The X-Files #182: Milagro

"Loneliness is a choice."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: A writer imagines a psychic surgeon killer so he can meet Scully.

REVIEW: I would call this episode postmodern; others might use the term pretentious. I've decided I love it, so settle down for a glowing review. At its heart, this is the story of a writer whose creation comes to life, and of course it was written by writers whose own creations come to life on the TV screen. The question of whether the author directs the characters or the characters direct him is especially relevant on the committee-written television show, where any single writer is only in charge of a chapter, not the whole; the characters already lived before you got there, which is pretty much the problem that faces the intense Phillip Padgett. He is driven by stalkery love for Scully, but no matter how much fantasy he writes about her, he cannot change her life TOO much. The audience certainly knows he can't - his realization that "Agent Scully is already in love" is nevertheless much too on the nose and the episode's only real misstep - but he must figure out for himself that he's in a one-off, and cannot make a definitive impact.

Padgett is a very interesting character, socially awkward, and yet a smoldering romantic figure, he divines people's characters like he's Sherlock Holmes and uses that ability to manipulate them. The scene in the church, where he basically tells Scully who she is and how he managed to "bring" her there is a stand-out, not in little part due to Gillian Anderson's emotional performance. Here we have a woman who hides herself behind cold objectivity to survive in Man's world/UFOtopia, and he somehow pierces that veil. I was taking her novelistic narration of her psyche with a grain of salt, earlier, but he does seem to have her number. It's the episode's writers (note that Carter himself is credited for the teleplay) telling us who she is from their point of view, a dangerous game, or perhaps not, because Padgett does admit to making mistakes. Point of view is, in fact, very important to Milagro, and director Kim Manners plays with omniscient overhead shots and extreme close-ups on details Padgett might notice, like Scully's lips. Scully and Padgett make a bizarre couple, but one I can believe in, or want to believe in. His fantasy is infectious, and the mystery he represents no doubt attracts her, even against her better judgment. The seduction is strange and a little creepy, but nonetheless involving and sexy.

This is, of course, an X-File wrapped in another. There's the psychic, prescient writer who brings one of his characters to life, and there's the case of psychic surgery murders being committed by that character. A lot of crazy for one episode. But Padgett needed to be part of Scully's life somehow, and the shortcuts he's taken - like not knowing his villain's motive - have led him down a dangerous path, one he cannot control. So the murders keep happening, and Scully becomes, in narrative terms, the next logical victim. The solution is treat love not as something you can HAVE, but as something you can GIVE, turning the metaphor central to Padgett's novel on its head, hearts not being taken from victims, but given to save them. Because of the relationship angle, both our leads are too close to the subject and end up trading places, something Mulder actually physicalizes at one point. She argues for the unknowable, and he for logic. Just another wonderful sequence in a wonderful episode, as far as I'm concerned.

REWATCHABILITY: High - Treads dangerous ground, but succeeds in creating an off-beat, steamy, atmospheric puzzler of an episode.

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