Even though I still don’t know if I’ll get round to reviewing all of the new “X-Files” episodes, I saw the fifth one on Channel 5 earlier and I thought that I’d share my thoughts about it.
Even though I’m personally trying hard to avoid SPOILERS for this new series, this review may contain some SPOILERS for this episode. You have been warned.
Following a terrorist attack on an art gallery in Texas by two Islamic extremists, Mulder and Scully are joined by another team of two agents (called Miller and Einstein) who are basically a younger version of themselves. Both Mulder and Scully have different ideas of how to communicate with one of the terrorists who survived the attack, albeit in a comatose state.
Scully teams up with Miller and plans to use a ECG machine to map the terrorist’s brain activity, in the hope of getting neurological responses to yes/no questions. Mulder, on the other hand, convinces Einstein to (reluctantly) give him a hallucinogen, in the hope of communicating with the terrorist telepathically. Can they question him in time to prevent further attacks?
The best way to describe this episode is probably ” ‘Homeland’ meets ‘ The X-Files’ “. Although I’ve only seen the first season of “Homeland”, it’s pretty clear where this episode got it’s inspiration from (I mean, the episode even begins with a Muslim character saying his daily prayers). Even so, it’s still very much an “X-Files” episode, with lots of brilliant dialogue, philosophy, occasional comedy, surrealism and thrilling drama.
The episode, as is mandatory in most vaguely intelligent TV shows about modern terrorism, contains a lot of philosophical debate about religion, and about attitudes towards Muslims. There’s some focus on Christian mythology and a small amount of focus on Islamic mythology too.
Although the episode briefly touches on the idea that the extremist terrorists attacked the gallery because of a “blasphemous” painting, there’s relatively little debate in the episode about issues of free speech (there’s a brief scene of two political commentators arguing on a TV screen, but that’s it).
After the whole “Je Suis Charlie” thing, I’d have hoped that this episode would have included more stuff about free speech and religion (eg: about how verbal/written/pictorial arguments, rather than violence, are the only appropriate response if someone feels that their religion has been “blasphemed”). Then again, this is a “dangerous” subject these days, so I guess that it’s courageous that the episode even mentioned it.
However, although some parts of the episode feel a bit melodramatic (eg: the nurse who tries to kill the comatose terrorist because she believes some conspiracy theory about the UN and Muslims, or the scenes with the other extremist terrorists in their hideout), the “moral” at the end of the episode is surprisingly nuanced and philosophical.
Basically, Mulder points out the fact that both Christianity and Islam share the same god (and about how this god is used to “justify” acts of anger and violence). He also points out that he can’t believe that mothers would have children in order for them to turn into violent religious fanatics.
The best scene in the episode, by far, is Mulder’s hallucination scene. This is, quite frankly, brilliant. Not only do the Lone Gunmen make a brief cameo appearance, but Mulder also goes line dancing too (this is even more funny than it sounds). There’s also a darkly futuristic gothic cyberpunk sci-fi S&M scene too. Then there’s this wonderfully, and beautifully, surreal scene set on a ship that floats through the clouds.
The idea of introducing a younger version of Mulder and Scully (Miller and Einstein) is an absolutely brilliant one. Seriously, these two characters need their own spin-off series. They’re like a modern version of Mulder and Scully. We only get to see them for one episode and, yet, they’re both similar to and different from Mulder and Scully.
My only minor criticism of the episode is that the ending seemed a bit rushed. Then again, since this gives the makers of the show more time for witty dialogue between the four main characters and for Mulder’s hallucinations, I can’t exactly blame them for making the ending fairly quick.
But, yes, the writing in this episode is brilliant. There are just too many excellent parallels and mismatches between the four main characters and so many brilliant lines of dialogue.
All in all, even if the thriller plot is kind of a generic “stop the terrorists” plot that could have come from “Homeland” – the sheer amount of weirdness and fun character-based stuff make this is a brilliant modern “X-Files” episode. Seriously, this new mini series just keeps getting better and better.
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least four and a half.