All Souls 5×17: I’m immune to your mockery.


All the captions I think of feel somehow sacreligious…

Ah, the Enigmatic Dr. Scully. It turns out that on the sly, or in between commercial breaks, however you choose to see it, the formerly lapsed Catholic has been attending church almost on the regular since the events of “Redux II” (5×3).

Why do I suspect Mulder knows nothing about this development?

But why doth our lovely doctor look so solemn on Easter Sunday of all days? Could it be there’s a little Catholic Guilt weighing her down.

More than it is a spiritual follow up to “Revelations” (3×11), “All Souls” is an emotional follow up to “Emily” (5×7). Scully is questioning the decision she made at the end of “Emily” not to fight to save her own daughter, but to allow her to die a relatively peaceful death rather than live in potential agony only to have certain death to look forward to. Scully feels very sure at that moment of a decision that I on the other side of the television screen still have qualms about, but now it seems that her conviction has grown thin. I wonder how she’d feel if she knew about that little green vial Mulder kept hidden from her…

Scully now wonders whether it was really God’s will that she allow Emily or the young disabled girl to die, whether she was working as His instrument or not. And more than that, she’s having a Job moment; Scully can’t understand why God has allowed these girls and herself to be in such a painful position in the first place, why the innocent sometimes reap the reward of the guilty.

It’s a question older than the Book of Psalms and one that writers Spotnitz and Shiban wisely don’t attempt to answer. Instead, they choose to reaffirm Scully’s faith that reasons exist even if she doesn’t know what they are.

Yet despite it’s worthy motives, “All Souls” falls somewhat flat. Maybe if more time had been spent elaborating on the implications, spiritual and otherwise, of the apocryphal legend of the Nephilim. Or maybe if there weren’t quite so many red herrings leaving the viewer even more unsure of what just happened than Scully herself. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it’s a little boring and a tad confusing. Even Gillian Anderson’s valiantly acted angst fails to completely pull me in to the story.

Speaking of which, I think I’ve officially had my quota of Sad-Eyed Scully for one season.

I always thought that up until Season 8, Season 4 was Scully’s angstiest season but it appears I always thought wrong. I can think of 3 episodes in Season 4 where Scully faced some sort of emotional crossroad: “Never Again” (4×13), “Memento Mori” (4×15) and “Elegy” (4×22). Season 5 is already at 4: “Redux II”, “Christmas Carol” (5×5), “Emily” and “All Souls”. This isn’t even counting the emotional slap in the face she’ll receive in “The End” (5×20)…

I realize that Scully’s lovely when she’s somber but would it have been possible to have an episode centered around her faith that left her cheerful rather than crying in a confessional booth?

Maybe because I have a tendency to skip both “Revelations” and “All Souls” on my usual rewatches, I never appreciated how exactly the director referenced the previous episode’s shots of Scully in the confessional – just in case we missed the fact that both episodes center around Scully’s Catholicism. “All Souls” even ends exactly like “Revelations” with Scully beautifully lit in a confessional booth giving us a pithy statement about faith. It’s not quite as compelling the second time around, but the continuity is noted and appreciated.

And the Verdict is…

Amazing how Mulder flat out refuses to believe there’s anything spiritual going on when it comes to Christianity. Vampires? Sure. Werewolves? Why not. Jesus? You must be kidding.

I’m sorry, but Mulder, my dearest Mulder, is a right and proper jerk this episode. Didn’t he learn anything from the ending of “Revelations” when he realized that he’d been wrong to write off those involved in the case as religious wackos and that he’d alienated his partner through his insensitivity?

Judging between the two episodes, and a couple of earlier ones, I think Mulder’s problem is that when he’s skeptical, which isn’t often, he has the undiplomatic habit of scoffing at other people’s credulity. It’s not pretty. Scully, for all she may raise an eyebrow at Mulder’s theories, usually respects the man if not the idea. Mulder has a way of dismissing both the message and the messenger.

He doesn’t say, “Willikers, Scully, we both know that stranger things have happened but I just don’t think this is the case here and here’s why.” Oh no. Instead he makes quips about psychotic believers convinced they’re hearing from a non-existent God – a category that Scully is uncomfortably forced to conclude she falls into.

No doubt about it, Mulder has a chip on his shoulder when it comes to the church. Praise be, he’ll later redeem himself (no pun intended) in “Signs & Wonders” (7×9) after “Orison” (7×7) softens him up a bit.

B

Apocrypha

I’ve seen “All Souls” probably 6 or 7 times but I only just figured out that the Seraphim is a separate entity from the demon caseworker – a clear reflection of my level of interest in this episode.

I’m not Catholic so I’m no expert, but why were Dara’s parents having her baptized on a dark and stormy night 6 years down the road rather than immediately or thereabouts after she was adopted? Like baptizing an infant, wouldn’t they have wanted some insurance for her soul sooner instead of later?

Scully goes to church on Easter Sunday, stops at the family’s house and learns about their daughter, then goes to the pathologist’s office on the same day. That’s one busy little bee.

Mulder doesn’t even show up until 14 minutes into the episode not counting commercial interference. And once he shows up I’d rather he weren’t there.

Best Quotes:

Scully: As much as I have my faith, Father, I am a scientist, trained to weigh evidence. But science only teaches us how… not why…

——————

Mulder: Look, Scully, I know you don’t… really want my help on this, but can I offer my… professional opinion? You got a bona fide super-crazy religious wacko on your hands.

——————

Mulder: I know people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones blah blah blah, but that guy is paranoid!

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28 responses to “All Souls 5×17: I’m immune to your mockery.

  1. I agree that this is a “meh” episode. I like “Revelations” better anyway since it feels like a better written episode.

    • I think you’re right. In this one, the Nephilim plot feels like a means to an end to bring closure to the Emily story arc. As such, it’s kind of throwaway.

  2. Yeah, you’d think Mulder’s experiences being belittled for his beliefs would make him a bit more tolerant and sympathetic towards the beliefs of others. But I think that’s not uncommon–I feel that sometimes when people say “I’m very open-minded,” what they mean is “I have a very finite set of beliefs but they’re different from what everyone else believes, so I feel very self-congratulatory about mine.” Mulder’s open to unusual possibilities, so I think he, Scully and the audience tend to think of him being open to all possibilities, but in some ways he’s not.

    And this has always bugged me about him but I’ve never really thought about why before, so I’m sorry if I’m rambling and you can feel free to skip this. But really, his beliefs become a lens through which he views the world; they color what he does and what he thinks and what he sees. As much as he laughs at Scully a bit for her insistence that everything must have a scientific explanation, is he really so much better than her in his assumption that everything has to do with the paranormal or a government conspiracy?

    I guess that’s one reason he and Scully work so well together; they each bring their own set of ideas to the table–he brings the extreme, she brings the every-day–and usually between the two of them can arrive at the truth. Can you imagine if he had a partner who was like him? Can you imagine Mulder and Reyes as partners on the X-Files? And wouldn’t it be hilarious to watch that show, with them feeding off each other without Scully and Doggett to be the voice of reason? “It could be a ghost.” “Yeah, or a demon.” “Or maybe a demon ghost.” “A demon ghost created by our government to cover up their heinous crimes against the American people?” “And it wants to eat our souls?” “And maybe it’s FROM SPACE?”

    • I feel that sometimes when people say “I’m very open-minded,” what they mean is “I have a very finite set of beliefs but they’re different from what everyone else believes, so I feel very self-congratulatory about mine.” Mulder’s open to unusual possibilities, so I think he, Scully and the audience tend to think of him being open to all possibilities, but in some ways he’s not.

      That’s brilliant right there!

      As much as he laughs at Scully a bit for her insistence that everything must have a scientific explanation, is he really so much better than her in his assumption that everything has to do with the paranormal or a government conspiracy?

      But seriously.

      Can you imagine if he had a partner who was like him? Can you imagine Mulder and Reyes as partners on the X-Files? And wouldn’t it be hilarious to watch that show, with them feeding off each other without Scully and Doggett to be the voice of reason? “It could be a ghost.” “Yeah, or a demon.” “Or maybe a demon ghost.” “A demon ghost created by our government to cover up their heinous crimes against the American people?” “And it wants to eat our souls?” “And maybe it’s FROM SPACE?”

      Now see, this is why despite the fact that he tortured Scully to the contrary, I don’t believe Mulder was ever seriously excited at the prospect of Diana Fowley coming back – He was far more interesting, and far more successful, without her.

    • Is it a ghost demon or a demon ghost?

  3. I don’t know about anybody else, but I have an issue with a storyline that says that it’s alright to kill disabled girls as long as it’s God and His Angels doing the killing.

    Great work by Gillian though as always.

    • I didn’t think of it as “kill” more like “rescue”, but then, that’s what bothers me about the whole extended Emily storyline and the idea that some people are better off dead. The subtext here wears uneasy on my stomach.

    • I don’t think the script was written this way.
      This is your interpretation.

      If you are a faithful person (I’m not), you’ll believe that your life is just a preparation to heaven and being recalled by God is not something to be afraid of, or something bad.

      In a more practical way, I’d rather have God taking the life of those girls instead of Satan, wouldn’t you ?

  4. Well, my issue is that the girls dies under very horrific circumstances, but yeah, the subtext is really disturbing in this one.

  5. Exactly, the writers have come up with a combination of a questionable narrative, God taking the souls of innocent young girls, which is okay, I don’t mind something a bit challenging, but the mode of death is something they’ve seem to have come up with because it sounds and looks cool. I’m not so fine with that.

    • I suspect you’re right and they just wanted something with some shock value to it. They could have had the girls drop dead with no apparent cause of death but let there be a distinctly floral odor coming from the corpses and that would have done the job as far as the plot is concerned. Sleepy as this episode is, though, they probably were trying to find a bang to grab the audience’s attention. Problem is, it still doesn’t work.

  6. I will say this though, I like a good bit of continuity in my episodes and it was pretty nice to see Father McHugh (not sure if that’s the correct spelling) and a return to those little character threads between himself and Scully being carried over from the Redux episodes.

  7. Okay. Any episode that relates to Emily I automatically am skeptical of, because I hated the Emily storyline so freaking much. Father McCue describes the offspring of the seraphim as “souls of angels that weren’t meant to be”…. if that isn’t a blatant parallel to Emily I don’t know what is. Ugh.

    I thought there was an interesting dynamic between Scully and Father McCue at the end though. Father McCue denounces what Scully knows in her heart she saw as a figment of her imagination… solely because it was a story but something not accepted by the Catholic Church. I just wondered if that was part of the multi-faceted wedge between Scully and her faith. It’s like this love-hate relationship (for lack of a better term)… Belief and skepticism… Which is quite obviously a struggle reflected within her throughout the entire series – and not always regarding faith.

    Anyway, this episode was decent. Mulder was a real a-hole the whole episode (though LOL @ his scurrying into the adult cinema when he tells Scully he’s tailing a suspect). I think the episode is decent only because I really enjoy the stories that make Scully question her faith, because I think that aspect of Scully’s character was always so interesting to me. I feel like her devotion to her faith is something that makes her a bit more human (and not to say those who do not have faith are not human – I guess I see it as something that, in Scully, makes her quite vulnerable, so thus, human… here you have this hard-nosed, brilliant scientist/doctor, which and quite easily knock down Mulder’s hair-brained theories, but she can buy the Catholicism thing? And you make the inverse point with Mulder which is also true – Mulder can believe in werewolves and vampires, but not God? This dynamic is quite interesting – and I guess it goes to show that despite the packaging and the backgrounds and whatever else – inherently, they are both much more similar than they let on to the casual viewer). So I always enjoy those challenges she has – though this episode fell short with the whole Emily flashback thing and blah blah blah.

    Gillian, however, was wonderful.

    And yes, also agree – who gets baptized on a dark and stormy night? LOL.

    • That scene was hilarious. Scully’s having a dark night of the soul while Mulder is subjecting his soul to… well… a dark night.

      I’m with you, though. Not that I think their needs to be nor is their any actual conflict between science and religion, but I love that Scully’s uncertainty when it comes to both of her great faiths fleshes out her character so well. We humans are full of these kinds of contradictions and her struggle just makes her more real. Same thing goes for Mulder, although his walking contradictions are less endearing and more irritating this episode. They really are like two opposite sides of the same coin. Maybe two coins that have been welded together in a random disruption of time and space. *cough*

  8. I love this episode for some reason. I like the idea of Catholicism, although I generally dislike its practices. Anyway.

    There is one thing in this eppy that really disgusts me. When Scully is examining one of the dead girls, she puts her gloved fingers all over the body. A few moments later, she sees a vision of Emily and PUTS THAT SAME GLOVED HAND OVER HER MOUTH. Ew.

    • A few moments later, she sees a vision of Emily and PUTS THAT SAME GLOVED HAND OVER HER MOUTH.

      YES!!! Someone calls it!! Horrendous. I can’t believe I didn’t mention it. Germaphobe over here!

  9. hi, please i have problem, i need to know song in this beginning, its at beginning, and after “theme” when scully arives in church. Its like woman chorus or something, i dont know, please help! 😀 thx for response

  10. I will be honest, I have never fully understood this side of Mulder. He is so willing to believe in the paranormal, supernatural, mythical and legendary creatures…etc. Yet, when it comes to miracles, religion, the Bible and spirituality, he completely and mindlessly kicks it out the front door. Like I said, I have never understood this side of him. There are so many moments in the “religious” type of episodes where I literally want to walk into the my television set and knock some sense into him, particularly in the episode “Revelations.” It is never fully explained as to why he is so willing to believe in almost everything else except a God and pretty much every other religion out there. Why does he feel this way about the church, religion and God? In cases like this, he never even stops to wonder if the Bible could be true on some level. He completely goes along with unexplained phenomena, yet he is so against the idea of miracles and belief in a God, which is an unexplainable phenomenon in it’s own right…

    Of course, then you have Scully who is the scientist and believes that there is nothing out of the answers of science, yet she believes in miracles, things that happen that can’t be explained, things done by the hand of God and for a purpose. She believes, to some extent, that there is a God. Yet, even believing in miracles…technically Unexplained Phenomenon! She can’t except that possibility of the type of unexplained phenomenon that Mulder believes so deeply in. Of course, they are two completely different types of phenomena, yet they are both so unexplainable. She is a scientist and a doctor who is trained to never overlook details, yet believes that there are details that are meant to be overlooked (if that makes any sense). I will admit though, I truly think that she respects Mulder’s theories when it comes to his area of “expertise,” much more than he respects hers when it comes to her faith.

    Now that I think about it, it’s a very interesting contradiction in both characters and between both characters. I wonder if the writers meant to do that, or if it just came out that way…

    • It is frustrating, and yet I know people like that! Which is why these contradictions actually make them feel more real as characters. People can be full of contradictions and undiagnosed hypocrisy. And the fundamentals of faith that Scully still holds to keep her from being too rigid and one-dimensional.

      Mulder, though, I want to slap sometimes.

  11. I thought this episode was frightening as hell (pun intended). I don’t know why, but something about the cataclysmic/ritual nature of the religious episodes really scares me. Maybe it’s my own Catholic guilt weighing me down…

    Anyway, a great performance by Gillian Anderson. She’s KILLIN’ it this season.

    • This and Season 6, fabulous seasons for Scully. The writers were treating her right and Gillian Anderson was on her game.

      Not that I can actually recall her being “off”…

  12. Pingback: Orison 7×7: Every moment of every day, the Devil waits for but an instant. | Musings of an X-Phile

  13. Pingback: Travelers 5×15: That’s what I did until I ran out of room. | Musings of an X-Phile

  14. I thought Gillian Anderson was excellent in this episode. She’s always great but especially this season, she really shines.

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