Recap: Two young Muslim men blow up an art gallery in a suicide attack. The two FBI agents working the case, Agent Einstein (Lauren Ambrose) and Agent Miller (Robbie Amell) visit Mulder and Scully soon after. One of the bombers is still alive and comatose, but Miller wants to question him. Miller, a passionate true believer, wants to ask Mulder if he knows of any psychics or mediums who may be able to help him communicate with the bomber. Einstein, a medical doctor with little patience for the paranormal, rolls her eyes at the notion. Mulder says he can’t help Miller, and the two younger agents leave.
At the airport later that day, Miller gets a call from Scully. She thinks there may be a way to open a rough line of communication with the bomber. At the same time, Mulder calls Einstein and claims to have his own solution to the same problem. Miller and Einstein split up, neither knowing where the other is going. Mulder’s rather convoluted plot is to use a psychotropic drug derived from mushrooms to sync up with the bomber’s comatose brain-waves and communicate on a comprehensible level. Mulder hopes that Einstein can use her medical license to procure the necessary drugs. He explains that he didn’t want to ask Scully to do this because of her comatose mother’s recent death. Unbeknownst to him, that very incident has compelled Scully to do some research about communicating with people in comas, and she asks for Miller’s help in engaging the suspect.
At the hospital, Scully and Miller are interrupted by two people claiming to be from the Department of Homeland Security, though it’s implied that the two are lying in order to harm the bomber. The hospital has become the site of a lot of attention due to the bomber’s presence. Meanwhile, Einstein meets Mulder with the drugs, and the two head to the hospital themselves. At the same time, Scully and Miller are escorted out by an officer who tells them that there has been a bomb threat. Mulder takes the drug, and immediately dances his way out of the hospital while Einstein isn’t looking. His lengthy trip takes him to a country-themed dance club, but it culminates in a vision wherein he speaks to the bomber.
Mulder wakes up in a hospital to find Skinner at his side. Skinner reprimands him for his reckless behavior, but Einstein covers for the two of them by claiming that she gave him a placebo. While heading back to the bomber, Mulder notices a distraught Muslim woman being refused entry to the hospital. Mulder helps her get in because he recognizes her from his drug-induced vision. She turns out to be the bomber’s mother, but he dies soon after they reunite. She claims that he is not a violent man, that his mind was twisted by extremist teachings. Mulder remembers the Arabic words that he heard the bomber say in his vision, and Miller translates them to mean the Babylon Hotel. The hotel is raided and the terrorist sect is arrested. Einstein and Miller come away with a better understanding of each other, and Mulder and Scully have a final chat about bigotry and hatred.
Reaction: Chris Carter must be stopped. I’ve been optimistic about this season for the past couple weeks. The premiere episode was shaky, but they course-corrected drastically in the following three. In retrospect, Carter not having written or directed those three episodes should have been a greater tip-off. I thought that The X-Files was back. In reality, it was only good X-Files collaborators who were back. This is still Carter’s show, and his “Babylon” was an unmitigated disaster.
The cold open was a nerve-wracking experience, but not for the intended reasons. I spent the entire sequence dreading its inevitable conclusion. “Please don’t make this guy a terrorist,” I kept thinking. But they did. I held out hope that some paranormal explanation would absolve him. I didn’t want to believe that The X-Files in 2016 could be so tone-deaf. The episode makes some token nods towards American Islamophobia, and very briefly acknowledges that Islam is not an inherently violent religion. The episode finds these pitifully quick moments to be sufficient replacements for actual social commentary. The final scene has Mulder and Scully deliver some ham-fisted “We Are The World” sentiment set to the Lumineers song “Ho Hey,” and the camera zooms out and shows us the planet Earth from space, as the acoustic guitar strums along with all the emotional weight of a department store mannequin. It’s one of the most embarrassing things that I have ever seen on The X-Files, and this is a show with more than its fair share of embarrassing.
The set-up with Einstein and Miller is initially promising, though. It had me wishing that it was couched in a less culturally insensitive context. In case the recap didn’t make it clear, Einstein and Miller are Scully and Mulder, respectively, albeit in the season 1 stage of their relationship. Given the theme of season 10 so far, this looked like a way for the show to re-examine its central relationship with the benefit of hindsight. Mulder and Scully are effectively presented with past versions of themselves. Surely this would instigate some personal reflection about their journeys both independent of and with one another.
Unfortunately, “Babylon” doesn’t understand its own potential. It pairs the Scully surrogate with Mulder and vice versa, which does nothing but replace one of the names in each Mulder/Scully scene. It’s a pointless endeavor. The episode is more from the point of view of Einstein and Miller, a bizarre choice in a six-episode season. We don’t spend less time with Mulder or Scully, but neither character gets anything meaningful out of the experience. Einstein and Miller grow a little bit, but it’s just a truncated version of Mulder and Scully’s early-seasons arc, and these are one-off gimmick characters. As amusing as some of Einstein and Mulder’s interactions are early on, none of it goes anywhere. It’s frustrating to see the show throw away one-sixth of a season on this.
The bad news gets worse: Carter is writing and directing next week’s finale, which will follow up with the events of the premiere. Even though the “season finale” billing indicates that Fox is willing to bring the show back for more, “Babylon” makes me wonder if I want that to happen after all. If nothing else, we’ll have gotten three more good X-Files episodes out of this event. But we’re at the point where either the show will continue to be mediocre on-average or it will end once and for all with something approaching the awfulness of this episode. We’ll always have “Mulder And Scully Meet The Were-Monster,” right?
- To be honest, I’m a little too demoralized for this segment tonight. I’ll try my best.
- Adorable: Einstein deducing that Scully must love Mulder, because nothing else would explain why she would work the X-Files with him.
- More adorable: Scully’s winking note to Mulder that Einstein calls her partner by his last name.
- That drug sequence where Mulder ogles a bunch of scantily-clad women to the tune of “Honkytonk Badonkadonk” is part of X-Files canon forever now. I hope you’re happy, Carter.
- I still can’t believe that final scene with the goddamn Lumineers song. Only something I love could infuriate me so.