The X-Files S10E05 “Babylon” REVIEW

The X-Files S10E05 “Babylon” REVIEW

Mulder dancing

stars 3
Airing in the UK on Channel Five, Mondays, 9pm

Writer: Chris Carter
Director: Chris Carter

Essential Plot Points:

  • A young Muslim says his prayers, eats a sandwich, meets a friend and walks into an art gallery – which they then blow up.
  • Mulder and Scully are approached by two young special agents, Miller and Einstein, who are assigned to the case. The bomber survived the blast – barely – and Miller thinks there might be a way to interrogate him while he’s in a permanent vegetative state.
  • Miller is clearly Mulder; his mind open to possibilities. Einstein thinks it’s crap.

Einstein

  • Scully later offers to assist Miller in questioning the comatose bomber, using his brainwaves to determine if he understands their questions.
  • Mulder hatches a plan of his own: to take magic mushrooms and somehow contact the bomber on a different plane. Einstein is not amused, but after realising her partner is working with Scully, agrees to help Mulder.
  • After taking some ’shrooms, Mulder has a crazy trip and goes line-dancing (!). He also sees the bomber lying in the Virgin Mary’s arms. The bomber tells him something in Arabic.
  • Back on our plane of existence, two Homeland Security agents and a nurse have tried to kill the bomber for revenge, while the hospital has received a terror alert.
  • Mulder comes back down to earth. Turns out Einstein gave him a placebo and the trip was only him thinking he was tripping. Huh?
  • However, while passing the hospital entrance, Mulder recognises the bomber’s mother from his dream – she was the Virgin Mary – and takes her to her son, who dies in her arms.

Miller

  • Realising his experience was, really, him talking to the bomber in his dreams, Mulder repeats what the bomber told him. Miller translates it – it’s the name of the Babylon Hotel. And lo and behold, that’s where the rest of the terrorists are! The police arrest them.
  • Mulder and Scully have a little heart-to-heart about the nature of God, children, and love and hate.

 

Review:

“Humbug”

“Humbug”

Way back in season two’s “Humbug”, The X-Files’ first bona fide comedy episode, there was a moment in which a carnival member mocked Mulder. “Imagine going through your whole life looking like that,” he grunted, and we saw a shot of the oblivious Agent posing like a catalogue model. It was the first time in the history of the show – which at this point had aired 44 episodes – that we were invited to take the piss out of its male star, and the first time David Duchovny had shown he could be a good sport about his role.

Fast-forward 21 years and “Babylon” has taken this to an extreme that’s less amusing and more downright embarrassing. Mulder willingly doing magic mushrooms? Line-dancing to “Achy Breaky Heart”? Wearing a cowboy hat? Performing a Pulp Fiction/Saturday Night Fever dance? Even to those of us who’ve watched Duchovny act out all this (and far worse) in the intervening years on his sex, drugs and rock’n’roll-fest Californication, there’s something stomach-achingly cringeworthy about watching Fox Mulder go through these moves. And while things soon sober up and his vision actually turns rather meaningful, not to mention beautiful, this is not one of The X-Files’ finest moments.

But what of the rest of the episode? Well, there’s no doubt that introducing Mini Mes of Mulder and Scully is a cracking idea, and while Robbie Amell’s Miller is disappointingly bland, Lauren Ambrose’s Einstein is a stormer. It’s great fun watching Mulder try to convince her that downing psychotropic drugs to contact a comatose terrorist is a good idea. Although sadly, yet again – in a theme that’s been running almost non-stop since the first episode of this new series – poor Mulder ends up spouting reams of loony tunes gibberish that makes him sound like a nutjob. Was he always this bad, or was it just not quite as ridiculous back then? Hmm.

The idea of communicating with a comatose bad guy isn’t a bad one, either, although having random dudes and nurses try to kill him feels less like a comment on racism and Islamaphobia (because the poor guy does turn out to be largely innocent by the end, or so his mother tells us), and more like gratuitous space-filling. There simply isn’t enough story here to propel the plot unless the episode is filled with more FBI agents and shady US government types than an episode of Homeland. And also, given that at early points in the story we’re not sure this guy is actually innocent, isn’t a bit worrying that some viewers might actually be cheering these revenge-seekers on? Brrrr.

Still, there’s a conversation at the end about how Mulder and Scully witnessed love (Shiraz’s mother) and hate (nurses/government agents out for revenge), and that’s supposed to redress the balance… although their talk isn’t really that interesting when it comes down to it, and some viewers may have been checking Twitter by then. Oh dear.

Bomber

The Good:

  • Mulder’s “trip” is a car crash, but the final scene of him talking to Shiraz is gorgeous. But how could it not be? The dead son cradled in his mother’s arms is a direct homage to Michelangelo’s Pietà, a sculpture of the Virgin Mary and Jesus that’s universally regarded as one of the greatest artworks of all time. (The reason it works, while many images of Mary cradling the dead Jesus don’t, is because Michelangelo made Mary a little bigger than her son, despite the fact it should’ve been the other way around, because then it looked more like a mother cradling her child – Art-Connoisseur Ed.)

Michelangelo Pieta 2

  • Miller and Einstein discussing how Scully puts up with Mulder is a hoot. Clearly, Scully must be in love with him. It’s the only explanation!
  • “Special Agent Einstein speaking.” That name is such a cheap shot, isn’t it? But it works.
  • Not a bad line, this: “Are you proposing, Agent Mulder, that we administer the magic mushroom to the terrorist?”

Sandwich

  • Just a random observation, but DAMN this guy eats his sandwiches in huge chunks.

Lone Gunmen

  • The Lone Gunmen cameo in Mulder’s vision – hoorah!
  • Mulder says: “I want to believe.”

 

The Bad:

Fox Presents

  • The people running around on fire after the bombing is horrifying… but undermined by the “Fox Presents” logo being revealed in their midst. Cheap trick.
  • Somehow it takes Scully the same amount of time to fly from Washington DC to Texas as it does for Einstein to get from the airport in Washington to the FBI building to see Mulder. Traffic must’ve been a bitch, eh?
  • The nurse turns off Shiraz’s life support machine. Alarms sound. He flatlines. When she turns it on again, he instantly returns to normal before a second has even passed, and all the alarms silence. The human body does not work like that, and nor does hospital machinery. This isn’t an episode of Monty Python.
  • Additionally, if you’re going to be making a show about a Muslim suicide bomber who’s just apparently killed innocent people, and you’ve just had a nurse try to kill him by turning off his life support, it’s probably best not to have an FBI Agent come in mere seconds later with comedic brass “rompy pomps” on the soundtrack.
  • “She came here today to talk to her son,” says Mulder, bringing Shiraz’s mum into the room. “Mulder, where did you find her?” asks Scully, gobsmacked. Er, she was just outside the hospital trying to get in, probably telling all the FBI men, “That’s my son in there!” It’s not as though Mulder found the Lindbergh baby, is it?

 

The Random:

  • The strange noises in the sky in the video Mulder is playing in his first scene is actually a documented event. As he says, it’s been recorded all around the world and is devastatingly creepy – as this video proves. However, it’s been explained away by science as sounds from many miles away, such as trains moving at a station, being distorted by distance and unusual atmospheric conditions. Still fecking terrifying, mind you.
  • Best Quote: Scully: “Nobody but the FBI’s most unwanted! I’ve been waiting 23 years to say that.” (This was, of course, the first thing Mulder ever said to her.)

Reviewed by Jayne Nelson

Mulder, moody


Read our other reviews of The X-Files

 

 

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