Season Six is the season of love for XF. More eps have been devoted to the subject this year than in any of the previous ones, either indirectly in the form of “Dreamland” or more directly in the form of “Rain King.” With “Milagro,” however, this exploration may have reached its “climax.”
“Milagro” is exceptionally well done. 1013 does the usual superior production work, Mark Snow’s heartbeat music makes a solid contribution, the camerawork, lighting, directing and acting are all great. But it is the writing, and the multi-layered themes explored, that truly sets this ep apart.
It might be more accurate to say that “Milagro” deals with passion. It is not about a loving heart, but a “burning” heart, the heart represented in a painting Scully and Padgett share a fondness for. The painting’s religious symbolism connected with the milagro that Scully received from the psychic killer, just as he hoped.
Padgett's passion for Scully is the motive for everything. The motive to move next door to Mulder. The motive to write the novel. The motive to want Scully. He first noticed her in her neighborhood. It is implied that this is when the killings began, the bizarre psychic murders where a lover’s heart is removed without a trace of incision, out of a double need…to take revenge for that which Padgett could not have and to create the very situation where he could meet Scully. As Ken Naciamento makes clear in the character’s confrontation with the writer, “*I’m* horrified. I just want to know why I do it.” “So I could meet her,” is the reply.
And a weak one at that. Because Padgett naively believes the deaths he writes about are purely due to the second need without comprehension of the first. That’s why Naciamento reveals that meeting Scully is an “excuse” for the murders, not the “reason.” The reason is to declare man’s only true power, not to express passion, but to destroy it. Only with that revelation does Padgett commit a genuine act of love. As Scully and Mulder passionately embrace in tears and despair, Padgett sacrifices his novel (and thus himself) granting “in this final act of destruction a chance to give what he could not receive.” This is itself symbolic of a religious act of which we are all aware.
The duel truth about love is expressed by Padgett as he writes about (and psychically assaults) Maggie’s late night visit to Kevin’s grave. Two truths are learned, the first “that love was not immutable and could become hate as day becomes night as life become death.” The second is that to have it is to possess something that “can be stolen or lost or worse, spilled blood-red on the ground.” So proclaims the lover and the murderer, the writer and the man possessed by desire.
“Milagro” is a rich symbolic tapestry. Love, passion, to sacrifice and be sacrificed, the written word as man’s nature, the painted heart as sacred love, these swirl and mingle, twist and turn, forming a whole that is both artistically expressed and inexpressible. Much as the relationship of Mulder and Scully itself. Four times they change roles in this ep.
The first is when Scully believes the milagro is a message from the killer (as Mulder usually would.) But Mulder disagrees. The second is after Scully’s encounter with Padgett at the painting when she rationalizes away the significance of the charm only to discover that Mulder now appreciates its pertinence to the case. The third time Scully finds herself defending Padgett, arguing that the writer is indeed imagining what the murderer is doing. Mulder argues that he is imagining before the fact (a position Scully would ordinarily take.) Finally, Mulder physically changes places with her during a discussion with the comment: “You’re about to argue my usual side, aren’t you?”
For Mulder, the novel is a confession and evidence. For Padgett, it is both his best work and an expression of his desire for Scully. All these interpretations are accurate. Twisting and turning like the rest of the ep, Padgett’s work is the focal point for the ep’s plot and symbolism. Jungian psychologists, we are told, believe the characters choose the writer. But, when the character shows up in the end, it is clear that the character is seeking a reason for his repulsive actions. “I’m your character. You tell me. My reason is your reason,” Naciamento states.
It is marvelous how this story engages the viewer. This is what distinguishes XF from all other TV shows. “Milagro” is a splendid act of audience participation. You can’t watch it passively. You are part of the solidity of the murders, of Padgett’s longing, of Scully’s struggle with being, at once, a beautiful object of attraction and a professional criminal investigator desiring only equality with her peers. You are also part of the ambiguity and symbolism that runs rampant throughout the ep, “My Divine Heart,” the character confronting its creator, the changing roles of Mulder and Scully.
Ultimately, this episode can be summed up in Padgett’s answer to Mulder’s inquiry as to “which is the truth?” He says, “By their nature words are imprecise and layered with meaning. The signs of things, not the things themselves. It’s difficult to say who’s in charge.”
The existential reality of this “imprecise and layered meaning” is Scully awakened in terror, finding Mulder, embracing him out of fright as he holds her immovably, attempting to take communion with her tears.
Copyright © W. Keith Beason, 1999
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