Monkey TV Review – X Files (Ep.5) “Babylon”

…closer and closer to the season finale we march…(sob…)

NOTE: SOME SPOILERS BUT NOT MUCH…

For The Monkey, X Files is a conundrum. As readers know, this tiny ape loves the show and watched it previously up until David Duchovny left the series during its original run.  So my love has boundaries.  Do you hear that, chimp-wife??

Duchovny and Anderson (plus key supporting cast members) make this show interesting and entertaining.  With the 6-episode Season 10 run, there are things that harken back to the original series, and then there are others that make one scratch their simian noggin.

In the original run of the series, there were many uneven episodes and a few that were just terrible.  Either the story telling was terrible, or the acting was questionable or it just didn’t sit squarely on the rails of the existing X Files lore.  But that was okay because each season there were gems as well.  And on the whole the gems outnumbered the carbon-clumps, making the season something special each year.  With only six episodes this season, it is more difficult for the show to use the handicapping  law of averages.  This episode leans things back to “huh?”.

The X-Files - Babylon - 08_52_43 PMWhat’s unnerving about this episode is how it happily shifts from a horrific terrorist act to heavy handed use of humor (the deadly three-h’s).  The show opens with a mind-numbing act of suicide bombing, showing people on fire, screaming and running out of the art gallery that was just targeted.  One suicide bomber barely survives and the remaining plot line concentrates on how to extract additional information from this catatonic terrorist.  Sounds pretty depressing, no?

What happens next is worrisome.  Two new characters are introduced that on the surface behave just like Mulder and Scully.   Lauren Ambrose portrays FBI agent Einstein and Robbie Amell is FBI Agent Miller.   Each partners with their opposite (Einstein with Mulder, Amell with Scully) and the dynamics that we’re all used to ensues with each couple.

My first reaction was “nooo!!!!” – is this some plot to introduce us to the ultimate replacements for Duchovny and Anderson for an extended X Files series run?  Some basic research reveals…. maybe.  There’s no definitive word on whether the show will return for a limited run, or whether these two new characters will anchor a new series with special appearances from the “classic” characters.

My second reaction was to the new actors themselves and their portrayals.  Lauren Ambrose (Einstein) sure is unlikable.  Her reactions and attitude border on nasty.   She’s condescending and totally fed-up, rolls her eyes and makes sarcastic comments, while contorting her face into expressions that say “whatev'”.  Even when angry, Scully always brought a sense of class and loving cajoling to her character and never treated Mulder like he was an idiot or worse, a jerk.  Agent Einstein sometimes is just downright belittling to both Agents Mulder and Miller.  Now I know this could all just be a front for a softer side, and that she is hiding behind this brash and nervy exterior to reveal some soft underbelly of pain and helplessness, but then again really?  X Files was know to be more cerebral about its characterizations.   If this soft-underbelly under a crusty exterior is the case with Agent Einstein, then its an awkward, heavy handed approach that I’m not used to on X Files.  (Note to self, pick up some Mallomars from Publix).

On the other hand, Robbie Amell as agent Miller is actually closer to what Fox portrays, with a little less sarcasm.  And note that Fox’s sarcasm is not like Einstein’s sarcasm.   When Mulder shoots a little smart ass remark in the conversation, he does it with a the mischievous look that makes you take his remake a little more lightly.  As noted, Agent Einstein’s sarcasm is two-fisted punch to the groin, suggesting that you are a total idiot.

Getting back to the story…

ariane179254_TheXFiles_10x05-Babylon_2788The barely surviving terrorist bomber (Shiraz) is lingering in life in a near comatose state.  When his mother (Noora) visits him, the brain monitor picks up some activity.  This suggests to Mulder that perhaps we can reach him in some way to get additional information on the activity of this terrorist cell.  That “some way” is via hallucinogenic mushrooms (accompanied by your typical lecture from Mulder on how ancient somebodies used it in ancient times for some ancient meditation or healing or something… you know the drill) that will be administered as pills that are purchased illicitly and somewhat begrudgingly by Agent Einstein.

At the same time, Scully and Miller are attempting to use a more traditional approach to determine whether there are additional terrorist dangers in hiding (hint: there are) and trying to understand (another plot!) why the US government is trying to make sure this terrorist never recovers.

Mulder and Einstein make there way to the hospital, and Mulder takes the magic mushroom concoction.   What happens next is a surreal trip into purgatory that includes cameos by the Lone Gunmen (yay! – I mean eep!), country line dancing by Fox and an eventual meet up with the bomber.

maxresdefault-3I’ll leave the result of the show a secret for people who have not seen it yet.

The trippy montage that Mulder experiences is actually very funny and is played well by Duchovny.  He is a downright good line dancer! The problem is, this hilarity does not mesh with the horrific themes of the overall episode.   You’re laughing at some of Mulder’s antics and then later reminded that “oh that’s right, there’s murderous trouble afoot and I just saw people burning to death while screaming in horror”.

Skinner pops in to provide some measure of realness to the episode by threatening Mulder for his use of hallucinogenic chemicals and his public behaviors.  Then Skinner leaves.  $5,000 please.

As in the previous episode, it sure seems like the X Files writers (in this case, Chris Carter again) are cramming as much into these six episodes as they can, making it often seem like two or more stories are running concurrently but unfortunately they cannot give any of the stories proper treatment in the 48 minutes of run time.  I would have preferred a solid storyline of each episode (or maybe two?), even if it left us with less overall content.

Babylon-6.pngThe episode closes with yet another amazing and heartfelt discussion between Scully and Mulder.  The actors have really found their vibe using these two-person expositions of their internal struggles. Carter knows both characters so well and is  able, in short bursts, to do some heartwarming and satisfying writing.  This closing scene is truly the best part of the episode.

There’s but one show left in Season 10 and it appears to be a wrap-up/continuation of the first episode. It is aptly titled “My Struggle II”.

This season has shown flashes of near-perfect writing and acting, leaning on the complicated yet understandable relationship between Fox and Dana.  There is humor that is handled well. And then there’s the “other stuff”.

the-x-files-babylon-lone-gunmenjpg-e5c41de2818b15ebIt looks like from the previews that the final episode of Season 10 also includes Agents Einstein and Miller, so I’m going to take careful note of how they handle the end of the season.  There’s plenty of speculation on a renewal of another 6-episode season.  Duchovny is busy on another show called “Aquarius” set in the 1960’s that centers around investigation of the Charles Manson murders and Anderson is busy with stints on the British stage, most recently playing Blanche Dubois from A Streetcar Named Desire.  I’m hoping they can squeeze in work for another 6 or more shows.  And honestly, if Agent Einstein’s character is toned down somewhat, she might be workable.  Maybe a longer season could include storylines that focus on each pair of characters separately, and then some intermixed episodes.  That would be perfect.

The Monkey’s Running Episode Ranking:

  1. Episode 3 – Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster
  2. Episode 4 – Home Again
  3. Episode 5 – Babylon
  4. Episode 2 – Founder’s Mutation
  5. Episode 1 – My Struggle

Let me know what you think!  Eeep!

Coming soon – Better Call Saul just started Season 2 and the glorious Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is coming back in March!  Good times lay ahead.

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