all over the apartment. He finds a bloody box-cutter in Mostow’s art supplies, which we can probably assume is a suspected murder weapon.
Mulder tells Scully about the case, giving her details on Mostow, an Uzbekistani immigrant who spent time in a psych facility. He’s suspected of killing at least seven men. All of the victims died of blood loss after their faces were mutilated. Mostow claims he was possessed by a spirit. It’s been about a week since Mostow was arrested, but another victim was found last night a few miles away. Skinner wants Mulder and Scully to find out if they’re dealing with a copycat killer. P.S. Only members of the crime team know the details of the mutilations.
Mostow’s being held in a jail in Lorton, Virginia, and has been killing time by sketching on the floor. Mulder asks if his latest gargoyle is the spirit that makes him kill. Scully thinks it’s more likely that it’s an accomplice. Mostow calls the agents fools for thinking evil can be controlled. He’s surprised to hear that there’s been another murder – the spirit must have found someone new to possess.
The agent who stayed behind at the crime scene, summons Mulder and Scully to taunt Mulder about what kind of supernatural force they’re dealing with this time. Mulder knows the agent, Bill Patterson, who runs Quantico’s Investigative Support Unit. Scully’s honored to meet Patterson, who’s an expert on behavioral science. Mulder notes that Patterson could never fit his own profile – no one would know how mean he is.
Patterson says that he and his unit spent three years busting Mostow, so they’re a little ticked that there’s been another murder. Mulder’s surprised that Patterson thinks there could be another killer, since his profile said Mostow worked alone. Patterson denies that there’s an accomplice; they’re dealing with a copycat. The gargoyle drawings are Mostow’s attempts to keep his demon away, as per the traditional use of gargoyles. Patterson wants Mulder off the case, but that’s not his call.
Mulder and Scully head to Mostow’s apartment, discussing Mulder and Patterson’s rivalry. Scully guesses that Patterson hates Mulder because Mulder didn’t worship him the way other agents have. In fact, some agents joined the FBI to be like Patterson. Mulder doesn’t like Patterson’s theory that you have to become an artist to understand someone’s art. In truth, Patterson means that you have to become a monster to catch one.
The agents are surrounded by gargoyle sketches in the apartment, and Scully gets spooked by a cat, thinking one of the pictures had come to life. They discover a hidden room behind a wall, and Mulder finds clay gargoyles inside. Scully wonders why they’re in a secret room. Well, Scully, it’s because at least one of them contains a body. So he probably didn’t want that news getting out to people like you.
Meanwhile, a man is attached while firing something in a kiln. He survives, so the agents have someone to question about their new killer. Scully chats with Greg Nemhauser, one of Patterson’s agents, who thinks Patterson actually requested that Skinner assign Mulder to the case. Patterson seems to secretly admire Mulder’s work. Scully notices stitches on Nemhauser’s finger – he’s the agent Mostow bit during his arrest.
Patterson joins them, and Scully tells him that Mulder’s looking into the drawings. The latest victim’s heart monitor speeds up when Scully says Mulder suspects a second killer. Mulder’s currently in a library, reading up on gargoyles and how their images have existed for over a thousand years. It’s almost like they actually existed. He wonders if they’re a symbol of evil lurking inside people, waiting to emerge: “Is this the monster called madness?”
Mulder falls asleep doing his research, waking up when Patterson visits him. Patterson taunts him for reading books and calling it investigating, but Mulder says he’s following Patterson’s idea that you have to understand art to understand an artist. Patterson says he’s wasting his time – Mostow draws the same face over and over because he’s insane.
Mulder notes that Mostow also said the gargoyle wants to see its own reflection. Patterson only cares about the name of the new killer. Mulder brings up the theory of possession, but that just disappoints Patterson, who thought he’d outgrown that way of thinking. Mulder broods at a window, seeing a gargoyle staring back at him.
Scully goes to Mulder’s apartment (and we get a rare non-phone “Mulder, it’s me”), letting herself in because they’re totally married. He’s put up a bunch of Mostow’s sketches on his walls. Mulder’s now at Mostow’s apartment, studying a sketch and possibly hearing whispered voices. He gets some clay and begins to sculpt his own gargoyle in the secret room. Ultimately he falls asleep, waking up to see someone else in the apartment. There’s a chase that leads to a storage area, where the intruder cuts Mulder’s temple but doesn’t kill him.
Scully finds Mulder being tended to by a paramedic and chastises him for turning off his phone. She’s worried about him working in the middle of the night. She’s sure that Mostow had an accomplice, and that Mulder just thinks he saw something demon-esque. She’s also a little disturbed by the drawings in Mulder’s apartment. Scully brings up what Nemhauser said about Patterson’s request and says that she thinks Patterson is testing Mulder.
Mulder heads off alone while Scully pulls Patterson aside to confront him for what he’s doing to Mulder. She thinks he’s upset that Mulder quit his unit eight years ago and is trying to get payback. Patterson claims that he just wants Mulder’s help to close the case. They need to let Mulder do whatever he needs to do – not that Scully will be able to hold him back anyway. When Scully gets in her car to leave, she notices a blade sticking out of a tire of a police car. Under the car she finds the handle of a box-cutter.
Mulder goes to see Mostow again, wanting to know why the intruder in the apartment didn’t kill him. Mostow says Mulder wouldn’t understand. Mulder thinks he can stop the killer if Mostow tells him how to find it. Mostow insists that Mulder can’t find it, but the killer can find him – “maybe it already has.” Meanwhile, Scully gets the blade analyzed and learns that the fingerprints on it belong to Mulder.
Scully goes to check out the evidence from the case, but the murder weapon is missing. Skinner summons her, having already followed her train of thought about the blade from the tire being the same one that killed Mostow’s victims. He’d like to know what Scully thinks of Mulder’s current state of mind. She says she’s not worried about him, but Skinner knows she’s lying. He admits that he’s worried, too.
Mulder returns to Mostow’s apartment and is attacked by Patterson and Nemhauser. But don’t worry, it’s just a dream, and he’s actually at home. He goes to the apartment for real, finding a freshly sculpted gargoyle and a trail of blood (which the cat is licking – ew! Why is the cat still there anyway?? Where’s the SPCA?). The blood leads to a new victim.
Scully gets a message from Nemhauser, who was interrupted while leaving it. When she calls him back, Mulder hears the ringing phone in the apartment. Scully starts to wonder if Mulder knows where Nemhauser is. She asks if he knows what happened to the weapon, since his prints were on it. Mulder says he examined it in the evidence room, wanting to know what it was like to hold it, but he didn’t take it. Scully tells him she’s going to meet him and help him work things out.
Mulder gets distracted by the new gargoyle and pulls it apart to find Nemhauser underneath. He hears a noise behind him and spins around to see Patterson. Mulder thinks Patterson is the killer, and murdered Nemhauser when he caught on. He also thinks that Patterson is unstable and doesn’t even know what he did. After three years investigating Mostow, Patterson has turned into him. The evil and violence stayed inside him and finally came out.
Scully arrives and misinterprets the situation as her unstable partner holding a gun on an innocent man. Patterson takes off, and the other agents follow him to the roof of the building. Patterson attacks Mulder and they fight over Mulder’s gun. From the other side of the roof, Scully hears a gunshot and sees a body falling to another level of the roof. It’s Patterson, and he’s still alive to face the music for his crimes. Or, more accurately, to spend his time in jail yelling that he didn’t kill anyone. Mulder voices over about monsters and evil and staring into the abyss, just in case anyone didn’t get it already.
Thoughts: Patterson is played by Kurtwood Smith.
LOL at Mostow, who Mulder says is an unemployed housepainter, being able to afford such a huge apartment in D.C.
How does Mulder sleep with all those gargoyle drawings?
Was there a point to Nemhauser getting bitten? Were we supposed to think he was the second killer, and that Mostow’s evil transferred to him via the bite? Too bad I never suspected anyone other than Patterson.