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?”
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.
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.
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.
Rev. Orison: You receive the Lord’s grace and this is your thanks.
Rev. Orison: Everything has a reason, Scout. Everything on God’s earth.
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.