**** If you read the first post, you can skip this preamble…and just jump down to the gif.
I’d been working on this list as one long post, but it was shaping up to be so long that I thought, there’s no way that anyone will devote the time to reading it through, so I’ve broken it down into instalments…
Warning: This series of posts is going to deal with religion, religious themes and imagery. I don’t want to upset you all, so if you ‘don’t do’ religion and have a problem with reading about religious stuff, then let’s save your time and mine and you can just skip over this. Straight up, I’m not going to get tangled up moderating negative comments and whinges about religion – so if you’re feeling the urge, just don’t.
The reason that I have always loved the X Files is primarily because of the dynamic between Mulder and Scully but also for the supernatural content, which unapologetically explored ever widening concepts and boundaries from week to week. I watched the series on network television religiously when it was fresh and new. It was something my mother and I did together every week. I’ll always love this show, like a handful of others, for that reason alone. As I’ve gotten older though, and come back to the X Files, I am surprised about how it has spoken to me as an adult, often for the way it depicts religious themes, thought and discovery. I’m one of those folks that enjoys the spiritual and the idea of ‘belief’ being a lifelong journey. Like Mulder, I want to Believe, no matter how long it takes and I’m open to a range of different ideas and endless possibilities. I’m also one of those people that has no issue with faith and science sharing in my belief structure, in fact I believe the two, rather than being the mutually exclusive, probably have a far greater connection than the human mind can rationalise. Who says we need to know the secrets of the universe? Isn’t it far more fun to ponder them? The X Files did that – for 9 seasons and two films. It never attempted to answer many of the questions it asked, and you know, I was okay with that. I am, of course, tickled by the news that a reboot is in the works, which is what prompted me to write this post in the first place. Before we get acquainted with the new Mulder and Scully though, let’s revisit the Mulder and Scully we first fell in love with all those years ago…
(I’ll be starting at 10 and counting down to 1. Honourable mentions/ runners up will come at the end)
So here we are guys, in the back end of the count down, so without further ado, here’s number 5:
Irresistible/ Orison: (season 2, episode 13 & season 7, episode 7) Despite the whopping gap between these episodes, they are a continuation of the same story and the same villain, thus I am putting them together and counting them as a single entry on the countdown.
We first meet Donny Pfaster in Irresistible, in which he plays a necrophiliac and collector. This episode comes hot on the heels of Scully’s return from alien abduction and, as an audience, we’ve been patiently waiting for her to show some signs of the trauma which she has endured at the hands of Duane Barry and/or the alien abductors/government men. From minute one it is evident that this is going to be the case that breaks her, as she looks upon the desecration of the graves and the bodies of the young women and pictures herself in their position. By contrast, Mulder is difficult in this episode. He moves between an unsympathetic or unaware partner before finally becoming something of a protector to Scully, which is what I think we’re all hoping he is going to be. I don’t know how about anyone else feels, but he almost comes off as a bit of a dick in the early scenes where he is telling Scully that he ‘mentally prepared’ for the grave desecration before they got to the site… (well why didn’t you hip Scully to that fact, huh?) and the whole pouting over the football game – douche move Mulder, sorry.
Donnie, who has an obsession with hair and nails, takes an immediate fancy to Scully and her iconic red bob and stalks her for the duration of the episode. Eventually he is able to capture her and keep her prisoner. One of my favourite points in Irresistible and you see it again (too fleetingly) in Orison, is the morphology of Donnie into the demon when he has Scully in the cupboard. In shadow, he moves through several different personas, before finally becoming a demon (presumably Satan?). This is of course symbolic of the nature of Donnie’s character and the idea that some evils, like the kind of evil which has Donnie in its grips, are eternal, that they’re passed down from generation to generation. A similar theme gets touched on much later in the series (season 8, episode 17) in Empedocles, in which Doggett and Reyes look at the death of Doggett’s son and the idea that the murderer in that case too, was possessed by some immortal evil. I don’t think that later episode captures the concept with as much mastery as these earlier ones though. Certainly the character is not as deeply unsettling. Everything about Donnie makes the viewer uncomfortable, on a very deep, personal level. The scene where he is interviewing for the job and asks the clerk about her lipstick makes my stomach churn, while the later scene in which he pulls the hair out of the bathroom rubbish bin in the home where he is delivering the groceries, makes me want to be ill. There’s a reason that this character stands out amongst all the characters, apart from Eugene Tooms, he is the only villain to make a second appearance and the fact that it takes place several seasons after his initial appearance is testament to his enduring popularity (popularity seems wrong here, there is nothing about Donnie to like).
Oh, and look, as a fan of the Mulder/Scully love story, one major thing that I love about this episode is the hug at the end.
Flash forward to season 7 and we get Orison, in which Donnie returns, escaping from maximum security prison. I thought the concept of mind control that was used in this episode gave it a really interesting twist. Immediately Scully and Mulder are called into assist but this time, rather than displaying the weaker side of her emotions, as she does in the first episode, Scully has reigned in her anger about Donnie. It’s pretty much a given that she is going to become a target again, but I don’t believe that this detracts from the episode at all. Once again, Mulder is being a bit of a douche (seriously, bro, if it were you being stalked by a pop song being repeated on the radio, you’d expect her to be all over it – double standard, Mulder. Shame)
One of the strongest elements of Orison is the haunting rendition of Don’t Look Any Further (if any of you all know where to get that version, as opposed to the dreadful 80s version, hit me back). In this episode, the song is used to create the sense of unease and foreboding, in a similar way that the photography in the first episode did. I might be off here, but I find that there’s something sexual about the song, but sad too, which ties in with the whole idea of the character of Donnie and his sexual deviance, which in itself is based in a warped and sad idea about sex and gender roles. The first time he hears it, Mulder makes an aside about it being a make-out song, which it really is, but Scully recounts her memories of hearing it upon learning that her Sunday School teacher had been murdered, which kind of shuts Mulder down.
The final scenes, in which Mulder bursts through the door, after hearing the song on his clock radio and instinctively knowing that Scully is in peril, is awesome. The silence, the slow-mo, the explosions from the gun… everything is working together to make it highly memorable. For those of us who had been following along with the Mulder and Scully story since episode one, by season 7 the love between them is evident and we’re all just holding our breath and waiting for them to realise that they do in fact love each other. This episode marks an important step in the progression towards that moment.
Credit too, to Nick Chinland, who plays Donnie in both episodes. The only other thing I have seen this chap in was Eraser (which was hilarious and probably the best big Arnie film for one liners). Chinlund is seriously terrifying as Donnie, everything about him, from his posture, to his tone, to the look in his eyes in unsettling on a cellular level. Plus, the use of the term ‘girly-girl,’ just makes him all the more threatening and it is a term that I still associate with this episode and it still makes my skin crawl when I hear it. Both of these episodes are classic examples of how the X Files is a genre-spanning master work, I would call these more suspense than sci-fi. There are no aliens, it is all home grown human horror, reminding us that in many instance, the most horrific behaviour cannot be passed off on alien beings, they exist deep in the human psyche.