Shout! Factory // 2002 // 624 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Mac McEntire // April 13th, 2005
"That night, the blood, my blood, it was...it was dripping on the broken glass. And it started spelling words."
What is a miracle? To some people, it is a sign from the heavens, reaffirming their faith in God. To others, it could be evidence of the supernatural, a chance to document an unseen world that exists all around us. But what if you really did see something so physically impossible that it could only be explained as a message from above? Would it be life-affirming, or would it terrify you?
In Miracles, producers Richard Hatem (The Mothman Prophecies) and David Greenwalt (Angel) explore these and other questions, drawing a fine line between the spiritual and the sinister. Thanks to Shout! Factory, all 13 episodes of the series are now available in a four-disc set, so viewers can seek the truth for themselves.
Paul Callas (Skeet Ulrich, Scream) is an investigator for the Catholic Church, called to the scene whenever an alleged miracle occurs. Time after time, he proves that what appears to be the work of the hand of God actually has a logical, mundane explanation.
But when Paul experiences a genuine miracle, one that saves his life, the Church refuses to accept it, due to a lack of evidence. After a making a career out of disproving the fantastic, Paul resigns and sets out in search of the real thing. This leads him to join Sodalitas Querito, a non-profit group dedicated to exploring the unknown.
>From there, Paul encounters an airplane filled with transformed passengers, a spectral little girl who appears at the scene of enormous disasters, a sinister paraplegic, and more. Meanwhile, Paul's employer, the perpetually grim Alva Keel (Angus MacFadyen, Titus), has secret information about Paul that could mean life or death.
Spirituality has a dark side. If we seek answers by peering into the beyond, we might take a wrong step or open a door we shouldn't. This is what happens to our hero Paul in Miracles. The miracle he experiences in the first episode should have been an uplifting one. But instead, through his interaction with Keel, it takes him to places shadowy and frightening.
During their initial meeting, when Paul mentions God, Keel slams his fist on a table, shutting Paul up. It's clearly a sensitive issue for Keel, and yet he's made the search for God to be his life's work. Not every episode deals strictly with God, but that is clearly where Paul and Keel's quest is taking them. For them, proof of the supernatural means proof of the divine -- but the meaning taken from any such evidence would be different for each person seeking it.
Paul might be seeking answers, but Keel is all about action. He drops hints about a great darkness gathering on the horizon, and possibly the end of the world. For him, finding evidence of the divine means bringing order to chaos. This is evident when he reveals his background to Paul, sharing how he once heard his dead mother's voice in a collection of random bird calls.
Paul, while caught up in a role beyond his understanding, takes time to help others while searching for his own answers. We are never directly told why this is, but hints are dropped throughout. Paul begins the series disappointing the faithful, providing mundane explanations for their spiritual encounters. Later, after his own experience, Paul instead tries to bring hope, rather than heartbreak, to others.
Miracles emphasizes relationships between parents and children. Paul is an orphan, while Keel lost his mother at an early age. Throughout their adventures, other parental issues come up. Ghostly children appear in search of their parents in "Little Girl Lost" and "The Ghost." An 11-year-old sees a vision of her future, especially her struggle to raise two children of her own, in "The Friendly Skies." In "The Patient," Paul is able to help a doctor only after becoming friends with his estranged daughter. A time-traveling Civil War soldier can't die until he learns the fate of his son in "Battle at Shadow Ridge." There's an abused son in "The Bone Scatterer," and a sister acts as a surrogate mother to her brother in "Saint Debbie." Almost every episode has a parent-child element to it. In the battle between Heaven and Hell, as depicted in Miracles, the forces of good do their part by reuniting children with their parents.
Intriguing themes and ideas fill the series, but first and foremost, it is scary. Horror fans will delight in all of the creepy thrills seen throughout. This is not cheesy slasher-movie scary. It's smart horror, the kind that gets into your head and under your skin. Within the first 10 minutes of the first episode, there's an extreme close-up of a syringe poking into a corpse's eye. This sets the tone for what's to come. Elsewhere, spirits possess innocent victims, murderers stalk their prey, and a ghoulish man with a pale face pops up in brief flashes, as if presiding over it all. In each episode, there's at least one moment where the viewer thinks, "Wow, that's really messed up."
None of the above would work, though, without actors who can get it all across with conviction. Skeet Ulrich plays it understated, but one look in his eyes shows that he's always thinking and working out the clues for himself. Angus MacFadyen is more intense. He comes across as harsh and cold-hearted, but is not afraid to show Keel's warmer side if need be. Also excellent are the numerous guest actors coming and going in each episode, making the most of their smaller roles. Special mention must be made to actress Maggie Grace (Lost), who delivers a superb performance as a young woman with dual identities in "Mother's Daughter."
Does the series borrow from The X-Files? It does. The Sixth Sense? That too. The Exorcist? Oh, yeah. The Rockford Files? Surprisingly, quite a bit. But don't be so quick to write off Miracles as a rip-off show, made on the quick to cash in on another, more successful franchise. The creators bring enough new elements and twists to the scripts, offering a series that can stand on its own, despite similarities to others.
The full screen transfer on Miracles is mostly excellent. This series doesn't have a lot of bright happy colors, but what colors there are look good. Darker scenes, however, appear grainy or washed out. Audio options are a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and a 2.0 stereo track, both in English. The 5.1 is the stronger of the two, but on both the dialogue is easily understandable and the atmospheric music sounds great. There are no subtitles.
Once again, the good people at Shout! Factory have proven themselves to be industry leaders in excellent DVD bonus material. In commentaries for six episodes, co-creators Richard Hatem and David Greenwalt, along with some episode directors, show an obvious enthusiasm for the series, while talking about the ideas behind scripts, background about the actors, and fun production trivia. That same excitement comes through in a lengthy interview with Hatem on Disc Two, where he discusses the series' history, from its creation to the struggles in keeping it on the air for all of six weeks. Other extras include a handful of deleted scenes with introductions by Hatem, and a short series promo.
As a series, Miracles suffers from a significant flaw. Much of what happens throughout depends on viewers having seen the first episode. Anyone who missed that one when it was broadcast would certainly have been confused trying to follow subsequent episodes. Fortunately, this is far less of a problem on DVD -- just be sure to watch the pilot first.
By now, all the rabid Miracles fans are probably wondering why I haven't mentioned Evelyn, the third member of SQ, played by Marisa Ramirez (General Hospital). Perhaps if the creators made better use of the character, I'd have something to say. Too often, Evelyn is left behind at the office while the two guys go off and have adventures. We're given hints here and there about her past, but usually she gets one or two scenes per episode, behind a desk talking into the phone, and that's it. The deleted scenes on this set fill in much of her background, but it's not the same. If you've got an actress as talented and lovely as Ramirez, why not make the most of her?
Although it was short-lived on TV, this excellent DVD presentation is a real miracle.
Like I wasn't going to say that.
Not guilty. Dad, let's go.
Review content copyright © 2005 Mac McEntire; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Golden Gavel 2005 Nominee
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 624 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentaries on Select Episodes
* Deleted Scenes with Optional Introductions
* Richard Hatem Interview
* Series Promo