So, we arrive at the final standalone episode of the X-Files revival before we hit next week’s big finale, and what we get is so utterly bizarre that no other show could have pulled this off.
We’re not entirely sure that The X-Files has managed to pull it off either. After the earlier episode with the Were-Monster you’d understandably think the show had gotten all the weird out of its system for this six-episode event season.
‘Babylon’ features some of the downright strangest sequences this show has ever given us in all of its ten seasons. When Mulder takes hallucinogenic mushrooms to try and enter the unconscious mind of comatose suicide bomber – yes, you did read that correctly – he ends up going on what can only be described as a bad acid trip and the viewer is subjected to the mind-scarring image of Mulder being whipped by the Cigarette Smoking Man on a wooden boat manned by people in hoods – and, even more disturbing, the sight of Mulder line dancing.
Later we learn that Mulder was just given a placebo, instead of the real magic mushrooms, suggesting that his need to believe is still present and strong enough to cause him to have visions if he believes in it strongly enough.
It’s all just too weird and it doesn’t really work. The mushrooms sub-lot might provide some vaguely amusing moments, but – much like the drunken stag night sequence in Sherlock – it goes on for far too long and outstays its welcome; no longer quirky, but strangely irritating and irritatingly strange.
The real issue is that it all jars horribly with the serious nature of the heavy-handed and clichéd terrorism story that makes up for the episode’s main plot, which lazily and depressingly presents us with only one Muslim character in the entire episode who isn’t a terrorist. Unusually for the show, it’s painfully evident that the storytelling is aimed at the Fox audience in the US.
‘Babylon’ isn’t the worst episode of the revival (that honour still goes to the messy opener, ‘My Struggle’), but it’s also nowhere near to being a great, or even good, episode of The X-Files.
As per usual, we get great performances from Anderson and Duchovny, these two actors know these roles as well as they know themselves at this point – and there’s no denying the pair have been game for pretty much anything the writers can through at them in this new season -which makes the decision to separate Mulder and Scully for most of the episode another aspect of ‘Babylon’ that is baffling.
However, the same cannot really be said for the two new characters introduced in this episode, both of whom will be back next week in the finale.
Robbie Amell’s Agent Miller is a real blank slate and the actor brings very little, while Lauren Ambrose’s Agent Einstein does at least bring some personality to proceedings, but her character quickly becomes quite grating. Showing us Miller and Einstein as a younger version of Mulder and Scully provides some laughs, but is ultimately redundant and the lazy parallels undermine our belief in them as actual people.
Ultimately ‘Babylon’ is an episode that doesn’t know what it wants to be, taking the sensitive subject of domestic terrorism and then having one of the lead characters line dancing to ‘Achey-Breaky Heart’ in a cowboy hat.
“Nobody down here but the FBI’s most unwanted! I’ve been waiting 23 years to say that.”
“How’d it feel?
Aired at 9pm on Monday 7 March 2016 on Channel 5.
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