I had the, uh, “privilege” of seeing this episode last night due to what may have been a mistake on Hulu’s part, and I’m glad I caught it when I did. I think I’d have been disappointed if I’d spent the weekend looking forward to Babylon.
Tim and I had just finished watching Spectre (apparently it was my night for disappointing media!) and I’d happened to check Twitter before bed. Lo and behold, Babylon was said to be on Hulu, so of course I signed up for a free trial and we took my laptop to bed to watch the whole thing.
Here be spoilers:
First and foremost: Oh dear, it’s terrorist bombers. Annnnnd they’re Muslim.
“Now there’s an original story idea from a bunch of white male writers” — said no one, ever.
I’m not in a position to dig too deeply into this, but it felt unoriginal and uncomfortable as a premise. I wish the writers had turned the trope on its head in some way, rather than reinforcing damaging and untrue cultural and religious stereotypes. That cast a shadow on the whole episode for me from the start.
One bomber is in a coma, and they need to figure out a way to communicate with him to find out where his buddies are hiding and what they’re planning to bomb next. Again, so original.
Two new agents present themselves, and they’re obviously meant to mirror Mulder and Scully, but a bit younger — Miller is the believer, and Einstein is the skeptic scientist, and don’t get me started on their names.
Mulder ends up working with Einstein, and Scully ends up working with Miller, and my attention was already wandering. Einstein was shrewish, Miller was flat. I don’t know if it was bad writing, bad acting, or if the chemistry between DD and GA is just impossible to top. Probably a combination of all three.
Admittedly, newcomers to this show face a tough crowd. I distinctly remember feeling bad for the way Doggett and Reyes were received during seasons 8 and 9, and I eventually grew to like them. But we only get six episodes, of which this is the second to last, and that’s not nearly enough time for Miller and Einstein to grow on me.
And then there were the mushrooms.
Mulder somehow convinces Einstein to give him psylocybin (except not! It’s a placebo, fooled ya) and goes on a hallucinogenic journey where we get to witness his, uh, visions, in glorious, horrible detail.
I hid under my blanket for portions of this part due to secondhand embarrassment. It included line dancing to Achy Breaky Heart, Mulder sporting brass knuckles and a Harley Davidson t-shirt in a sea of scantily clad women dancing to Honky-Tonk Badonkadonk, a brief appearance by The Lone Gunmen, a 50-Shades-of-Grey-esque bondage scene with Einstein, and some weird Madonna/child thing at the end which was supposed to unlock the secret to the bomber’s motivations.
Oh, yeah, there was a bombing! Sorry, I thought this was the X-Files, not some hellish country-music-video nightmare. Back on task.
I honestly don’t understand what happened next. The bomber’s mother pays a visit to her son in the hospital, where she helps them figure out where the terrorist cell is hiding, and…’Murica wins.
The last five minutes were the only ones that resonated with me, that made my heart skip, and that was when Mulder and Scully had a nice walk-and-talk about God, religion, love, and hatred, none of which I absorbed because I was too busy staring at their hands.
The episode ends as the camera zooms out on them, standing in the middle of a field, facing each other and holding hands, looking skyward as literal trumpets of angels sound from above.
In other news, I’m pretty sure Mulder and Scully are married now. Scully was even wearing white pants.
Was this supposed to be a comedy or a tragedy? There were a few mildly funny moments, but the subject matter made it hard to laugh, and I get the impression the takeaway was supposed to be something significant about religious conflict.
I take that back — I have no idea what the takeaway was supposed to be.
There was a chance to do something powerful here, or at least something new, but it fell flat in so many ways. I knew it wasn’t the season’s strongest episode, but hey, on the bright side, next week I won’t be plagued with feelings (I’m lookin’ at you, Home Again).
Five episodes done, one to go, and while I’ve heard rumors, I’m mostly in the dark as to how things will go down in the season finale.
My prediction is that Scully wakes up at Mulder’s house after Babylon, and we’ll get some kind of subtle indication the two are back together. C’mon, Carter, throw us a damn bone.
Caroline, thank you for the warning. (Seriously.) I knew it’d be a train wreck but this surpasses even my worst “Chris Carter attempting to write” nightmare. Six episodes and he delivers a “Fight Club”-level bad of script? I’ll just watch the last five minutes and pretend not to hear trumpets. I can’t believe I just typed “pretend not to hear trumpets”.
I really do loathe Chris Carter as a writer. He isn’t worthy of the DD/GA chemistry which has made Carter undeservedly famous. Randy Stone was the genius who cast them ending in a series which has survived almost entirely, for good or for ill, on the strength of what those two bring to the screen often in spite of the scripts they’re provided. “Babylon” is a case in point.
Wish Fox would wise up and salvage this franchise by putting someone far more competent in charge but unfortunately Vince Gilligan is occupied with “Better Call Saul” 🙁
I’m trying to remind myself that I haven’t hated *everything* Carter has written in the entire history of the show, and I’ve heard positive murmurings about the season finale.
I’m trying to stay positive, in other words. 🙂
On a second watch, Babylon is still *really* rough, but I did absorb and understand more of the plot. I also read a theory from another X-Phile that seemed pretty interesting, so that gave me another perspective as I was rewatching it.
That said, I would love to see an 11th season with less Carter and more Morgans, Wong, and Gilligan (among others!) Bring back Spotnitz, too!
Just read the theory and… it sounds like a loving fan working very, very hard to make sense of a convoluted plot. I still cannot wipe the memory of the Texas honky-tonk looking shots of Mulder and LGM. There is no reason or excuse for it and even her theory couldn’t justify the “WTH??” factor.
Chris Carter isn’t Darin Morgan; much as he attempts, he cannot write with a JCfOS-level of sophistication and his dialogue is painfully unnatural. The dialogue in the linked theory/review reads terribly but I’m sure DD/GA with their MSR superpowers make it work. Inexplicably.
To be fair, I haven’t hated everything Carter done. Of the episodes he’s written *without a co-writer* “Irresistible” was very good (to be fair, in large part b/c of actor playing Pfaster and Bob Nutter’s wonderful direction) and “Triangle” was interesting fun/fluff. But if we’re getting such a limited allotment of episodes then they’ll have to do far better than this, otherwise they’ll lose both fan goodwill (yet again) and the adoring free press needed for future efforts.
Agreed, Caroline, I want to see some “John Gilnitz” episodes for S11!