Written by Kim Newton
Directed by David Nutter
This is a very different episode, and I wish I could find a way to like it more. There are some radically new ideas in presentation and style, and the fact that it’s one of a handful of episodes written by a woman, which is something to be applauded. But it falls into a pattern of episodes that deal with religion, and it deals with it in a way that is, unfortunately, becoming typical for the way The X-Files approaches it.
It’s daring, especially in the way the episodes are being done, to present a story which has Scully the believer and Mulder the skeptic. And the idea that Scully would start to believe a series of religion based killing—- the murders of eleven false stigmatic, in order to focus on the real one that the killer is after. And there’s also the interesting idea that Scully, for once, is the chosen one and her partner. But to do it in such a ham-fisted fashion is incredibly frustrating. There’s the fact that Scully, who as she admits at the end of the episode, has drifted away from the church, somehow manages to pick up on every small religious detail in the episode that impossibly explains every thing that happens to Kevin Kryder—- not just his scars, but also the way that she remembers the saints that are involved. And if she, like the prophecy says, is supposed to protect Kevin, well, she does a pretty crappy job of it She only arrives to save Kevin after his mother and Owen Jarvis are killed, Kevin is literally abducted by Simon Gates under her nose, and Kevin is the one who manages to push Gates into the paper mesher— her total help amounts to pulling him to safety after all this is over. I’m frankly amazed the kid wants to have anything to do with her after the last few days.
One can almost forgive Mulder for being so doubtful of organized religion, given his past experiences, but here, when he tries to play the rational one, it comes across as acting bull-headed. It’s small wonder that Scully calls him out on this as being able to believe in aliens but not miracles—- frankly by this point he has it coming. But it doesn’t help matters by having every other kind of religious figure in this episode either a fraud or something of a deluded maniac. And while its very hard to come to a paranormal explanation as to why this is happening, its even harder to come to one as to how Simon Gates and Owen Jarvis have the abilities they have. Certainly, there’s no paranormal explanation coming from Mulder, which makes one wonder how he gets involved in these kind of things in the first place.
Gillian Anderson, as always, gives a very good performance, particularly in the last scene where she goes to confession for the first time in six years. One can certainly see her struggling throughout the entire episode, and one really wishes that she could find it deserving of a more deserving story. But unfortunately, as would be the case of so many other religious episodes on the series (and, to a larger extent, broadcast TV in the 1990s) can not find a real way to deal with religion that satisfies anybody. Scully’s beliefs seemed badly written, and Mulder’s complains start to sound extremely tired. Mainly, its because the series tends to deal with religion passively, and real religion is anything but. The writers (and invariably in these episodes, they are writers who never write for the series again.) don’t seem fit to make the distinction, and as a result we get a weaker show.
It’s a shame because there are lots of things to admire if not love about the episode. Kevin Zegers, who was about to begin a very impressive career as a child and then adult actor, gives a convincing performance as Kevin. Sam Bottoms and Kenneth Welsh are both very convincing as men at the poles of religion, Bottoms as the institutionalized father, whose belief in his son’s abilities may only be the work of anti-psychotic; Welsh as the mad killer who seems determined to kill him. And it’s fascinating to see R. Lee Ermey in the teaser, making a rare appearance as someone who isn’t military. The strengths of the performances almost overwhelm the lack of subtlety in the writing
Ultimately, Revelations isn’t much better than your run-of-the mill X-Files. The performances carry the day here, but it doesn’t change the fact that for once, there isn’t a lot to support them The question raised in the final words— if God’s speaking, is anyone listening’ is an intriguing one, but as a concept, its a lot less interesting then ‘The truth is out there’. The fact that the episode can’t seize on the obvious link between them is just symptomatic of a larger problem here.