“I … believe in the idea that God’s hand can be witnessed. I believe He can create miracles, yes.” – Dana Scully
“Even if science can’t explain them?” – Fox Mulder
“Maybe that’s just what faith is.” – Dana Scully
In suburban Ohio, Mulder and Scully look into the case of a boy who has suffered injuries reminiscent of the stigmata, and Scully’s Catholic background comes in to affect her thoughts on the investigation…
Max: “Revelations” is a pretty standard MOTW by most accounts. A man obsessed with eschatology becomes so enraptured by it he does everything in his power to hasten the coming of the end times. A child with some kind of supernatural spiritual connection to scripture. These tropes are common in everything from horror flicks to novels you can buy at K-Mart. What separates this episode from the pack is how it uses Christianity as a way of shaking up the typical Mulder and Scully dynamic, specifically how a person’s upbringing shadows and complicates their worldview as an adult.
A minister who fleeces his flock with fake acts of stigmata is found murdered in Pennsylvania, one of eleven such ecclesiastical charlatans Mulder has linked together as the work of a single individual. Meanwhile, one state over, ordinary kid Kevin Kryder exhibits a seemingly legitimate act of stigmata while at the blackboard in class. Learning of this, our agents travel there to look into the matter. A social worker fills them in on Kevin’s home life, he has experienced many prior injuries, and his father has been committed to an institution on claims that Kevin’s life is in grave danger from the forces of evil. A rich businessman by the name of Simon Gates, the same individual who killed the minister in the cold open, is intent on kidnapping Kevin for his own nefarious purposes. But it seems a strange looking bald man has beat Gates to the punch, when Mrs. Kryder reports him missing.
Gaining a description of the kidnapper, Mrs. Kryder recognizes him as Owen Jarvis, a man who used to do odd jobs around their house. When the agents get to Jarvis’ home, he tells them that Kevin left, and that he was asked by God to protect Kevin from harm. Unfortunately, Owen soon meets his end when Gates intercepts him while both are looking for Kevin. During Jarvis’ autopsy, Scully notes that his body is not decomposing as it should, and recalls the concept of “incorruptibles,” holy beings she learned about in Sunday school. Events come to a head when Gates finally achieves his goal of abducting Kevin and brings him a plant he owns, intent on killing the both of them so that the “New Age” can finally come. In the nick of time, Mulder and Scully get to the plant and Scully is able to save Kevin who avoided being shredded by a machine.
The closing scene is that of Scully going to confession for the first time in years, and she questions whether God speaks to us, but we have become deaf to his words. In this, she questions her faith in God, in miracles, and how she can reconcile her existential imponderables with the skepticism that has grounded her, especially in her professional relationship with Mulder. It’s something the show planted the groundwork for last season, when Mulder held onto Scully’s cross during the period of her abduction, and noted the conflict between these forces to her mother. It is a resonant piece of characterization.
Radhika: The believer/skeptic dynamic is almost always flipped when it comes to The X-Files‘ religion-themed episodes, and I think that this is one episode that does it rather nicely, even if it does fit the more standard MOTW format. Scully’s faith and her willingness to believe in faith-based miracles is intertwined with her desire to keep Kevin safe, which puts her in the role of… well, a holy protector. And regardless of the viewers’ beliefs, I think it’s a rather positive experience for most of us to see her in this position — strong, believing in something, while also a little vulnerable and doubtful. It is also rather nice to see Scully as the believer, so soon after the events of the previous episode, “731,” seem to have put her more firmly in the skeptic slot once again.
Similarly, I think it’s actually kind of great when we get to see Mulder play the nonbeliever — he’s often the one who comes across as irrational, and while he often turns out wrong when he’s disbelieving of spiritual or psychic events, there is some consistency in how much his character is willing to believe. It’s good to know that even Mulder has his limits, just like Scully does, and that they can counter balance each other, even when reversing roles.
Other than that, I think that this episode was more successful at tackling religious themes than other installments like “Miracle Man” were, and even though I wasn’t raised in the Christian faith, I could appreciate the storytelling as a whole.
And it was a bit refreshing to have a relatively normal kid in this episode. Yes, there’s the whole stigmata angle, but while a potentially creepy thing is happening to Kevin, he himself isn’t particularly creepy — in fact, he’s the average kid who jokes around in his classroom, enjoys telling scary stories, and just wants to go home when things start getting crazy. The X-Files manages to use creepy kids quite well (“Eve,” anyone?), but this bit of humanity at the center of the mystery was rather refreshing. We’re in that lucky part of The X-Files‘ timeline where even the more “average” episodes are rather enjoyable and engaging, and “Revelations” is a rather solid addition to the MOTW oeuvre.
YES, IT’S THOSE GUYS
Here in this episode we have three actors who are of some notoriety outside of the episode. Perhaps the most well known is R. Lee Ermey who played the reverend in the cold open. An actual former Marine Staff Sergeant, he played the sadistic drill sergeant in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, as well as voice work in the Toy Story animated films and a host on the History Channel. Michael Berryman, who played the protector Owen Jarvis, got his start in the horror flick The Hills Have Eyes, and roles in Star Trek on the big and small screens. Kevin Kryder, the focus of the episode, was played by Kevin Zegers. You know him. He was the cloying annoying kid in the Air Bud movies. Enough said!