February 16, 2016

The X-Files: "Babylon," AKA Clusterfrak Nation

The time has come, the X-Phile said, 
To talk of many things: 
Of good programs, and bad writing
That shows Chris Carter's dings;
And why the fans are raging hot,
And whether snark has wings.

I watched the lastest X-Files revival episode, "Babylon," last night. Like many people in my Twitter feed, I stared wide-eyed and open-mouthed, astonished that such a clusterfuck had actually aired.

Image result for x-files image babylon

Yes, the above dudes (the Lone Gunmen) did make a cameo appearance; since they were killed off in the original run of the show and Chris Carter so far hasn't used the alien goo to resurrect them, they showed up in Mulder's fake 'shroom trip. (Which is only one of the many carnivorous plot holes in the episode; niacin, the placebo supposedly given to Mulder, would at most have flushed his face.) I hasten to add that there were a few good points about this episode, most notably the marvelous closing scene. The chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson is as potent as ever, and I like the fact that these two people are older now, with a shared past, shared pain, and a child. There are layers to their characters that never existed before, and the best parts of the X-Files revival have been the scenes and episodes exploring those layers.

(In fact, I will come out and say here that Gillian Anderson's Dana Scully is the heart and soul of the X-Files, and always has been. This wasn't clear to me during the show's original run, but it's so obvious now that I'm facepalming myself.)

I don't even mind the 'shroom trip for the most part; clearly David Duchovny had a blast doing it. I could have done without the camera's gratuitously lingering on breasts and rear ends, as it reminded me of the worst excesses of 80's rock videos. (Chris Carter directed this episode as well. Go figure. I noted on Twitter that he really should have stepped back and let Darin Morgan and/or Vince Gilligan run the entire season.) Mulder's line-dancing to "Achy Breaky Heart" is a fine monument to over-the-top excess, although it reveals that Chris Carter is firmly, and unfortunately, stuck in the past.

But the plot...ah, the horrid, horrid plot.

Look, I don't even mind that it centered on terrorists, although the execution of the idea left much to be desired. What I vehemently object to is the stereotyping of Muslims throughout. (I suppose Chris Carter thought if he used Arabic and subtitles, that would be bringing a new element to the proceedings. Sorry, dude. Just no.) The most important point, to me, is that if Chris Carter insisted on telling a story about terrorists, he should have used the terrorists that actually exist in this country--the home-grown white male ones.

Like the terrorists who shoot up abortion clinics and kill doctors (Scott Roeder, the man who murdered Dr. George Tiller).

Like the terrorists who kill women because they won't give them the sex they feel they are entitled to (Eliot Rodgers, who killed seven people in Isla Vista, CA, in 2014)

Like the terrorists who feel they should commit mass murder to protest the government (Timothy McVeigh, anyone?)

Or, to use a more recent example, like the terrorists who take over bird sanctuaries in Oregon in an inept and futile attempt to wrest back public lands from the feds. Of course, this happened long after "Babylon" was filmed, but if Chris Carter really wanted to write a terrorist comedy, he had no better model than Cliven Bundy.

The first scenario I mentioned would have been the most relevant if Mr Carter insisted on setting his episode in Texas, as the battles over abortion restrictions there are long, ugly, and ongoing. But that would have required a writer who thinks outside the stereotypical racist box.

Clearly Chris Carter, at least in this instance, was incapable of doing that.

Image result for fan reactions to x-files babylon

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