Milagro 6×18: I live in my head.


I think therefore she is.

“After having worked on The X-Files for so many years and really spent so much time thinking about these characters of Mulder and Scully, you do fall in love with them a bit, you do obsess about them. You find yourself thinking about them for hours and hours and hours. And that’s what Milagro’s about. It’s about the power of that kind of obsession.”

                                                                                    – Frank Spotnitz

Yeah, me too, Frank. Only I don’t get paid for it.

You’ve heard it all about “Milagro” before. How writers Spotnitz and Shiban came up with the idea for it after commiserating over the trials and tribulations of the creative life. How the character of Padgett is really a stand-in for the writers on The X-Files, right down to his board full of index cards.

I’m going to let smarter, more academically disciplined heads than I grapple with the more intellectual issues that “Milagro” raises – authorial intent, metafiction and the viewer as voyeur. That’s not why I’m here. I have a much more simplistic outlook on the “Milagro” message: Dana Scully is a friend of mine.

“Au contraire,” you say, “Dana Scully doesn’t exist.”

“Au contraire,” I mimic, “Dana Scully exists absolutely.”

“There’s nothing wrong with my state of mental health. I like it here with my childhood friend. Here they come, those feelings again!”

                                                                               –       Men at Work

Dana Scully is real. She lives in my head. She probably lives in yours too. She gets around like that.

You see, an idea is real. It’s an intangible reality that’s as real as any physical manifestation. Faith is real. Hope is real. Love is real. No one outside of Karl Marx would call me crazy for believing that. But if I said to you that I would only believe Faith was real if I saw it standing before me, then I’d have earned my right to a padded cell.

Dana Scully is an idea. She started out in the mind of Chris Carter the Beloved, she was translated into the written word by various scribes, she was interpreted in the body of Gillian Anderson the Sacred, she was relayed through a series of messengers, directors, photographers and editors, and finally, she was accepted by faith into the hearts and minds of many a television addict.

Like a game of Telephone, it’s hardly doubtful that Dana Scully as she began is not the same Dana Scully that viewers know and love. Every hand she passes through shapes and creates her, including the audience that eventually receives her, until she is such a recognizable and independent form that even an objective observer can say, “That’s Dana Scully” or “That’s not Dana Scully” the same way they could say “That’s patriotism” or “That’s narcissism.” She’s her own entity, moving at her own speed and toward her own destination despite Chris Carter’s original best intentions. At least, that’s what “Milagro” is telling us.

Back when I first started to watch The X-Files I was watching reruns on FX and was way behind the current run of the show. Before I swore off the internet and chatrooms (see the upcoming “The Unnatural” review), I couldn’t resist doing a little investigating into the future of the Mulder/Scully relationship. You can only imagine my 14-year-old horror when I discovered that Chris Carter had sworn on a stack of show bibles that Mulder and Scully would never be a romantic pair. I’m not ashamed to say I felt something akin to panic.

So I did the only thing I could and attempted to console myself by watching more of The X-Files. I watched and was quickly comforted – What I saw didn’t match up with what Chris Carter had so adamantly avowed. It’s then that the rebellious thought occurred to me, “That man doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Said thought was accompanied by the dismissive facial expression only a 14-year-old can make.

Arrogant? Yes.

How can the viewer claim to know more than the creator? In my defense, I instinctively knew from watching the real Dana Scully what her Pygmalion-like creator may have still been in denial about, that come what may, she was falling in love with Fox Mulder. It didn’t matter what anyone else said, including Chris Carter. Scully told me. It was the gospel truth.

The more cynical among us might say that Carter eventually caved in the MSR department only because of fan pressure and potential ratings, but I’m not of a cynical turn. A Mulder/Scully romance would have happened eventually because their relationship naturally evolved irrespective of original intent or outside expectations. By Season 6, to keep them apart much longer would have been more unrealistic than a man-sized worm. My Philey Sense tells me that Chris Carter realized this and just went with the flow.

Philip Padgett, Scully’s creepy admirer, is a not so subtle, if far less socially adept, substitute for Carter himself as the writer whose character has escaped his control long enough to write her own script while he wasn’t looking. Like I said, intangible ≠ unreal. Scully is so much her own person, such a fully fleshed idea, that Padgett can no longer predict her choices. The question is then, did he ever really? Where does the writer’s intention end and the real Dana Scully begin?

I don’t know the answer to that exactly but I know that it’s not just the writer who creates her. According to that same game of Telephone I mentioned above, the idea of Dana Scully is communicated to a series of people through a series of mediums and the method of communication is in part what shapes her.

In a lot of ways, I bet life is easier for a novelist than a television writer. A novelist creates and idea and shapes it with words, communicating directly with his audience. A television writer sees his vision revised by several sets of minds and hands until what the viewers at home see may or may not be recognizable to him. But that’s just tough cookies.

Is it a wonder fans sometimes act like they own Scully? We’re partially responsible for creating her. Not that any of us can take credit for the original brilliance of idea that she is, but we’ve taken that idea and obsessed over it until it’s taken a concrete form in our own minds; she’s a shared idea. 10 Philes from 10 different countries with 10 different perspectives could sit around and talk about her like they all know her… because they all do. Great fiction tends to work like that. (For instance, I recognized Hogwarts the instant I saw it on the big screen. I had already seen it in my mind’s eye, after all. Funny, but my best friend whose mind’s eye doesn’t belong to me recognized it too.) And great characters live on long after you stop reading or watching them.

And I suppose that’s why The X-Files was/is a benchmark of fanfiction. It created characters whose adventures its audience couldn’t help but chronicle offscreen because they existed, waiting to be chronicled. After all, how could a TV show hold them anymore than it could hold you or me? In fanfiction, the viewer becomes the writer, flipping the natural order on its head but at the same time drawing even more attention to the heart of the process of characterization.

The milagro, the real miracle here is the mysterious power of the obsessive mind to create life where there was none. No, these earthly creators can’t breathe the physical breath of life into Dana Scully, but they can do pretty much everything shy of it, to the point where I sometimes find myself wondering how it could be possible that Dana Scully isn’t standing in front of me with eyebrow raised in inquisition the way Naciamento appears before Padgett…. though I suppose she’d come for Chris Carter first. But I’m next.

Right at this moment “Milagro” is playing in the background. And if Dana Scully were to plant her fingers on the bottom of my television screen and pull herself out only mild surprise would register on my face.

She already exists in my head, why shouldn’t she exist in my room?

No, I’m not done yet:

The great thing about “Milagro” is that there are so many intellectual and emotional questions raised on various levels that like any good work of fiction, there are many ways to read it. There isn’t another episode quite like it and it’s certainly more meta, and more overtly artistic, than The X-Files is usually comfortable with. That’s probably why it feels so personal.

While Shiban and Spotnitz rough drafted the idea of “Milagro”, it was Carter, the creator himself who wrote it up which is so fitting you’d thing someone had scripted it. What? You didn’t recognize his legendary purple prose? I swear, he must’ve been holding the thesaurus open with one hand for this one. All these years and I never realized he was actually holding back most episodes. Here he lets it all hang out, using his skills in flowery verbiage to purposeful effect by making it difficult to distinguish between the actual goings on of the Scully mind and the writer’s fantasy, for those are two separate things both in the world of “Milagro” and in this one.

Fortunately for all of us, the well-rounded Chris Carter is no Philip Padgett, though it’s possible he identifies with him all too well in some ways. Padgett is the worst kind of stereotype of a writer; awkward socialization, barren existence, overuse of highbrow language. And in his youthful arrogance he believes that as the author he actually has authority over his characters. Ha! He learns that lesson.

Padgett is wonderfully played by 1013 repeat offender John Hawkes, who previously guest starred on Millennium and auditioned for the role of Pinker Rawls in “Trevor” (6×17). The part of Padgett was actually written with him in mind so it’s not surprising that he fills it well. Somehow, despite his gratingly calm assurance and his Creepy McCreepy vibe Padgett manages to be an empathetic character. We start to glimpse his humanity when he first confronts Scully before the painting of the Sacred Heart, a scene that quietly reveals the root of this episode that’s all about the relationship between creator and created.

It’s the God-given desire to share love.

That’s what Padgett tries to explain to Scully through the story of Jesus and St. Margaret Mary. That’s why any creator creates, to share their heart, good, bad or indifferent. That’s what humans are designed to do is share the love in their hearts. Maybe for the writer that love is easier to express in writing. Maybe for the fan the writer’s love is easier to share in because it takes place in an alternate reality of fiction.

I’m going to shamelessly take Pagett’s story of Jesus’ Sacred Heart even further and say that in the same way the Creator speaks into existence fully formed personalities and then gives them free will, a human creator is at his best when he, through his love, forms an idea so powerful that it has a life of its own.

Why does the writer write? To share his heart. Why does the reader read or the watcher watch? To share the heart of the writer. Who is Dana Scully? She’s the collective beating hearts of the writers and the watchers. She’s the idea they all love.

“Imagine that.”

            – Philip Padgett

A

The Middle C of Consciousness:

Since when do 16-year-olds take out personal ads?

You want to stop the killings, Padgett? Here’s an idea, stop writing this drivel. You’re not Stephen King.

If I were Scully, no way I would have kept drinking Padgett’s coffee. Freaks like that drug people.

“I think you know me better than that, Mulder.” Scully isn’t good at lying to Mulder. She should stop trying, but she won’t – “En Ami” (7×15).

Scully’s spent so long trying avoid becoming the object of inappropriate or demeaning sexual desire on the job that she’s thrown out the baby with the bath water. She’s forgotten how flattering it can be to be admired. Well, the camera makes up for that because it takes its time admiring her here.

You’ll notice Scully’s top button stays unbuttoned this entire episode. Or at least when she’s wearing buttons.

I love that Mulder’s biggest argument against Pagett being able to imagine the truth before it occurs is that he can’t be accurate in what he wrote about Scully.

It’s interesting that Padgett realizes Scully’s already in love at a moment where, on the surface, she’s protecting Padgett. But really she’s protecting Mulder from himself.

Hegelian Self-Justification:

My favorite part about Padgett’s “Agent Scully is already in love” pronouncement… well, besides the smug satisfaction of knowing Chris Carter wrote that line himself, is how neither Mulder nor Scully are flustered by it. There isn’t a, “What??” reaction. It’s more like, “Hmm… where does this guy get his intel?” Neither of them are taken aback at all.

After that, somewhere in my imagination I used to think that Scully’s eyes followed Padgett while Mulder’s eyes followed Scully. However, I watched very, very closely this time. Several times. Mulder glances down at Scully, briefly, one time. But it’s a very telling time.

This is one of Mark Snow’s best scores.

According to Chris Carter, this is Sean Penn’s favorite episode.

I have to admit that it wasn’t till about half-way through my first viewing of this episode that I started enjoying it. It’s highly stylized so the tone and intent isn’t easy (for some of us) to lock onto. It took repeated viewings… and a college education… before the meta message of the author (Chris Carter) losing control of his characters (Mulder and Scully) sunk in. I still can’t say I adore it the way some fans do, but it does make me think.

That “Titian hair” line makes me smile because it recalls to mind my first obsession: Anne of Green Gables. What is it with me and redheads?

Real? Not real? The conversation continues… Who Really Writes the Stories?

Best Quotes:

Scully: Loneliness is a choice.
Padgett: So how about a cup of coffee?

——————

Padgett: By their nature words are imprecise and layered with meaning – the signs of things, not the things themselves. It’s difficult to say who’s in charge.

——————
Padgett: Big mistake. I misjudged her character, her interest in me.
Naciamento: Now we’re on to something.
Padgett: She’s only trying to get his attention but doesn’t know it.

——————

Naciamento: Why do I want their hearts?
Padgett: You tell me. Why do you do it?
Naciamento: I’m your character. You tell me. My reason is your reason.
Padgett: I want to feel love.
Naciamento: No. No. You had it right up to there. You were a tool of the truth. And when it finally arrives — when I arrive — you don’t want to see it.
Padgett: But what is the truth?
Naciamento: Man imagines that he, too, can open up his heart and expose the burning passion — the flames of charity — like the creator himself but… this is not in his power.

——————-

Padgett: I made a mistake myself.
Mulder: What’s that, Mr Padgett?
Padgett: In my book, I’d written that Agent Scully falls in love, but that’s obviously impossible. Agent Scully is already in love.

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58 responses to “Milagro 6×18: I live in my head.

  1. Wow….. Wow, wow, wow! I have been looking forward to this review since you started season 6 and I was not disappointed! One of your best reviews to date, in my opinion, and it really caused me to think. Thanks again for this awesome site and these phenomenal reviews!

  2. Confession time. I hated this episode the first time I watched it, I thought it over long at even forty five minutes, pretentious, boring and cheap (it basically takes place in Mulder’s apartment building and I get the impression they just kept redressing Mulder and Padgett’s apartments throughout the shoot), and then something happened. I caught it a second time on television when it was rerun and I rather enjoyed it, and then I got the boxset and I loved it even more and the things I hated about it I came to love. Weird. This is The X Files equivalent of a fine wine, it’s get better with age.

    This is a great, great review Salome, I think you may have outdid yourself this time. Well done 😉

    • I had a similar reaction. I didn’t hate it, I liked it okay, but I was confused. It went way over my head. Many years and many watches later and I’ve grown to appreciate it. It definitely goes a lot deeper than most episodes. I’m still more of a Pusher kinda gal, but I love that The X-Files is able to go places like this and it still feels like a coherent series. What other show could give you Triangle and Milagro in the same season and have it all make sense?

      Thanks much… although I’m not sure whether I’ve written a review or a testament.

  3. As expected, a beautiful review. I’m not even sure with what to start, aaa, so I apologise for the possibly incoherent comments that may follow. The late hour probably doesn’t improve my writing capabilities either.

    One part of dialogue that has fascinated me ever since the first-in-a-long-time rewatch in 2010 was Naciamento’s “Yes, you have love, like a thief has riches.” How do you feel about this? Is it an implication that just having the capacity of love (as a resource) is by no means an indication that that capacity will be invested wisely and not for harm, or perhaps that in Pagett’s case his capacity for love might not be oriented towards what is fair, that he’s trying to obtain what he cannot have and (as perhaps suggested by a later phrase by Naciamento) because his image of Scully as a character was a mistaken one, hence she should be discarded/destroyed?

    Actually, it took me a while to realise that this episode is more philosophical/conceptual than really Scully-centric – I’m a bit slow like that although it definitely is an ode to her. I am sure that my love for red-headed characters is Scully’s fault.

    In the wake of this episode I must also note that during the same rewatch around this episode I noticed on my own that the characters are starting to feel, whether for good or for bad, like real people about whom I’m watching a documentary show. In fact, I think that in good television it might be the involvement of so many people writing a character that can give a character credibility, the same way how different people will relay different stories and attitudes towards the same person in real life which would result in a tangible impression of a personality.

    The scene in which Scully utters the “You know me better than that, Mulder” is one which I could watch over and over again, to admire Gillian’s skill to portray genuine embarrassment about Mulder’s statement that she would sleep with the Stranger – I’d wager that this is the best scene of Scully being embarrassed in the whole series. Also, since this episode “naked pretzel” has become a favourite intercourse reference of mine. ;D

    Anyway, all in all this episode is a definite Top 10 favourite of mine because of the multitude to themes for thought and the execution – now that I think about it, this is probably the only purple prose episode where the prose doesn’t bother me at all – on the contrary, in Milagro, I happily lap up every bit of it, although it’ll probably still take rewatches and rewatches to fully take it in an appreciate it.

    • As expected, a beautiful review.

      You’re lovely.

      One part of dialogue that has fascinated me ever since the first-in-a-long-time rewatch in 2010 was Naciamento’s “Yes, you have love, like a thief has riches.” How do you feel about this?

      It may have a double meaning.

      1. That, like you said, he’s stealing a love that’s not rightfully his.
      2. That like a thief, he’s hoarding his love, unable or unwilling to share.

      Since Padgett makes it clear to Scully that he wants to love, I lean toward unable. He’s unable to share the love in his own heart and so he goes after Scully, taking riches that don’t belong to him. Buuuut I could also be reading too much into it – though with Milagro, I think we’re supposed to.

      Actually, it took me a while to realise that this episode is more philosophical/conceptual than really Scully-centric – I’m a bit slow like that although it definitely is an ode to her.

      Me too! I thought it was another character-based episode and I was always somewhat disturbed that my beloved Scully would fall, even a little, for this strange, strange man just because he liked her and she was lonely. My Scully isn’t that desperate. I understand her motivations, but still. HOWEVER, now I realize this isn’t really about Scully. This is about a writer who’s powerful enough to create but too impotent to control his own creation. I suspect this is the fate of all writers everywhere.

      I think that in good television it might be the involvement of so many people writing a character that can give a character credibility, the same way how different people will relay different stories and attitudes towards the same person in real life which would result in a tangible impression of a personality.

      Agreed. If the way that people treat us and respond to us is part of what makes us who we are, then how much more clay in the hands of many potters? Each writer adds to Scully just because of how they see or write her. For that matter, the way that the other actors/characters respond to her has as much, if not more to do with it.

      • “I was always somewhat disturbed that my beloved Scully would fall, even a little, for this strange, strange man just because he liked her and she was lonely. My Scully isn’t that desperate. I understand her motivations, but still. HOWEVER, now I realize this isn’t really about Scully.”

        Of course. But I think that a bit of hindsight also helps to not get distracted by the superficial suggestion of this episode. At least for me, Scully has officially been proclaimed to be in love with Mulder ever since “The End” (the go back to car scene to call Mulder) and there’s way too much build-up on that front for her to hook up with the first person who’d show a bit of affection for her just because she’s lonely. c:

  4. I’ll be honest. I didn’t see Milagro after it originally aired. Saw it exactly once. And at my teenage age of barely 16, I freakin’ hated it with a passion. I was blinded to the underlying message by the overt Scully/Padgett weirdness. It didn’t make sense to me. I’ve not seen it since then, either, but your review makes me want to view it in a new light…. at 1:55am. lol

    • I highly suggest giving it another try keeping the intentional surrealism of it in mind. I took it literally too the first few times which is what tripped me up. Scully’s behaving strangely because she’s being written strangely – the character in the hands of the writer. But eventually the writer finds out that no matter what he writes, she’s acting independently – the character takes over her own story.

      I understand the aversion because it wasn’t instant love for me either. Even now, it’s not love, it’s more like appreciation; kinda how I feel about modernist literature.

  5. I love Milagro. I LOVE it. I appreciate it so much more now that I’ve rewatched the series to better understand the mythology and to basically just relive the awesome. I felt like this was a necessary episode. Especially since the mythology sort of wrapped itself up a few episodes ago, I was left wondering, “What’s next?”. Not to say after that it turns into a love story afterwards (though the series is a huge subtle love story in and of itself)… anyway.

    Mark Snow proved himself to be among the gods with the score of this episode. Did he ever win awards for XF? I forget. I’m going to have to IMDB it. Mark Snow for ALL the awards.

    And I LOVE the symbolism of this episode. Here is a character (Scully) controlled by the writer (Padgett and Carter) and eventually Scully “takes over her own story” as you said above. It’s so true. It’s so epic. And as the series goes on, Chris Carter is forced to evolve as Scully has evolved.

    YOU CANNOT DENY WHAT IS INSIDE, CHRIS!

    Also… “Agent Scully is already in love.” &*%^#&*@%&^(*@!$&*(^$#%$^%&^#%$@#^$

    That is all.

    • Okay, so I was sitting in a very unpleasant environment in the midst of a very unpleasant task when this came through today and nearly made me crack up in a very inappropriate fashion, so thanks for that.

      “though the series is a huge subtle love story in and of itself” – Go ahead. Tell the truth now.

  6. I’m with Janet–I adore this episode. It’s nice Scully’s getting some attention, albeit from a creeper, and it’s nice to see Mulder get a little jealous and realize he might not always be the only man in Scully’s life so he’d better STEP IT UP. (That’s probably wishful thinking on my part to think that Mulder would actually think that, but hey, it’s kind of an episode about wishful thinking, right?) And that moment at the very end when Mulder thinks Scully’s dead is a great confirmation of how much he cares for her–that absolutely shell-shocked look on his face.

    But I’d never really thought about the possible parallels with the writing of the X-Files, and now that you’ve pointed it out I love that idea. I don’t really write, but the few times I’ve tried my hand at it that’s exactly what happens–you have these characters and you think you know them and what they’re going to do, but the farther you get into it the more they take on a life of their own and sometimes you just have to follow them where they’re going because to force your own agenda on them starts to make them seem out of character. And I love the idea that this is what happened to Mulder and Scully.

    And I also loved what you said because of one of my long-standing beefs with JK Rowling (and this is going to be a long ramble, so feel free to ignore me). For several months after the last Harry Potter book came out, whenever she gave an interview she’d reveal little tidbits about the post-book (or pre-book) lives of her characters. The most famous one, of course, is about Dumbledore’s sexuality, but she had loads, about who marries who and who has what job. And she said once–I’ve looked but can’t find the quote again–that she has these ideas about what happens to all the characters, and she likes giving that info out so people don’t have wrong ideas. As you might guess, many fans were incensed. HP has the most dedicated fandom ever, what with the fanart and the fanfiction and the endless discussions, and they did not take kindly to her trying to control what they thought about the series (especially when these were details that she hadn’t bothered to write into the books). In fact, some fans refuse to accept anything she said in an interview as canon. So I’ve long thought, in vague terms, that just as you said in this review, the creator of an idea has control of it at the beginning, but once it has passed out into the hands of others–once they’ve published a book or aired a TV episode–they can’t control what happens to it and how people receive it and think about it. So I loved that you put that idea into words so well in this review. Maybe JKR should have watched Milagro and then let me go on believing that Luna and Neville end up together. Which, honestly, I believe even without her permission.

    • That’s probably wishful thinking on my part to think that Mulder would actually think that, but hey, it’s kind of an episode about wishful thinking, right?

      Right. And then, of course, that’s what fanfic is for.

      So perfect that you should mention J.K. Rowling and HP because I thought about that a lot as I was dwelling on this episode, namely that like Tolkein before her, her characters feel so real because there’s more to them than we even see. Because of that, when you read them they feel three-dimensional. HOWEVER, I didn’t appreciate the Dumbledore thing – not because I wouldn’t have loved his character regardless but because I had loved a different Dumbledore and now she was asking me to love a new one. I love J.K. dearly but I stayed away from new information after that. I can’t have my memory of Fred Weasley ruined by finding out he was secretly having a torrid affair with Hermione. And what do you mean Luna and Neville don’t end up together?? What kind of bottomless blasphemy…

      So I’ve long thought, in vague terms, that just as you said in this review, the creator of an idea has control of it at the beginning, but once it has passed out into the hands of others–once they’ve published a book or aired a TV episode–they can’t control what happens to it and how people receive it and think about it. This Squared.

  7. Thanks for a very insightful review.

    I’m not really sure where to start, so I’ll just launch with this: coming back to Milagro for the first time since I first saw it as a teenager, this episode is a revelation, and hands-down my ultimate x-file.

    Granted, I’m bringing all kinds of biases and baggage to the table, having majored in literary theory, built a career as a writer (though not of fiction), and always struggled with reconciling my own romantic idealism/hopes with a need to be taken seriously as an intelligent, independent, capable woman.

    If I may wax a tad prosaic, (with a hint of the purple) I understand how this episode may not work for some, but for me it’s a conceptually glorious, visually stunning punch to the throat. It literally took my breath away – not just by virtue of beautiful, intimate cinematography and an inspired score – but by gracefully addressing some serious philosophical and literary themes (“By their nature, words are imprecise and layered with meaning – the signs of things, not the things themselves.”) within the context of a show that for me has always been about the characters, rather than the mythology.

    At the bottom line, I think that’s the real reason this episode works so well for me: I know these characters; I have been each of them at one time or another in my life, in one way or another; and despite the more fantastic elements this is a story I can relate to on about a thousand different levels.

    Keep up the good work!
    Brandi

    • Thanks, hun! Now you sound like someone who could take on the more serious questions raised by this episode. I’m curious, since this is just your second time, do you remember if you liked it way back when? It totally went over my head, but Carter had me at, “Agent Scully is already in love.”

      I’m glad you mentioned the cinematography because I neglected in my review to give a shout out to the late Kim Manners who directed it – and who died three years to the day that I posted the review – but that’s an X-File for another time. Anywho, he did an amazing job with this and if you have the DVDs, I highly recommend listening to his commentary. If you don’t, I know I’ve scene transcripts of it online. I wish Carter/Spotnitz/Shiban would do a commentary on it, though. I’d love to know what their thought process was.

      Oh, and you may come over here and wax a tad prosaic, or more so if you so desire, any time you like.

      • You’re too kind! I could very likely fill up your comments section on this one (but I don’t want to risk boring the rest of your readers to death). I can tell you that if I ever went back to do my Masters, I’d be pushing hard to build my thesis around this script…

        I do remember liking Milagro the first time around, more so for the imagery and general creepiness, which still strongly brings Poe to mind (and of course, for the vindication of Padgett’s little revelation). At the risk of really nerding out, this was not just my second time around, but third and fourth as well – I had to watch it again immediately, and then one more time for Manners’ commentary. And yes, I would probably sacrifice a limb or two to hear more about the writers’ process on this one.

        I actually pulled out some old notes last night, because I wanted to refresh myself on a couple of theories, and I landed on this bit of Nietzsche:

        “…where words are concerned, what matters is never truth, never the full and adequate expression…The ‘thing in itself’ is impossible for even the creator of language to grasp. We believe that when we speak of trees, colours, snow, and flowers we have knowledge of these things themselves, yet we possess only metaphors…” (On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense).

        I think you could argue that this is what’s happening with Padgett and his characterization of Scully; he’s created a metaphor through his writing, which he believes is a true representation (and he does gain considerable insight, I’ll give him that) but he’s so invested in his version of Scully, he overlooks a fundamental aspect of her character – the depth of her connection to Mulder.

        When he becomes aware of his own flaws as the ‘creator’ of this Scully, he actively destroys the metaphor, not just by physically burning his work, but by killing her outright. I’d say that’s the reason for the pause before the gasp; what we’re witnessing is the very literal death of Padgett’s version of Scully, making way for another Scully, who (coincidentally?) doesn’t ‘come to life’ until after Mulder is in the room, suggesting that maybe ‘his’ version is the ‘real’ Scully (probably a reach there, but I have to indulge my inner shipper somewhere).

        Lecture, over. Thanks for indulging me!

        • I don’t even have much to say about this awesomeness except to thank you for posting it. I’m tempted to draw this conversation out with Plato’s analogy of the cave, but I’m too rusty for that. Anywho, this is fabulous. I love it! (Okay, that last part is a reach but so is all of Freudianism, so why not?)

  8. This is a fantastic review. In fact, I think it might even deserve two fantastics. It is a fantastic, fantastic review.

    I admit I’ve fallen a bit behind on my rewatch (just finished Milagro myself — you’ve been rolling through the second half of the season like a mofo!), so I’ve been facing this dilemma where I’ll see a new review up and have to decide whether I want to read it before or after I watch the episode. (Though sometimes I read it both before AND after.) Generally, I like to have the episode fresh in my mind when I read what you’ve written. With an episode like Milagro, I felt like I knew it well enough to read the review beforehand . . . also, I may or may not have just rewatched this episode out of order over the summer. In any event, I’m glad I did decide to read it, because it was great to watch the episode again with what you’d written in mind.

    I remember liking this episode the first time I saw it, if only because of the shippiness toward the end, but not really understanding what was going on (because, hey, I was like 13). And I’ve liked it more on each rewatch because I just love these episodes that give us more insight into our beloved characters. Then, a couple of years back, I read something that Chris Carter had said about the “Agent Scully is already in love” line — about how it represented something that had happened to her character all on its own, even though he hadn’t intended to write her that way. And then I was like, OH! I get it! It’s a meta thing!! But I still didn’t grasp the full extent of it until I read this review. And I’m really glad that I get it now, because it makes it a lot easier to handle some of the whack Scully characterization in this episode.

    So, in sum, thank you for this. It made me appreciate even more what was already a very good episode in my book, and it took the sting out of watching Scully do what I thought were some crazy things. (Do I want to watch her fantasize about being with someone other than Mulder? A world of NO.)

    • And I thought my day couldn’t get any better after starting it off with Millennium. ^^

      You know… reading the stuff that Chris Carter has said about Milagro… doesn’t this feel almost like a love letter from him to Scully? All the descriptions about how lovely she is, he’s almost like a sculptor taking a moment to admire his own creation. Go on with your bad self, Chris.

      Do I want to watch her fantasize about being with someone other than Mulder? A world of NO. – And somewhere in a quiet bedroom in Suburbia, much laughter ensued.

  9. Was I the only one who found this episode absolute shipper’s bliss the first time around? Granted, I’d been prepped for it by reading about it and seeing “Agent Scully is already in love” all over the interwebs by the time it aired in SA, but that ending! Scully clutching at Mulder, literally digging her nails into his back…(shivers). I get all heart-racy just thinking about it.

    • Not quite absolute bliss. I was really confused and turned off in the beginning. But I was spoiler-free so I wasn’t prepared and I had no idea relief was coming.

      It looks like there were other people who got it straight away, though!

  10. First off, thank you Salome. I have just discovered your reviews at the same time I am discovering the X Files. I fell in love with this show when it aired originally, but life happened and I watched only the first three seasons. Now with Netflix I am able to enjoy the whole thing sequentially, and I just finished Milagro. I have developed a somewhat obsessive pattern of watching an episode, then racing back to read your review on said episode. It is always enlightening, and you pick up on things that I hadn’t even considered. Milagro is no exception., It actually never even occurred to me that Padgett is a type for Carter and the writers themselves. Pretty great to discover this site and find other people who give this amazing show the proper respect it deserves. I had my doubts… something that was cool at age seventeen often loses its luster at thirty five. But much to my joy, The X Files remains a sparkling gem. 🙂 Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

    • No, thank you!!

      This show ages incredibly well, even considering the special effects in the early seasons. It’s the content, the writing and the acting that still make it work. I’m amazed that it still gets me so excited after all these years.

  11. “… and a college education… ”

    You’re so full of shit, Salome. And no, I didn’t have to use a thesaurus to look that word up. Back to moppin’ floors, boss! Someday I’ll get this episode! *whistle*

    • No need to potty mouth it.

      I never said janitors are too dumb for Milagro. I said that *I’m* so slow to catch on that it took many years, lots of studying and some real world exposure before I “got it.” As you can see from the comments, others “got it” just fine the first time around.

      And, no. I don’t suppose you would need a thesaurus for that word.

  12. Your reference to Chris Carter’s “never getting togehter” not matching what you were seeing – It’s then that the rebellious thought occurred to me, “That man doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Said thought was accompanied by the dismissive facial expression only a 13-year-old can make….
    Hahaha! You crack me up! Migh as well have plucked that one right out of my life. Same face too.

    • I swear I did. I knew there were others like me! I swore off the internet (at least for X-Files related news) after that, though. I strayed off the official site rarely anyway. I wasn’t one for spoilers.

  13. Black-Oiled Salesman

    Since Sydney responded above back in April, I do not feel as silly about weighing in with my thoughts on your review. I have to say that it is an excellent analysis and very thought-provoking.

    On the point about the “Telephone” development of Dana Scully’s character, it certainly needs to be stressed that it was Gillian Anderson’s interpretation of Dana Scully that ultimately shaped and molded Dana Scully’s development; the same can be said for David Duchovny’s interpretation of Fox Mulder. As they have said ad nauseam over the years, the acting chemistry between them determined the pace and direction of Mulder’s and Scully’s professional and personal relationship.

    Metaphorically speaking, this is what caused Chris Carter to lose some creative control over the personalities of his characters. There was a degree of intimacy that Duchovny and Anderson infused into even the most mundane interactions between Mulder and Scully that may or may not have been injected had other actors portrayed these roles.

    Perhaps, “Milagro” is Chris Carter’s acknowledgement of this established fact and it seems to be with a considerable degree of resignation that he acknowledges it. He never envisioned a romantic connection between Mulder and Scully because he was fearful that it would overwhelm and perhaps supplant the overall X-Files narrative.

    However, it did not, because Mulder and Scully’s romance developed within the ambit of their professional world and was interwoven into their professional endeavors.

    Anyway, this is what makes “Milagro” such an excellent episode.

    • The X-Files wouldn’t have been The X-Files without GA and DD and their dynamic. They had crazy onscreen chemistry without even meaning to. Mulder and Scully were constantly in their own little world.

  14. Agent Venkman

    Great episode, I like it despite being too overtly-shippy. I was always ok with Mulder and Scully ending up together, but not if that meant making it the core of the show.

    My only problem (minor) with this episode is the x-file itself. No plausible explanation is given as to how the fictional character, can’t remember his name now, is able to come to life and kill. Then again, this was during season 6. The last time writers tried to have “grounded in reality” x-files was during season 4 or 5. How many “imaginary stories” were there in season 6?!

    • So, it’s been a while, but the only plausible explanation given is that the writer’s obsession with his character was so strong that it brought him to life. It’s basically your typical X-File: It shouldn’t happen but somehow it did.

  15. As a wannabe writer, this episode has always been one of my favourites from the entire show. I don’t just enjoy the blatant shippiness but the religious symbolism and representation of the relationship between fantasy and reality. I loved the descriptive voiceovers from the main character and contrary to many critics I loved the way Scully was portrayed as ‘the beautiful agent’. It provided a mirror into her personality and motives from an angle very rarely seen.

    In short, this is a very special episode for me. It gives an insight into the writers of the X Files and their own relationship with the show as well as into the characters of Mulder and Scully and their love for each other.

  16. I just found this site and i already love it! I´ve seen milagro several times before today, but today something hit me. It was like I never really understood the whole idea until today. Thats how I found this site and wanted to let you know how much i like it.
    My plan for this long weekend is to read all your reviews.
    Thank you!
    Live long and prosper 🙂

  17. I got here from the X-Files subreddit and enjoyed reading your review so much! I better go read the rest too.

  18. Mulder: “Well let’s just say it ends with you doing the naked pretzel with ‘the
    Scully: [Baffled] …
    Mulder: “I imagine that’s a priori too?”
    Scully: “I think you know me better than that, Mulder.” [Embarrassed]
    Mulder: [Smirk]

    Never laughed louder than with this little gem of dialogue.

    • well, that was odd… part of the text disappeared.
      So that should have been: “Well, let’s just say it ends with you doin the naked pretzel with ‘the stranger’ on the bed of an unfurnished 4th floor apartment.”

      (ok, in a way this made me happy since I could write “naked pretzel” twice and laugh. I might be over 30, my inner kid is doing just fine.)

  19. I’ve read many of your reviews at this point — I’m totally addicted. But I wanted to mention that *this* post is what brought me to this blog. I had just finished watching Milagro (after indulging in How the Ghosts Stole Christmas — ’twas the season), and I wound up googling (exactly) this: “whats wrong with milagro from the x files.” I asked this question of the Internet because I wanted finally to get to the bottom of why so many viewers rejected the episode when, after I watched it again as an almost-30-year-old, I quite liked it, and not only because it had the gratifying line about Scully being in love. When I saw it as a teenager, well, it made me squirm, for obvious, teenager-y reasons — last week, I found I got more of the themes about writing and characters and love. An undergraduate degree in English literature and rhetoric doesn’t hurt, either.

    So, thanks for confirming so much of what I felt and thought. I’m grateful I googled, however, since I discovered your blog and remembered how much I love the X-Files, I’ve been trading a lot of sleep for watching and reading anything X-Files — your blog being one of the main addictions. Reality pales in comparison. The struggle is real.

    • It’s funny how there are some episodes that age and experience make better, and then there are some episodes that even age and experience can’t help. “Milagro” was like that for me too. The themes went completely over my teenage head. All I saw was Scully about to do the wild thing with a wack-a-doodle.

      The struggle is real and I’m glad it brought you here! I feel like as the moment gets closer, I’m getting a deeper urge to discuss the show. And by “discuss the show” I mean minutely dissect every fact, nuance and possibility. So… welcome. Help me, please.

      • The revival + your reviews to look forward to are more than I ever hoped January 2016 would bring. I’m like, significantly excited about Joel McHale coming aboard as well. Sometimes, I’m sure I should be pinching myself.

      • I just finished watching “Milagro” fifteen minutes ago and then rushed down here to write on your blog. This has become my habit and passion as of late.

        Of all the reviews I’ve read of yours this is the most poignant and philosophically brilliant. I don’t say that lightly.

        The reasons I think that are due to the fact that you touch on the subject of physics to a degree and the topic of what is real…what is reality?

        This episode is the third from the X-Files that touches on Tulpas or a thought form…the first was Arcadia, then Home again (that I watched just last night) and now Milagro. Seems the writers really like this idea 🙂

        IMO the reason why Scully and Mulder seem so real to us is that they have been built into fully realized characters through the process of time. Time that adds bits and pieces to their personalities. Their strengths and weaknesses are molded from the minds who place them in all sorts of situations. They have their own families, their own stories of tragedy and victory. In essence the very things that create who you and I are today.

        I remember reading about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle saying that he began to hate Sherlock because he became so famous and well known that he could not get away from him to writer “serious” work…lol. Now, does that sound like a fictionalized person? Doyle couldn’t even kill him off at Reichenbach falls due to reader outrage.

        I’ll leave you with this partial quote from Alan Moore who is an amazing man and comic artist/author. I think it’s quite appropriate for this particular discussion…Cheers!

        “Reality, at first glance, is a simple thing: the television speaking to you now is real. Your body sunk into that chair in the approach to midnight, a clock ticking at the threshold of awareness. All the endless detail of a solid and material world surrounding you. These things exist. They can be measured with a yardstick, a voltammeter, a weighing scale. These things are real. Then there’s the mind, half-focused on the TV, the settee, the clock. This ghostly knot of memory, idea and feeling that we call ourself also exists, though not within the measurable world our science may describe.

        Consciousness is unquantifiable, a ghost in the machine, barely considered real at all, though in a sense this flickering mosaic of awareness is the only true reality that we can ever know. The Here-and-Now demands attention, is more present to us. We dismiss the inner world of our ideas as less important, although most of our immediate physical reality originated only in the mind. The TV, sofa, clock and room, the whole civilisation that contains them once were nothing save ideas.

        Material existence is entirely founded on a phantom realm of mind, whose nature and geography are unexplored. Before the Age of Reason was announced, humanity had polished strategies for interacting with the world of the imaginary and invisible: complicated magic-systems; sprawling pantheons of gods and spirits, images and names with which we labelled powerful inner forces so that we might better understand them. Intellect, Emotion and Unconscious Thought were made divinities or demons so that we, like Faust, might better know them; deal with them; become them….”

        • As far as habits, The X-Files does suck a body in, no? It’s like the black hole of nerddom.

          And my but those Tulpas do get around, don’t they?? I was thinking of that watching “Home Again” too. Maybe the idea stuck for the same reason this episode still seems to mean so much to the writing staff, or for the same reason it was used in “Home Again” (I won’t give it away). It’s the greatest power of all, after all, to be able to create life from thought.

          I grew up a big fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories so I’ve read about Doyle’s “issues” with his own creation. Maybe that too is why Chris Carter is constantly drawn to the Frankenstein metaphor because this idea hits home with writers – a god-like man creating life that evolves out of his control. And like God, man first conceives of things and then conceives them, thinks them and then materializes them, materializes them and then watches them change with or against his will. That’s a great quote and a lot of food for thought.

          And thank you for the compliment! I’m scared to go back and read this myself, but it’s much appreciated.

          • No worries.
            I enjoy the topic but I can get sucked into the rabbit hole if I’m not careful…lol. It’s a mind bending thought experiment to be sure.

            I would only encourage you to read your review again as this episode obviously made a big impression on you at the time. You really hit on some timeless ideas..outside of this TV program as well as about it.

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  23. Oh, brother… How I’m enjoying S06!
    After watching season 2, I read that Chris Carter had confirm there would be no romance between Scully and Mulder and I just couldn’t believe it. I’m so with you when you say the characters just wrote their own story because it was so obvious that love is written in their stars.

    Funny thing, watching this episode I was thinking how cool it’d had been to see Sean Penn as Philip Padgett.

  24. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the insightful discussion on Milagro. All of y’all. It has totally changed my view on it. I didn’t particularly like Milagro when it originally aired … Much of it sailed over my head … I blame watching it late at night, tired after a full shift of editing newspaper copy. Add in the horror that Scully would even imagine doing the naked pretzel with anybody but Mulder… My shipper heart was aghast. But after rewatching with fresh eyes (and inhaling the wonderful discussion above), I’ve changed my opinion. It’s fantastic! From the story to the cinematography to the acting to the music to the creep factor, superb!

    I’m so glad the characters got away from their creator. Their lives — and ours — are all the richer because of that.

    It’s such a joy to read all these well-written and thoughtful discussions on the show we love so dearly. I’m trying not to read ahead as I rewatch yet again, but it’s difficult sometimes 😀

  25. I literally just saw this episode and wow. You are so right about the score, one of the best.

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