Monday, February 15, 2016

The X-Files - S10:E5 "Babylon"

[ S10:E4 "Home Again" <<< Season 10 >>>  S10:E6 "My Struggle II" ]

For better or worse (and I'm leaning toward better), this episode seems to split the difference between being one of Chris Carter's musical comedies, and a serious freak-of-the-week about a Muslim terrorist cell (how's that for some bread-and-butter FBI work?) that manages to intrigue even as it skirts dangerously close to the border of racial insensitivity (Scully's one-off remark about how not all Muslims are terrorists barely qualifies as lip service). You know, I never used to think of this show as being conservative, but lately...

And on that note, can I say that I liked Chris Carter's writing better before he found God, and his pretentious monologues were about things like environmentalism, the progress of man's evolution, and intelligent life in the universe? Because he uses this episode's subject of killing in the name of God to posit more religious questions (as opposed to those conspiracy questions), about man's capacity for love and hate. Please, when he settled on the concept of a mother's love as man's saving grace, I think I vomited in my mouth a little bit.

Speaking of which, shall we talk about Mulder's mushroom trip? Actually, it wasn't too bad, in the grand scheme of things. Certainly better than him dancing in front of the mirror in Dreamland. I was a little disappointed by The Lone Gunmen's cameo (you can barely call it that), however. I remember when I thought this revival was going to shake things up, and discard the junk in the original series' trunk, in order to revive the spirit and flavor of the earlier episodes. But no, no retconning here. Just a lot of wallowing in inescapable plot points that dragged the end of the original series down.

(This episode isn't actually about William, but half of this season's episodes have been, and I just want to point out the irony of the writers throwing William away in the ninth season because they didn't want to be burdened with him going forward, only to find themselves dealing with the aftermath of it now, after all. If William had stuck around, it wouldn't have been so bad - he could have been some cool alien hybrid or something. And if he never showed up in the first place, or if the writers chose to simply ignore the fact that he ever existed, I'd be fine with that, too. But I'm sick of all this wallowing. I hope it ends, one way or another).

So, in what I think is supposed to be the funny category for this episode, we are introduced to two young FBI agents who seek Mulder and Scully's help on the terrorism case, who could well be their doppelgangers. It's not the first time Chris Carter has played around with this idea (although the last time occurred in an episode not worth mentioning). I'm probably in the minority of longtime X-Files fans, but I think I would actually be more interested in seeing a reboot of the series with new actors in the iconic roles, than continuing to watch David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in The Middle-Age Files. Sacrilege, I know. DD and GA are The X-Files. But if anything, this new series has proved that you can never step in the same river twice. And now you might call me a conservative, but it wasn't a continuation of The X-Files that got me excited for this revival, it was the idea that they were going to revive what made it good in the first place.

Now I feel like a grumpy, old man who's just complaining about how much better things were in "the good, old days". Honestly, hindsight is 20/20 and all that, but I wonder if I wouldn't have enjoyed this revival more if I hadn't just spent seven months watching the original series start to finish, and went in instead only going off of nostalgia and fond, faded memories. Because, to me, it hasn't been...what, eight years since Mulder and Scully were together working a case? 14 years since the series went off the air? And a good 18 years or more since the series was in its heyday? I just watched all of that stuff inside of the last year. So maybe some of the distance of age and time that informs these episodes, and the actors' portrayal of the characters, is lost on me. Because when Scully apes Mulder's first line to her in the pilot when inviting the two young agents into the basement office in this episode, I think it's cute, but I'm not melting.

Anyway, next week is the finale. In my mind, this series could very well live or die by it. Although I'm not expecting anything radically different from what we've gotten in the past five episodes.

Memorable quotes:

Agent Miller: Hello, anybody down here?
Scully: Nobody but the FBI's most unwanted. (I've been waiting 23 years to say that).

Mulder: It's a legitimate question.
Agent Einstein: There's a legitimate answer - no.

Agent Miller: I believe so many answers lie beyond the pale of the normal world in realms of extreme possibility.
Scully: I believe that you believe.

Mulder: I saw things, though, Scully - powerful things. I saw deep and unconditional love.
Scully: I saw things, too. I witnessed unqualified hate, that appears to have no end.
Mulder: How to reconcile the two?

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