March 31, 2018

The X-Files 7.9, Signs and Wonders: This Case Has Mulder and Scully Rattled

Posted in TV tagged at 1:22 pm by Jenn

Not once in this episode does Mulder say, “Why did it have to be snakes?” I’m disappointed

Summary: In Blessing, Tennessee, a man gets upset about some medical test results and tears them up. He starts praying for protection as he packs a suitcase. Someone’s in his yard, but he doesn’t see who it is. As the man loads a gun, he hears the rattle of a rattlesnake. He hurries outside to his car, locks the door, and prepares to rive off into the night. He drops his keys, and when he goes to pick them up, a snake slithers out. Suddenly there are snakes everywhere, and the man can’t get out of the car. He tries shooting the snakes, but it’s not enough.

In his office, Mulder studies up on snakes before presenting the case to Scully. He explains that the man, Jared, died from more than a hundred snake bites from 50 different snakes. No snakes were found in the still-locked car when Jared’s body was discovered. The mystery deepens because the kinds of snakes that supposedly killed Jared usually hibernate in the winter. There was no sign of any humans other than Jared being at the scene of his death. Mulder’s stumped.

Scully suggests that the snakes were symbolic, since they’ve long been tied to religion, seen as serving evil. Mulder wonders if these snakes actually did serve evil. “Are you going to type that into our travel request?” Scully asks. Mulder agrees that the case involves religion, and says Scully isn’t the first person to suggest that.

At Jared’s funeral, Blessing Community Church’s Reverend Samuel Mackey tries to assure Jared’s pregnant girlfriend, Gracie, that Jared is in a better place now. The agents arrive just after the service and ask to speak to Mackey. He says he’s already spoken to the authorities, as he had questions about how Jared died. He doesn’t want to cast aspersions on anyone’s beliefs, but he knows that before Jared came to Blessing Community Church, he worshiped at the Church of God with Signs and Wonders. They handle snakes, believing God protects them from harm.

Mulder asks why Jared left his previous church. Mackey says he and Gracie both agreed it was too dangerous, and were both persecuted by the other parishioners. Mackey blames the church’s leader, Enoch O’Connor. Scully wonders if that’s enough of a motive for O’Connor to murder Jared.

The agents go to the Church of God with Signs and Wonders, and Mulder makes a requisite snake-handling/male anatomy joke. The church doesn’t have electricity, so the agents have to turn on their trust flashlights to search the building. Scully scoffs at snake handling, but Mulder doesn’t think it’s any stranger to believe in than communion wafers or transubstantiation. Scully adds UFOs to the list. Mulder reminds her that her Catholicism and O’Connor’s religion are based on the same book.

A snake watches as the agents find a box that they think might contain more slithery friends. It’s empty, which Scully finds more disturbing than the idea of it containing snakes. Suddenly snakes fill the room, and the agents pull their guns. O’Connor arrives and tells them that if they’re righteous, they don’t need to be afraid. Mulder would like more assistance, just on the off chance that he’s not righteous enough to be protected from a rattlesnake bite.

O’Connor tells the agents that Jared “strayed from the path,” and O’Connor’s sorry for his death but has nothing else to say. Mulder asks about Jared’s cause of death. O’Connor says it was “a test of faith, a test of righteousness.” The devil tested Jared, and obviously he was on the wrong side. Scully asks if he’s really talking about his own test. O’Connor says he doesn’t think the agents know which side they’re on, but he does.

Mulder and Scully leave as she complains that he dragged her to Tennessee and landed her in room with a bunch of deadly snakes. Mulder says that O’Connor was in Kentucky the night Jared died, so he couldn’t be the killer. But since Jared had packed to go somewhere, someone must know where he was headed.

At the funeral reception, Iris, a woman from the church, tends to Gracie, then tells Mackey that Jared called her boardinghouse the night he died, wanting to talk to Gracie. She was asleep, so Iris didn’t bring her to the phone. She thinks Jared was drunk; he was ranting about the devil and paying for his sins. Iris feels horrible that she didn’t let Gracie talk to Jared on his last night alive (not that she knew at the time that it would be his last night).

Back at Signs and Wonders, there’s a revival-type service going on. O’Connor tells his congregation that they must be either hot or cold, because God hates people who are lukewarm. At the community church, Mackey leads a Bible study on the same scripture passage, though much more calmly. Mackey lays hands on a parishioner and tells everyone that God wants them to be on fire. He brings out some snakes and starts spasming, I guess because he’s so on fire with the Holy Spirit.

At the community church, Iris puts together bulletins for Sunday’s service. Her staple remover turns into a snake’s head and bites her. The snake handling continues at Signs and Wonders, as Mackey says that God is blessing His people and destroying His enemies. Iris is washing her wound in the bathroom sink when snakes crawl out of the drain and attack her.

The agents return to the church as Iris’ body is taken away. Mackey tells Mulder about Jared calling Gracie the night he died. Mackey and Iris didn’t finish their conversation, but Mulder thinks that’s the point. He joins Scully as she tells Gracie that they think O’Connor may be connected to Jared and Iris’ deaths. Gracie disagrees – this is the work of Satan, not anyone human. Scully notes that that sounds like something O’Connor would say.

The agents encourage her to keep an open mind, but she still insists that O’Connor didn’t have anything to do with the two deaths. She would know better than anyone. Mackey notes that she might be biased, and Mulder puts it together – Gracie is O’Connor’s daughter. When Gracie got pregnant out of wedlock, her father barred her and Jared from the church, and Gracie from the family’s home.

Mulder and Scully go back to Signs and Wonders, though Scully doesn’t want to go back inside. Mulder sees a wall of pictures reminding parishioners of the lost souls they need to pray for. Jared and Gracie’s pictures are there, as is one of Gracie’s mother, Alice. Scully finds a shed full of snake boxes, and as she turns to leave, she runs into O’Connor. He tells her she must be judged and opens a box. He forces her hand near a snake, ordering her to repent. Mulder arrives and gets O’Connor to let Scully go.

They take O’Connor to the local sheriff’s station, though O’Connor thinks Scully would have learned something about herself if Mulder had let them continue. It would have been good news. Mulder asks if O’Connor did the same thing to Alice as he did to Scully – Alice died of multiple snake bites during a church service six years ago. Well, according to O’Connor, that’s what happened, but Mulder thinks he killed her. Was she unrighteous, like Jared and Iris?

O’Connor mocks Mulder for being educated but “too smart to know any better.” He doesn’t realize that Satan is close by. He’s too proud. Mulder asks if O’Connor is enacting Old Testament-style revenge. What does he have planned for Gracie? O’Connor says he prays for his daughter because she’s lost. He tells Mulder he’s not as smart as he thinks. He has to be a different kind of smart down here; otherwise the devil will make a fool of him.

Gracie tells Scully that she changed her mind and doesn’t want to see her father. Scully asks if she still believes O’Connor is innocent. Gracie says it doesn’t matter – “he’ll be judged as he deserves.” O’Connor spends the night alone in lockup, getting up in the middle of the night to pray. His snake friends come to visit, filling his cell.

Multiple bites land O’Connor in the hospital, and though Scully thinks this means he’s innocent, Mulder thinks he did this to himself. Gracie was contacted, and she refuses to let the doctors give her father the antivenom he needs. She’s citing religious grounds, saying that God gets to decide what happens to O’Connor. Scully thinks this makes Gracie look like a new suspect. Mulder agrees that she could be angry enough with her father to attack him, but not Jared and Iris.

The agents to go Jared’s house, where Mulder walks through what he thinks happened: Jared was scared and wanted to leave town with Gracie. They talk about religious tolerance, and how it could be powerful to have someone offer you what you thought were all the answers. They find the medical results Jared threw out and see that he learned the day he died that he was infertile. That means he’s not the father of Gracie’s baby. Scully wonders if someone killed him to keep that information secret.

Mackey joins Gracie at the hospital, where she’s watching her father sleep. Mackey asks her to reconsider approving his treatment, but Gracie knows that O’Connor would want to let God decide what happens to him. He’s recovered from bites before. Mackey wonders if Gracie doesn’t want her father to get better. Gracie says the decision isn’t for her; she can’t risk O’Connor’s soul. Mackey reminds her that when she first came to his church, she said she wanted to live her own life and make her own decisions. If she lets God make the call here, is she making her own decisions, or living O’Connor’s beliefs?

Gracie agrees to the treatment, but when Mackey goes to tell the doctors, O’Connor’s heart rate speeds up and his wounds start oozing…something really gross. He wakes up and grabs Gracie’s hand. By the time the agents arrive, O’Connor and Gracie have both fled. Mulder thinks O’Connor took his daughter somewhere, though Scully finds that ridiculous, since he was just on his deathbed. Plus, what would be his motive? Mackey thinks he knows, and tells them that Jared wasn’t the baby’s father. Scully guesses that it’s actually O’Connor.

O’Connor takes Gracie to Signs and Wonders, telling her he’s bringing her home. The parishioners are all there, ready for a special service. O’Connor dunks Gracie in water, praying for healing as she worries that something’s wrong with the baby. She’s right, since the baby is actually a bunch of snakes.

The agents get there too late again, though at least Gracie’s still alive. There’s no baby, and the parishioners won’t talk. Mulder realizes that Gracie gave birth to snakes, though a parishioner prefers to think of the delivery as the devil being cast out. Mulder heads off to find O’Connor, leaving Scully with Gracie.

O’Connor turns up at Mackey’s church, accusing Mackey of stealing what was most important to him. Mackey argues that Gracie fled Signs and Wonders on her own, simultaneously fleeing a vengeful God and a horrible father. O’Connor starts to attack Mackey with a knife, but Mulder finally makes it somewhere on time and shoots O’Connor before he can do any harm.

Gracie wakes up in the ambulance on the way to the hospital and asks Scully where her father is. She tells Scully that O’Connor didn’t hurt her – he saved her. Mulder tells O’Connor that help is coming, in the form of an ambulance, but O’Connor says it’s not. He reminds Mulder that he doesn’t know which side he’s on. He repeats what he said before about having to be smart “down here.”

Mulder somehow figures out that Mackey is the real killer. Jared realized that he wasn’t the baby’s father, and that O’Connor was. Mackey killed him to keep him quiet, then killed Iris because she was getting closer to the truth. Mulder thinks all of this has been part of a plan to destroy O’Connor. Mackey asks if Mulder’s a righteous man. “Most people believe that they’re on the side of angels, but are they?” he asks. The doors to the room they’re in close on their own, and snakes appear. Mackey asks what Mulder would do if he were put to the test.

Scully gets to the church and finds O’Connor bleeding but mostly okay. He tells her she can’t help Mulder; “this is his alone.” She hears her partner yelling and finds him on the floor, bleeding from a snake bite but not horribly injured. Mackey is gone.

Recovering in the hospital, Mulder tells Scully that Mackey will probably never be found. People think the devil has a tail and horns, and would never expect him to be a human who tells you things you want to hear. Scully says Mackey’s just a man, like O’Connor. Mulder disagrees, saying that if this was a test, he failed. Scully thinks he passed just by not dying. In Hamden, Connecticut, Mackey is now going by Wells, and has taken over as the reverend at a church there. He chats with a parishioner, then lets the snake that lives inside him snack on a live mouse.

Thoughts: Gracie is played by Tracy Middendorf. Iris is played by Beth Grant, who continues to doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion.

For the last time, show: The book is Revelation, not Revelations. Though my guess is that O’Connor didn’t go to divinity school, so he probably wouldn’t know.

Shouldn’t Mulder and Scully have searched Jared’s house right away? Wouldn’t that be the first place to search, especially since he died on the property?

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