The X-Files #215: Orison

"God is a spectator, Scully. He just reads the box scores."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Donald Pfaster from "Irresistible" escapes from prison thanks to a vengeful priest, and goes after Scully again.

REVIEW: One of the best episodes of Season 2 was "Irresistible", the story of death fetishist Donald Pfaster who kidnaps Scully and makes her relive and work through her recent abduction trauma, a pure thriller with no supernatural element. Pfaster is back, and it seems the supernatural has finally caught up with him. He's escaped from prison by the chaplain who, it appears, has given himself psychic powers and is breaking irredeemable inmates out so he can kill them. Of course, Pfaster is so evil and dangerous that Father Orison gets more than he bargained for and ends up dead. And if Pfaster is painted as a demon in Orison's eyes (complete with Buffy make-up), it's probably due to the hole he's drilled in his own head. The extra blood flow has increased his psychic ability, but is just as likely to give him hallucinations like these. Pfaster is a metaphorical demon, a demented and remorseless killer of women; there's no need to make him supernatural per se.

Whether demonic or not, the forces of Heaven and Hell are present in the episode. Scully keeps hearing a song from her youth that recalls her first encounter with evil, a musical cue that eventually sends Mulder off to her place for a timely(ish) rescue. Between this and the priest looking into her soul, is she then being prompted to eradicate evil by God? Or does the song come from a darker place, part of the same collection of symbols as the impossible 6:66 on her alarm clock? What does the Devil care about more? Having a Pfaster doing his work in the world, or corrupting Scully by making her abandon her values and killing Pfaster? I guess the question is, is she being warned of evil by a higher power, or is she being lured to lose her own soul? (For a more neutral theory, see The Truth).

Since Scully was Pfaster's last victim, a murder he couldn't complete, it seems Profiler Mulder should have known she'd be targeted again. Not thinking of this and giving her an armed escort seems dumb. So he does go after her again, and it's all quite violent and harrowing, raw and visceral. But here's the thing: In Irresistible, Scully was rescued by Mulder even though it looked like she was well on her way towards escaping by herself. If Pfaster is looking to complete what was left incomplete, there should be the same narrative imperative to let Scully do the same, and that's defeat Pfaster herself, without Mulder's help. That's how you get over trauma in narrative terms. But Mulder busts the door open again! And this time, she HAD escaped, and Mulder's only real uses is as a diversion that helps her kill Pfaster, and as silent witness to the murder. Make Mulder walk in a minute later, with Scully having overcome and cuffing Pfaster - how do those two endings compare to one another? Is Scully's "revenge killing" as satisfying as her simply showing her supremacy over her attacker? There are no easy answers. I would hope they're going somewhere with this, that it has an effect on Scully's faith and character as a whole. It's certainly directed with enough emphasis on the moment, the sound dropping out and Scully acting without thinking, hearing the gunshot with a delay. There won't be legal consequences - Mulder will keep the secret - but there should be personal consequences. Don't ignore them.

An alternate explanation for the repeated song, the malfunctioning clock and the alarm sounding the exact minute Pfaster escaped from jail can be found in the previous episode, The Goldberg Variation. There, the two agents were caught up in a web of coincidence put into motion by a man with supernatural luck. What if they are still connected to that web? Couldn't it just be amazing luck? In fact, if you want to explain away every cheap coincidence ever, you can tie it into Weems' luck. The agents needed to succeed in all those other instances so they would eventually get involved in Weems' story...

There are really two stories here, and we tend to forget the first once the second kicks in; I'm not sure I like the conclusions it makes, but can't argue that it's deeply involving.



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