The X-Files #18: Miracle Man

"Wait. This is where they bring out Elvis."
ACTUAL ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Mulder and Scully investigate a religious healer who may be killing the faithful.

REVIEW: In a normal crime show, when you set up an Evangelical preacher offering faith healing, the implication is that, at best, the effects are psychosomatic, and at worst, are fraudulent. In the world of the X-Files, we know psychic powers are real and have had evidence of an after-life, which means there is a God (though his nature and intent are debatable). So the plot is all reversed. Though the preacher IS getting rich off his ministry, he is not perpetrating a fraud on the faithful. Samuel, the boy with the healing touch, thinks his powers have turned into a death touch because of his prideful sins, but THAT'S the hoax. Someone is destroying the ministry by destroying the life of its healer, and while the man he once raised from the dead is sinister, he's not the most likely suspect (especially if we mistake his attempts to stop any autopsies from being conducted with religious extremism). At the same time, the cops who in a normal narrative would be on the side of right fall into the real killer's trap and cause Samuel's wrongful death based on false evidence.

While that's all fairly pleasant, the episode may over-egg the pudding by bringing Mulder's sister into the middle of things. Fine, Samuel can "see" pain, even the psychological kind, and practice cold readings on people. But that Mulder then starts seeing visions of his sister, still a child, sidetracks the story somewhat. Once, maybe, but he's soon running after ghosts at inopportune times. It's distracting and doesn't really fit the story or what it's trying to say. It's barely a counterpoint to Scully's revealed Catholicism, since the different types of "faith" invoked aren't really explored. Samuel is a sort of Second Coming, both Moses and Jesus, depending on where we are in the story, and that may offend some viewers (not this old lapsed Catholic, of course), though they're invited to buy into Scully's world view, which chooses reasonable explanations over miracles, because she likely sees religion as a moral code, not an accurate depiction of events.

The atmosphere is on point, as usual, with macabre touches like cutting from getting permission for an autopsy to Scully sharpening knives in a darkened room. The killer dressing like a Man in Black is a fun mixed metaphor for the show, though he's perhaps supposed to look more like a villain from a German silent film. The show successfully manages to create its style in every setting.

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE:
IS the Sheriff responsible for Samuel's manslaughter? While he's certainly guilty of not caring enough, it's not actually clear that he made the decisions that led to the boy's death. We know, for example, that Vance has supporters inside the sheriff's office - it's how he knew to show up at a victim' exhumation. So the cruel deputy who puts bruisers in with Samuel could be that inside man. Then again, if Vance wanted Samuel dead, he could just have done it himself, so it's possible the sheriff wanted to teach Samuel a lesson about giving people false hope and things just went too far. We're not privy to the inquiry.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - A middle ground X-Files episode with strong twists, but Mulder's hallucinations don't go anywhere and seem tacked on.

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