The Truth Is My Design: Hannibal and The X-Files
What would happen if two of TV’s most beloved profilers teamed up? I’m talking, of course, about Fox Mulder of The X-Files and Will Graham from Hannibal. Both are good at using their unique skills at catching serial killers, both work for the FBI in some capacity. Although we could easily fall down an Archive Of Our Own rabbit hole (and what fun that would be!), an example of what might happen were the two men to meet already exists. Sort of: “Grotesque,” Episode 14 of Season 3 of The X-Files.
In this episode, a man named John Mostow is haunted by the image of a gargoyle that he claims instructs him to kill. He’s subsequently arrested for the murders of seven men. Mulder gets Scully up to speed on the case, and the description of the victims sounds like the “Glasgow Smile” from Hannibal’s Season 1 episode, “Buffet Froid.”
MULDER: Well, according to the ME there was no evidence of any sexual assault. Death was caused by massive blood loss due to facial mutilation. We also reported that the wound pattern on all the victims was identical. It's all there on page three.
SCULLY: Both eyes punctured... signature gashes from the corners of the mouth to the ears.
Complicating matters is the fact that not only has another victim been found while Mostow has been in jail, but also that the lead investigator on the case represents a nemesis to Mulder: Agent Bill Patterson, who interestingly enough, runs the Behavioral Science Unit out of Quantico. He’s The X-Files’ Jack Crawford.
When Mulder explains to Patterson his theory, that Mostow is being tormented by an evil being of some kind, he scoffs:
PATTERSON: Come on, Mulder. I don't need a history lesson. And I don't need anyone indulging this guy's story.
MULDER: I was asked to look into this case. If you've got a problem with that I suggest you take it up with AD Skinner.
The animosity is obvious and Scully asks Mulder about it afterwards. “Yeah, Patterson had this thing about wanting to track a killer,” Mulder explains, “to know an artist, you have to look at his art. It really meant, if you want to catch a monster, you have to become one yourself.”
This sounds an awful lot like the fragile teacup we all know as an extremely skilled eideteker, Will Graham.
Back at Mostow’s apartment full of gargoyle sketches, Mulder finds a hidden room full of gargoyle sculptures. These aren’t ordinary sculptures; Mostow was apparently a huge fan of Vincent Price in The House Of Wax.
In the meantime, someone else is then attacked and Scully and Patterson’s partner Nemhauser show up at the hospital to question the victim and discuss the case. Nemhauser tries to convince Scully that Patterson is a bigger Mulder fanboy than anyone previously suspected:
SCULLY: Mulder's under the impression that Patterson never thought too highly of hm.
NEMHAUSER: No. That's just Patterson. Late at night, with a few beers in him, he starts telling me Mulder stories. He's some kind of crack genius.
Once again, we see the parallels between Patterson as Crawford and Mulder as Graham. But this episode isn’t done with us.
Mulder is researching gargoyles at the library when Patterson shows up. They argue, and later Scully goes to Mulder’s apartment. What she finds is disturbing and decidedly Will Graham-esque: sketches of gargoyles adorn the walls. In the next scene, Mulder is sculpting one out of clay in Mostow’s studio. One half expects to see Mostow leap out of the corner and ask “DO YOU SEE?” like Garret Jacob Hobbes.
Someone does leap out of the darkness and attacks Mulder, slashing him across the face. At a later crime scene, Scully is worried. Mulder had turned off his cell phone and she couldn’t reach him.
SCULLY: You still haven't told what you were doing in Mostow's studio.
MULDER: I was working.
SCULLY: AT 3:30 in the morning? Mulder, I haven't seen or spoken to you in almost two days. You haven't been returning my calls--
MULDER: This thing exists, Scully. It's real.
SCULLY: It? What are you talking about?
Is Mulder suffering from anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis or what? A frustrated Scully approaches Patterson to find out exactly what’s going on.
PATTERSON: I asked for Mulder because ... I want to close the book on this God-forsaken case once and for all.
SCULLY: And you knew that he could help you solve it.
PATTERSON: My advice to you, Scully... Let Mulder do what he needs on this case. Don't get in his way and don't try to hold him back, because you won't be able to.
It’s not “you said he wouldn’t get too close!” Alana Bloom-style, but it’s in the same ballpark. Mulder visits his own personal Hannibal Lecter, John Mostow, to get the old scent back: “You have to help me go deeper. You have to help me get inside his head. Just how he got inside yours so I can find out what it wants.”
Scully, like Beverly Katz, is looking at evidence to try and fit these increasingly confusing puzzle pieces together. A technician has discovered Mulder’s fingerprints on a razor blade found at the crime scene. Now Scully is really concerned, and she indicates as much to Skinner when he calls her into his office.
Mulder has a nightmare, and when he wakes, he goes back to Mostow’s studio. Scully calls and wonders if Nemhauser is there; he’d left a voice mail for her earlier. A phone rings and Mulder answers. Scully tells him about her discovery:
SCULLY: Mulder, that knife that we recovered at the crime scene, I think it's the same one that Mostow used.
MULDER: What makes you say that?
SCULLY: Because Mostow's was stolen from evidence.
SCULLY: I was hoping you could tell me. Your prints were all over it.
MULDER: Yeah. I examined Mostow's knife yesterday in the evidence room.
MULDER: Because I wanted to hold it. Wanted to see what it felt like in my hand.
Scully says she’s coming over but someone else shows up first: Patterson. It was Nemhauser’s phone Mulder had answered because Nemhauser is lying dead on the floor. Mulder realizes now that it was Patterson who was the copycat killer and we breathe a sigh a relief that Mulder hasn’t gone full Will Graham. He confronts Patterson with the truth, and a gun:
MULDER: You're here because John Mostow stole three years of your life. Every day and every night for three years you lived and breathed the horror show that was in his head and I'm sorry... imagining everything that he imagined. Sinking deeper and deeper into the ugliness that you taught us to do. When you finally caught him, it didn't just go away, and the violence... it stayed alive inside you ... til it had to come out. You didn't want to do what you were doing. You wanted to stop but you couldn't. Not by yourself. That's why you called on me in the first place, why you couldn't kill me when you had the chance.
Scully arrives and in that moment of distraction, Patterson knocks Scully over and runs off. Mulder chases after him. They struggle. There is a gunshot. Patterson has been wounded. Scully and Mulder call for an ambulance.
Later, an incarcerated Patterson screams from the bars of his cell. Mulder’s voice ends the episode:
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, it's not a choice but a calling. Sometimes the weight of this burden causes us to falter. From the fragile fortress of our mind. Allowing the monster without to turn within. We are left alone staring into the abyss. Into the laughing face of madness.