Sunday, November 29, 2015

Episode Review: "Signs & Wonders" (7x09)

Today is "Signs & Wonders" day in the 204-day rewatch. This is one of the more overtly religious episodes, as it offers an interesting juxtaposition between two different churches, prompting the viewer to consider the true nature of evil. The full review is below and also on the Top Ten Religious Episodes page.



Signs & Wonders (7x09)
Original airdate: 1/23/2000
Written by: Jeffrey Bell
Directed by: Kim Manners


The title, “Signs & Wonders,” is a phrase that shows up throughout the Bible, especially relating to the plagues and miracles of the exodus (Exod. 7:3; Deut. 6:22; 34:11; Neh. 9:10; Ps. 135:9; Jer. 32:21) and the miracles of Jesus and his disciples (John 4:48; Acts 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; 14:3; 15:12; Rom. 15:19; 2 Cor. 12:12). It refers to any kind of supernatural event prompted or empowered by God. Although this episode does not focus specifically on miracles, it does highlight unexplained, supernatural occurrences, such as surviving snake bites and being delivered from snakes.

In the teaser, Jared Chirp is calling out to the Holy Ghost in his prayer for help. The Holy Ghost , or Holy Spirit, recurs throughout the episode, probably more so here than in any other X-Files episode, although it remains a minor theme. Snake-handling churches such as O’Connor’s tend toward ecstatic or charismatic worship, as seen in the juxtaposition of the two church meetings, and so are often Spirit-focused in their theology. As Reverend Mackey describes, “They believe that the Holy Spirit protects the righteous” (when they handle snakes). (In the credits, three of the church members are named “Holy Spirit Man”/“Woman.”) But Mackey’s congregation also emphasizes the Holy Spirit, if in a different way: in a scene in his church, near the end of the episode, a banner hanging in the church reads, “Come Holy Spirit.” The flames on the banner evoke the coming of the Spirit upon the first generation of believers in Acts 2, empowering them, among other things, to do signs and wonders as Jesus did (Acts 2:22, 43).

In their opening dialogue, Scully suggests to Mulder the religious symbolism of the snakes: “They’ve represented the temptation of Eve, original sin. They’ve been feared and hated throughout history as they’ve been thought to embody Satan, to serve evil itself.” The themes of Satan, evil, and the Garden of Eden appear throughout the episode, especially toward the end. The final scene bookends the episode with another allusion to Eden: the painting hanging in the reverend’s new office is Masaccio’s Expulsion from the Garden of Eden (15th cent.).

When placed within the context of the Eden story, Reverend Mackey as the devil represents the tempter who has seduced Reverend O’Connor’s daughter to sin, causing her to be banished. Although the Genesis narrative does not specifically mention sexual temptation or sin in the Garden, over the centuries that became one interpretation of the serpent’s interaction with Eve.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Episode Preview: "The Sixth Extinction: Amor Fati"

It's time for "Amor Fati" in the rewatch schedule. I will eventually post the episode review for this episode, but in the meantime, I am posting a link to the article I published on this episode, "The Last Temptation of Mulder: Reading The X-Files through the Christological Lens of Nikos Kazantzakis" (published as the first chapter in "The X-Files" and Literature, ed. S. Yang).


Since one of the main threads of "Amor Fati" uses The Last Temptation of Christ as a model for Mulder and his temptation to abandon his quest for the simpler life, this article explores in detail the comparison of the episode and Kazantzakis's vision of Jesus, as well as bringing in other literary and philosophical themes in the episode.