Scully is forced to fall back on her Catholic faith and confront the loss of her daughter Emily after Father McCue asks her to assist a family whose adopted daughter died.
SummaryFather McCue, the family priest who comforted Scully during her bout with cancer (see Redux II), baptizes Dara Kernoff, a sixteen-year-old mentally-challenged wheelchair-bound girl. Later that night, as a thunderstorm rages, Dara somehow gains strength in her legs and leaves her house. Dara's father, Lance, realizes something is amiss and makes his way outside. There he sees Dara in the middle of the street, her arms raised upward, kneeling before a Dark Figure. Suddenly, lightning flashes, supernaturally bright. When Lance reaches his daughter, he realizes she is dead—her eyes gone, as if having been burned out of their sockets. The Dark Figure, however, is nowhere in sight.
Father McCue meets Scully at the Easter church service and asks for her help in solving the mystery of the girl's death. Later, Scully visits the Kernoffs, and learns that Dara was adopted six years earlier. The girl suffered from severe spinal deformities which confined her to a wheelchair her entire life. There is no explanation as to how Dara walked out of the house, though Lance is convinced he saw the Devil standing over her in the street.
Scully and a pathologist, Vicki Belon, examine Dara's body. Belon notes her misshapen hands and feet, which contain six digits (the extra fingers having been removed via surgery). Belon reluctantly proposes that the girl was struck down by God, as if she was a mistake.
Meanwhile, a man named Father Gregory visits a psychiatric hospital hoping to visit a girl named Paula Koklos, Dara's twin sister. But his progress is hindered by Aaron Starkey, a department of social services worker, who notes that the priest's adoption petition lacks his approval. Upset, the priest leaves the hospital. That night, a man enters Paula's room. An intense halo of light surrounds the figure and wings form its back. The next day, Scully examines Paula's body, her eyes burned out, kneeling much like Dara. Mulder joins his partner and reveals he has located Dara's birth records, which show she was one of quadruplets. Shortly thereafter, Starkey reveals that Paula was about to be adopted by Father Gregory.
The agents pay Father Gregory a visit at his church. He insists he was trying to protect Paula from harm, and makes reference to an ongoing struggle between good and evil for all souls. Later, while examining Paula's body, Scully experiences a vision of Emily.
Mulder performs further research on the adoption records. He uncovers information on a third sister, who walked into a teen crisis center a week earlier and is apparently homeless. With Starkey's help, he canvases abandoned buildings in a desolate part of town. But the Dark Figure, this time sporting a lion's face, finds the girl first. Mulder draws his weapon and orders a darkened figure to step into the light. It is revealed to be Father Gregory. The priest laments that they are too late, as he found the third sister dead.
Mulder concludes Father Gregory is responsible for the murders. But Gregory insists he tried to protect the girls' souls from the Devil. He warns that the fourth sister must be located before it is too late. The agents step out of the police interrogation room where Father Gregory is being held when new information about the fourth sister, Roberta Dyer, comes to light. Scully urges Mulder to find the girl. Meanwhile, Starkey enters the interrogation room where the priest is being held. He demands to know the location of the fourth girl. When Father Gregory does not answer, he is burned alive by the demon.
Mulder makes his way to the home of George Dyer, the fourth sister's adoptive father. Dyer eventually reveals that Father Gregory took Roberta away. Shortly thereafter, Scully is approached by the Dark Figure, whose head rotates, revealing the faces of a man, eagle, lion, and an ox. Stunned, Scully seeks out Father McCue for answers. He explains that the vision she experienced is a Seraphim, an angel who descended from the heavens and fathered four children, the Nephilim, with a mortal woman. God sent Seraphim to earth to return the girls, who have the souls of angels, back to heaven to keep the Devil from claiming them as his own.
Later, Starkey tells Scully that the fourth girl is at Father Gregory's church. Once inside the church, Scully sees Starkey's shadow, which is in the form of a demon. Scully rescues the girl from a crawlspace and attempts to make her way out a back exit. A blinding white light suddenly erupts, the source of which is the mysterious Dark Figure. The fourth girl changes into the form of Emily—and begs Scully to let her go. Scully reluctantly releases the girl's hand, and she disappears into the light. When the light fades, only the girl's body remains, her eyes burnt away. Later, Scully tells Mulder they should have been protecting the girls from Starkey, not Father Gregory. She also believes that no one killed the girls... but they are now in a place where they were meant to be. She concludes the incident was about letting go... of Emily.
- The confession sequence that can be seen throughout the episode, was a last minute alteration as it wasn't in the original script. When the first cut of the episode came in, the producers realized that certain aspects of Scully's journey weren't coming through. Thus they decided to add an 8-page scene to flesh out the emotional journey that Scully goes through.
- Although the "Nephilim" girls are supposed to be stuck frozen in the position they died in, in the autopsy scene, the one on the table moves her hands and chest ever so slightly. When Scully is performing the autopsy (the one where she sees Emily) there's a close shot of the dead girl. You can actually see her hands and head shaking, perhaps it happened because she was lying nude on a steel table, and covered only by a sheet. The special effects of the four-headed angel weren't finished until literally hours before airtime.
- Moments before Scully drops her keys in front of her car (34:23) you can see the Apollo 11 keychain Mulder gave to her as a birthday present in season's 4 episode "Max".
- There are numerous instances of upside down crosses visible in the background, including a yellow window 31 minutes in when Mulder and Scully discuss the 4th girl after questioning Father Gregory in the police station.
- The song "That Episode of the X-Files Where Mulder and Scully Find the Little Girls with Their Eyes Burnt Out Because of Angels" by experimental rock band Technology vs. Horse is named for this episode, though its lyrics contain no references to the episode or even the X-Files in general.
- "Well, Scully, aren't you the Secret Squirrel?" Secret Squirrel was a Hanna-Barbera cartoon character, an anthropomorphic squirrel secret agent who was a parody of James Bond (SS was Agent 000). Voiced by the legendary voice artist Mel Blanc, he was accompanied by his sidekick Morocco Mole His cartoon show debuted in 1965, four months before the fourth Bond film, Thunderball was released. This was at a time where the Bond movies were reaching their first peak of popularity and had generated a host of imitators and parodies. The original Secret Squirrel Show only lasted for two seasons, then was rolled into the Atom Ant-Secret Squirrel Show, for another season. Since then, the character has been revived several times over the years as a "guest" on other cartoon shows.
- The four faces Scully sees on what is referred to as "seraphim" by Father McCue are associated with the four evangelist apostles: Matthew (Man), Mark (Lion), Luke (Bull) and John (Eagle); they are used in Christian art to symbolize these saints.
- Mulder refers to a crucifix hanging in what is usually considered an inverted position as being a "protest, a sacrilege against the Church". In Roman Catholic symbology, an "inverted" cross is known as the Cross of Saint Peter. Later in the episode Scully gives the correct interpretation, referring to a legend that when Peter was martyred, he asked to be crucified head down because he was unworthy to die in the same manner as Christ. Catholics have about two dozen different crosses with differing significance. Most laypeople are not aware of their different meanings.
- The seraphim are described as having four faces; those of a lion, ox, eagle, and man. This is incorrect, as cherubim have four faces (see Ezekiel chapter 1); seraphim only have one, which is covered by a pair of wings. Revelation 4:6-8 describes seraphim as four separate beings featuring six wings, one having the face of a man, one of a lion, one of an ox and the last looking like a flying eagle (see Angel for more information). The story's authors possibly had these two angel types mixed up.
- If to look upon the seraphim is to give up one's soul then why didn't Scully die when she saw it? Possible answer: Technically, only looking upon the "full glory" of the seraphim is to give up one's soul. Perhaps it just gave her a glimpse...?
- If the Kernoff's were really devout Catholics why would they have waited six years to have Dara baptized?
Cast and Characters
- Joseph Patrick Finn (Confessional Priest) previously played Chaplain in The X-Files episode "The List".
- Glenn Morshower as Aaron Starkey
- Jody Racicot as Father Gregory
- Emily Perkins as Dara Kernoff/Paula Koklos/Roberta Dyer
- Lauren Diewold as Emily Sim
- Joseph Patrick Finn as Confessional Priest