The X-Files: Review – Babylon

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.

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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.

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Mulder and Einstein…

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.)

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The Lone Gunmen in Fox’s trip…

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.

 

The X Files: My Struggle and Founder’s Mutation – A Slow Burn Start (Review)

Mulder and Scully are back, treating The X Files fans to a slow burn start versus rocket ride back into the world of the weird, wonderful and conspiratorial.

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Mulder and Scully are back, treating The X Files fans to a slow burn start versus rocket ride back into the world of the weird, wonderful and conspiratorial. Episode one of the two part pilot for season 10; My Struggle, reminds us that it is Fox’ obsession with UFOs, governmental coverups and that burning need to know. Founder’s Mutation steps forward at a snail’s pace and takes us back into “Toomy” land.

Granted, the second half of the two part open is not as disturbing, or downright creepy, as Toomy’s tale, it reaches back into the yesteryear propensity of Chris Carter, and now James Wong as well, to lead the viewer by the nose to whatever odd thing comes up next.

The latter episode also puts Dana and Fox into the world where they belong.  Sure Scully turned her back on much more than just her old partner, and father of her child, heading on a path where she did a lot of good. Regardless of her samaritan standing in the medical community, the ties between her and Fox had not been completely severed.

After all, only she knows how to get in touch with Mulder, something she points out when Skinner tried unsuccessfully to call Fox regarding “scare monger” newsman Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale).  Tad, who Mulder feels is an alternative Bill O’Reilly (surely the name similarity is no coincidence…) promises to have information that will change everything and O’Malley swears that he will reveal all.

Tad’s rant about the secret agenda of the American government, militarizing local police, fattening and dumbing down the denizens of the country and erecting prison camps.

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Fox and Skinner

Like the previous seasons, before the show’s long hiatus, the message in episode one, My Struggle, is this:

Do not trust the government. They do not have your best interest at heart and they lie.

Mulder believes this with all his essence and Scully continues to be in a form of denial.  The counterbalance of the two is back in place, her pragmatic and agnostic attitude about the unexplained still tempers her behavior and belief system. Fox, who suffers from depression, is in full “survivalist” costume in the first opening segment.

Unshaven, wearing jeans and a combat fatigue jacket, Mulder looks similar to every other Area 51 conspiracy junkie out there. Scully is the very picture of respectability and has trouble getting back, as does Fox, into the swing of things.

My Struggle starts as a history lesson; Roswell, an injured alien (murder of same), questionable DNA and those decades old conspiracies.  It also entails a young woman with scoop scars on her abdomen, a string of abductions and stolen fetuses, She is convinced her DNA has been added to and after the “men in black” learn of what O’Mallory, Mulder and Scully have been up to, they clean house…

With extreme prejudice.

The first episode ends with the Smoking Man (William B. Davis), face covered with scar tissue and looking like death personified, smoking his cigarette via the hole in his neck and stating that the X Files have been reopened. 

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William B Davis returns as the Smoking Man…

Founder’s Mutation shoves a badge back into the duo’s hands and starts going into a true X File non-UFO-type case. Although the entire episode is focussed on another conspiracy; one that ties in to episode one, to huge degree, with a storyline dealing with experiments on children and a brother and sister with special abilities.

By the second episode, Mulder has cleaned up and lost the scruff. Scully learns that like the doomed Sveta she too has alien DNA. Dana also steps back into the role of medical expert, performing the autopsy on the show’s suicide victim.

The mind control aspect is disturbing, as is the manner of the first man’s death. It also features a “mad scientist” type (Damon) who meets a fitting end…

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Death by letter opener.

As the two part premiere ended, each of the duo were back in their old shoes and leading us back into the world of The X Files.  

A number of familiar faces joined the premiere as guest stars (and it was brilliant to see Mitch Pileggi back as Skinner). Joel McHale from Community, Christine Willes from Dead Like Me (As Dolores Herbig with the “big  brown eyes.”), Doug Savant from Desperate Housewives and Vik Sahay

There were a number of other notable appearances by names well known in the industry, for example, Rance Howard (father of Ron and Clint) also shows up in the credit list.  The appearance of so many known performers signals an acceptance of Carter’s world back into the fold of television.

The X Files, with its slow re-emergence, has not pleased all the television critics but fans are excited, and so they should be. Sure the dynamic between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson may feel a little clunky but the chemistry is still there. Fox and Scully still have the bond that made them work so well together.

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Mulder and Scully…

The series airs Mondays on FOX.  Tune in for some nostalgic vibes as well as superb television and watch the new tales of The X Files unfold.