Re-Opening The X-Files: Syzygy, Grotesque


Scully: I’m driving. Why do you always have to drive? Because you’re the guy? Because you’re the big, macho man?
Mulder: No. I was just never sure your little feet could reach the pedals.

Today’s look back gives us guest appearances by two actors who will later be part of Fox’s That 70’s Show.  I’ll leave you draw your own assumptions…


Or as I like to think of it — Chris Carter tries to write like Darin Morgan.  And doesn’t really quite succeed.

Coming right after “War of the Coprophages” this installment feels like Carter is trying to emulate the quippy one-liners that are (just one of) the highlights of the Darin Morgan episodes without necessarily understanding what makes those episodes funny.   Part of what makes Morgan’s episodes work is they are poking fun at the series’ conventions and tweaking them a bit.  This one, by contrast, just seems a bit more mean-spirited in how it depicts the characters — not just Mulder and Scully but everyone we meet in the small town of Comity.

I recall that when this one first aired, fans began to wonder if there was some kind of rift developing between our two leads.  It could have started in “Revelations” with Mulder’s lack of support in Scully’s belief and continued to develop to this point.  And while we can look back and see that the mean-spirited lines and tension between these two are because of the phase of the moon that is creating the havoc in this small town, it still doesn’t seem to be done for any other reason than to make jokes at the other’s expense and have Scully get jealous — again.

I often wonder if this one had aired somewhere else in the season and not on the heels of “War” if it might have been better received.

It probably doesn’t help that we get a repeat of Mulder meets a female who makes Scully jealous trope here. Though  I will admit Mulder’s obsession with someone wearing his favorite perfume does give me a bit of a chuckle as does his excuse that he’s trying to slay the “horned beast.”  And speaking of feeling like this one is borrowing from other installments, I can’t help but feel that it also pulls from “Die Hand Der Verleltz.”

There are some good performance here.  The two evil cheerleaders plotline has potential and includes Eric Foreman’s sister before she was cast on That 70’s Show.

This one is memorable — but not necessarily in a good way.


On the other hand, “Grotesque” is a pretty solid monster of the week installment with some really good visual work.

In season one, I noted that every time we brought back someone from Mulder or Scully’s past they were either a former flame or colleague who was going to go off the rails before the episode’s end.  This one is in that same vein, but I’d argue that the former boss coming back to work with Mulder again works better because of the acting job done by Kurtwood Smith.  It’s a shame that he turns out to be the culprit here because, man, he had potential to be an interesting recurring character.  (Imagine the tag team of Patterson and Skinner reading Mulder the riot act).

Asking Mulder to act oddly and become too connected to the case is interesting — and it’s nice to see that Patterson is using Mulder’s reputation against him and to deflect suspicion.  This one includes a lot of really nice visual work and a creepy score by Mark Snow to help add up to one of the better monster of the week episodes from the season.  It was an episode that I always felt should have been included in the “best of” VHS releases back in the day.

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Filed under Re-Opening the X-Files, review, The X-Files, TV review

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