The X-Files (1996) – Grotesque, and Piper Maru

Howard Gordon delivers a script for Grotesque, a monster of the week episode, that won the series an Emmy for cinematography, and gives us a moody piece that first aired on 2 February, 1996.

Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) are requested by Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) to help the head of the Behavioural Unit, Bill Patterson (Kurtwood Smith) on a serial killer case that has nearly broken him. They’ve recently arrested an artist, John Mostow (Levani) for the murders, but the artists insists that it is not him, but a demon that wants to see itself, and has possessed him. Mostow has been drawing and creating gargoyles, a type of grotesque, to keep himself safe, and potentially protect others.

Mulder becomes obsessed with the case, sinking deeper and deeper into it, until he becomes one of the suspects when the killings continue, despite Mostow being locked up. Is Mulder and Mostow right? There is a demon out there, stalking and killing, all for its own nefarious purposes, or is there a more rational explanation.

Scully and Skinner admit to worrying about Mulder in this episode, as he sinks deeper and deeper into the case. There’s even a red herring (or two) to divert attention from who the demon is possessing, but honestly, when you have a guest star like Smith, you’re going to use him… so that reveal isn’t much of a surprise.

This episode is incredibly moody, beautifully shot, and a little unnerving with all the sketches and sculptures of monstrous faces that pop up throughout the episode.

Piper Maru takes us back into mythology arc territory, and garnered Anderson her first Emmy nomination for her portrayal of Scully. Written by Frank Spotnitz and series creator Chris Carter, it also introduced black oil to the mythology.

While the case on Scully’s murdered sister is closed, causing Scully some problems,a ship, called the Piper Maru, has discovered a P-51 at the bottom of the ocean. And in a troubling sequence, we glimpse someone still alive inside the cockpit,his eyes glistening blackly, which then takes over the diver exploring the plane.

The government tries to cover things up by saying this is one of the planes carrying a bomb to be used during the Second World War, but Mulder believes that the radiation detected from the plane, and whatever was recovered from it, are alien in nature.

Scully follows up the government story, which leads her to an old family friend (and horrible model work with a submarine used in a flashback) and revelations about the lost plane, the black oi, and the radiation it causes.

Mulder, meanwhile is trusting his instincts and tracking down other leads that support his contention that this is an alien object.

Skinner gets warned off the case, but it’s not enough to stop Mulder and Scully, and Mulder bumps into a familiar face, Krycek (Nicholas Lea)… someone now carrying the black oil… which leads us right into a To Be Continued ending.

There are more revelations coming, because the truth is out there…

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