The problem with Hollywood is that they can rarely depict religion from anywhere but the outside. This makes for rather two-dimensional viewing. Chris Carter and Howard Gordon gave an objective look at Southern Christian culture the old college try, but as Yoda said, “Do or do not, there is no try.”
What do we end up getting? We get a sideshow circus on a bad cable access channel, not the Church in America. To be fair, some of the stereotyping is necessary. Like Mulder and Scully, the audience has to be inclined to discount what they see initially in order for the ending to be all the more powerful. We wouldn’t have a startling surprise if the Reverend felt legit from the get go. Understood.
But I have a couple of bones to pick, if not with the Reverend’s ham-handed portrayal, then with the script. A Reverend, particularly a Southern one, would never say, “Rise up and heal” he would say “Rise up and be healed.” And that line about “This is the power of belief”? No. Pentecostal preachers don’t lounge in their Lay-Z-Boys reading The Secret. Most of all, he would never, ever say, “Samuel will heal you” or say to Samuel the words, “The grace and goodness of your healing power.” That’s akin to blasphemy. They bring in FBI consultants for the show, right? Well, they couldn’t find a preacher??
I’m critiquing the Reverend since I can’t critique Samuel, as he’s not supposed to be an Evangelical at all. Apparently, he’s a psychic healer who uses techniques found in Eastern medicine to fix people’s “energies.” This explains why Samuel can say “I have healed” rather than “God has healed” without being declared anathema. As Tina would say, what’s God got to do with it?
I know I’m nitpicking and that is in some ways unfair. Most people may not even catch the finer points of difference I’m dredging up. But it’s the little things that lend authenticity to a tale. And if I’m going to get wrapped up in the story than I need to believe that the characters are who they say they are.
No matter. Don’t mind me. I only sound bothered. I actually couldn’t care less about this episode. But, ah, therein lies the problem.
And the Verdict is…
I did say that there is a general trend upward in episode quality during the last half of Season 1. It’s a very general trend. “Miracle Man” represents a slight dip. How boring would it be if the graph just went straight up?
If Samuel and both of his antagonists were more empathetic, gripping characters, this might have worked. My suspicion is that this episode is stretched too thin with 4 prominent guest stars sharing screen time. We can’t fully appreciate a single one of them. Their emotions run deep but we only see the surface of their resentments and hear exposition about the rest. And if 4 wasn’t a difficult enough number to manage, let’s add the spectral figure of Samantha Mulder as a distracting complication.
Samuel should have been the focus. Then again, his bad boy behavior isn’t convincing. He’s a moping, petulant child the entire episode. That is, until he turns into a Christ-like figure led as an innocent sheep before the slaughter. Then he finally shuts up. I take it back. That was more than enough of Samuel.
Well, it’s not all bad. This is about as open-minded as we’ve ever seen Scully and the hints dropped about her own background of faith are well worth the watch. And both Mulder and Scully respect Samuel. If Scully doesn’t absolutely believe him she doesn’t absolutely discount him either. At the very least, writers Chris Carter and Howard Gordon are trying to tell us that faith shouldn’t be so easily dismissed, no matter how seemingly ridiculous the messenger. That’s something worth taking away.
A well-meaning if less than anointed episode. A more successful attempt will come much, much later with “Signs and Wonders” (7×9).
P.S. For a great example of how to imitate Evangelicals believably see The Apostle with Robert Duvall. The man was brilliant.
All it takes is a few well-placed potatoes and you have a plague of locusts on your hands? I bet no one told Moses.
Since when are autopsies anti-scriptural? Sounds more like a convenient plot device.
I believe this is the second episode to feature Mulder’s Elvis obsession. I’d better start keeping track.
A pink mansion. And here I thought pink Cadillacs were ostentatious.
Mulder: I think I saw some of these same people at Woodstock.
Scully: You weren’t at Woodstock.
Mulder: I saw the movie.
Scully: I was raised a Catholic and I have a certain… familiarity with The Scripture. And God never lets the Devil steal the show.
Mulder: You must’ve really liked The Exorcist.
Scully: One of my favorite movies.
Scully: You’ve got that look on your face, Mulder.
Mulder: What look is that?
Scully: The kind when you’ve forgotten your keys and you’re trying to figure out how to get back in the house.