Monday, November 23, 2015

The X-Files - S7:E9 "Signs & Wonders"

[ S7:E8 "The Amazing Maleeni" <<< Season 7 >>> S7:E10 "Sein und Zeit" ]

This is another dark and scary (particularly if you have a fear of snakes) X-File - a more traditional freak-of-the-week, that opens on a rainy night, very much recalling the days of Vancouver. Further demonstrating the alternating pattern of hits and misses in this season so far (it's amazing how seamlessly the show can switch back and forth in tone from one week to the next), this episode is vastly superior to Jeffrey Bell's last script, The Goldberg Variation. Also, as an episode dealing with religious themes, it lends more evidence to my theory that Millennium's cancellation led to an influx of "Millenniumistic" episodes in this season of The X-Files. Come to think of it, in hindsight, I wonder if the creation of a darker, grittier companion show didn't influence The X-Files' turn toward light-hearted comedy in its fifth and sixth seasons, almost as if Millennium had been siphoning out all of the grim atmosphere. Another thing that I like about this episode is that, even though it deals with Christian themes, it doesn't feel like one of Scully's faith episodes - it's just an episode where the X-File happens to involve religion (like season 1's Miracle Man), avoiding to a large extent the issues of Scully's crisis of faith, and Mulder's atheism (which is often written in less than the most sympathetic manner) - for better or worse (and I'm leaning toward better).

The episode takes place in the aptly-named Blessing, Tennessee, where people are turning up dead, the apparent result of venomous snake bites - except that the offending snakes seem to have a habit of appearing out of - and vanishing into - thin air. The supernatural elements aside, the obvious suspect is the leader of a local fundamentalist church - the Church of God With Signs & Wonders - that specializes in snake handling. There's a particularly interesting scene which juxtaposes the oratory stylings of two very different kinds of preachers preaching the same passage from the Book of Revelation. Not content to fall victim to stereotypes and formula, this episode has a few welcome twists and turns in store for the viewer. Is it a classic tale of the forces of good and evil squaring off on battlefield Earth? Or a good old-fashioned case of backwoods incest, exacerbated by fervent belief, and an uncanny ability to direct venomous serpents? This is a fun and eerie episode, with some great, creepy effects involving snakes, and a pessimistic, open ending, not unlike the one we saw in season 4's Sanguinarium, that teaches you not to judge a book by its cover. I recommend it.

Memorable quotes:

Scully: Snakes.
Mulder: Lots and lots of snakes. Very pissed-off ones, from the look of it.

Mulder: Why would anybody use poisonous snakes as a murder weapon?
Scully: Maybe it's symbolic. I mean, serpents and religion have gone hand in hand. They've represented the temptation of Eve - original sin. They've been feared and hated throughout history as they've been feared to embody Satan - to serve evil itself.
Mulder: Maybe these ones actually do.

Scully: Snake handling. Didn't learn that in catechism class.
Mulder: That's funny, I knew a couple Catholic schoolgirls who were expert at it.

(Mulder's perverted humor at its best!)

Enoch O'Connor: When the devil aims to test you, you best be ready.

Mulder: Sometimes a little intolerance can be a welcome thing. Clear-cut right and wrong, black and white, no shades of grey. You know, a society where hard and fast rules are harder and harder to come by, I think some people would appreciate that.
Scully: You're saying that you, Fox Mulder, would welcome someone telling you what to believe?
Mulder: I'm just saying that somebody offering you all the answers...can be a very powerful thing.

(Like Mulder, I ain't sayin' it's right, but this is a pretty good explanation of one of the reasons why people - perfectly fallible human beings - gravitate toward intolerant belief systems).

Mulder: She gave birth to snakes?
Believer: The devil has been cast out.

Mulder: People think the devil has horns and a tail. They're not used to looking for some kindly man who tells you what you want to hear.

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