Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The X-Files 10x05 Review: "Babylon" (Nobody Down Here But the FBI’s Most Unwanted) [Contributor: Lizzie]

Original Airdate: February 15, 2016

In the nine years of The X-Files’ original run, I saw my share of weird episodes. Now, I’m not saying weird was the new normal, but the show did delight in throwing you a curveball every once in a while. I always enjoyed those kind of episodes in the old days. I used to check my common sense at the door and let myself get sucked into the crazy. It was therapeutic, I think, especially on a show that could drag you down into the dumps with the conspiracy of it all. When TV is not asking you to take it seriously, trying can counterproductive.

Admittedly, this worked better in twenty-three episodes seasons. You can give me “Fight Club” in the same season I get “Amor Fati” and “Millenium” — I might not love it, but I’ll allow it. It all balances out in the end.  You can’t, however — or you shouldn’t — give me “Babylon” in such a shortened season.

Chris Carter should have known this. In fact, Chris Carter probably does. If he doesn’t, I’m sure some people tried to tell him. But this is Chris Carter we’re talking about, and he always knows better. Or at least, he thinks he does. And that’s how, in a six-episode season David Duchovny gets to line-dance but we don’t get one single in-depth conversation explaining how Mulder and Scully (who went to hell and back for each other) just happened to break up off-screen?

Bitter? Me? Nah. That’s just your imagination.


Our beloved (did that come off as sarcastic? Did it?) creator happens to also love doppelgangers. We’ve seen them before, notably in one of my least favorite episodes of this entire series “Fight Club,” which was also written and directed by — you guessed it! — Chris Carter.

Now, I’m not against the idea of doppelgangers, per se. They can be used very effectively to showcase the differences between two people, or to help the characters understand things about their relationship. It’s just that... at this point, do Mulder and Scully really need a lesson in how they’re different and why that works in their favor? Do they? They’ve been partners since 1993 and they were a couple for who knows how long. They KNOW each other: the good, the bad, the ugly; they’ve already seen it all. This is like re-treading old ground.

Of course, the show doesn’t treat it like that. The show wants us to believe that Mulder and Scully have “changed” and that Miller and Einstein are there not just to illustrate the difference, or to get us excited about the possibility of a new The X-Files reboot with them at the helm, but to teach our favorite FBI agents a deep lesson about... eh, something? I couldn’t tell you. The point of this all completely bypassed me.

Part of the reason why Einstein and Miller don’t work is that they’re boring. Their interactions are not as interesting. I see no spark between them, no hidden layer of affection. They’re just two people who work together and have different approaches toward solving the case. Period. Einstein is even actively annoying this episode, in a way Scully sometimes could be at the beginning of the series. Except Gillian Anderson has the acting chops to expertly play both that side of Scully and the earnest personal one, which meant that even in the days when she was acting like Einstein, we liked her.

We don’t like her doppelganger.

Miller comes off a bit better, mostly because he’s playing “Mulder” and that makes him an easier character to like, but also because Robbie Amell seems to play him as an honest guy who’s all in. Einstein is hiding something, a part of herself, if you will, but not Miller. This is who he is — what he believes in, and even twenty-three years later, that’s still refreshing to see.

Still, if the idea was to introduce these two as possible reboot candidates, that idea not only failed, but crashed and burned. I don’t care about the two of them together. I wouldn’t even watch a commercial that starred the two. Considering how much I like Robbie Amell, this is somewhat surprising. But you can’t fake chemistry — there were more sparks in the few minutes Mulder and Scully were together than in every conversation Einstein and Miller had.

Which brings me back to this point: this is a six episode revival. I don’t need to see an hour’s worth of Mulder and Scully working with other people, much less second-rate versions of the other. I want to see the two people I care about together on the screen. If not, what’s the point?


This can be another problem with The X-Files. Sometimes it’s deep without even trying, and then, other times, they try too hard. And then the show gets bogged down into philosophical contemplations and it’s just too much. I wanted to enjoy Mulder and Scully walking around holding hands at the end of the episode, but I couldn’t. Because what they were saying was completely nonsensical. What was the conclusion they reached, again? That there’s no conclusion?

What these two pretty people should have been doing as they walked around the house they used to share, holding hands, is TALK ABOUT THEIR RELATIONSHIP. You know, the one you broke with your stupid excuses, Chris Carter? The one they clearly both miss. The one the fans waited and waited to see for nine years. That’s what they should have been doing, not having a conversation so deep that I drowned.


One more episode to go. One. I wish I could tell you I have faith in the process, but I don’t. Things turned out mostly fine before, but I think that was chance, and the stars aligning and David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson being willing to accommodate some things and just shine some chemistry magic over the badly-plotted parts. And, hey, maybe they could have done the same this time — they had some great moments. But six episodes? Well, that’s hard. That’s enough to tell ONE cohesive story, not five different ones. Don’t overreach, as my mother would say.

But that’s never been advice The X-Files has known how to follow. They’d rather shoot for the moon and hope they at least land among some stars.

Other things:
  • As glad as I was to see the Lone Gunman, I would have been happier if they were still, you know, alive. Which, they could be. Should be. Maybe we can all agree to pretend that the episode where you killed them off just to protest that their show got canceled, is part of an AU world. A hallucination. Didn’t happen. What say you, Chris Carter?
  • There were people running around in FIRE and you want me to believe one of the bombers survived? Now that’s unexplainable.
  • Where was the reason for Scully going to Miller? I mean, at least Mulder had a reason, even if it was a completely ludicrous one. Also, do either of them care about where the other one is? Or do they always just disappear without giving explanations? Because I might be getting to the bottom of why they broke up.
  • Mulder might seem like a lunatic to the uninitiated, but his plans usually involve more than “let’s get high and see what happens.” And by this I mean that he usually HAS a plan. Even if it’s a hard-to-grasp one. 
  • WTF was up with the nurse? Ah, just casually murdering people. No biggie.
  • Don’t even get me STARTED on Einstein in dominatrix gear. At least have the decency to make it Scully, if you’re going to go for it. Though, now that I think about it, Gillian probably told you to go screw yourself. That’d make sense.
  • Was that David Duchovny doing the backflip? Inquiring minds want to know.
The X-Files' six-episode revival is available, in its entirety, on FOX.

1 comment:

  1. Agree completely. As you pointed out, the 6 episodes tried to do too much & missed some great opportunities. ie. Skinner's struggles. If Mulder's are alien and Scully's medical, Skinner's have to be political & corporate, the most dangerous of all. Hated the Einstein/Miller duo. No chemistry. You're right...boring. Carter was right to introduce a new generation to appeal to younger audiences, but they needed to be even more unique & interesting than Scully & Mulder, not copycats. Hoping for better next time around....