Phantom Sway

X Files Episode 5: The Niacin Creed

In this episode: theology, terrorism, and Mulder tripping on ‘shrooms in a Texas honkytonk

mushroomsThis touching and partly wacky Chris Carter script ventures into theological territory, always a little worrying in XFiles past. This veiled exploration of two types of dogma was more dignified than we are used to, and shows a maturity and frankness we don’t always expect from sci-fi.

The episode opens with a young man in Texas praying to Allah on his prayer rug, rolling it up, and preparing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He then drives to a motel, picks up another Muslim man, drives to an art gallery, and walks inside. It then explodes.

Mulder and Scully are joined in their investigation of the act of terror by young agents Miller and Einstein. He’s a tall-dark-and-handsome believer in the paranormal; she’s a ginger medical doctor. The similarities are not lost on M&S. Miller wants Mulder’s help communicating with the comatose Muslim suspect to get intel on the terror cell–via medium or channeler. Einstein wants none of it.

They all end up in Texas together at the suspect’s bedside. Scully had contacted Miller regarding a technique involving yes or no questions and ECG, where Mulder had asked Einstein to give him magic mushrooms. There is a vague scientific explanation for Mulder’s plan, but more importantly, he didn’t want to bother Scully with such a request so soon after her mother’s death.

They encounter fake Homeland Security agents who want to terminate the suspect, an angry FBI stalwart who wants to keep him alive and in pain, and an angry nurse who tried to code her patient because she is angry at what refugees have done to her hometown, all on the tax payers’ dime.

While Scully and Miller set up the ECG, with Miller questioning in the suspect’s language, Mulder takes the magic mushroom capsules Einstein brought him (so he can communicate with the suspect on some kind of spiritual plane). He disappears from the hospital room, and indeed the hospital, in a trippy sequence featuring “Achy Breaky Heart”, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”, sightings of Skinner, the deceased Lone Gunmen, and Einstein as a dominatrix slapping him back to “reality”. He then finds himself on a boat seeing the suspect held by a woman in a pose much like Michelangelo’s “Pieta”. The suspect is whispering, and Mulder leans in. This is of course where they cut to commercial.

Mulder awakens in a hospital bed where A.D. Skinner is standing over him, furious. Einstein now informs both men that all she gave Mulder was niacin, and his entire “trip” was just the power of suggestion. As she walks Mulder out of the hospital, he sees the woman from his vision. He brings her in and to the suspect’s bed side; she turns out to be his mother.

Scully notes that her presence has changed the wave patterns on the ECG. The mother tells the agents that her son told her in a dream that he could not go through with the bombing, which might be true as he himself did not explode. The suspect then dies.

Mulder tells everyone that the suspect told him something in the vision. He starts to remember some of the words, and Miller translates them to mean the Babylon Motel. Somehow they obtain a warrant off this information, stage a raid, and successfully arrest the cell.

In the airport waiting to go home, Einstein admits to Miller that it worked even though she can’t explain it. At Mulder’s little house, he and Scully hold hands while they discuss the Tower of Babel, how dogma can lead one to hate, and how love can heal. Physical language may separate us all, and the power of suggestion may lead some to kill, but Scully posits that maybe God wants us all to learn how to speak to each other again–through love. They are about to kiss when Mulder hears a trumpet phenomenon he had been pondering earlier. We zoom out and up to see the Earth from God’s point of view, hearing the lyric “I belong with you. You belong with me. You’re my sweetheart,” and maybe the lyric isn’t just about M&S anymore.

I only have a couple of notable quotes this week, as this script had a lot of exposition:

“Yes, I helped him with his migraines, which he claims are due to you.” -Einstein, after Mulder tells her Skinner speaks highly of her

“Is this received wisdom from your magical mystery tour?”-Scully, while Mulder is talking about faith and suggestion

This script is remarkable for several reasons. We don’t normally see network television frankly depict the reality of domestic Islamic terrorism, nor the various points of view on it. None of the characters, whether terrorist or xenophobe, are portrayed as caricatures. They are fairly normal people. No one is winking to the camera as some paranoid hick or rabid jihadist.

There is, of course, the Mulder Mushroom Experience, which Carter had probably wanted to do for years. It was nice to see Braidwood, Haglund, and Harwood again, even if it was in slightly cringeworthy circumstances.

The frank discussion of faith is also refreshing for network television. The XFiles has explored Scully’s Catholicism before, usually in a supernatural manner, and those scripts were always better when the writer respected Catholicism. This time the C word was avoided altogether. Mulder may still not believe in God, but he seems to finally respect that Scully does, and that what she learned in catechism is distinctly different from what these young men learn in terror cells. TV always seems a little afraid to point that out. Care was taken to show that the mother did not believe that Allah demands blood, and was saddened that her son had spent time with people who do.

So there’s something here to please and/or offend everyone, particularly those who take a regular niacin supplement.

Kellie Jane Adan

KJ Adan is a writer in Los Angeles. She likes cats and tea length party dresses and Jesus and hugs and coffee and music. Turn offs include sensible mid priced sedans, monkeys, and Tom Cruise.

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