Previously, on “The X-Files”…
Twenty-three years later, much has changed. But one thing is as it should be: Mulder and Scully are currently back in the basement, investigating the strange.
This Week’s Dossier
After two Muslim suicide bombers blow up an art gallery in Southwest Texas, the FBI is on the case… but the agents assigned are not Mulder and Scully. Instead, it’s plucky young believer Agent Miller (Robbie Amell) and skeptical young scientist Agent Einstein (Lauren Ambrose) who are heading to Texas. First, though, they stop by the basement to ask Mulder if he has any advice on how to maybe speak with one of the terrorists, who came out of the bombing badly mutilated but technically alive in a coma. It’s a notion Einstein laughs off entirely, but Scully — thanks to her experience last week with her mother — decides to offer her help to Miller, while Mulder suggests to Einstein that if she gives him magic mushrooms he might be able to communicate with the terrorist directly.
While Miller and Scully work to keep the terrorist alive, Mulder takes the drugs Einstein procures for him — and goes on a crazy trip that includes some line-dancing, cameos by Mulder’s old (and tragically dead) friends the Lone Gunmen, Einstein done up dominatrix-style, Cancer Man with a whip and a vision of the terrorist cradled in a woman’s arms. After returning to sanity, he finds out two things: One, Einstein gave him a placebo so that whole trip of his was completely drug-free, and two, the woman he saw in his vision was the terrorist’s mother, who shows up at the hospital and is the key to Mulder remembering the word that leads them to tracking down the rest of the terrorist’s cell: “Babylon.” The day is saved, even Einstein is intrigued by the mysteries she experienced while working on this case and Mulder and Scully bond over the question of how to reconcile “deep and unconditional love” with “unqualified hate.”
Wait, Explain It to Me Like I’m Five?
Mulder and Scully met Mulder and Scully: The Next Generation. Terrorists are bad, and because Mulder got fake-high, the FBI was able to stop a major terrorist cell. Love is the opposite of hate. And maybe God is real.
As Mulder and Scully gazed into each other’s eyes at the end of “Babylon,” talking intimately about love and the mysteries of the universe, beautiful horns could be heard in the distance as they… held hands.
“She’s clearly in love with him,” the clearly brilliant Agent Einstein might have observed this week, but we were maybe foolish to include “Makeout Watch” as a regular section of these reviews. After all, we’ve seen all nine seasons of the original series and both films. In theory, we know better than to anticipate seeing any intense physical intimacy between these characters on television. It’s just not Chris Carter’s style.
But yet we persist in believing. In something. For somebody. Sometime. Maybe this hope is futile. Maybe everything is futile. Maybe we’ve wasted so much time waiting for something beyond increasingly implausible chastity for these two characters; minutes of our fleeting lives that could have been spent in so many different ways. Maybe our belief in something more ever happening is a vortex of madness from which there will be no escape, ultimately, just a forever nightmare spent endlessly screaming into the void about fictional FBI agents on a broadcast television show.
See you guys back here next week!
Some Deep and Relevant Thoughts About Hair
As big fans of Lauren Ambrose, going all the way back to “Can’t Hardly Wait,” we’ve seen her hair a number of different shades of red. But in order to ensure that we got the point, somebody involved in this operation made sure that her hair was nearly the exact same color as Scully’s wig.
Wig status: Not bad. It really has grown on us over the last few weeks. Though, again, it looks way better down than pulled back.
First off, in case you didn’t watch the clip above (though you should! it’s great!), know that Mulder and Scully’s first meeting with Miller and Einstein was loaded with references to the “X-Files” pilot.
Also, in Mulder’s vision, we get yet another cameo by William B. Davis as Cancer Man, who’s technically presumed dead, as far as Mulder knows, though the ending of “My Struggle I” proved otherwise. More exciting, however, is the appearance of Frohike (Tom Braidwood), Byers (Bruce Harwood) and Langley (Dean Haglund), the trio of nerds who were Mulder’s best non-Scully friends during the show’s original run. (They tragically sacrificed themselves for the greater good in Season 9, but this cameo made good on Carter’s promise at New York Comic-Con that they would make an appearance.) Lovely to see their faces again.
But It’s Not 1993 Anymore
Byers has gone grey, for one thing! (Langley and Frohike look relatively the same.) Also, Mulder’s got an iPod, listens to the Lumineers and his slideshows have gotten a digital upgrade (though we do miss the slide projector). This is maybe otherwise an episode that largely could have happened during the series’ original run, barring the political element. Though, of course, if Mulder and Scully were investigating a case with their younger dopplegangers 20 years ago, it would have meant the debut of “X-Files Babies.” (A spin-off, for the record, that we would totally watch.)
Fun Ultra-Nerd Facts
Some more Canadian sci-fi casting: Beyond Robbie Amell — familiar to CW fans as the original Firestorm on “Arrow” (and also Stephen Amell’s cousin) — in a major role, we’re pretty sure that one of the “dark-suited men” who confronted Miller and Scully in the hospital was Stephen Lobo, the second “Continuum” cast member to appear on this series. The other “dark-suited man” was Erik Breker, who actually appeared a few times during “The X-Files” original run (albeit as other characters). And if that crazy nurse looked familiar to you, that’s because she was played by Janet Kidder, who not only has made many TV appearances, but is Margot “Maybe the Best Lois Lane Ever” Kidder’s niece.
Oh, also, if we’re gonna get really nerdy here, “Einstein’s Twin Paradox: A New Interpretation” was Scully’s senior thesis, not her dissertation. Pretty sure those are different things.
“I’m not going to ask you if you just said what I think you just said because I know it’s what you just said.” (Most Awkward Quote)
As this episode was written by Chris Carter, there are no shortage of speeches (and sections of dialogue that feel like speeches) dense with terminology, theories and references to pre-established facts. But this random aside muttered by Scully still stuck out as… maybe not the most awkward bit of dialogue, but certainly the weirdest. Is Scully’s attitude towards the Muslim concept of paradise, spent with 72 virgins, Islamophobic? Is it actually a kinda dirty joke? Is it something that Carter actually wrote, or an ad-lib by Gillian Anderson? We have no answers here. We just know that it was weird.
“Dear Diary: Today my heart lept when Agent Scully suggested ‘spontaneous human combustion.'” (Best Quote)
“How’d it feel?”
– Scully and Mulder
Between Mulder and Scully, Miller and Einstein, Mulder and Einstein and Miller and Scully, this episode actually featured a lot of genuinely enjoyable banter between the four different pairings of agents. (Truth: Most of our notes on this episode might just consist of transcribing key moments of dialogue.) But this exchange stuck out not just because it was such a charming callback to the pilot, but because Anderson and Duchovny performed it so naturally and casually. It might not have been an immediate thing, but in moments like that their chemistry is maybe the best it’s ever been.
There are a few major components of this episode that warrant discussion. First, the case of the week, which was almost shocking in how basic it was. If you were looking for any sort of twist on this tale of terrorism, you were out of luck. While there was some effort made to explore the humanity of these terrorists, the story ultimately had the subtlety of an episode of “24.” This isn’t to say that Islamic terrorism isn’t a real and present thing in our current world, but the only thing that really made this case an X-File was Mulder’s drug trip and brief moment of communication with the terrorist.
And about that… Man, we have a lot of questions there. Like, what was that? Did that really need to be that many minutes long? Was it strictly necessary (pun not intended) to dress up Lauren Ambrose like a dominatrix? Where was Scully? Did David Duchovny already know how to line-dance or did he need to take lessons? Seriously, where was Scully? While it was a confused moment, to be sure, attempting to balance some ridiculous spectacle with surreality, at least it represented Chris Carter trying to stretch himself a little.
Meanwhile, the presence of a new generation of agents was more than blunt in the comparisons being drawn. Some rumors surfaced awhile back that Miller and Einstein were being set up to actually take over the X-Files (with Amell and Ambrose thus inheriting the series from Duchovny and Anderson). If that’s truly the case, this introduction did them no favors in establishing them as unique individuals. But Amell and Ambrose did some solid work in making Miller and Einstein feel like their own characters with their own dynamic.
That being said, there’s nothing like Mulder and Scully united in partnership. It’s not so much that we’d refuse to watch “The X-Files” without them, as that it wouldn’t be “The X-Files” without them. The sweetness of the final scene is undeniable, and sets an intriguing tone for next week’s season finale, which will wrap up the conspiracy storyline begun with “My Struggle.” Who knows where the pieces will land at the end? The answer is Chris Carter, because he always knows more than he’s willing to say.