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Nothing says an hour of fun like an X-Files comedy episode centered around a suicide bomber cell! After two strong episodes, The X-Files once again took a major misstep with “Babylon.” Yes, there were some fun moments to be had within the episode, but at the end of the hour I was left scratching my head and trying to understand how Chris Carter thought this particular framing device would work for this particular story.
Now, I’m someone who believes that, in the right hands, comedy can be mined from pretty much anything. But the key to that statement is, of course, “in the right hands.” As it turns out, Chris Carter is definitely not the right person to craft a lighthearted, Mulder-centric, episode where the key mystery is trying to get into the comatose head of a terrorist cell member. The opening scene had me intrigued- how was the show going to link a terrorist attack to the X-Files? However, as soon as we met Agents Miller (an out-gunned Robbie Amell) and Einstein (a much stronger Lauren Ambrose), it became clear that this wasn’t going to be a hard hitting episode with strong dramatic moments. Nope, this was going to be a tonally deaf attempt at getting some laughs while still imparting a deep message about how the world needs to come together and love one another.
As I think was pretty clear throughout the episode, as it jumped from its message of hate vs. love to Mulder tripping the hell out, this was a complete mess of a story. Had Carter picked one angle- considering how strong of a comedic performance David Duchovny turned in, I would have been happy with that being the central arc- this might have worked significantly better. And, had Carter not opted to use a suicide bombing as the impetus for the episode, perhaps things might have flowed better. But, as it stands, the episode simply wanted to do too much with too little time. Perhaps this was a case of Carter realizing that there weren’t enough hours in the X-Files revival to get out all the ideas he wanted to discuss. Or, perhaps he thought this was a balanced hour that would show off some of the series’ best elements (if that was the case, I really doubt his artistic eye).
Aside from the poorly plotted mess of a storyline, the episode also suffered from a hallmark of a Chris Carter episode- awful dialogue. For some reason, when Duchovny and Gillian Anderson deliver dialogue Carter has written, it sounds so incredibly unnatural that it becomes jarring to listen to. In this season’s premiere, one of the most disappointing aspects was how unconvinced the pair sounded when delivering their lines. That same sense of dread and confusion hovered over “Babylon” as well (although Ambrose was solid in her work with the often stilted script), particularly in the episode’s closing scene. While I bought everything spoken within “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” (a much more “out there” episode than this one), Anderson and Duchovny seemed completely out of sorts throughout the entire closing conversation in last night’s episode.
And it is a complete shame that this episode turned out this way. With only one more episode left in this run- possibly the last episode ever (while all those involved have expressed a desire to do this again sometime, considering how busy they all are, it could be years before another opportunity presents itself), I had hoped we might be able to string together a solid set of episodes. So far, out of the five that have aired, there have been two I would classify as great, one as ok, and two that were pretty darn bad. At this point, while it was nice to spend some time with Mulder and Scully again, I’m not sure this exercise in returning to the world of The X-Files was worth it.