TV Review: The X Files Season 10 Episode 5, “Babylon” (USA, 2016)

Never one to back away from an occasionally controversial story, this week’s episode of The X Files dabbles in politics, terrorism, communicating with the near-dead, neuroscience, mysticism, love VS hate and magic mushrooms. It’s quite a bit to pack into an episode, and creator, writer and director Chris Carter has a crack at it. It’s a bit of a hit and miss episode and we take a look why.

***Spoilers and line dancing ahead***

When an art gallery that’s showing a potentially offensive piece of art is blown up by terrorists, a pair of young agents Agent Miller (Robbie Amell) and Agent Einstein (Lauren Ambrose) swing by the office of Agent Mulder (David Duchovny) and Agent Scully (Gillian Anderson) for assistance. One of the bomber’s – Shiraz (Australian actor Artin John) – is in a comatose state and Miller is determined to try anything no matter how ludicrous to try and speak to the young man. His partner Einstein is skeptical and refuses to believe there’s much that anybody can do aside from using old fashioned investigative skills to try and prevent any further attacks. Both Mulder and Scully see reflections of themselves in each of these young agents and on the sly from each other opt to help them. Scully partners up with Miller, determined to try a more scientific approach of using an electro-enciphilogram to read his brainwaves. Whilst Mulder pairs up with Einstein and convinces her that maybe using magic mushrooms to possibly reach him on an astral plane may be a better option. With another possible terror threat imminent, time is of the essence, will any of the agents be able to reach the comatose victim?

I’m not entirely sure why Carter chose the route of depicting a terrorist attack on The X Files, again, as a means of building a story. With the political tension surrounding the depiction of Muslims in the media (whether it’s news or fictional TV shows) it only ever serves as fuel to a dangerous fire. This episode treads all to closely, if not tiptoeing on the other side of that line of possibly being considered offensive and racist. It’s such a difficult and touchy subject and probably should be left alone by writers of fictional TV shows. If the show was considered a comedy, you may be able to get away with the racial profiling but this is not. The fact that Carter even addresses the hatred by showing agents who are trying to prevent Miller and Scully from investigating, or that a nurse blatantly switches off the life support in an attempt to kill the coma patient is an all too real portrayal of the hate. Carter’s narrative seems thin at best during this episode, skipping back and forth between Miller and Scully’s attempts to reach him through an EEG or through Mulder’s attempts to reach him via some form of astral projection whilst tripping on magic mushrooms.

And speaking of magic mushrooms; amidst all the heavy political themes though we get a moment of ridiculousness when Mulder (supposedly) takes some magic mushrooms and starts hallucinating. It’s all very bizarre and hilarious when he takes a walk out of the hospital and ends up at a Texan line dancing bar. We also have a brief moment where Mulder, along with A.D Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) and The Lone Gunmen (Tom Braidwood, Bruce Harwood and Dean Haglund) are all sitting around a table laughing hysterically and enjoying the show of dancing ladies. It’s a brief detour from all the heavy talking going on, and at least gives us a moment to breathe and laugh, even though it does feel a little out of place.

But returning back to the themes and sub-genres explored. There’s also a theme about the power of suggestion and beliefs and the weight of words. And then there’s the inter-woven thread about mother’s and their children which is also brought up. But in all honesty none of these themes seem to really stick so they all seem to just jumble together. There’s a narrative here, but too many reasonings and explanations given as to why they are.

What does work though is the camraderie and chemistry between all the characters onscreen. It begins with the usual and comfortable banter between Mulder and Scully. Then we meet Einstein and Miler who seem to have a very similar repartee. Then we of course switch things up with the pairings, and to a degree it might be staged (as in Mulder and Scully purposefully match up with their opposites) but it does work. Particularly the match up between Scully and Miller, who both seem to naturally gel together. Whilst although Einstein seems to grate initially with Mulder, her determination to get a resolution to the case overrules her possible better judgement – sound familiar? The redeeming factor of this episode is getting see these younger agents treading in the footsteps of M&S which in of itself reflects upon these younger actors treading the same path as their older actor counterparts; and even though it might be a cliche trope to use, I enjoyed it.

After having such a great run with the last 3 episodes it seems only fair that there’s a slight stumble in the calibre of the episodes. The fact that there are too many things going on in this episode result in it being messy, noisy and lacking in focus. The theory and context and ideology of this episode were interesting, and challenging however I felt that the execution didn’t quite nail it like it had with other episodes.

Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Watch “Babylon” on Tenplay via the Channel Ten website.
The next episode and season finale “My Struggle II” will air on Channel 10 this Sunday at 8:30pm