The X Files taps into Homeland – but did the show manage to be relevant in the modern era of the War against Terror?
They might look older (if not a little wiser) but after so many years off screen, it has been great to have Mulder and Scully back on TV again. And while the first episode did feel like a bit of a rehash of earlier storylines, there have been moments of magic in the following three episodes that for me have absolutely justified the revival. James Wong, Darin Morgan and Glen Morgan were all great writers in the original series run and delivered some good stories this season but this week we were back with Chris Carter for his second of three episodes.
And if I have to be honest, Babylon was the first episode since My Struggle – Carter’s previous effort – where I found myself frustrated. I wanted to love it and yet some fun moments aside, it didn’t quite work.
Let’s take the opening; this was The X Files tackling the hard-hitting, very modern subject of the war on terror as two Muslims walked into a gallery with suicide vests and blew it up. The scenes with the people running on fire, screaming, were horrific but this wasn’t Homeland; this was The X Files trying to be relevant in the modern era and with a very weak ‘supernatural’ element it just seemed a little half baked in its delivery.
There was a lot of focus on the perception of Muslim culture in modern Western society, from the hysterical rants of the very racist nurse to the mother of the bomber in intensive care who raged against the monsters that corrupted her son. And yet it never really went far enough to dig into this emotive subject and with moments like the Homeland officers who – I assume – came to get revenge and kill the bomber, it felt like Carter was going for sensationalism rather than treating the subject matter with the respect it deserved.
And Mulder’s dream sequence while hallucinating on magic mushrooms – I’m still not sure whether I loved it or hated it. Certainly Mulder line dancing in the club was hilarious and it was nice – if a bit wasted – opportunity to bring the Lone Gunmen back. As for the Cigarette Smoking Man whipping Mulder on the slave ship while the mother of the bomber cradled her dying son, it felt a little too bizarre to be treated seriously. Perhaps Carter was attempting to have a slice of the comedy pie after Darin Morgan’s Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster but it just felt a little too over the top.
Though talking of funny moments, Scully had the best line of the episode for the second episode in a row. “Nobody but the FBI’s most unwanted” Scully answers when new FBI agent Miller knocks on the office door and asks if anyone is down there, before telling Mulder “I’ve been waiting 23 years to say that!“. David Duchovny might have had his moments but Gillian Anderson is stealing the show with her foray into comic timing couples with the emotional trauma of abandoning their son William we saw in Founder’s Mutation and Home Again
As for the new agents, I am sure there were many wondering if the episode was also serving as a quasi spin-off of The X Files featuring Agents Miller and Einstein. Robbie Amell and Lauren Ambrose made a good impression – even if they looked a little too young and American-glossy – though Ambrose was definitely the stronger of the two. I liked her antsy rapport with Mulder and wonder if she really did give him a placebo or whether she was just trying to cover her arse with Skinner for prescribing Mulder with magic mushroom pills. Though by making a redhead doctor and having her call Miller by his last name the attempt to make them a younger Mulder and Scully was a little too on the nose for my liking.
Babylon had some interesting moments and was topped with a lovely final scene between Mulder and Scully that showed no matter how young new agents Miller and Einstein might be, it is the chemistry between the two leads that keep up watching. And yet again, Duchovny and Anderson continue to prove that it is always worth having more Mulder and Scully on our screens. Next week is the finale My Struggle II – hopefully not the last ever episode of
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