Tag Archives: All Souls

Orison 7×7: Every moment of every day, the Devil waits for but an instant.


Orison

You need a buff and polish.

Certainly Mulder’s unrelenting search for the truth is but a thinly veiled allegory of man’s search for God. That’s well understood. But what surprises me this rewatch is that Season 7 has the most consistent religious overtones of any season so far. Oddly enough, it mostly presents these vague spiritual musings outside of the mytharc, the mythological journey toward the truth that provided the backbone of the show for so many years.

Millennium” (7×5) dallied in psuedo-Biblical eschatology, but it wasn’t the end of the world, just the end of the Mulder and Scully’s platonic relationship.

The Goldberg Variation” (7×2) presented one question: What if there’s a rhyme and reason to seeming happenstance? And even a second: What if something or someone is working seemingly bad circumstances into something good? “Providence,” I believe the old folks called it.

Well, “Orison” is all about the problem of evil. Fitting, since it’s predecessor, “Irresistible” (2×13), delivered the frightening message that inexplicable evil exists. “Orison” asks the follow up question, “Can evil be redeemed?”

The answer?

In the opening teaser, titular character Rev. Orison tells us that we surely can be redeemed. All we have to do is repent and ask God to forgive us. He says this while hypnotizing into submission the most captive audience imaginable: a room full of prison inmates.

For all he encourages repentance, Rev. Orison doesn’t appear to factor free will into his personal theology of redemption. Are the prisoners set free from evil and delivered to good if they’re brainwashed into saying, “Amen?” Certainly they’re not committing evil acts any more. Does that mean they’re delivered? Is evil merely a behavioral problem?

Donnie Pfaster behaves. He behaves in prison because he has to. When he kills, he kills because he wants to, not because his momma didn’t nurse him and his daddy drank.

Prisoners that can’t be “converted” through hypnotism, like Donnie, Rev. Orison is ordered by God to set free and then kill. After all, if they can’t be corrected why should they sit in a Correctional Facility? Perhaps the fear of death will finally produce in them a repentant and humble heart and they can be redeemed right at the very end. Perhaps. Unfortunately for Rev. Orison, he’s encountered an evil that can be neither controlled nor killed and certainly not redeemed, at least not by him. Donnie Pfaster is evil incarnate, possessed by the Devil himself.

Now, if you ask Mulder, it’s Rev. Orison who’s continually seeking out personal redemption by killing men more evil than himself. God has nothing to do with it. Because, you see, Mulder believes in almost anything and everything but the Bible. Once again, like in “Revelations” (3×11) and “All Souls” (5×17), Scully has a religious experience and Mulder, for all his farfetched supernatural theories, meets her openness with sneering skepticism. Until he hears from God himself, that is.

Scully too would initially agree with him about Rev. Orison and Donnie Pfaster. There is evil. Donnie Pfaster is evil. But his is a human evil and there’s nothing mysterious about it. If anything, the lack of seeming reason or cause behind his evil is what makes him all the more frightening.

Scully: I promise you there is nothing supernatural about this man. Donnie Pfaster is just plain evil.

At least, that’s the conclusion we’re left with at the end of “Irresistible.” Maybe there was a question of Donnie appearing almost devil-like in Scully’s terrified eyes when he held her captive, but the frightening idea that props up “Irresistible” is that sometimes there is no deeper, mysterious, or fantastic explanation for the evil that we see other than that evil exists and it exists inside of decidedly inconspicuous looking men.

But is there an evil behind man’s evil?

Those pesky signs and that creepy song keep pointing Scully to such a new conclusion.

On the surface, the supernatural elements of this episode would seem to undermine the decidedly unsupernatural scariness of “Irresistible” and the Donnie Pfaster character. But I think it all fits together something like this: There is Evil. And that Evil acts for no other purpose than to steal, kill and destroy. It doesn’t need any deeper motive. It doesn’t need a trigger. And sometimes that Evil works through men. Usually men with two given names.

Evil, pure evil, has no desire for redemption, only destruction.

So there you go.

Verdict:

I remember being a little nervous when this first aired, because as I’ve said before, “Irresistible” is the episode that made me an X-Phile. And frankly, sequels are disappointing 90% of the time.

This fell into that 90% for me. Oh, I don’t dislike it. In fact, it’s the best episode of the season so far. But it can’t be its predecessor and it’s no Godfather II. Still, the acting is great. Scott Wilson is amazing and does a lot with relatively little screen time. And if you haven’t seen him in The Walking Dead by now, you should have. What’s wrong with you?

Nick Chinlund gets to vamp up the Donnie Pfaster character now that he isn’t posing as a regular Joe and everyone knows he’s a murderous psychopath.

Rob Bowman’s directing is cinematic and intense.

And Gillian Anderson’s expressions, as always, say everything without her having to say a word.

So I’m not jumping up and down like I did at the end of “Irresistible”. But I’m not bored. No, I’m not bored.

B+

Red Wigs:

Scully’s been through a lot… a lot, a lot… since Donnie Pfaster brought her to tears back in Season 2. I’m so glad this time around she gets to put up more of a fight. It was believable when he overpowered her the first time. But if it had happened just as easily the second time it would have been anti-climactic.

How did Mulder know what the hypnosis cue was???

Donnie’s clothing toss over the shoulder in the opening teaser is a bit heavy-handed. I would have preferred it if he just casually walked out a la Keyser Söze.

This was not a clean shooting. I feel like in the earlier days of the show Scully would have had to answer for, or at least be questioned about, killing Donnie Pfaster in subsequent episodes, even if the event did happen in a MOTW. Mulder’s, “You can’t judge yourself,” just doesn’t cut it as the final word.

Scully shooting Donnie should feel satisfying. Instead it feels anticlimactic.

Now, this has nothing to do with the problem of evil… I don’t think… but I felt compelled to post this little bit of hilarity. Here’s the original version of “Don’t Look Any Further”. You’ll never watch this episode the same way again. FYI, awesome song for hustle dancing.

 

You’re welcome.

Best Quotes:

Rev. Orison: You receive the Lord’s grace and this is your thanks.

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Rev. Orison: Everything has a reason, Scout. Everything on God’s earth.

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Scully: How do you prove that someone isn’t being directed by God? You don’t believe that it happens?

Mulder: God is a spectator, Scully. He just reads the box scores.

Scully: I don’t believe that.

———————–

Mulder: You know, it’s funny. When all is said and done there’s not much mystery in murder.

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!

Travelers 5×15: That’s what I did until I ran out of room.


Mad Men 1013 style.

Like when “The Unusual Suspects” (5×1) followed after “Redux II” (5×2), I’m looking for an emotional follow up to the previous drama-heavy mythology episode and instead I’m bereft of Mulder and Scully almost altogether. Only this time, instead of go-to, familiar characters to rely on, we’re given a supporting cast that’s nearly completely new and the weight and responsibility of carrying an hour of one of the most popular shows on television falls on their shoulders. This is an ambitious episode indeed.

The opening teaser is one of my favorites in terms of sheer grossness. If they were looking for a way to catch my attention sans Mulder and Scully they found it. And for the record, there is no way, in earth or the world below, that I would kneel down on a cockroach infested floor coated in the grime of a thousand years in order to better inspect a rubber mummy in a tub. In case you wanted to know.

Now on to the meat of the episode… If The X-Files is about anything at all, it’s about distrust of authority. More specifically, it’s about distrust of the government. Imagine if the nation that fed you, that bred you, were actually out to get you.

With that in mind that the decision to place this flashback tale within the context of the McCarthy hearings makes a lot of sense. If you trust what you read in the history books, paranoia was running rampant at the time and the American government, in an attempt to control its citizens, found “communists” hiding in every nook and cranny. Chris Carter is often quoted as saying, “The X-Files is only as scary as it is real,” and what’s more real than things that have actually happened? It’s why previous episodes like “Paper Clip” (3×2) used real life holocaust atrocities as a base.

On the one hand, it’s easy to take a topic like McCarthyism or the House Un-American Activities Committee and use it to vilify the establishment. On the other hand, it fits like a hand in glove with The X-Files’ overall theme of government distrust. The men in charge have no desire to find the truth, they’re about establishing order and control even at the expense of innocent citizens. And what do you know? Even the F.B.I. is complicit.

Bringing Agent Mulder, I mean, Agent Mulder Sr. into the mix was a wise choice. (So was using the actor we already knew). Not only to we get more insight into his strained relationship with his son before he was killed but we learn about what kind of man he was. “Travelers” confirms a lot of what’s been hinted at about his character over the years. Here was a man who, though compromised, ultimately had a Jiminy Cricket sized conscience. Too bad that unlike his son, he was unwilling or unable to openly fight for what he believed it. It doesn’t look like he had the courage. But at least we know where Mulder got his subversive streak.

Speaking of Mulder, this is the second time this season we’ve seen Mulder in flashback. This time, though, he seems a lot less sure of himself. There’s no swagger like we saw in “The Unusual Suspects”, instead he’s full of nervous ticks… nervous ticks that conveniently display his wedding ring.

Oh, David Duchovny, why must you toy with the masses?

Word is, the wedding ring was little more than a joke on his part having been recently married in real life to actress Téa Leoni. Joke or not, it caused an uproar online. I have to admit that for my part, I didn’t even notice it. Which just goes to show that my powers of observation are dull and you shouldn’t read a word I type.

And the Verdict is…

One of these days I’ll probably get around to making a series of Top 10 lists and when I do, “Travelers” will be on the list of underappreciated episodes. It’s fairly quiet, I know, but I wouldn’t call it boring. Brief though they are, Darren McGavin’s scenes with David Duchovny are a treat, so much so that I wish his character could have been brought back more than once. In fact, I could almost wish that we had one season in flashback a la Nina’s suggestion in her Shipper’s Guide. Arthur Dales’s story and its overlap with the Syndicate’s Shenanigans, not to mention the Mulder family history, could have made for good television… especially if it was paralleled with the X-Files of the future.

B+

Fiddlesticks:

So, supposedly, Edward Skur & Co. had an actual animal/insect/creature grafted inside of them. But what in the heck kind of species is that? What could kill people in such a fashion? Of all the things the government could do to make Super Soldiers, they attach arachnids to their innards?? Why am I thinking this hard about it anyway?

The director of this episode, William Graham, hasn’t been seen on The X-Files since “E.B.E.” (1×16) and had the dubitable honor of directing “Space” (1×8), yet he has a long and very impressive resume including the classic television show The Fugitive. I wonder if the fact that he was active in television during some of the communism scare is what caused Chris Carter to bring him back. At the very least, I’m sure his experience in classic television is part of why this episode has such an authentic feel. Period pieces can so easily end up “costumey.”

Fredric Lane, who plays the young Arthur Dales, was on Castle last week. That show is a veritable parade of X-Files alumns.

There is a string of episodes this season where the narrative is driven by recollection and voiceover. “Redux” (5×2), “Bad Blood” (5×12), “Travelers”, “All Souls” (5×17). By the time we get to “All Souls” it begins to lose its impact.

Now we know there’s a reason the X-Files are the “X-Files” other than just that “X” is a cool letter.

Best Quotes:

Arthur Dales: Do you know what an… X-File is?
Mulder: It’s uh.. yeah, it’s an unsolved case.
Arthur Dales: No. It’s a case that’s been designated… unsolved.

————————

Arthur Dales: Have you ever heard of HUAC, Agent Mulder? House Un-American Activities Committee? No, no, no, it was before your time, you wouldn’t know. They hunted Communists in America in the 40’s and 50’s. They found… practically nothing. You think they would have found nothing… unless nothing… was what they wanted to find? Hmm?
Mulder: I’m sorry, sir. I, uh, I don’t… I don’t see the connection.
Arthur Dales: Maybe you’re not supposed to. [Slams door in Mulder’s face]

————————

Dorothy Bahnsen: But, I recognize one of these names. It’s in an X-File.
Agent Dales: X-File?
Dorothy Bahnsen: Yes. Unsolved cases. I file them under “X”.
Agent Dales: Why don’t you file them under “U”… for “Unsolved”?
Dorothy Bahnsen: That’s what I did until I ran out of room. Plenty of room in the “X’s”.