Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Episode Review: "Revelations" (3x11)

It's "Revelations" time in the 204-rewatch schedule. The review is below and on the Top Ten Religious Episodes page.

Revelations (3x11)
Original airdate: 12/15/95
Written by: Kim Newton
Directed by: David Nutter

“Revelations” is the first episode that reverses the roles of Mulder and Scully surrounding issues of religion, signs, and miracles: Mulder becomes the skeptic, and Scully becomes the believer. Many similar issues appear especially in the fifth-season episode “All Souls,” which like this episode features Scully’s conversation with a priest in a confession booth. Viewed together, the two episodes show a progression in Scully’s faith journey and present an interesting backdrop or counterpoint for her spiritual struggles in the second movie, I Want to Believe.

The opening monologue by Reverend Findley sets up some of the main themes for the episode: testing faith, miracles, science and skepticism vs. faith, believing without question. These themes are echoed especially in the dialogues between Mulder and Scully and also in some of the conversations between Scully and other characters.

The reverend says that God tests our faith so that we won’t take it for granted. As he begins to bleed, he says that his blood flows as a test of their faith. (Mulder later says that what he has seen in this case has tested only his patience, not his faith.) The reverend says that the test is whether they will open themselves to divine possibilities (recalling Mulder’s frequent appeal to extreme possibilities), and only then will they truly understand. While Scully does not refer to her faith being tested, the way she is affected by the case and her closing conversation with the priest suggest that this case is indeed a test of her faith, which until now has waned but is possibly being rekindled. Scully is open to the possibility of divine causes for the signs and events she has encountered; Mulder is not. As her conversation with the priest may suggest, it is because she is open to divine possibilities that she truly understands, although from Mulder’s point of view, it may be her openness that makes her more gullible.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Episode Review: "Die Hand Die Verletzt" (2x14)

The episode for today in the 204-day rewatch is "Die Hand Die Verletzt." Although this episode focuses on the occult rather than Christianity, it does touch on themes of hypocrisy in Christianity or any religion and the dangers of complacency and watered-down faith. The full review is below and also on the Top Ten Religious Episodes page.

Die Hand Die Verletzt (2x14)
Original airdate: 1/27/95
Written by Glen Morgan and James Wong
Directed by Kim Manners

“Die Hand Die Verletzt” brings up interesting issues about complacency, hypocrisy, and the potency of religion. It pairs well with the seventh season episode “Signs & Wonders,” which also raises questions about the true nature of the devil and the symbolism of snakes in religion.

The PTC (Parent Teacher Commitee) objects to doing the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, saying it is not appropriate for this high school, then they refer to leading in prayer. The initial impression we get is that these are conservative Christians who think a play about Jesus is too controversial or sacrilegious and who pray at their meetings. But appearances can be deceiving, as we soon find out. They light a candle and shut the door; as they begin to pray, the light seeping through the doorframe turns a hellish red. They pray, “Sein ist die Hand die verletzt” (translated for us as “Thine is the hand that wounds”).... Hail the Lords of Darkness.”

Outwardly, especially toward Mulder and Scully, the PTC continues to play up the stereotype of conservative Christians, indignant about the music and television their children are exposed to as a corrupting influence that leads to events such as occult murder. (Later, after Ausbury’s true religion is revealed, he still blames the media, saying that his daughter filled in the blanks in her memory from things she saw on Geraldo.) While the identification of the PTC as Christians is only implicit at the beginning, it becomes explicit when Mulder tells Ausbury that his desire for revenge against anyone who would hurt his daughter isn’t “a very Christian tenet” and when Ausbury later contrasts his own faith and practices with those of Christians. Hypocrisy is built into the very practice and demeanor of the PTC because they perpetuate the stereotypes against Satanism and devil worship in order to hide their own participation in the same.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Episode Review: "Miracle Man" (1x17)

As part of the countdown to the premier of the new episodes on January 24, I will be posting (or reposting) some episode reviews. The episode for today in the 204-day rewatch schedule is "Miracle Man."

I already posted this review a couple of weeks ago on the Top Ten Religious X-Files page, but I am reposting it here.

Miracle Man (1x17)
Original airdate: 03/18/94
Written by: Howard Gordon and Chris Carter
Directed by: Michael Lange

Samuel Hartley is predominantly a Christ figure in this episode, but he also has connections with other biblical figures. Reverend Hartley’s claim to have found Samuel as an infant in the tall weeds of the banks of the Mississippi River recalls the story of Moses. But Samuel’s name, his apparently motherless youth, and his calling by God as just a child recall his biblical namesake, Samuel the son of Hannah (1 Samuel 1-3). (In terms of The X-Files, there is also the irony of Samuel’s name, Sam, and its similarity to the name of Mulder’s sister, Samantha, whom Mulder believes that he keeps seeing after Samuel mentions her to him. However, this connection may not be intentional, since Samantha is never mentioned by name.)

Several aspects of Samuel’s story parallel that of Jesus: he can heal with a simple touch, even bringing people back from the dead; he is falsely arrested by authorities who are determined to convict him regardless of his innocence and lack of adequate proof or witnesses against him; he accepts the claim of guilt rather than trying to defend himself; he is beaten while in custody (with his arms extended, as if on a cross); he dies, his body is later missing, and he is seen alive by several people after his death. In the final scene, Mulder quips, “The boy did rise from the dead. That kind of thing happens only once or twice every two thousand years or so” (referring back, of course, to the resurrection of Jesus Christ).

As the first of the religion-centered episodes on The X-Files, this episode allows the first glimpse of Scully’s Catholic background and her willingness to believe in miracles but not religious fraud, and a rare glimpse of Mulder’s openness to the possibility that someone with radical Christian beliefs may have genuine supernatural or even spiritual abilities. When Samuel asks Scully if she doubts God’s power, and she doesn’t hesitate to say no. She doubts Samuel, not God. Mulder, on the other hand, doesn’t claim any belief in God, but he does believe in Samuel’s ability, even though Mulder might explain it in terms of Eastern medicine or psychic healing instead. This offers an interesting division of belief between the two of them: they each still represent opposing viewpoints, but unlike some later episodes, it is not that Scully believes the religious characters whereas Mulder is hostile to them; rather, they each believe one aspect and are skeptical of another aspect of the characters’ claims.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Rewatching the Entire Series

If you haven't yet launched into a rewatch of the entire X-Files series, it's not too late to start now! On July 4, many fans started a rewatch including all 202 episodes ("The Truth" originally aired as one episode but is numbered as two) and both movies, counting down to the premier of season 10 on January 24. On July 7, FOX initiated their own rewatch schedule, "201 Days of The X-Files," which treats the final episode as one and does not include the movies.

Now that our summer discussion series on The X-Files has concluded, I have posted my episode reviews for Miracle Man, Revelations, All Souls, Signs & Wonders, and Improbable. Over the next few months, I also intend to post reviews for Die Hand Die Verletzt, Gethsemane, Amor Fati, The Gift, and I Want to Believe. In light of the rewatch, I figure the best time to post each of these is on their day during the countdown. However, since the FOX schedule omits the movies, I'm going to follow the fan schedule that started on July 4.

Enjoy the rewatch!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Summer Discussion Series, July 12

This Sunday is our last week for discussion of The X-Files (although the series will continue next week with Grimm). We will watch "Improbable" at 9:45 a.m. and "All Souls" at 11:00 a.m.

I have posted the episode review for “Improbable,” and I hope to get “All Souls” posted soon (update: now posted! 7/15).

Come join us in our discussion of The X-Files!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Summer Discussion Series, July 5 and 12

Our summer discussion series at St. Matthew Lutheran Church continues this weekend with “Signs & Wonders” at 9:45 a.m. and “Miracle Man” at 11:00 a.m.

I have posted the episode review for “Miracle Man,” and I hope to get “Signs & Wonders” posted this weekend (Update: now posted! 7/4).

Come join us in our discussion of The X-Files!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Ongoing Story of Scully's Faith

This week, The X-Files is featured in the new issue of Entertainment Weekly. (The article does include a few spoilers for the new episodes, if you're trying to avoid that kind of thing.)

One tidbit in the article that particularly caught my attention is Chris Carter's mention that the fourth episode, written by him, will address Scully's faith:
Carter says that episode 4 will deal with one of Scully’s most distinctive character features: her religious faith, a source of conflict with Mulder. (Mulder can believe in many things, but he has serious doubts about God.)
This episode should air sometime in February (possible the 8th). It will be interesting to see where Carter takes her faith journey, since Scully clearly had some angst in I Want to Believe.