“Are we in the wrong country?”
Just like the previous episode, ‘Home Again,’ ‘Babylon’ left me thinking: “what was the point in that?” For an episode about God, faith, religions and terrorism, the only thing that I’ll remember about it was Mulder’s drug trip. That was sublime; but it was surrounded by confusion on either side. I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, or even sure about the premise of the story. Mulder and Scully held things together, but only by the skin of their teeth. For an episode with a lot to say, it ended up not saying much at all.
Pre-credits, we were presented with two Muslims praying before entering an art gallery. The art gallery blows up afterwards. It’s an arresting vision, for sure, especially with people aflame running out of the gallery. But, come on, Muslim suicide bombers? I hoped that the build-up showing the two Muslims would be a deception. I hoped that they’d end up being victims of a terrorist attack by a white person or something. But, no…they were suicide bombers. Or were they? Well, one survived (named Shiraz), barely, but without any injuries that you would expect from taking part in a suicide bombing. He was in a coma, had a large dent in his head, but his torso was completely intact. He didn’t appear to be wearing anything bulky under his shirt before the bombing, either…
“How do you ‘howdy partner’ in Arabic?”
However, the entire story is predicated on Shiraz knowing the location of a terrorist cell (and in the end, he revealed the location of the terrorist cell…but don’t ask me how he did!). So he was a suicide bomber? Or did Shiraz happen to know where the terrorist cell was, without being affiliated with them? He went into a hotel called Babylon to meet his friend, and the hotel turned out to be the location of the terrorist cell. So did he just happen to bump into the terrorists before his jaunt to the gallery? Whether deliberate or not, this irritated me for the rest of the episode. Maybe Chris Carter (who wrote the script) wanted to play on our prejudices and make us believe that Shiraz was a terrorist, when in actual fact he wasn’t. As much as I like ambiguity, there didn’t seem much of it here.
The forced meta-comedy of Mulder and Scully meeting their “younger selves” in two FBI agents seeking their help to find the terrorist cells’ location came straight after the grim terrorist attack. For one, the meeting wasn’t funny in the slightest. Mulder meeting Miller and Scully meeting Einstein should have been funny, but their mutual similarities (oh, Scully and Einstein both have red hair!) were forced down our throats (and continued to be for much of the episode). Miller entertained the possibility of the paranormal, Like Mulder? Einstein’s a sceptic, like Scully? Goodness! Thus, the clash of tones happened even before the episode had a chance to get off the ground. The mostly atrocious comedy overcame any grit or seriousness the episode tried to convey. Not only that, but Miller and Einstein seemed to request Mulder and Scully’s help under the flimsiest of pretexts: Miller believed that Mulder could help to hijack Shiraz’s consciousness (as Shiraz was in a coma). Why didn’t Miller and Einstein do some proper detective work? Like trace where Shiraz’s friend had been staying (the Babylon hotel…where the terrorists were hiding!!!).
“Do you think anyone respects the X Files anymore?”
The first fifteen or twenty minutes were full of the four agents swapping fast, complicated nonsensical terms with each other about communicating with the dead. In amongst that, you had Mulder asking if ideas had mass. The only shining light amongst the dross and confusion was Mulder’s magic mushroom trip to communicate with Shiraz on ‘another plane of existence.’ It was cringe-worthy, but in a very entertaining way. From the cameo of The Lone Gunmen, to Mulder dancing to ‘Achy Breaky Heart,’ to Mulder going ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ with Einstein, it made the entire episode worthwhile. Not only that, but Mulder’s apparent elevation to another level of consciousness had a vision almost as arresting as the terrorist bombing: Mary holding not Jesus, but the wounded Shiraz.
Unfortunately, after that, ‘Babylon’ spiralled into the same uneven tone and message that plagued its’ first half. Mulder and Scully had a touching dialogue at the end, but even that elongated epilogue didn’t tell us much about what we had just witnessed. Basically, it was a massive mess of a script. Miller and Einstein made no impression at all. Why would they? They are carbon copies of Mulder and Scully! The talk of different planes of consciousness, Mulder being given a placebo instead of the mushrooms yet still tripping, and the fact that Mulder and Scully did nothing productive to wrap up the plot, served to dilute an already weak episode. The finale is almost upon us…but there wasn’t even a cliffhanger to whet our appetite for it! Unless the finale is something bloody spectacular, The X Files revival will be counted as a failure…
VERDICT: 4/10. An extra point for the sublime Mulder tripping sequence, but an overall mess of an episode. ‘Babylon’ spoke so much, but I couldn’t understand what it was saying…and neither was I driven to care!
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Click here for my review of The X Files: Season 10: Episode 4: Home Again)
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