On the surface of The X-Files: Babylon it is an episode where the duo of Mulder and Scully are mirrored in the younger versions of themselves, Miller and Einstein. These mirror images are virtually re-creations of the old team as they were “back in the day.” Scratch past this amusing premise and the real issues of the episode explode in the viewers face, making one think pretty deep thoughts, even while laughing at Mulder’s “trip.”
The episode begins with an Arabic man praying and then eating a PJB sandwich while drinking a glass of milk. The camera follows the young man as he drives to an unknown destination, listening to some “hip-hop” Arabic music and encountering “scary” locals who cause him to wind up his car windows.
The man picks up another young Muslim and they go to an Art Gallery. The duo enter the gallery and seconds later it explodes in black dust and fire.
The opening of Babylon has a two-fold function. It sets up the episode’s main plot line while showing the viewer what the popular concept is of young Muslim men. When the building explodes and burning injured people stagger from the smoke, there is no element of surprise. The episode sets up this premise as an aid to the story.
Despite the “mirror, mirror” aspect of the case, with Agent Miller (Robbie Amell) and his version of Dana Scully; Agent Einstein (Lauren Ambrose) showing an alternative, yet similar, X Files look-a-like team of believer and skeptic, this could be seen as one of the deepest installments of Chris Carter’s verse.
Carefully hidden in an episode full of amusing and outright comic touches, mainly from Mulder, is a message, or two. Scully provides one, which is that our world right now is split almost equally into hate and love, with no in-between being allowed. Mulder provides the other; “God” whichever one is being looked at, via the Bible or the Koran, does not want man to have a common language, a message supported by the title of the episode; Babylon.
In the Christian Bible, Babylon is mentioned repeatedly, mainly in relation to its “badness.” In history, the most famous city of Mesopotamia (Iraq) was well known for its architecture and its vast amount of “learning.” Similar to the biblical tale of this impressive city, the denizens were very educated, so much so that “God” stopped their advancement and made it impossible for them to communicate (see: Tower of Babel).
There is, perhaps, another message. This one passed on by Agent Einstein who learns from her interaction with Mulder that scientists do really believe that there is beauty in mystery, as quoted by her namesake.
Introducing the pseudo Mulder and Scully allows the real team to separate and partner up with their younger opposites. Miller calls Dana and asks her to help him and Einstein, after learning of her partner’s action, agrees to help Mulder in his quest.
In Babylon, after the explosion, one of the terrorists survives but is in a vegetative state, being kept alive by machines. Miller believes that with Scully’s help, they can communicate with the comatose patient and learn more about the terrorist cell. Mulder reaches out to Einstein (who is so uptight to be practically hemorrhoidal) with a request that she administer magic mushrooms so he can speak with the terrorist while tripping.
The dual approaches to communicating with the comatose man are successful. Scully and Miller are delayed by some mysterious Arabic speaking “Home Security” types with a deadly agenda. This allows Mulder and Einstein their chance to try the “trip” solution.
The Home Security types are not the only murderous individuals who want to “kill” the terrorist. The ICU nurse turns off the man’s life support equipment and hurriedly turns it back on when Mulder and his younger version of Dana appear. As Einstein removes the nurse, Fox takes the “mushrooms” and trips out.
Duchovny shows once again that his comedic chops are mighty in the entire mushroom trip scene. His Mulder is having the time of his life under the influence. (At one point walking down the hospital corridor nodding, smiling and saluting the people he strolls past.)
Mulder ends up line dancing at a cowboy bar, where he encounters the Lone Gunmen and turns up on a boat, with Cigarette Smoking Man , sans cigarette but wielding a whip on a row-boat clearly meant to be on the River Styx, where he sees the dying terrorist in the arms of a woman. This weeping woman, clad in white, is just as clearly meant to be the man’s mother. In the vision, the terrorist whispers something to Fox.
(It should also be mentioned that Skinner also appears in the cowboy bar scene, as a participant. The music, which generates much of the humor in the scene, includes Achy Breaky Heart and Trace Adkins singing “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” while Mulder almost expressionlessly “performs” to the music.)
Mulder blacks out after hearing what the terrorist tells him in the vision and awakes in a hospital bed with Skinner and Einstein by his bed. With the chief telling him that he faces disciplinary action, he learns that the younger version of Scully gave him a placebo. The entire trip and the visions he had while “under the influence” were all powered by his own mind’s suggestion.
Despite the pseudo trip Fox takes he helps Scully and Miller to communicate with the comatose man by recognizing the man’s mother and getting her in the ICU room. he also remembers what the dying man whispered to him, in Arabic, in the boat vision.
The information that Mulder provides, “The Babylon Hotel,” translated by Agent Miller, who was stationed in Iraq, turns out to be solid as the terrorist cell is arrested mid-prayer.
Mulder gets the lion’s share of amusing moments and lines. He calls Einstein a mugwump:
“I don’t even know what that is and I’m offended.”
This after she calls his ideology “woo woo paranormal B.S.” to which he replies:
“I don’t do woo, woo.”
Apparently this sticks in Fox’s mind as during his trip, just prior to the boat vision, Mulder is strapped to a pentagram, flat on his back, and being whipped by Einstein:
Einstein: “Is this what you wanted Agent Mulder? Your ‘woo woo’ paranormal?”
Einstein (Whipping Mulder): “Come on say it!”
Mulder: “Woo woo.”
Einstein: “Say it!” (whipping the prone Mulder harder)
Mulder: “WOO WOO!”
Despite its comedic trappings, there are disturbing elements in the episode, the murderous ICU nurse’s diatribe about all those immigrants taking jobs, the supreme hatred of the “Homeland” men and the fear of the young man who later becomes a dying terrorist.
There are amusing scenes aplenty which serve to hide the real message, the one that The X-Files, and Chris Carter, have preached all along; that it will take a mixture of science and mysticism to learn the truth that Fox Mulder seeks.
Babylon also indicates that this combination is what the world needs to seek peace and understanding. Although the other requirement, a common language, may well be frowned upon by “the big guy.”
The X-Files: Babylon may just be the best episode of this short 10th season, surpassing even the “Were-Monster” in terms of “hidden” messages and brilliant comedy. This was the penultimate episode with only one left, My Struggle II.
The season finale airs February 22 on FOX. Be there to see what can possibly top this last episode.