As much as I might be inclined to blame the profoundly gross sentimentality and general ineptitude of “Babylon,” the fifth and worst (by a mile) episode of The X-Files revival, on Valentine’s Day, that would be wrong and inaccurate. The blame must be laid squarely at the feet of Chris Carter, who wrote and directed the episode, which involves Mulder and Scully hesitantly investigating a suicide bombing in Texas with two younger agents that are suspiciously akin to them, named Einstein and Miller (Lauren Ambrose and Robbie Amell). Like in the problematic (to say the least) revival opener “My Struggle,” Carter’s uncomplicated, preachy brand of political pontificating gives “Babylon” a distinctly rancid aftertaste, what with it’s messaging about “mother love” and erratic switches in tone.
Indeed, “Babylon” might be the only modern terrorist narrative to take time out to not only allow its central protagonist to trip on psychotropic mushrooms, complete with line-dancing hallucination, but to also recall the unforgivable bit of slang that is “badonkadonk.” Here, Carter foregoes any concept of the supernatural, this show’s primary fascination, to give his opinion on a timely subject, that of depictions of Mohammad and the violence that often erupts due to such representations. And as it turns out, his thoughts are flippant, careless, and not even marginally provocative, as the episode’s final moments make it clear that his opinion on this hugely complex issue is little more than a reckless call for everyone to love one another.
It’s a nice thought, but not one that confronts the central arguments of such acts: freedom of expression, religious fanaticism, racism, provocation for provocation’s sake, etc. Carter goes the cat-poster route here, and for all the positive feelings he may be trying to impart, the episode ultimately feels like nothing more than a bumbling attempt to introduce Einstein and Miller into the storyline. Amell and Ambrose are fine actors, but Carter’s script gives them nothing to dig into, no revelation of character beyond their clear kinship to Mulder and Scully. That they end up being totally inconsequential to the plot of the episode does not bode well for their presumed place at the center at a proposed full eleventh season of the series sans its original central characters.
If that does happen to be the plan, it’s now clear that Carter should be relegated to the role of executive producer, as his writing has inarguably been the biggest continual detriment to the revival. With “Babylon,” he trades in his series’ storied legacy as a creative, moody bit of pulp, with a subtle, thoughtful undercurrent of political and thematic investigation, for a risible brand of broad, unthinking commentary that guts the narrative and its characters of their inherent mystery, skepticism, and emotional effectiveness.
★ Poor – Why? Why?!?!