The X-Files 10.05: “Babylon”

MILLER: Hello? Anyone down here?

SCULLY: Nobody but the FBI's most unwanted!

MULDER: *stare*

SCULLY: I've been waiting twenty-three years to say that.

MULDER: How did it feel?

SCULLY: Pretty good!

It's a sad, upsetting fact that when an American program opens with a Muslim man praying, you immediately expect the worse.

Since 9/11, countless TV shows and movies have conditioned us—Muslims showing piety and devout faith must be terrorists.

And I'm pretty damn disappointed that The X-Files continued that tradition.

We watch young Shiraz (Artin John) go through his morning, pick up a friend, and step into an art gallery. Moments later, there's a predictable explosion.

A pair of young FBI agents are assigned the case and are racing the clock to stop the terrorist cell before it can claim further innocent life. Agent Miller (Robbie Amell) is a believer in the impossible while Agent Einstein (Lauren Ambrose) is a ginger-haired doctor/woman of science—

Hmmm, that sounds awfully familiar…

The two have conflicting ideas about how to achieve their common goal. Miller is willing to explore any number of mystic or pseudo-science options to communicate with Shiraz, who survived the explosion but is now lying brain-dead in a coma. Einstein prefers to employ serious investigation techniques to track the cell and prevent another attack.

They turn to Mulder and Sculls for advice and find themselves exchanging partners: Miller and Scully pursue a more grounded, scientific method of inquiry, while Mulder sets to work convincing skeptical Einstein that she needs to administer magic mushrooms to him so he can speak to Shiraz through his hallucinations.

Because obviously that's the correct course of action. And, he calls her a “mugwump” a couple times, because Fox Mulder is still eight years old.

Remind me again: who ever decided this man should be licensed to carry a firearm and represent the US government???

Anyway, Scully explains to Miller that her Q&A method with the EEG machine is something she wishes she had thought to use on her mother, who died in last week's much more poignant episode, and the younger agent's knowledge of Arabic proves helpful.

Meanwhile, Einstein gets to rant heartily at Mulder, who ignores earthly logic as per usual and just pushes forward with his cockamamie plan regardless. This leads to probably the best sequence in the episode, where a high-as-a-kite Fox struts through the hospital and straight into a honky-tonk dance routine co-starring Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) and the Lone Gunmen in full cowboy regalia.

I'm pretty sure Chris Carter took some magic mushrooms himself while writing all of that.

A “dude!/dude!” exchange with Skinner later, and Mulder insists that he spoke to Shiraz while under the influence…of a placebo, as it turns out. Einstein reveals that she gave our hero nothing mind-altering, but he remains convinced that he now has a vital clue.

A conviction that proves correct, when Mulder manages to remember what the Arabic Shiraz whispered, which Agent Miller helpfully translates in time for the SWAT team to bust down the doors of the Babylon Hotel and corral the next wave of terrorists.

Back with their proper partners, everyone has some epilogue space to commiserate. Mulder and Scully's moment, complete with hand-holding and talks about the nature of love, hate, and motherhood, is a nice one—and at least leaves me with a slightly better taste in my mouth.

I always appreciate when Mulder takes the time to actually talk about religion with Scully and tries to connect with her through her faith. He may never be devout like Dana, too determined to have answers and too frustrated with the idea of a God who remains silent, but at least he understands how important such things are to her.

As a whole, this episode had the potential to be something great. Amell and Ambrose are able co-stars, each likable in their own ways, and both bringing just enough to their characters to make them interesting. For all that they're blatant, intentionally Xeroxed copies of Fox and Dana, their chemistry and acting styles are different enough to distinguish them from their inspirations.

The themes about mankind “finding a common tongue” again, mothers creating more than martyrs, the power and weight of words, and the balance between love and hate—these are all meaty, juicy ideas. The capping dialogue between Mulder and Scully is well done and satisfying, but it all could have been expanded and explored further throughout the episode, rather than shoehorned in at the very end.

And, it all could have been done without perpetuating further negative stereotypes against Muslims. I'm exceedingly tired of seeing Muslim/Middle Eastern actors only play suicide bombers or cab drivers in American media.

Statistically and historically, an overwhelming majority of terrorist acts on American soil have been perpetuated by white extremists—yet screenwriters continue to fall back on brown-skinned men screaming Allah.

It would have been nice to see The X-Files break from that mold, but alas. I only hope that next week's finale—possibly the last episode ever, and what a sobering thought that is—takes us out on a higher note.

 


Angie Barry wrote her thesis on the socio-political commentary in zombie films. Meeting George Romero is high on her bucket list, and she has spent hours putting together her zombie apocalypse survival plan. She also writes horror and fantasy in her spare time, and watches far too much Doctor Who. Come find the angie bee at Tumblr.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *