I’ll say it once, I’ll say it again, there are some not so great X-Files episodes. Some mediocre, some uninspiring and a couple that are truly awful.
But this episode takes the biscuit for being a major WTF.
One of the first (of many) problems with Babylon, is that it suffers from Home Again syndrome as it feels like two different stories that are forced together. But while the script for that episode were two not fully fleshed out stories that misjudged the way it tied them together at the end, this Carter script takes misjudged to a completely new level of not even ten drafts later would it be acceptable.
The idea of a Mulder and Scully 2.0, is actually not that bad. Having already confirmed that Agent’s Einstein and Miller wouldn’t be replacing Mulder and Scully or receiving a spin-off of their own, the idea could be enjoyed as a one-off. It would have been even more enjoyable in a Darrin Morgan episode, and could have been a great opportunity to highlight the younger generation and their reactions to X-File cases. And taken out of context, the dream sequence with a drugged up Mulder barn dancing and the Fifty Shades spoof with Einstein would have been a classic.
But they needed a solid case to get the most out of the idea. To reaffirm that the series exists in 2016, Carter decides to write an episode on terrorism. And it’s about as predictable as it get. The very first image is of a young Muslim man praying to Allah and then proceeding to blow up an art gallery depicting controversial images of the Prophet Mohammad made me recoil. In a TV landscape of 24 and Homeland, why did Carter have to rely on such an overdone and unoriginal stereotype?
To be fair, as the episode progresses it become why. He clearly wanted to make a social commentary, but this Carter so it’s naturally not subtle and fall on total clichés. One scene features a caricatures bigot in the form of a Security agent, who taps into his inner Trump by declaring how Muslims want to wipe out America to please their leader Osama Bin Laden. It actually beggars belief that such dreadful dialogue was allowed in this episode – even the acting couldn’t save it. In fact, it’s performed as if there’s an awareness of how awful it is. And when Scully retorts that not all Muslims are extremists, this not only feels like point making engineering, but loses any impact for the simple reason that every single Muslim character in the episode is portrayed as an extremist!
And not content with one scene depicting how bigoted the world is, Carter gives a double whammy only a minute later! A nurse, who attempts to kill the terrorist begins to spout contrived comments about how immigrant groups are coming over here, stealing our jobs. I’m not joking, that’s dialogue from the episode – as if it’s been lifted from the comments section of a Daily Mail article.
This is frustrating as the premise is actually quite interesting. The X-Files did explore religion, belief, spirituality and mysticism and the idea of communicating with a terrorist in limbo could have worked. But this is a mess!
Mulder and Scully individually going off with their younger counterparts in order to try difference methods of communicating with the terrorist either in their respective own ways just doesn’t ring true. It’s bad enough their apart for the majority of the story and by this point in their 23 year partnership, they shouldn’t be surprised by their differences and are open to each other’s ideas. It seems pointless. And while the Agents have a good rapport with each other, the scenes between Scully and Miller feel like fillers compared to Mulder and Einstein whose quest feels more achievable from the beginning.
Einstein and Miller are fine characters as one-offs. Lauren Ambrose plays her like an aggressive Season 1 Scully, but Robbie Amell I’m not entirely convinced by. While he attempts a first season Mulder it comes across more like a parody. I hoped this would be the last we see of them when I first watched this episode. Haha, I made another funny.
Speaking of funny, there are some good comic dialogue here and the dream sequence is really fun (the Cigarette Smoking Man’s cameo is a welcome surprise). But in an episode about such serious issues and wanting to make a point, it jars the tone. And the way the Agents keep missing each other in the hospital is too farcical.
After a crazy ride of different genres and bashing our intelligence by spelling out how awful people are, the final nail in the coffin was at the end with Mulder and Scully on the porch discussing the world, hate and motherhood. Instead of being thought provoking, it was just dull and preachy.
Oh for all the hype of The Lone Gunmen returning, they’re in in it for a mere seconds in the dream sequence for no real reason.
This is really frustrating when thinking of some of its best qualities. The explosion at the beginning with people on fire running out of the building is pretty disturbing. There was a clear arc for Scully. Fragile following her Mother’s death, a case involving communication with the dead starts makes it personal and has promise but is never discussed again. And when Mulder remembers the name of the hotel, the immediate siege that follows and stops the preparation for an attack was really well executed.
Babylon will go down as one of The X-Files worst episodes. Compared to other soulless outputs, this actually had a lot of potential. Sadly, fate was tempted with Carter promising it would have something to say, but played as though it had no idea what it was. And Einstein and Miller will forever be associated with it. Oh well, I’ll just fantasise about that Darren Morgan episode.