Season 3, Episode 11: “Revelations”
If “Revelations” reminds you of Season 1’s “Beyond the Sea,” good. It should. There are a lot of similarities between the two, the most obvious of which is the rare Mulder-and-Scully switcharound, in which Mulder plays the role of the skeptic and Scully the believer.
There’s something extremely special about the way Scully’s character is explored in “Revelations,” but at the same time, I’ll admit it’s not my go-to episode when I want to kill an afternoon watching a little X-Files. It’s not the easiest episode to watch, for many reasons. First, we have Mulder not believing Scully, which is never fun. Second, we learn about Kevin and his terrible, terrible life, in which everyone around him is either insane, dead, about to die, or about to kill him. Some of the situations that take place in this episode are disturbing and sometimes gruesome. And, to top it all off, we have Mulder being a bit of an asshole.
For the sake of this review, I’m going to focus mostly on two things: the dynamic between Mulder and Scully and Scully’s exploration of her faith. For those looking forward to me discussing Jesus Boy Kevin (though I don’t imagine there are many of you), I’m sorry, I just don’t find him all that interesting.
No, this episode belongs to Scully, and it takes her character to places it’s never been before. For the first time since “Beyond the Sea,” we have Scully seeing things that Mulder doesn’t, and believing in things that Mulder won’t. For the first time, this case forces Scully’s religious beliefs into the limelight, which hasn’t really been done before and never will again, at least not to this degree.
Scully’s Catholic faith is one of the many threads of her complex character. It doesn’t define her character completely, but it does stick out because it’s such a deviation from what we normally expect of Scully. And yes, that’s a good thing. Without it, Scully wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. It’s the part of her that embodies a struggle that many people go through – how do I justify my faith with what I know to be factual, concrete, and real?
Chris Carter said in an interview that Scully’s faith was a crucial part of her person, that he felt like he had to write in this conflict within her to make her more dimensional. And while I’m oh-so-glad he did, I really wish the issues “Revelations” explores had been brought up more, or at least gelled with the rest of the show more smoothly. At the same time, that’s nearly impossible, because, well, it’s religion. It’s a touchy subject. In order to deal with this in a way that doesn’t make any sort of grandiose religious statement, we have to make it completely about Scully, and since the show is about Mulder and Scully, that would have been difficult.
Still, “Revelations” is an episode that definitely needed to exist. Scully’s faith was an elephant in the room and has been far too long, and while “Revelations” doesn’t exactly resolve any of these conflicts Scully’s facing, it at least acknowledges them. In a way, they can’t be resolved, they never will be resolved. They’re not supposed to be resolved.
I’m not going to discuss why I think Scully is a Christian, because I don’t think that’s the point. The real question is, how can Scully have faith in God but not in anything else she and Mulder encounter on the X-Files? How can she be a skeptical scientist and a believer in God at the same time?
Well, that’s a big question, and I’m not sure I have the intellectual chops to answer it, but I’ll do my best. Here’s what I think. When it comes to how she views the world around her – concrete objects, facts, events, etc. – Scully relies on her science. She doesn’t jump to the nearest myth or folk tale like Mulder does; instead she relies on hard and quantifiable evidence.
However, when it comes to things that aren’t concrete – emotions, faith, God, spirituality, the “why” behind things, if you will – science doesn’t provide the answers for Scully – and here’s what I think is particularly important – nor does she want it to. After all, emotions and spirituality can’t really be quantified – Scully knows that.
And yet, she does have trouble reconciling her science with her faith. She says so at the end of the episode:
SCULLY: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been six years since my last confession, and since then I’ve drifted away from the church. I’m not sure why exactly.
Six years since her last confession. Only three of those have been spent on the X-Files with Mulder, so we know that this is something Scully has been dealing with for a while and that it isn’t entirely Mulder-related. But while we’re on the subject…yeah, I do think Mulder has a lot to do with it.
Let’s talk about Mulder for a minute.
Mulder’s an asshole in this episode. I don’t care what excuses you cook up for him, he’s mean-spirited and dismissive. Sure, Scully’s often dismissive of Mulder’s theories, but she isn’t nasty about it, just assertive. Mulder, on the other hand, verges on being downright awful to Scully in this episode. It’s uncomfortable to watch, but I’m glad they put it in.
For one thing, it’s consistent. We’ve seen this kind of reaction from Mulder before, both in “Miracle Man” when pokes fun at the church in that episode and especially in “One Breath” when he’s quick to dismiss Melissa Scully’s spiritual mumbo jumbo. Mulder seems particularly uncomfortable when it comes to religion.
It’s not too hard to see why if you think about it. After aliens, paranormal creatures, and super powers, what’s the next step up? Well, God. God trumps everything else, really. If Mulder were to accept or even consider God as a possibility, his work loses significance.
SCULLY: How is it that you’re able to go out on a limb whenever you see a light in the sky, but you’re unwilling to accept the possibility of a miracle? Even when it’s right in front of you.
MULDER: I wait for a miracle every day. But what I’ve seen here has only tested my patience, not my faith.
Mulder waits for miracles, but he doesn’t want them to come from above. He wants them to come from whatever monster or alien he’s chasing at the moment. Not from God. Where would he go after that?
But Mulder’s problem is that he can’t see the difference between believing in God and aliens, at least, not enough to keep him from being hostile towards Scully’s willingness to believe in this case. She’ll believe in God, thinks Mulder, why won’t she believe in aliens?
PRIEST: Have you come to confess?
SCULLY: No, um, there’s a man that I work with – a friend – and usually I’m able to discuss these things with him … but not this. Father, do you believe in miracles?
PRIEST: Of course, I see them every day … the rising sun, the birth of a child …
SCULLY: No, I’m talking about events that defy explanation. Things that … I believe helped me to save a young boy’s life. But now I wonder if I saw them at all. If I didn’t just imagine them.
PRIEST: Why do you doubt yourself?
SCULLY: Because my partner didn’t see them. He didn’t … he didn’t believe them. And usually he … he believes without question.
PRIEST: Maybe they weren’t meant for him to see. Maybe they were only meant for you.
SCULLY: Is that possible?
PRIEST: With the Lord, anything is possible. Perhaps you saw these things because you needed to.
SCULLY: To find my way back?
PRIEST: Sometimes we must come full circle to find the truth. (Scully looks up at the priest) Why does that surprise you?
SCULLY: Mostly, it just makes me afraid.
SCULLY: Afraid that God is speaking … but that no one’s listening.
Here at long last, Scully is contemplating the intersection between God and aliens, for lack of a better phrase. Why didn’t Mulder see what I saw? How is it that I can believe in these miracles but still be a scientist? Did I just make them up?
The episode ends on the actually quite final but nonetheless uncomfortable conclusion – even if these were signs from God that Scully saw, what does it matter if she’s the only one that sees them? If the Mulders of the world won’t accept miracles, what use is a message from God anyway?
And, friends, I will leave you to contemplate those questions – all of these questions, really – on your own. Because hell if I know. 🙂
Final score for “Revelations” is 9/10. I realize I kind of just went a whole review without really giving an actual opinion on the episode at hand. And true, the nature of this episode makes it a hard, hard, hard one to judge and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it. But honestly, I think “Revelations” is just fantastic. The writing is superb, and it’s all about character exploration and development. I may be the minority on that front, I don’t know. The other elements of the episode – such as the actual Kevin the Jesus Boy case – keep it from being a 10/10. But the questions it raises are great brain food and can be applied to more than just Scully and The X-Files. I really, really like this one.
- Despite his being a jerk throughout the whole thing, there are a plethora of Awesome Mulderisms. My particular favorite is “You never draw my bath,” but there are many, many more. Mulder does love his one-liners.
- Kevin the Jesus Boy is boring, boring, boring. I never could buy the “bond” between him and Scully, although it’s not entirely out of character for Scully.
- Gillian Anderson is really good in this episode.
- The entire last scene is just gorgeous. It easily goes onto the list of best X-Files endings.