Author’s notes: SPOILERS AHEAD!! And, there was no way to touch on everything in this episode without writing a book, so the following are my basic, fluffy thoughts. Once again – – SPOILERS!
The X-Files has always been about exploring ideas, trying to put words to the unspeakable, give voice to the silent, let you feel the untouchable. Throughout the original series, the show presented characters with sometimes horrifying charisma, such as in “Beyond the Sea” and “Home”, and of course has occasionally failed miserably (”Jersey Devil” and a couple of others). Hey, no one’s perfect.
Last night’s episode is one that will stay with me for a while. It has everything I’ve been looking for in pop culture, even though the very end left me puzzled, which is quite alright; it gives me something to go back and figure out. If Twitter can be believed, “Babylon” got a lot of hate as it aired, with all-caps posts of “racism!”, “Islamaphobic!”, and “I’m done with this show!” being thrown left and right. Assuming tweets could be thrown. Honestly, if these chirpers had watched the episode to the end, they might have seen what the show was really trying to do.
All the good in the world
You can put inside a thimble
And still have room for you and me. -Tom Waits
As has been mentioned too many times already, pop culture is a reflection of what is happening in the world around us. If it isn’t doing that, something isn’t right — we (or the writers, musicians, artists, etc.) are trying to pretend either something isn’t there or that nothing is wrong. Distraction is fine, blindness is not.
At first glance, “Babylon” appears to be politically incorrect, insulting, and irreverent. It’s not new, by any means, but guilt is usually put on some unnamable threat, or the Russians did it, or whatever. Not Monday night, no, the on-screen terror was caused by Islamic extremists.
But don’t tell my heart
My achy breaky heart
I just don’t think he’d understand
And if you tell my heart
My achy breaky heart
He might blow up and kill this man. –Billy Ray Cyrus
The rest of the episode basically investigates a suicide bombing. Here is where I think many people have gotten lost, in my humble opinion. Islam is stated as being a threat. Or so we think. The only people who actually voice that, are minor characters who seem to deliberately represent one side of the argument: many people are afraid and don’t understand both why they are being attacked and why they are being asked to help (refugees).
The other side of the issue could be represented by the mother of one of the bombers, who enters the hospital room to see what’s left of her nearly brain-dead son, head caved in and missing body parts. The first thing she says is “I didn’t raise you this way…” People aren’t born with the wish to go blow up other human beings.
We are shown several times how the young men are lied to, brainwashed. Islamic radicalism is by far not the only source of aggression — any political group is capable of it (and religion is, of course, political) — but it’s the one making the most noise at the moment.
Below: Mulder’s very creepy end to his mushroom ride.
It is also one of the few groups that refuse to tolerate any form of mockery. Direct reference to events such as Charlie Hebdo were mentioned in “Babylon”, the conflicting opinions of free speech as opposed to keeping quiet. Each side of this argument has its gains and losses.
If you really look at it, “Babylon” was an attempt to show several sides of the issue in an attempt to get people to question. And that is SO important. If you are not allowed to question, not allowed to examine the world you grow up in, something is very, very wrong. Remember that.
Below: Mulder’s very amusing beginning to his ride.
On a lighter note, Mulder gets to ride the Mushroom Express, and it was wild indeed. A little longer than it needed to be, perhaps, but this scene, along with Mulder’s mid-life crisis in the cemetery back in episode 3, had me laughing out loud. It was reminiscent of Alice Through the Looking Glass as well, yet another point of view on reality and our place in it.
Can I tell you a secret? I’m not a fan of Billy Ray Cyrus… and Achy Breaky drives me nuts… But okay, it was funny. It was especially worth it to hear Tom Waits, whose song, “Misery Is The River Of The World”, seems tailor-made for this episode, pushing the creep-o-meter way up.
To be honest, the plot is precarious at best, mostly because so much was crammed into about forty-five minutes. This could easily have been a ninety-minute episode, and that would have permitted us to get to know Einstein and Miller better (yet another doppelgänger episode!); Miller’s a soft, chewy cookie and Einstein grew on me.
In the end, Mulder states the phrase that could be interpreted as the entire reason for “Babylon” in the first place: “I’ve been thinking a lot about God…” Yes indeed, Mulder. In this day and age, people should think about religion because whether we like it or not, whether we admit it or not, the ideas of God(s) and politics permeate every day of our lives. The episode ends with the two pondering over how to reconcile “unconditional love” and “unqualified hate”.
“Babylon” seemed to be an essay on points of view. Chris Carter and the team have taken chances with every installment this season, and I like it. This episode quite literally blew its predecessors out of the water. Of course there are faults, but the show has succeeded in getting people talking. That’s a good thing. As I posted on Twitter after the show:
The X-Files has balls, and the show believes in love. I don’t have balls but do believe in love too.
My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ◊ 4 out of 5 questionable mushroom sources. 😀