16th Feb2016

‘The X-Files 10×05: Babylon’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“I am getting a taste of what Agent Scully must suffer.”

Boy, this season is one wild ride. Ups and downs have abounded and here on the precipice of its foreshortened run there’s still no clear thrust as to where it’s all heading and why any of it was dragged up from cold storage for another day in the sun. ‘Babylon’ is a weak, slipshod episode of television only tangentially connected to anything unusual, much less supernatural. It’s more like an excitable relative’s under-cooked Hot Take™ on the issues of the day than it is any kind of coherent story, and its treatment of Islam is a laughable hodge-podge of absolutist morality with nihilistic evil on one side and the literal holy mother on the other. A group of bearded men praying to Mecca in a hotel room during breaks from bomb-building is all the characterization they get.

There’s no doubt that the deaths of artists, whether they’ve been inflammatory assholes or not, is a great tragedy, but here the suicide bombing of a gallery in Texas where a painting of Muhammad was hung for display is just a segue to suspicion, lecturing, and a seemingly endless storm of pureed intro-level philosophy of mind. There’s no attempt to focus on any given principle or idea at play, from the intersection of faith and fanaticism to the idea that the minds of humans are shaped by the words they listen to. It’s all just hootin’ an’ hollerin’ in service to filling out a 42-minute episode of television with no less than three self-congratulatory music video victory laps.

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Watching Claire Fisher try to chew her way through the episode’s thoroughly lackluster dialogue is a painful process. The entire episode is badly underwritten, burning through reams of dialogue without ever really managing to piece together a complete thought. There are so many ideas in play, all of them so poorly expressed and disorganized, none of it placed in any meaningful structure, that when Mulder and Scully reunite for a walk in Mulder’s yard it seems less like a respite after a storm than a three-minute episode tacked onto the bloated corpse of ‘Babylon.’

Also wearing is the shtick of showing Mulder and Scully their younger selves. The episode never does anything with it, and while Lauren Ambrose is recognizably human and can form entire facial expressions, Robbie Amell looks like he was peeled out of a Creepy Crawlers kit for generically attractive men. Watching them interact is like watching your friend shout at a department store mannequin. Their relationship is also the kind of amorphous nothing that The X-Files managed to spin into whatever it wanted in the series’ original run, their actions seemingly dictated by truly bizarre levels of jealousy and spite. When Einstein sees her partner working with Scully, she about-faces on her entire belief system to bring Mulder in and attempt a harebrained scheme involving psychedelic mushrooms. “I’m expecting results,” she snaps at him, apparently now a firm believer in vision quests after her introduction takes an agonizing two minutes to inform us that she’s not the sort of woman who believes in vision quests.

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Season 10 feels like exactly what it is: a meandering nostalgia tour with nothing to say and precious little relevance.

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