Friday, July 14, 2017

Case 03, File 11: Revelations

AKA: God Needs To Talk About Kevin

When The X-Files decided it was going to make Scully religious, they probably realized they were eventually going to need to center episodes around it, which means they were gonna need to find a way to make it into a conflict. So by flipping the tables in the religious themed episodes, making Scully the believer and Mulder the skeptic, they have an episode that (in theory) puts a unique spin on its central relationship. Of course, if they bungled it, the episode would still be mediocre.

Out episode kicks off this time around with a preacher showing off some stigmata (supposed to be the wounds Christ had, but it's usually just bleeding hands), and then immediately get murdered by one of the guys in his church. Mulder and Scully show up to check it out, and discover that he was faking. Mulder informs Scully that he's the 11th fake stigmatic who's gotten killed in the last 3 years, which means they should probably go looking for the next victim.

As if on cue, a bratty kid named Kevin someplace in Ohio starts manifesting stigmata. Mulder and Scully rush off to investigate and find that his father once tried to kidnap him during the divorce, claiming that Kevin is special. After Kevin exhibits a fever hot enough to break a thermometer and a cryptic visit with Kevin's dad, the state decides it's weird enough that they wanna keep an eye on him and bring him back to protective custody. But no sooner is he there, then a strange looking man shows up and kidnaps him. DUN DUN DUN.

Not really though, it turns out the guy who took him is just someone Kevin's mom once hired to work on their yard named Owen, who is also on a mission from God to protect Kevin. Unfortunately for him, Mulder and Scully track him down immediately, even if Kevin bolts for home mid-capture. Owen then decides he's going to escape via defenestration, which goes surprisingly well. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Kevin arrives hope moments before the killer, but then Owen shows up to stop the killer and dies fighting him, while Mulder and Scully show up immediately after (don't ask me about how Owen and Kevin got there on foot faster than Mulder and Scully in a car, I don't know).

"Hey, you're going to need to go to a recycling plant to save Kevin. Wow, that WAS easier than all this cryptic nonsense."
Anyway, Scully autopsies Owen and finds that his body isn't rotting, leading her to believe he's a literal Saint (not sure how that works, but okay) and Mulder disagrees. Before they can descend into a fistfight in the parking lot, they discover the killer's fingerprint in the burns on Owen's neck. Turns out the killer is a guy named Simon Gates, who hit someone with his car, went to Israel and got an evil version of Jerusalem Syndrome, that happened to come with super powers. Meanwhile, Kevin gets snuck out by his mom, but they immediately run into Gates, and after a brief scuffle, his mom is killed. Mulder and Scully decide they want to keep Kevin with them to try and protect him, but he gets kidnapped away from them more or less immediately.

Scully decides she wants to go see Kevin's dad for some more cryptic advice, but his medications been upped, and he's useless. So, with nowhere else to go, she decides to fall back on his previous cryptic advice and heads off to a recycling plant, where she finds Gates about to kill Kevin. A brief fight ensues, but Scully saves Kevin, and the episode ends with her in a Confessional, talking to a Priest about how Mulder believes in aliens but not God.

Revelations is one of those episodes that just got completely deleted from my memory. I remember that there was a religious themed episode in there, but going in I couldn't remember a single thing about it. I would normally chalk that up to it being in the middle of such a good run of episodes, but that's not enough to completely erase it from my mind, so I guess I have to back engineer this feeling.

"Hey Kevin. Hope you were telling a story to make my entrance more dramatic."
If there's a single problem that's dragging the episode down, it would be Kevin. He's supposed to be the emotional core of the episode, the character that Scully is working hard to save, but we never get much of a sense of him as a character, and what we do see paints him as an annoying brat. There's a lot of exposition about the shit he's been through in life, but we never get his point of view on it, and as a result he's a pretty flat character. We understand more about Owen and his motivation than we do about Kevin.

It doesn't help that the stakes are extremely poorly defined. Kevin's dad says that Kevin is important to...something, but I have no idea what will happen if Gates kills him. Yeah Kevin has stigmata and some super powers (which show up pretty randomly) but I have no idea what he is or why he's important. Is he an angel? Second coming of Christ? The kid who's going to pilot one of those robots from Evangelion? The episode never specifies, and it means I'm never totally sure why the villain is willing to die to kill him.

Not that the villain is fantastic either. Oh the actor playing him has some solid screen presence, and they get good use out of a fairly mundane ability (although I will say, him bending the bars at the hotel is a solution in search of a problem) but he's still just a C-List villain at best. His ability is boring, his motivation is vague and we never spend enough time with him for his actor to elevate the character. I like his actor a lot, but he never has the room to make the villain breathe.

"I have to die to kill you Kevin. Not for any good reason, I just saw the future and I look too much like Dick Cheney to want to live."

None of this is to suggest that the episode is without grace points. It's always nice to see Michael Berryman, and I really like how the episode misdirects the audience, letting us think he's a villain based on his appearance before revealing he's a good guy. Kinda crazy, but a good guy. And while it's a small thing, Gillian Anderson sells her wavering faith well and the final scene in the confessional is pretty solid. In fact, I like the themes of this episode a lot, I'm just less enthused with the episode as a whole.

I set out to back engineer why I'd completely blanked this episode from my brain, and I still don't have a solid answer. But I guess that's a pretty damning statement in and of itself. This episode is so bland that my brain just decided to throw it down the memory hole in favor of more lines from War of the Coprophages. There are probably worse episodes in Season 3, but at least they're memorably bad. This one is just kinda...there.

Case Notes:
  • I am sorry for my long absence from this site. There was a broken laptop, and then a con with a couple of panels I had to prep for and it all just fell by the wayside. I'm going to try and get 3 more reviews out this month, to make up for it.
  • I know nothing about this preacher outside of the cold open, but I am immediately suspicious of any religious figure who bags on "Science and cynicism."
  • Mulder casually tastes the blood at a crime scene, like ya do.
  • Mulder's crack about a "Very disgruntled altar boy" is um...let's just say significantly less funny these days.
  • The teacher gives Kevin a math problem, 170 divided by 11, that comes out out to 15.45, repeating. The kid is like 10, come on.
  • I love how Mulder is dancing around saying the word "Stigmatic" to the mom.
  • Kevin apparently has a fever of 110+ (since the thermometer breaks), which means that realistically he should be incredibly hot to the touch, but the episode kinda skips over that and the fact that at 110+ means he should be dead.
  • Kevin's dad is pretty damned creepy, not gonna lie.
  • I dunno if the episode ever explains how Kevin got out of the attic without anyone noticing, but whatever, I can roll with it.
  • I do like Owen just barreling out the second floor window. It's unexpected and kinda badass.
  • I am totally unclear on how the blood got out of the laundry basket so the killer could see it, but again, I guess I can roll with it.
  • I dunno who first decided that Mulder should be somewhat atheistic when it comes to Christianity, but it works as conflict with Scully and it fits with his existing cynicism for systems.
  • Kevin just acquires the ability to project an image of himself and the episode sort of skips past how or why. Oh well.
  • I like Scully bringing attention to the fact that Mulder will believe any little light in the sky is an alien but he won't buy a miracle. It's good character work.
  • There's a lot of good in this episode, but its plot winds up wandering in circles, which is not the best plot structure.
  • It was awfully nice of Gates to take his sweet damn time killing Kevin, to give Scully time to save him.
  • The episode ends with Scully in a confessional booth, because every religious story about a Catholic person is required to include one, by law.
Current Celebrity Watch:

Let's start with the obvious one: The Preacher in the cold open is played by R. Lee Ermey, who became famous after his landmark performance as the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket. He's had success since then, but that original performance was so memorable, it's hard to get past it.

After him, our villain is played by Kenneth Walsh, who fellow Twin Peaks fans might recognize as Windom Earle, the villain from season 2. And of course we have to mention Michael Berryman, who got a lot of work due to his...shall we say, unique appearance, most famously as Pluto in The Hills Have Eyes.

Also, this is more minor, but Kevin's father is played by Sam Bottoms, another veteran character actor, most notably playing Lance in Apocalypse Now.

Future Celebrity Watch:

Kevin is played by Zegers, a child actor who would have suddenly have a very successful breakout as the (human) lead of the Air Bud franchise. He's had on-and-off success since, but seriously; Air Bud.

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