The X-Files, “Orison:” for  Discussion on Donnie Pfaster, God, The Devil, and Free Will, Don’t Look Any Further 

 
Scully murders Donnie Pfaster. Let’s  just digest that for a moment. Because I think sometimes we get so caught up in the fact that Donnie totally had it coming, we justify Scully’s actions without giving proper consideration to the massive ethical and moral dilemmas this episode poses. In true X-Files fashion, it evokes complex emotional questions. That’s why we love it. So let’s discuss this deep and multifaceted ending.

Even though Mulder and Scully have the situation completely under control and they can arrest Pfaster as the law and conventional justice dictate they should, Scully kills him anyway. She doesn’t have to. It’s not in self defense. Don’t get me wrong; it might have been. At any time during the apartment struggle scene, Donnie could have come at her, and she could have shot him and been totally within her rights of that last resort. But that’s not what happens at the end. Donnie’s just standing there. He’s not attacking her. And she kills him.

Scully shoots out her light, forcing Mulder to look at it in surprise. Now he can’t officially say he saw what happened. He wasn’t technically looking when Scully shot him. So he can’t say that Donnie didn’t somehow provoke her. And Scully doesn’t then put Mulder in the position of having to lie on his report in support of her. Even though Mulder does say his report will reflect the fact that Pfaster would have definitely killed again were it not for Scully’s justified actions.

Whenever I watch this, my immediate reaction is “Yeah! Kick his ass! Shoot him! He deserves it.” Perhaps because I’m a woman like Scully, and Donnie only preys on women, I can only too closely relate to her fear for future safety and her need for vengeance. But I think that’s how most fans feel when they watch it. Donnie is, after all, pure evil. And foregoing a huge capital punishment/all life is precious debate, for most fans, it’s easy to say that some people are so evil we have no choice but to be rid of them. That’s the pro death penalty side. On the other hand? Would you be willing to be the one who throws the switch or pushes that lethal injection? Or in Scully’s case, pulls the trigger?

That’s the part that gives us pause. Because what happens to our humanity if we take a life? Even such a vile and evil one as Donnie Pfaster’s? Shouldn’t we hold ourselves to higher moral standards than the death fetishists and  killers? It reminds me of a quote from another great SciFi series, Stargate SG-1: “I’m talking about the No Killing one [commandment]. No matter what the reason, every time you break it, you take one step closer to Hanson [a cold-blooded killer].”

This becomes Scully’s dilemma. she feels like a terrible Christian for taking a life. Even though Pfaster was pure evil and would “surely kill again if given the chance.”Scully still feels it’s not her right, or anyone else’s, to take any life. She holds up her Bible for Mulder to see, her guilt palpable.

In the end, Scully muses over what forces could have possibly been at work in her, prompting her to make that decision. Mulder asks her, “You mean what if it was God that made you pull the trigger?” Scully says, “I mean, what if it wasn’t?”

Reason dictates that if you believe in God, as Scully does, you must also believe in the devil.  You can’t have one without the other. And if you believe in the devil it stands to reason that Satan is somehow behind all of these violent impulses. If the devil advocates  vengeance over divine notions of forgiveness or peace, then killing Donnie was the wrong thing to do even if Scully was justified.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t have done the same thing. But I am saying I would have technically done the wrong thing. Because we can’t control what Donnie Pfaster does to us. We can only control our own actions. And the only thing we can ever truly control, is whether we are good or evil.

That’s free will. That’s why God (if you believe) can’t, say, “stop the terrorists from hitting the World Trade Center.” Or stop an evil death fetishist like Donnie Pfaster from killing innocent women. Rapists, sexual sadists, pedophiles, murderers, and terrorists all have the option to be evil. It’s the only way God would truly know who is good or not. As Mulder says, “God is a spectator, Scully. He just reads the box scores.”

God doesn’t interfere. But the devil does. He takes human form in Donnie Pfaster. And let’s face it, if the devil really were to take human form, Donnie Pfaster is exactly what he’d be. A sexual sadist necrophiliac death fetishist killer. He wouldn’t come back as, say, “Lucifer,” Fox’s cool new bad boy. But as pure evil in human form.

But this very X-Files way in which the devil interferes isn’t the only one. He tempts us. Because if allowing us our free will is the right thing to do, then tempting us into violent, instantly gratifying actions with potential long-term damage to our souls, must surely be the wrong thing.

Although maybe God interferes too, but just doesn’t let anyone know. Like when Scully’s cancer goes into spontaneous remission. No one knows for sure whether that was a miracle or not. All we know is that her cancer worsens or remains the same until she embraces her faith and starts praying.  If God did too much for us, we’d become dependent on him for everything, and stop taking responsibility for our own actions–our free will. But if God did nothing, people would lose faith. Maybe those imperceptible little miracles are God’s answer to the devil’s temptation.

One of the things I’ve always loved most about The X-Files is the juxtaposition of science and faith. And how the characters gradually sway each other toward their individual beliefs. Because in the end, there’s a place for science, religion, paranormal activity, and whatever else in our lives. The universe is so vast, why limit the endless possibilities?  I love the open-mindedness of The X-Files and that it doesn’t discount anything out of hand. How, while this conversation and Scully’s faith center on Catholicism, there are passages from all of Earth’s major religions on the surface of the space craft found in Africa. The show makes the case that, just as it would be absurd to say that in this ever expanding universe we are alone as a species, it would be just as ludicrous to discount any and all religious ideas outright. If there’s one thing I learned from the show, it’s to keep an open mind and that it never hurts to believe in something divine.

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The X-Files: When Scully Wants to Believe

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In the season 7 finale “Requiem,” for the first time in a long line of denial we finally hear Scully say she has seen things she can’t deny. It’s a big moment, her finally acknowledging that aliens exist. The difference is she’s finally open to it.

Sure it might just be a convenient time for her to believe because David Duchovny is about to leave the show and they can turn the only character the fans have left into the believer and add a new skeptic in Doggett. It would work, because we love Scully just as much as Mulder, and the two have always been equal protagonists. But the reason the show still works after Mulder leaves, as the “main character,” is because the show really is just as much Scully’s, and has been from the start. In some ways it’s actually more her story. After all, she experiences the most change over the course of the series.

When Mulder enters the office, after Scully admitting what she can no longer deny, she’s staring at the I Want To Believe poster. This moment isn’t explicitly brought to the audience’s attention. In fact, the moment Scully really sees the poster for the first time is an easy one to miss. Mulder just starts talking to her and she looks away from it, uncrossing her arms and coming out of a deep thought. It’s about the “want” in I Want to Believe. The truth is out there; you just have to be open to it.

But why now, after 7 years? It was all her experience in Africa. She saw a little too much of the proof she’d been seeking. Not only alien ships with alien writing, but all intermingled with scripture from the Bible, complete with frightening plagues. Scully had always believed in God–ironic when she was always so skeptical about everything else. It’s even more ironic that her religious beliefs eventually lead her to believe in aliens. And it’s even more beautiful when you realize that Mulder’s experiences with the paranormal lead him to believe in Scully’s God as well.

Not long after “Requiem,” in the two-part season 8 premiere, “Within”/”Without,” we see Scully alone, out in the middle of the desert, searching desperately for Mulder with nothing more than a flashlight. It’s incredibly romantic, but also metaphoric for where she is on her journey. In the beginning, she opposed Mulder and stood within the majority of people who don’t believe in aliens. In the end Scully believes and she’s all alone, just as Mulder was alone in the beginning of the series.

“Wherever Mulder is, he damn well better be smiling,” Scully says, finally realizing the pain and frustration she put him through. Now Doggett gives her a taste of her own medicine.

Scully has finally become one of them–the Mulders and Maxes–the alone and unbelieved—-an outsider–and when she does, I have more respect for her than ever.

The X-Files: The Saddest Show Ever? 

 

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“They said the birds refused to sing and the thermometer fell suddenly as if God Himself had His breath stolen away. No one there dared speak aloud, as much in shame as in sorrow. They uncovered the bodies one by one. The eyes of the dead were closed as if waiting for permission to open them. Were they still dreaming of ice cream and monkey bars? Of birthday cake and no future but the afternoon? Or had their innocence been taken along with their lives buried in the cold earth so long ago? These fates seemed too cruel, even for God to allow. Or are the tragic young born again when the world’s not looking? I want to believe so badly; in a truth beyond our own hidden and obscured from all but the most sensitive eyes… In the endless procession of souls… in what cannot and will not be destroyed. I want to believe we are unaware of God’s eternal recompense and sadness. That we cannot see His truth. That that which is born still lives and cannot be buried in the cold earth. But only waits to be born again at God’s behest… where in ancient starlight we lay in repose.”

There’s no shortage of sad moments in The X-Files. Whether it’s the death of Scully’s sister or Mulder’s mother, or Mulder crying at Scully’s bedside as she lies dying of cancer, or when Scully decides to give up William for his own safety, or the death of Max, The Lone Gunmen, or a plethora of other beloved characters, there are many reasons to cry.

Since I was a kid, my dad has been teasing me relentlessly about watching this “melodramatic,” “far-fetched” show with its “ridiculous, over-the-top emotions.” But he really amped up his criticism after I’d had it on constantly in his living room for the past few months, binge watching with my mom to get her up to speed for the revival.

Every so often he’d be in the room while we watched an episode and make comments like “Scully is useless. Always nay-saying Mulder or getting knocked down.” However, the more the show went on and the more bits and pieces he saw, the more he came to like Scully. “She doesn’t take anyone’s bullshit does she?” “Yes! She shot the evil nurse!” “Wow, she kicked his ass!” Aside from gaining more respect for Scully, (which she obviously deserves) my dad happened to sit with my mother and me watching the end of “Closure,” and gained more respect for the show as a whole.

Just by catching an episode here or there, my dad was learning key parts of the story and getting to know the characters and their motivations. Though he hadn’t seen the episode before leading into “Closure,” or most of that episode itself, he knew enough about Mulder’s search for Samantha, the cloning project, and CSM screwing with Mulder’s heart, that he desperately wanted Mulder to find his sister. I mentioned that this was a great part for him to see.

My dad is a social worker who every day witnesses first hand the unspeakable  cruelty and suffering that evil people inflict on children. He’s been waken up one too many times in the middle of the night by a call informing him of a child fatality–some crime that would steal God’s breath away, as Mulder says of the children’s graves at the Santa Village.

“Why is this a good one for me?” My dad asked.

I told him about the walk ins. How they come to save the souls of children from the great suffering they would experience in life, so they can live forever in the starlight. How the starlight is billions of years old by the time we see it, always traveling, always alive. How its the one thing in the universe that never dies. As I spoke, the beautiful spirits of children were playing, holding hands, laughing, at peace. “My Weakness” played over the scene as Mulder walked through, his face showing a profound reverence. And there was Samantha. The real Samantha. Finally. After all these years. Samantha at fourteen. Samantha free from the tortures of her alien captors.

The beauty of this moment is that the audience feels they’ve been searching with Mulder for Samantha just as long as he has. And finally we all have our closure. As Samantha ran into her brother’s arms and smiled, Mulder could see that she was happy. Now, at last, he could be free.

“You just gave me chills,” my dad said. “This is so sad.”

At first I thought “Aha! I knew it! You love this show! No one can resist the files!” and then I thought, he’s right. It is sad. I watched him watching the show, eyes tearing.

Multiple times during our binge-watch, my mom had called this is the saddest show ever. She might be right. But I love it. It’s sad because Mulder and Scully’s challenges get harder and the forces working against them never relent. They suffer great losses and the conflict is always building, the threat always growing in intensity. It’s a story I can get totally lost in. That’s because of all the emotion the characters go through. It’s a good sad. And it never gets old to get lost in. Because I’m always seeing it anew.

And as Scully says in the season 8 episode “Deadalive,” “The truth may hurt, but it’s the only thing that matters.”

The X-Files: 5 Clues Scully Is Immortal

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I saw a rumor floating around the Internet recently that only confirms what I’ve thought all along about Scully’s inability to die or be killed. Could Mulder’s partner really be immortal? If so, this could be of major importance in the revival.

  1. In the season 3 episode “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” Mulder and Scully meet a psychic who can predict how people will die. When Scully asks him how she dies, he says quite confidently, “you don’t.” Okay, so that’s weird. He might be lying though. Or joking. We really don’t know. Besides, Scully comes really close to dying of cancer in season 4, right? Well Scully doesn’t actually become immortal until season 6.
  2. Scully’s supposed immortality comes in the season 6 episode “Tithonus,” who in Greek mythology is a character who lives eternally, but begs for death. This is the plight of the character we find in “Tithonus,” written by Vince Gilligan. Alfred Fellig is a photographer who once cheated death by looking away from him and letting someone else die in his place. Now, after living over 100 years and unable to die, Fellig shows up at crimes scenes, having a sense of when people are about to die, trying to snap a shot of death so he can finally escape. Scully questions why he would want to do such a thing. How can you have too much life? She asks. There’s too much to learn and to experience. Fellig responds that 70 years is long enough. After you see everyone you know die, you start to think about the big thing they all get to experience, and that you miss out on. At the end of the episode, Scully is fatally shot. Fellig tells her to close her eyes—not to look at death—and he takes her place. This means Scully takes Fellig’s place as the one who cheated death—the immortal one.
  3. A scant 4 episodes later in “Monday,” Mulder and Scully are caught in some sort of time loop in which the day starts over and over without their memories of it ever having happened. What causes the day to reset? It seems to be Scully’s death. While trying to get a bank robbery under control the bank blows up with her inside it again and again. The theory is that since Scully can’t die, this event can’t happen, and so the day resets until Mulder and Scully able to get it right—with Scully walking out alive. The fact that another character dies in Scully’s place makes the theory all the more interesting. It would seem that for this gift, a high price must be paid. That for one to receive eternal life, other lives must be sacrificed.
  4. Scully’s ouroboros tattoo that she receives in the season 4 episode, “Never Again,” while contemplating her terminal cancer diagnosis, is an ancient symbol for immortality. The snake biting it’s own tail has no beginning and no end. Her sudden urge to get this tattoo, which calls to her immediately upon entering the shop, foreshadows her journey to come—how she comes to the brink of death with her cancer, but will continue to live, maybe forever. Speaking of sacrifice, and the balance of life and death in the universe, the ouroboros is also associated with the unity of all things. Indeed, she seems to be destined for this, and on The X-Files, nothing is coincidental or unintentional.
  5. Most importantly, when asked if there is any credence to the theory of Scully’s immortality, Chris Carter recently told the Huffington Post: “It’s certainly been suggested, but I can tell you this: stay tuned for episode 6.” Now, Chris Carter is infamous for these vague responses to questions, and wants everything to be a complete surprise for the fans (which we love him for). So this could just be a marketing strategy to get people even more excited about the revival and to make sure they watch until the very end. Or, it could be we’re in for one hell of a finale. Possibly one where only someone who can’t die can save the day. I can hear Mulder now….“I’ve had a theory that I’ve kept to myself for a long time.” Scully, ever the skeptic, would be hesitant to believe such a thing about herself. I always wondered where the show would go with this. Could Scully’s immortality be the key to something big in the show’s mythology? And will she remain immortal? I for one, have never been more eager to find out.

The X-Files: Is Mulder “The Worst FBI Agent Ever?”

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For awhile now I’ve been seeing articles posted around the internet with the headline “Fox Mulder: The Worst FBI Agent Ever,” all due to something David Duchovny joked about a long time ago because of the show’s notorious unsolved cases where almost no episodes seem to get resolved. As much as I love David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, it always surprises me how little they know about the plot of their own show and how little they seem to get it sometimes (though yes, I know, it’s mostly in jest and makes for great interviews).

But as much as I’ve seen the above article, I’ve seen philes taking issue with it, commenting things like “I know he was only joking but this really bothers me.” And I have to say, it bothers me a bit too. Because in my estimation, Mulder is not only the hero of the show, but the best FBI agent ever.

Scully says something really great in the season 7 finale episode “Requiem.” She and Mulder are being audited and asked to justify what they spend on their cases when so little of them actually get solved. She says, “So much of what we do can’t be measured in standard terms.” “How would you measure it,” The auditor asks.  She replies, “We open doors with the x-files that lead to other doors.” Aside from Scully’s assessment being spot on–they learn more and more about paranormal activity, more and more about the conspiracy, and tally up more and more small victories as the seasons go on and they open more doors–but aside from that…

Like, how do you arrest a ghost? Many of their cases aren’t “solved” because they simply can’t be. Not in the way the FBI and the real world want them to be. Not in any way that can be categorized or easily referenced.

That’s not what the show is about. Its not about taking down a bad guy every week, but about the larger unseen and unsubstantiated phenomena in the world. The X-Files is a story of small victories. It’s about the journey. About venturing into the darkest of places not knowing what supernatural monsters you might find there with nothing more than a flashlight. It’s about Mulder and Scully taking us on a journey with them to find out what really happened to victims no one else believes, and they often do, whether or not they can prove it. They often catch or stop a killer, whether or not they can arrest him or prove he exists. They usually learn what is really going on, when at first they knew nothing. It doesn’t have to be an arrest record, or a number of officially solved cases. Investigation, experience, growth, adventure, knowledge, the hug of a crying victim so grateful just for someone who will really listen to them, are all victories of their own.

Mulder cares for people. People are his main focus. Not just proving that aliens exist, but seeking out victims of horrible alien experiments and torture, and trying to help them. That’s why I chose the photo above for this article. It’s a picture of a man who cares. It’s a picture of the best FBI agent ever because he genuinely cares about every person on every case he investigates.

Mulder is often the only one out there that really cares for the victims in the x-files. Scully too of course, but she doesn’t always believe them. Mulder commiserates. He truly cares for the victims, for the fact that no one believes them, and he wants to help. And he does help. Regardless of whether his case record reflects that.