TV Review: The X-Files - Season 10 Episode 5 "Babylon"
Episode 5: "Babylon"
Synopsis: When an art gallery that’s showing potentially offensive artwork is bombed, Mulder and Scully seek some way to communicate with the comatose bomber in order to prevent a future attack. Meanwhile, a pair of younger FBI agents on the case (guest stars Robbie Amell and Lauren Ambrose) push Mulder and Scully to examine their own beliefs as Scully seeks answers from neuroscience and Mulder from mysticism.
REVIEW: One of the big questions buzzing around before this event series came to fruition was the potential for The X-Files to be rebooted with two new agents assigned to The X-Files. I was all for the idea of bringing in fresh young actors while hoping the revival would still bring back David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in more of a mentorship capacity. While this tactic didn't work out so well when Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish were brought in during the original series' final seasons, there is still a way to do it right. Tonight's episode gives us a sneak peak at what that spin-off could look like if FOX decided to bring back more seasons of the show. Robbie Amell (The Flash, THE DUFF) and Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) join the series as agents Miller and Einstein in what feels more like a backdoor pilot for a reboot rather than a proper episode.
In the timeliest storyline this season, Mulder and Scully are pulled into an investigation of an Islamic suicide bombing. The accused bomber is in critical condition at a hospital where he is unable to communicate and try to help the FBI locate the leader of the splinter cell before they can cause any further death and destruction. While Mulder and Scully helped investigate a bombing similar to the Oklahoma City terrorist attacks in the 1998 feature film, this would be their first true post-9/11 crime. The X-Files has not had a great track record dealing with multi-culturalism (see episodes like "Hell Money" or "Kaddish") but this episode doesn't really deal with the religion or political nature of the criminals at the case's core. This is more about linking the two senior agents to two younger ones.
Agents Miller and Einstein are very much clones of Mulder and Scully, down to their hairstyles and mannerisms. Miller is a believer or, more accurately, he wants to believe while Einstein is a skeptic and trained doctor who doesn't lend any creedence to hocus pocus or other weird things that cannot be explained via observation and reason. Sound familiar? This is in no way a knock on either Amell or Ambrose, who do a solid job in their roles, but the refresh of the characters seems a bit too on the nose. This could be a different attempt at recasting the stars because of how tonally different Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish were in the final seasons of the original run, but it just comes across as a bit forced. Even the structure of the episode tries to drive home who these new agents are by pairing them off: Miller with Scully as they head to meet the hospitalized bomber while Einstein and Mulder follow less scientific methods of investigation.
While Miller tries to mildly persuade Scully into believing there could be more than meets the eye, the real centerpiece of this episode involves Mulder convincing Einstein to observe him as a medical professional while he goes under the influence of psychotropic mushrooms in an effort to try and unlock some mysteries of the unconscious within the mind of the supposed terrorist. The hallucinations that Mulder experiences are some of the trippiest visuals we have ever seen on the show and afford a chance for Chris Carter to bring back fan favorites The Lone Gunmen. It always bothered me that Byers, Langley, and Frohike were killed off and when I heard they would be back for the revival, I was crossing my fingers that it would follow the official Season 10 comic series. But, alas, they are just part of Mulder's vision quest, as is the Cigarette Smoking Man.
Ultimately, Mulder hears the words of the vegetative terrorist which, coupled with Miller's bilingual skills, leads the FBI to the terror cell before another bombing can be taken. Saving everyone in the knick of time comes with the unexplained phenomena in that Einstein claims Mulder was only given a placebo and never had any drugs in his system. How could the agent have seen what he did if drugs were not actually ingested? Unfortunately, this is never explained in any satisfactory way which seems to be par for the course this season. Instead, we get two coda sequences involving the pairs of agents. Einstein and Miller wait in an airport and discuss what they experienced in this episode while Mulder and Scully contemplate their lives and legacy. Both scenes are solidily acted but the Miller/Einstein scene feels very much the way a pilot for The X-Files 2.0 would have ended.
Am I opposed to seeing these four headline future seasons of the show? Absolutely not. I did find Lauren Ambrose's portrayal of Einstein to be a bit rigid, but like Gillian Anderson's original seasons as Scully, that could easily develop into a much more layered character. My problem with this episode as a whole is that the main story about the terror cell feels underdeveloped and more of a conduit to introduce these characters to one another. The lack of a satisfactory conclusion to the story makes it feel like a tale half told. All four actors are given some solid work in this hour but the episode fails to drive home what could have otherwise been a great chapter. With only one episode left in the revival season, I am a bit concerned that only the premiere has dealt directly with the series mythology. Hopefully when we reflect on the season as a whole it will be fondly and not full of questions of what could have been.
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