Don't Look Any Further
"Orison" Plot Summary:
"God's love will set us free," intones prison preacher Reverend Orison, asking the inmates to chant, "Glory! Amen!" if they believe. Murderer Donnie Pfaster does not tap his feet along with the others. A prison guard in the machine shop snaps that a murderer of women isn't going to escape from Hell, anyway. Then one of the other prisoners cuts his fingers off with a saw, and in the melee, Pfaster escapes.
Scully is awakened by a breeze, but when she looks at the time, her clock says 6:66. Then it goes black. When the power returns, it's 6:06 a.m. She and Mulder meet at the prison in Illinois from which Pfaster fled. Mulder explains that Pfaster is a death fetishist who kills women to collect their fingers, assuring the marshals that he doesn't think there's a supernatural angle to this case. "He's just plain evil," says Scully of Pfaster, who had kidnapped her before he was apprehended.
When they are alone, Mulder tells Scully to go home, but she says she has to stay. Music in the chapel distracts her, but she comes back to attention when Mulder says Pfaster escaped at 6:06 - as did several other men who broke out of other Midwestern jails. The common link seems to be the prison chaplain.
Mulder questions the man who had his fingers cut off ... but he shows no sign of injury. "God works in mysterious ways ... Glory, Amen," chants the prisoner. Mulder recognizes the signs of a post-hypnotic suggestion and asks Scully about it, but she is distracted again by the same song. Meanwhile, Pfaster is free in the city, studying the fingers on a waitress in a diner. When a local girl approaches, he asks whether he can give her a manicure. Reverend Orison interrupts, telling Pfaster that God chose him for freedom, then hypnotizing the police when they burst into the diner so that they don't notice Pfaster's escape. But Pfaster is immune to the preacher's hypnosis. He steals the reverend's car, running him down while fleeing with the girl.
At the diner, Scully again hears the same song on the radio. This time the lyrics are clearer: "Don't look any further." When she visits Reverend Orison in the hospital, he asks whether she believes in the Lord, assuring her that she doesn't need to concern herself with Pfaster because he is in God's hands. "You're waiting for a sign." Mulder arrives with photos of the girl from the diner, horribly murdered in a bathtub. The preacher is horrified, leading Mulder to realize that Reverend Orison intended to kill Pfaster in the name of the Lord. As it happens, Orison is himself a murderer who did time in prison.
Mulder says Orison is a liar when he claims to be led by God, but Scully isn't so sure. She thinks Orison is sincere in his belief that God guides him. "Has He ever spoken to you?" Mulder asks half-sarcastically, yet Scully won't be taunted. She tells Mulder about the song she has heard three times, recalling that it was playing on the radio when she was thirteen years old and learned her Sunday school teacher had been murdered - a moment she recalls as her loss of innocence, when she accepted the existence of evil in the world. Orison called her "scout" as her teacher used to. But Mulder says he can show Scully how Orison hears God - he has drilled a hole in his head, like certain Andes holy men, to triple the flow of blood to the brain and make him capable of altering the perceptions of others.
Pfaster has taken Orison's car and moved into the preacher's apartment, putting the murdered girl's fingers into the freezer. A prostitute arrives and gets into the bathtub while Pfaster sets up his ritual candles, but she gets nervous when he becomes obsessed with washing her hair. Realizing that she is wearing a wig, Pfaster goes into a murderous rage, but she throws candle wax in his face and flees. Back at the hospital, Orison hypnotizes his guard and flees as well. When Mulder and Scully arrive, the preacher is long gone, but he has left her a note: "Don't look any further." Scully tells Mulder that she never mentioned the name of the song while they were talking in the hospital.
Arriving at his home, Orison pulls a gun on Pfaster, quoting the Bible on the punishment for shedding blood. Late at night, he digs a grave while the terrified Pfaster weeps. Orison asks Pfaster to take God into his heart so that God may ease his suffering, but Pfaster says he isn't crying for himself; he's crying for the reverend. "You cannot kill me," he insists as he looks up, wearing the face of the Devil.
Mulder and Scully stand by the grave in the morning. Orison has been buried there; Pfaster is still on the loose. Scully apologizes to Mulder for suggesting that there was anything supernatural about the man's powers and for believing in signs. Pfaster himself called the federal marshals to tell them where to find Orison's body, and Mulder thinks the FBI should now leave Pfaster to the marshals. "Don't look any further, Scully," he jokes lamely. But Pfaster has gone to Scully's apartment, where he hides her Bible and waits for her. She arrives, puts her gun down, then looks at her clock, where the time says 6:66.
Mulder misses a call from the police asking why Pfaster might be obsessed with red-haired women, going to bed without listening to his messages. He does, however, set his alarm, and for a moment he hears the radio: "Don't look any further." Scully fights Pfaster, gouging his eyes with her fingernails and slashing at him with glass from her broken mirror, but he traps her when she tries to call for help, tying her hands and feet together so she will remain still while he prepares a bath for her. Pfaster puts the song on the tape deck while he gathers candles, shampoo, and embalming fluid. His obsession is so complete that he doesn't notice Scully crawling towards the shattered glass and the gun on the floor under the bed.
Mulder bursts in and aims a gun at Pfaster, who turns to see that Scully has freed herself. With blood running down her face, she raises her gun and shoots Pfaster dead, looking as shocked at herself as Mulder does. Later, Scully sits in her room with her Bible. Mulder assures her that he plans to report that she had no choice but to kill the murderer. "He was evil," agrees Scully, but the law doesn't allow for vengeance even if the Bible does. And she isn't sure who or what was working in her when she pulled the trigger. "You mean, was it God?" asks Mulder. "I mean, what if it wasn't?" she replies.
The return of the horrible Pfaster from "Irresistible" was bound to be a letdown, though "Orison" was well-done as sequels go, with excellent performances from both Anderson and Duchovny as in the first one. This was more Scully's episode, not only because she saved herself but because most of the character development happened to her. I don't think anyone will condemn her for killing Pfaster; if Mulder hadn't burst in when he had, she really would not have had a choice, and her partner's presence barely had time to register when she entered the room with the two men.
I didn't much like her belief that some outside force had been working through her, though. Even if she thinks it might have been the devil and blames herself, she's abdicating a responsibility which I'd hope she would accept. Scully asked a judge for Pfaster's life once, and he went on to murder again. In a sense, she made it possible for him to kill the girl from the diner, though she never specifically articulates this fact. If she carried out the death penalty herself this time without benefit of a trial, that's something I would think she could live with, based on her religious background as well as the circumstances under which she shot her tormentor.
It never ceases to amaze me how Mulder can believe in signs and portents about aliens and conspiracies and shamanic rituals even when they seem preposterous, but he won't give any credence to spiritual manifestations of the Christian variety unless he thinks Scully's life is in danger. As with most of the episodes exploring Scully's Catholic background, he acted as the scientist for once, discovering not only the presence of holes in Orison's head but their physical and cultural meaning. I thought at first that Orison was making sure the song was playing in Scully's presence as a way to hypnotize her, and I'd expect Mulder to come up with a theory like that, too, just because it's creepy and paranoid. He made halfhearted attempts to dissuade his partner from involvement in the case, but I was surprised at his silence about such huge coincidences.
Pfaster was more interesting as a purely evil human being, without overtones about God and the Devil even if those mostly existed in Orison's mind and in Scully's. Like Hannibal Lecter, he was terrifying precisely because he knew the horrific nature of his deeds and just didn't care. Now that he's supposedly doing the Devil's work, he isn't as interesting from a psychological or dramatic standpoint. Orison, whose name is from the same root word as "oration," reminded me a bit much of the preachy man of God in "Millennium."
Anderson has been rumored as a possible successor to Jodie Foster in the Silence of the Lambs sequel, and "Orison" would work well as her audition tape, but I have to say that I'd prefer to see her not working with serial killers in the near future.
The song as deus ex machina works superbly. It's an incredibly creepy, powerful moment when Mulder hears it on his clock radio -- the idea that God or something else may be speaking through the wires has great resonance. That's a brilliant gimmick.
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