Season 10, Episode 5 - "Babylon"
David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, Lauren Ambrose, Robbie Amell, Artin John, Nina Nayebi, Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, Bruce Harwood, William B. Davis
Regular airtime: Mondays, 8pm
US: 15 Feb 2016
Agent Miller: Hello, anyone down here?
Scully: Nobody but the FBI’s most unwanted. [To Mulder] I’ve been waiting 23 years to say that.
Mulder: How did it feel?
Scully: Pretty good.
Agent Einstein: You think anyone take the X-Files seriously? That’s why they got them stuck down in that basement office. I pity that poor Agent Scully.
Agent Miller: That’s, like, my dream assignment.
Opening on an extended sequence following a young Arab man in Texas as he goes through his morning prayers, makes lunch, drives to meet a friend (where we see subtle and overt signs of racism towards him), and culminates in the two suicide bombing an art gallery depicting images of Mohammed, “Babylon” sets the stage for a terrorism case, although as this is The X-Files, it’ll be anything but straightforward.
The agents put on the case aren’t Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson), but rather Agents Miller (Robbie Amell) and Einstein (Lauren Ambrose). They’re a younger embodiment of the early Mulder/Scully dynamic down to Einstein’s (a distant relation to Albert) red hair. In investigating the terrorism case, Miller wants to consult with Mulder and Scully on the possibility of communicating with the one surviving comatose suicide bomber. Einstein’s predictably skeptical, and their initial meeting yields nothing. It’s only when they’re on their way back to Texas that each is contacted separately by Mulder and Scully.
As Scully teams up with Miller to try to communicate with the suicide bomber by monitoring his brain activity in response to yes and no questions, Mulder ropes Einstein into his scheme to use magic mushrooms to communicate with the comatose terrorist. Still feeling the effects of her mother’s recent death, Scully is driven partly by her own regrets in failing to try to communicate with her. Miller’s willingness to try anything and believe in the possibility without hesitation is of course reminiscent of Mulder’s own search for the truth, but Amell plays Miller with more innocence than we’ve ever seen from Mulder. It’s a subtle difference, but one that connects with Scully all the same.
Similarly, Einstein is much more prone to speak her mind and outright dismiss Mulder’s theories in a condescending manner than Scully is. Certainly, there’s been no shortage of Scully eye rolls throughout the series’ original run, but Ambrose is much pricklier than Scully, and her interactions with Mulder are some of the funniest in the episode because of it. Mulder’s magic mushroom trip is a country song medley music video featuring a line-dancing Mulder, cameos from Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) and the Lone Gunmen (Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, and Bruce Harwood), and ending on a Tom Waits dirge featuring The Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) and the suicide bomber in his mother’s arms whispering in Arabic. It’s mostly amusing, and Duchovny’s clearly having a great time, but the music cues quickly extend to the rest of the episode and become distracting and increasingly less impactful.
When Einstein reveals that she gave him a placebo, Mulder still believes his vision was real, and he’s validated when he recognizes the mother from his vision attempting to get into the hospital. Her name is Noora (Nina Nayebi) and she identifies her son as Shiraz (Artin John), who through her own visions and prayers believes wasn’t able to go through with the plan. Shiraz dies with his mother at his bedside—another reminder for Scully of her mother’s death—and Mulder is finally able to remember what Shiraz whispered in his vision, and leads the FBI to the Babylon Hotel that serves as the headquarters for the terrorists.
Written by Chris Carter, “Babylon” offers up elements of classic episodes and gleefully plays with the characters of Mulder and Scully by having them work with versions of themselves. It’s a solid episode, though it feels like a step below the previous two episodes. Carter has a tendency to get bogged down in his own philosophical and religious musings, and while it can work in some instances, the end of “Babylon” loses some resonance with the somewhat overwrought dialogue. Thankfully, Duchovny and Anderson’s obvious affection for one another comes through in their characters, and they’re always wonderful to watch together. “Babylon” may not be the standout episode of the season (“Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” will be hard to top), but the Miller/Einstein angle is memorable, and was a clever device to breathe fresh air into a very familiar dynamic.