My first X-Files episode in the US…I watched it, then I started reading reviews (I don’t begin with my new job until March 1st and my wife took care of the house so…plenty of free time) and I found out most of the reviewers hated the episode, calling it boring or mindless or…whatever. Well, they all don’t have a fuckin’ clue, as this is a BRILLIANT episode, and I have to apologize to Chris Carter for losing my faith in him after “My Struggle”. I honestly didn’t believe he could pull something as intelligent, heart-rending and simply positive as this episode out of the hat, but he did. Congrats Chris, you still are a force to be reckoned with.
Why’s this episode so brilliant? Because it does exactly what good art does-tells us a lot of complicated things in a simple way. The plot, of course is probably the simplest one ever to feature in an X-Files episode: there was a bombing; one bomber survived; he has to tell the FBI where the rest of the terrorists are so that the good guys can prevent another attack. Of course, there has to be a paranormal twist, so the bomber is actually comatose and they have to find some (supernatural or not) way to communicate. That’s pretty much everything about the plot.
But that’s not what the episode is about. Firstly, Miller and Einstein are refreshingly good. Mind you, NOT as leads in a spin-off. It’s definitely not about that. It’s about something else-did anyone notice how similar they are to how we can perceive Mulder’s and Scully’s children? Einstein the redhead skeptic, but armed with Mulder’s cynicism and deadpan humor (hhhmmmm let me think…eeeeeeverything) and Miller the believer with Scully’s calm, collected demeanor. That’s exactly the reason why both Mulder and Scully instantly like them, even though them, like all children, are rebellious and don’t give their “parents” the respect they deserve. For a one-off appearance, it was a brilliant touch.
Secondly, the episode looks like it’s engulfed in total chaos, but that’s not due to writing mistakes and “over-ambitiousness” as the reviewers think. That’s totally intentional. That’s the metaphor for the world and for the life in general and a big, powerful call to embrace that chaos and that life, to embrace its chaotic, confusing but nevertheless breathtaking, enchanting beauty. We all, indeed, live in Babylon. Not the Biblical Babylon of deceit, immorality and debauchery but Babylon as it really was-the oldest big city on Earth, place of entanglements of races, cultures, ethnicities, religions…Place where good and evil, cruelty and compassion, beauty and ugliness, right and wrong …join together to create this beautiful thing we call “life” and “the real world”. That’s the beauty of X-Files-it doesn’t just explore “extreme possibilities”, it makes them look real. They do not constitute “parallel reality” but they enrich this one. And that’s not the thing to be feared, but to be embraced. That message of positivism, of unbridled, almost childish optimism and awe of all things, be it a terrorist attack or a melting pot of races or sharing a walk with (wo)man we love or simply the Earth itself, is what makes this episode great.
Then the excess is intentional too, as it illustrates the perceptions. Young Muslim extremists perceive everyone else to be shallow, condescending and brainwashed by “consumerism”, young rural Texans perceive every Muslim as “brownie”, Einstein perceives Mulder as wacko while Mulder, confronted by her slashing cynicism, perceives her as a dominatrix and so on…This is also an excellent touch, since it shows how people cope with “Babylon” (aka the chaos) that’s around them. Religion is also one way to find order in chaos-that’s why Scully is susceptible to it, even though she’s scientist, while Mulder isn’t, even-though he’s open to “extreme possibilities”. But Scully has learned to be open too, long ago, while Mulder’s learned, from her, that paranormal is a part of real, not something separate. He learned that, while the truth is "out there", it has to be brought "here" to make it work. But it’s Scully the Skeptic in the end who is offered to “take a walk” and accepted it-another proof that CC can be subtle when he wants to. Literally the whole episode is filled with such strong points-that’s why it’s so good.
Mulder and Scully are also brilliant here. Exactly this is what they are and their last, closing dialogue defines their relationship-two intelligent, educated, fiercely loyal people deeply loving (in whichever way you like them to: shippers will have them go back to the house after the closing sequence and have a roll in the hay in Mulder’s barn together, noromos will have them maintain respectable distance and go to their separate houses but honestly, who cares at this point) each other, discussing and solving the “beautiful mysteries” in front of them. And even the whole world is sometimes against them, they don’t lose their sense of wonder (be it as a “believer” or as a “scientist”) or their hope that somehow at the end it will all be all right. The closing banter is also the place where they discuss issues pertaining to their son and for the first time without cheesiness that ruined such discussions in earlier episodes. He’s never mentioned, but finally they’re on the same wavelength about him. That’s how William should have been handled from the start-implicitly and subtle, not forced down our throats. And that’s how Mulder and Scully should banter, not that dreary, depressing, forced tone we heard in “My Struggle”.
Of course, the episode has its flaws: Lone-Gunmen return felt well…obligatory, agents forewent all “conventional” detective work about the terrorist cell and jumped into communicating with comatose bomber immediately (not your usual way of conducting an investigation, paranormal or else), Skinner was underused (again), Achy Breaky Heart was a really, really unfortunate song-choice…but all this pales with comparison with the positives. The imperfectness of it makes it even more beautiful, because it makes it human. Flaws, after all, are part of us-we’re not machines to make everything perfect. Near-perfect is always more beautiful, as it is more real.
The closing M-S talk and scene are definitely the best part, closely followed by the terrorist attack itself, as it was extremely well filmed. The worst moment-well, Skinner scene (in this exceptional episode, we expected more of him than just giving Mulder his usual dressing-down
) but it’s not a big deal. If somebody had told me Chris can outperform Darin Morgan in a MotW episode I’d have laughed at him, but he did. Or at least he reached equal heights, so the grade is obviously 5 out of 5. Someone may claim there’s no monster here, but there is-all these “coping mechanisms” we generate to deal with the world-they’re the monster, the monster that devours our minds, hearts and souls and leads us all up the garden path. This is, again, the most powerful message of the episode: the world and people we care about should be embraced as they are. We shouldn’t try to artificially make them better, as they (both world and people) can never, ever be more beautiful than they already are. No intervention is necessary-just take that walk like Mulder and Scully did.
Of course, I still don’t have huge expectations from “My Struggle 2”, because I believe mytharc is soo beyond repair nothing can save it and I hated “My Struggle”, but after watching 5 episodes I can freely say this revival not only exceeded expectations, it was a thing of beauty. And to the critics I say the following: “Babylon the Great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit and a cage for every unclean and hated bird”.
Don’t dwell in that place; put your refined cynicism aside this time, since it’s been destroyed this time, just like Babylon in the Bible. Sit down and enjoy the ride.