X-Files Flashback: ‘Orison’


Season 7, Episode 7
Director: Rob Bowman
Writer: Chip Johannessen

The X-Files‘s “Orison” is a perplexing mess of an episode. It returns to Season Three’s odd serial killer Donnie Pfaster – the guy with the finger and hair obsession – but fails to give a really salient reason on why revisit the character. I suppose it’s a similar treatment to the fan-favorite Tooms character, but nothing I’d read or heard about Donnie Pfaster indicated that fans were screaming for his return. Given that handicap, “Orison” is one of those X-Files episodes that has a hard time justifying its existence.

The episode begins with prison chaplain Reverend Orison (Scott Wilson) giving a hypnotic sermon. Pfaster (Nick Chinlund) is in attendance and later witnesses a fellow inmate apparently cut off his fingers during a workshop. Pfaster uses the distraction to walk out of the prison. Hearing this, Mulder and Scully insert themselves into the case as Pfaster abducted Scully years before, but she spoke on his behalf at sentencing, sparing him from the death penalty. The first half of the episode deals with Orison taking Pfaster out of prison only to enact God’s work on him. However, Pfaster overpowers Orison, leaving Orison hospitalized. Orison escapes the hospital and hunts Pfaster down, eventually finding him and holding him at gunpoint while Orison digs a grave. Pfaster lets his true self show (a horrific red-face demon) and kills Orison, burying him in the plot intended for Pfaster. Pfaster then hides out in Scully’s apartment and ties her up after a struggle.

Throughout the episode, Scully had been claiming to hear a single song again and again – something called “Don’t Look Any Further.” With Scully tied up in her apartment, Mulder sits alone in his and hears the song on the radio. He tries to call Scully, but she does not answer. Suspecting foul play, Mulder breaks into Scully’s apartment just as she has nearly escaped from Pfaster. Mulder arrests him, but Scully shoots and kills the unarmed Pfaster. Terrified by her actions, Scully professes not to know who controls her actions: God or another entity completely.

“Orison” is, at its heart, a red-herring of an episode with Reverend Orison serving as the primary focus for over half the episode before being overtaken by Pfaster. And, again, Pfaster shape-shifts into a demonic creature. In “Irresistible,” it was inferred that Scully hallucinated when she saw Pfaster as a demon, but it’s hard to believe that Orison would have the exact same hallucination. Now that Pfaster is dead, his true nature will never be known. But that’s a minor nit-pick. The biggest issue with the episode is Scully’s illogical and irrational (for her) reaction to Pfaster. Yes, she refers to him as evil earlier in the episode, but it is uncharacteristic for Scully – a deeply religious woman – to shoot an unarmed man. Particularly uncharacteristic since Mulder has already arrested him. Clearly, she’s taking matters into her own hands, but it’s so different… so unlike Scully… that it becomes something of a “jumping the shark” moment for the character.

The biggest sin committed by “Orison” is that it simply re-hashed the version of the character we became accustomed to in “Irresistible.” The writers have done almost nothing to elevate or change the character in any meaningful way so as to justify returning to him. It’s five years later, and nothing has changed save his ever-increasing obsession with Dana Scully. That’s creepy, but it’s certainly not enough to build an entire episode around.

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