Don’t Be a Mugwump
That was certainly an episode of television. Let’s recap what we’ve, uh, experienced so far. First, we sat through a retconning of the entire X-Files mythology, then we took a break to talk about Mulder and Scully’s baby for a while, followed by a hilarious meta sojourn, then back to weird tangential family/baby problems, and now we enter the tonally oppressive world of “Babylon.”
There has been absolutely nothing consistent this season. Nothing. There hasn’t been a committal to the mythology arc as a whole, nor to purely monster-of-the-week episodes. Instead we’ve been given episodes that have feet planted in both worlds, swinging wildly between confusing, funny, and gross. We can also now add “just plain weird” to the mix.
Let’s make something clear: The X-Files is not the place to talk about or handle such complicated topics as Islamic extremism. “Babylon” handled the issue of Muslim terrorism, and even the bigoted reaction to it, in such a superficial manner that it came across as terribly distracting. The efforts made to sympathize with the bomber were transparent at best, as was the entire weird subplot of the nurse who tried to turn off his life support and the Department of Defense’s immediate contempt. The episode failed to make a point, nor land any effective jokes, instead serving to gawk at the issue and tell the American people what we see in our news feeds on a daily basis anyway.
Whew, okay. So the thing is, that entire chunk of the episode aside, “Babylon” is pretty dang fun. I’m honestly surprised it took ten seasons for us to see Mulder tripping on, well, anything in an attempt to contact something otherworldly. I never thought I’d see David Duchovny line dancing while the Lone Gunman looked on, and yet here we are. In many ways, this is another reason why this reboot is still warranted. There’s a lot of fun to be had, even with all the other misses.
Even doubling up our two favorite FBI agents with lookalikes is a fresh idea. Putting them up against other skeptic and believer characters is one thing, but having them come from the same FBI world is quite another. I didn’t think Agent Miller and Einstein were strong enough to carry future episodes, but they served as great reflections for Mulder and Scully. It was weird watching how they interacted with different foils of themselves.
The second biggest reason to justify the revival is the chemistry between Mulder and Scully, which is not only present, but even stronger than it was before. The heavy handed talk about God at the end might have been a bit much, but watching the two hold hands and go for a walk is easily one of the highlights of the season. Scully trying to reconcile hate and love, the two polar opposite extremes of humanity, is also a good conceit, which almost retroactively makes the rest of the episode click. It’s certainly better than the vague suggestion that words have physical weight.
We still have one more episode to go, but I’m pretty happy that The X-Files managed to return to our screens. Even if episodes like “Babylon” are all over the place and tonally incoherent, the show is still very confident. Mulder and Scully have never had better chemistry with one another, and when the show is good, it’s good. At this point I’m not expecting much from the closing episode, especially since the last pure mythology episode was a muddled mess, but I’m eagerly awaiting it at the same time.
Odds and Ends:
- I was really digging that one section that featured the 90s synth soundtrack.
- “Nobody but the FBI’s most unwanted! I’ve been waiting 23 years to say that.”
- I was kind of expecting there to be more to the terrorism plot, like the guy could explode over and over again for some reason. Playing it straight was definitely not in the best interest of the show.
- THEY USED THE LUMINEERS. WHY.
- Seriously, it made the show seem like a cheap ABC drama or something, almost undercutting the actual emotions running through the final scene.
Steve is on Twitter. For fun.