Mulder and Scully in Babylon

Season 10, Episode 5: Babylon
Written by Chris Carter, Directed by Chris Carter
First Aired: February 16, 2016


I’ll be honest: I did not enjoy this episode. Even with their imperfections I’ve enjoyed every single episode up until now, but this was awful. I was offended by “Babylon’s” politics and horrified by its dialogue and characterization. And as usual in Carter episodes, the plot makes no sense. After looking forward to the revival for almost a year, I’m angry at this catastrophe episode on a personal level. There were a few enjoyable moments (courtesy of Mulder/Scully/Duchovny/Anderson, who are doing their best with the material as always) but there’s not much nice to say here. This is a rant, my darlings.

  • There is NO EXCUSE for painting every Muslim as a terrorist. In fact, given that:
    • Hate groups saw a 14% spike in the US in 2015 AND
    • in Texas and elsewhere in the US right now Muslims and Black people are targets of hate crimes (onetwo in a slapdash search of one paper) AND
    • that the number of Muslims killed by white people far exceeds the number of white people killed by Muslims; this is common knowledge AND
    • that extremists on both sides thrive on the divisiveness of our current climate; also common knowledge
  • There is no excuse to paint any Muslim as a terrorist.
  • This is one of the few times I’ve seen a Muslim pray by himself on a television show—for a minute I thought it was gonna be a humanizing portrayal BUT NO.
  • As usual with Chris Carter’s fuck-truck messes, one of the things that frustrates me is how much potential there is here. This episode could have been about vulnerable, marginalized people just trying to survive, live a normal life, and grapple with the assumptions coming at them from every angle. Artin John, who plays Shiraz, does a really good job with this in one short scene. He smiles involuntarily at the girls passing in front of his car, clearly thinking they’re pretty, but they give him weird looks. It’s not just that they won’t flirt with him; that happens to everybody. It’s that their rejection of him based on his skin color makes him feel dehumanized. Then the racists in the next car over pull up and he’s clearly very uncomfortable, and understandably so. I’ve seen photos of Muslim women walking down the street very recently being tailed by white men with enormous guns.
  • I kept thinking it was a fakeout and something bad was going to happen to him—that would have been more in keeping with the subversive and satirical things I love about The X-Files.
  • This post also makes some great points about the stereotyping of Texans in this episode.
  • Given what happens, how can they believably paint Shiraz as not guilty? Come to that: Hey Carter, what was your goal with Shiraz’s characterization? Because it’s never actually made clear.
  • Seriously, we could’ve had a solid, classic X-Files approach to investigating the trumpets—Mulder believing, Scully not, both confronting their ideas about God and faith, and then at the end we all hear them and we know shit’s about to get real in the finale. DONE.
  • As it is I have to be satisfied Mulder and Scully discussing Revelations.
  • After hearing whispers that Lauren Ambrose’s Einstein and Robbie Amell’s Miller were possibly going to replace Mulder and Scully, I was already a little set against them. There is no substitute for Mulder and Scully.
  • Also since their names were as ridiculous and stupid as Einstein and Miller, I was hoping that we were in for parallel universe supernatural weirdness. Alas.
  • I did LOVE that Scully got to refer to herself and Mulder as the FBI’s Most Unwanted. That is one of my favorite lines in the whole show, so it was a good moment. And Mulder’s face when she said it!
  • Also can we talk for a minute about how giddily and proudly Mulder informs Einstein and Miller that Scully rewrote the Twin Paradox? Mulder loves his smol brilliant science wife. More on this here and here.
  • I can see what Carter’s trying for with the pundits arguing but it doesn’t work.
  • Ambrose and Amell struggle mightily to give their characters any depth or nuance whatsoever. I’m not familiar with either actor but I think a lot of it is probably writing and direction.
  • Einstein and Miller’s falling flat further demonstrates how lucky Carter was to cast both Duchovny and Anderson. As well as how lucky he is to have the team he has around him and how he should trust them more.
  • Einstein bitching about Scully is heavy-handed and condescending. How dare she disrespect any colleague like that, especially one like Scully?
  • I know that the line about Scully being in love with Mulder was supposed to be cute but it’s not and this post sums up how I feel about it.
  • There are so few episodes in this revival; why does this one have to split up Mulder and Scully? The joy of the show is the two of them working together. But Carter wrote it, so.
  • I agree with a lot of people’s opinions on Einstein’s characterization. She was just too grating. I mean, would anyone talk like that in a professional setting? She’s aggressive, mean-spirited, and she gets off on cutting other people down. I’ve met people like that. It’s not fun.
  • I can…see I guess…Mulder wanting to spare Scully stress because her Mom just died. But I don’t think Mulder would work on the mushrooms thing with anybody but Scully. He wouldn’t trust anybody else enough. And frankly, he’s too clingy to let her out of his sight for more than five minutes together, so no. Duchovny’s doing what he can but I’m not buying any of this.
  • Okay, if Einstein is sooooo opposed and offended why is she there? Why doesn’t she actually just walk the fuck out? Carter, this is not how you write “strong women.”
  • Scully’s relating to Miller is so much more natural. Thank you Anderson.
  • A mugwump? What a delightful word.
  • I liked Scully smiling indulgently at Miller, clearly seeing another younger Mulder in him.
  • The government types trying to kill Shiraz element had potential but was so underdeveloped I question its value. What’s the point? What’s the point of this whole episode?
  • Einstein’s jealousy that Miller is working with Scully feels forced and ridiculous, and makes Einstein look even worse than she already does.
  • So were the mushrooms real or no? I’m saying they were. I don’t care.
  • Um, WTF with the nurse torturing Shiraz? First of all that’s a low blow to nurses. And second, seriously, just why? Why am I watching this?
  • If this episode is truly supposed to be about the weight of words and ideas I think Carter should have looked to his own house.
  • A tripping Mulder is as silly and hilarious as I always knew it would be, but the sequence goes on too long and lacks wider significance. Although since this episode is a disaster, it’s probably for the best.
  • What is going on with all the pop music in this episode? Since when, X-Files?
  • I am here every day for Mulder dancing. Good dancing or bad, high dancing or sober, I don’t care. I wouldn’t have picked line dancing and I’d have preferred Scully be involved, but I’ll overlook it. Also, Dukes did really well with the actual dancing! Anne Simon on Twitter told a cute story about the filming. (Also she’s awesome. When she’s not tweeting about TXF she’s tweeting about science and it’s all great.)
  • The X-Files had, for a long time, a really good habit of not filming women in an objectifying way except when we were viewing women through the eyes of creepy, murderous men (see “Irresistible” and “Milagro” as a prime examples). Which is why even more than usual I’m REALLY ANGRY about not being able to see most of the dancer’s faces, and the camera lingering on their asses, and all of it. Just…wtf? And what’s with the lyrics to ‘honkey tonk’ song? This is pure objectification. Apparently, again according to Anne Simon, the dancers actually had to change because their outfits wouldn’t have got past the censors. I don’t…this is so stupid.
  • I’m also deeply uncomfortable with how natural Duchovny/Mulder looks as a weirdo Mush Room ring-wearing cowboy.
  • So wait. Mulder supposedly has an S&M fantasy about Einstein? Not today, Chris Carter. Not ever. You already tried to tell me that Mulder was gonna have a midlife crisis and creepily hit on Sveta. I didn’t believe you then, I don’t believe you now. If Mulder has S&M fantasies about anyone (a definite possibility), it’s going to be Scully. So not only did you deprive us of a dominatrix Scully, more importantly you deliberately deprived us of Scully throughout that entire sequence. I hate you.
  • And look…if we’re all about keeping the relationship between  Mulder and Scully pure as the new driven snow because they exist on a higher plane of love and Platonic idealism, and if by contrast our sexuality makes us sick unnatural dirty unworthy creatures, then…why the fuck are you trying to make Mulder chase like a horny fratboy after every woman who crosses his path, but only if she’s young enough to be his daughter? I mean for Christ’s sake, Duchovny could make out with a rock and it’d probably be erotic. (After all he wore a teacup that one time, remember that?) But even he can’t make these scenes work. Or rather they do work, just not the way you were obviously hoping for.
  • Besides which I think the “ha-ha Mulder’s high!!” tone of the portion when he’s on the red table and when he gets whipped by CSM (?!) don’t give enough respect to how traumatic Mulder’s past experiences were, especially as regards abduction and CSM.
  • WTF Christian imagery of a Muslim character? It’s a truly beautiful shot but that’s not an excuse.
  • I did love Skinner giving Mulder shit. It’s just like old times!
  • So with Nina Nayebi as Shiraz’s Mum Noora, what are we… Actually, you know what? She’s great. I like her. I’m not interpreting it because then I’d have to try to parse Carter’s fuckery and I’m out of patience. She’s fantastic, and at this point as far as I’m concerned Shiraz was NOT a terrorist, he was framed by someone else. That doesn’t make any sense at all but neither does anything else here. Fight me, Chris Carter.
  • I hate that the ‘terror cell’ was arrested while they were praying. We get these depictions of Muslims praying en masse right before committing violent acts so often that it feeds itself and eventually an association develops between Muslim prayer and violence. Which is why mosques are under constant threat and why Muslims praying in public are harassed all over the Western world. It would be exactly the same as if the ONLY time Christians ever prayed on television was right before blowing up abortion clinics. We know that’s not right, we know that’s not true. We’re all better than that and so is The X-Files. This episode feels like it was born out of the depths of comment sections all across the internet. “Muslims are evil! But some of them are okay! But we need to fight the bad ones! But love is the answer! But where do extremists even come from? But where are their mothers?”
  • I have one more shitty thing to say about Carter and then I’ll be done. “Babylon” feels like the culmination of a very longstanding, two-fold and thousand-pint problem: he can’t write, and he won’t listen to anyone’s criticism. The bad writing isn’t the worst bit. He could give his ideas to Morgan and Wong, or Duchovny and Anderson, both of whom can write. He could co-write. Or he could just, you know…not write. Lots of Executive Producers don’t write. But he won’t listen. Critics and fans have been pointing out the show’s weaknesses for more than twenty years. When I first heard about the revival I hoped though that in the intervening years he’d have learned from his mistakes like most artists do, or maybe thought about ways to do things differently. Then when I saw that Glen Morgan was getting an Executive Producer credit along with Carter, I was even more heartened. I do think Morgan’s work and influence speaks for itself this season. But “Babylon” is the kind of episode that happens when an Executive Producer also writes and directs, and won’t listen when someone tells them it’s not working. “Babylon” is the kind of episode that gets a good show cancelled. So now the rest of the fans and I have to hope against hope that Carter’s not going to wreck the show a second time around. If I were a studio exec I wouldn’t let this show go forward another season without an agreement that Carter stop writing.
  • The last scene between Einstein and Miller was supposed to be cathartic, but…it wasn’t.
  • So wait Mulder has hickeys? From Scully obviously.
  • The conversation on the porch makes no fucking sense. It’s heavy-handed and a classic on why we show not tell. This is embarrassing.
  • Also both of them know about Love and Hate. Both of them have been invested in the Questions of Our Time for twenty years. I can see Duchovny and Anderson wincing internally as they’re being forced to say these lines.
  • Um, I’m pretty sure Scully has some feelings about mother love. Because she’s A MOTHER HERSELF AND HER MOTHER JUST DIED.
  • You know what? You know what? Fuck it. Fuck everything in this episode except Mulder and Scully walking together in the sunshine, holding hands and smiling.

10 thoughts on “The X-Files: Babylon

  1. [You know what? You know what? Fuck it. Fuck everything in this episode except Mulder and Scully walking together in the sunshine, holding hands and smiling.]


    I’ve been putting off my post on “Babylon” all week because I know it’s just going to be a bunch of griping. It’s upsetting that I actually don’t mind CC with the mythology eps (I wasn’t enamored of “My Struggle” but it worked well enough for me) but this was SUCH a clusterf**k! And that’s with knowing that two of my favorite eps of the original run were “Post Modern Prometheus” and “Triangle”.

    He CAN write but there are very obvious limitations to his abilities. And I wish beyond wish that showrunners/writers would just admit that, even on a show like this that has been brought back after 14 years off the air, they still made mistakes and there are still things they need to work on! Not everything you do is going to be wonderful and perfect and recognizing that and being willing to grow and take criticism is the mark of a true artist.

    For me – CC is the opposite of the other showrunner bane of my existence: Steven Moffat. I don’t feel like Carter is horrible at ‘arching’ out a season/series but it’s the minutiae of those episodes that he just doesn’t do well.

    All of that to say – LOVED this, you are wonderful, that is all.

  2. I’m so glad you commented!! I seriously just went to your blog today because I was worried you’d posted something and I’d somehow missed it.

    As for “Babylon,” yeah. It was a greasy dumpster fire. I thought about not saying anything in protest, but in the end I’m glad I posted because it was cathartic. But I think you’re right: saying that Carter can’t write at all is probably a bridge too far. I also love Post Modern Prometheus (in fact “Walking in Memphis” actually makes me begrudgingly tear up now whenever I hear it) and Triangle. And Carter wrote the Pilot, which I loved, and I think he wrote Irresistible too? And even when the mythology episodes make no sense plot-wise, they still usually somehow work. I was clearly pretty bitter in the moment, haha. But I think a more reasoned statement is that he has great ideas, but struggles to execute them. That’s why I think cowriting is the way to go for him.

    And YES, if he could just admit that he’s not perfect and has stuff he needs help with–like all artists, like all *humans* do–this episode would’ve been so much better!

    I think the comparison of Carter to Moffat is very apt. I loved Doctor Who in the Davies era but had to finally quit midway through the first Moffat series for my mental health. I think they both definitely struggle with not thinking about the consequences of their exciting ideas and bulldozing reasonable objections.

    Are you excited about tonight’s episode? I’m excited but scared. I have a survival kit of chocolate, wine, and a teddy bear at the ready. Is it weird that I’m already hoping for a season 11?

    1. Ah! No we had some crazy but awesome stuff happen with my family over the last couple weeks so I had NO time! I’m attempting to finish up my “Home Again” post now and then I MAY trudge into “Babylon” before tonight’s finale.

      I have actually stayed with Doctor Who (save this past series) because I do tend to like the Moffat penned eps (The series 8 episode “Listen” is probably one of my favorite episodes of the new era!) but, you said it, when it comes to executing the ideas they usually fall flat. Moffat cannot arch a season in my opinion, but he writes fairly well – which is why he needs a co-showrunner for SHERLOCK!

      I am now SO curious how different this episode could have been if DD/GA or even James Wong or Glen Morgan had written it…or at least co-written.

      I am a firm believer and I will forever state that CC could benefit from the help of a dramaturg for his writing and plotting – he needs someone that isn’t in HIS head to tell him that he’s bat-shit-crazy.

      I’m SOOOOO dang excited for the finale (but I’m not because that means it’s over already) but I’m still hoping for an 11th season and the possibility that JUST MAYBE they could get the John Gilnitz wondertrio back and then not let Carter write at all! Here’s to season 11!!!!!!

      1. Congrats on your crazy-but-awesome stuff!! 🙂 And I can’t wait to read your thoughts on Home Again.

        Yeah, Moffat is great at crafting things that are amazingly slick and cool and clever (thinking of Sherlock), but he needs somebody to rein him in for sure.

        Right?! Morgan and Wong or DD/GA would have knocked that out of the park. I actually read a fanfiction rewriting of the episode that was pretty awesome. Thinking of linking it here.

        And YES on CC writing with a dramaturg! For reals.

        The finale is almost upon us! Eep!

  3. “He can’t write, and he won’t listen to anyone’s criticism.”

    This, so much this, this forever. The interview where he talks about not understanding why viewers left during seasons 7 and 8 and didn’t come back for 9. The interview where he says he thinks Mulder/Scully shippers are just a highly vocal minority. The man thinks he’s a misunderstood, underappreciated genius, and he just is not any of those things.

  4. The most frustrating bit is that I know what he’s capable of–he wrote the pilot, Irresistible, Triangle–I love those episodes. There’s an article that I linked in my MSII review that suggests he shouldn’t write and direct while executive producing because it’s too much work for one person. I think that’s so true. But wearing all those hats also takes away from other people’s abilities to check you on your bs or even provide a healthy balance.

    But yeah, the refusal to listen to critical responses is just mind boggling.

    (Don’t even get me started on the ‘petulant’ remark about shippers.)

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