Achy Breaky Babylon: The X-Files Episode 5 Review

Serious business, this episode is. Extremism is NOT faith, and that was clear in "Babylon". A closed mind... You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must (all) be cautious.

Serious business, this episode is. Extremism is NOT faith, and that was clear in “Babylon”. A closed mind… You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must (all) be cautious.

Author’s notes: SPOILERS AHEAD!!  And, there was no way to touch on everything in this episode without writing a book, so the following are my basic, fluffy thoughts. Once again – – SPOILERS! Lastly, this post first appeared over on Black Ship Books.

The X-Files has always been about exploring ideas, trying to put words to the unspeakable, give voice to the silent, let you feel the untouchable.
Throughout the original series, the show explored people and characters deeply with sometimes horrifying charisma, such as in “Beyond the Sea” and “Home”, and of course has occasionally failed miserable (”Jersey Devil” and a couple of others). Hey, no one’s perfect.
Last night’s episode is one that will stay with me for a long time. It has everything I’ve been looking for in pop culture, even though the very end left me puzzled, which is quite alright, it gives me something to go back and figure out, for better or worse. I’m not doing a plot recap here, I just want to share my thoughts on this episode. If Twitter can be believed, “Babylon” got a lot of hate as it aired, with all-caps posts of “racism!” “Islamaphobic!” “I’m done with this show!” being thrown left and right. Assuming tweets could be thrown. Honestly, if they had watched the show to the end, they would have seen what the show was really trying to do.

All the good in the world
You can put inside a thimble
And still have room for you and me.  -Tom Waits

As has been mentioned too many times already, pop culture is a reflection of what is happening in the world around us. If it isn’t doing that, something’s wrong, we (or the writers, musicians, artists, etc) are trying to pretend something isn’t there or that nothing is wrong. Distraction is fine, blindness is not.
At first glance, “Babylon” appears to be politically incorrect, insulting, and irreverent. It’s not new, by any means, but guilt is put on some unnamable thing, or the Russians did it, or whatever.
Not Monday night. Islamic extremism was caused by Islamic extremists.

But don’t tell my heart
My achy breaky heart
I just don’t think he’d understand
And if you tell my heart
My achy breaky heart
He might blow up and kill this man.  –Billy Ray Cyrus

 A mother's love is unconditional (usually). Ideas contain power (usually). Which one is stronger? Can love and ideas find a common ground?

A mother’s love is unconditional (usually). Ideas contain power (usually). Which one is stronger? Can love and ideas find a common ground?

The rest of the episode basically tries to explore why and here is where I think many people have gotten lost, in my humble opinion. Muslim religion is stated as being a threat. Or so we think. The only people who actually voice that, are minor characters who seem to represent the voice of one side of the argument: many people are afraid and don’t understand either why they are being attacked and why they are being asked to help (refugees).
The other side of it could be represented by the mother of one of the bombers, who enters the hospital room to see what’s left of her nearly brain-dead son, head caved in and missing body parts. The first thing she says is “I didn’t raise you this way…” People aren’t born with the wish to go blow up other human beings.

Throughout the X-Files nine (and now tenth) seasons, Mulder and Scully have had their dopplegangers more than once. This time we met Einstein and Miller, who were actually very likable once we got to know them a little.

Throughout the X-Files nine (and now tenth) seasons, Mulder and Scully have met their doppelgängers more than once. This time we met Einstein and Miller, who were actually very likable once we got to know them a little.

We are shown several times how the young men are lied to, brainwashed. Islamic radicalism is by far not the only source of aggression – any political group is capable of it (and religion is, of course, political) – but it’s the one making the most noise at the moment.

Below: Mulder’s very creepy end to his mushroom ride.


It is also one of the few groups that refuse to tolerate any form of mockery. Direct reference to events such as Charlie Hebdo were mentioned in “Babylon”, the conflicting opinions of free speech as opposed to keeping quiet. Each side of this argument has its gains and losses. If you really look at it, “Babylon” was an attempt to show several sides of the argument, an attempt to get people to question. And that is SO important. If you are not allowed to question, not allowed to examine the world you grow up in, something is very, very wrong. Remember that.

Below: Mulder’s very amusing beginning to his ride.


On a lighter note, Mulder gets to ride the Mushroom Express, and it was wild indeed. A little longer than it needed to be perhaps, but this scene – along with Mulder’s mid-life crisis in the cemetery back in episode 3 – had me laughing out loud. It was reminiscent of Alice Through the Looking Glass as well, yet another point of view on reality and our place in it.

Can I tell you a secret? I’m not a fan of Billy Ray Cyrus… and Achy Breaky drives me nuts… But okay, it was funny. It was especially worth it to hear Tom Waits, whose song “Misery Is The River Of The World” seems tailor-made for this episode, pushing the creepy-meter way up.

Don't blink, don't even blink, because you'll miss the Lone Gunmen if you do!

Don’t blink, don’t even blink, because you’ll miss the Lone Gunmen if you do!

To be honest, the plot is precarious at best, mostly because so much was crammed into about forty-five minutes; this could easily have been a ninety-minute episode, and that would have permitted us to get to know Einstein and Miller better (yet another doppelgänger episode!) Miller’s a soft, chewy cookie and Einstein grew on me.

In the end, Mulder states the phrase that could be interpreted as the entire reason for this episode in the first place: “I’ve been thinking a lot about God…” Yes indeed, Mulder. In this day and age, people should think about it because whether we like or not, admit it or not, the ideas of God(s) and politics permeate every day of our lives. The episode ends with the two pondering over how to reconcile “unconditional love” and “unqualified hate”.
In conclusion:
“Babylon” seemed to be an essay on points of view: Youth vs “Gently Used” (Einstein and Miller vs Scully and Mulder), Chicken vs Rabbit (Islamic faith vs umm… anything else…), Linear Reality vs the Multiverse.
Chris Carter and the team have taken chance with every episode this season, and I like it. This episode quite literally blew it out of the water. Of course there are faults, but the show has succeeded in getting people talking. That’s a good thing. As I posted on Twitter after the show:
The X-File has balls, and the show believes in love. I don’t have balls but do believe in love too.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ◊   4 out of 5 questionable mushroom sources. 😀

It’ll Probably Start on a Friday – X-Files Review

The daring duo are back! Older, wiser, and better, in my opinion. Muslder and Scully shall try to solve the mysteries of aliens, monsters, and cell phone apps.

The daring duo are back! Older, wiser, and better, in my opinion. Muslder and Scully shall try to solve the mysteries of aliens, monsters, and cell phone apps.

SPOILERS AHEAD! YOU ARE WARNED!

Well, actually it was on a Sunday… Sunday night, January 24th, 2016 to be precise. The world, it seems, did not end on December 22nd, 2012.

Okay. Let me make something clear here. As I write this, two weeks have gone by since the series began once again, and last evening I watched episode 3 entitled “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster”. For this article I have no intention whatsoever to try and dig up every single easter egg and reference to the original series (of which I’ve watched every single episode twice), as it would be a monstrous task, and there are no doubt already a million sites for X-Philes to visit and enjoy for that effect.

My goal for my two (at least) articles on this revival is to, very simply, examine whether or not the show delivered anything worth watching, either as a stand-alone mini-series or as part of the X-Cult. Positive, negative, and overall. In my humble opinion, of course. Is it all done to appeal to die-hard fans? To be honest, I think there is a good deal of that. I’m not sure a casual passer-by would get on board.

Frankly, I’m okay with that. I’m betting one or two new fans will be made with this revival, and the majority of old fans will be happy. Not all, but more than enough.

An old friend from season one, "The Host".

An old friend from season one, “The Host”.

“My Struggle”, episode one, immediately struck me as comfortable, meaning it felt like the X-Files – it was apparent right away that “the team” were reassembled for this. The show is NOT a reboot, refit, nor a reset. A rehash? Well, here and there perhaps, but for this show it actually works.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous article last year, one thing the X-Files does so very, very well is to not take itself too seriously. Chris Carter and his team of writers and actors take self-parody to the next level (Humbug, X-Cops, among many others), and after watching the Were-Monster episode, it’s easy to see the team have not lost their touch. But the X-Files do something else very well, something that not so many TV shows or movies succeed at: taking a nebulous idea and creating a story out of it.

The premiere episode, is basically a reintroduction to the show, with Mulder monologuing over stills from episodes such as “The Host”, “Home” (one of the more disturbing ones), “Jersey Devil” where we see Mulder’s blazing red speedo for the first time (it shows up again in this season’s third episode), and several others.

Long and lean, "The Squeeze" was a fabulous debut monster of the week. Creepy and memorable.

Long and lean, “The Squeeze” was a fabulous debut monster of the week. Creepy and memorable.

This episode gave me all the warm fuzzies as Mulder, Scully, and Skinner make their appearances. No monsters this time, just a dip in the alien invasion thread that was always near during the nine original seasons. The feel of the show was very definitely Chris Carter, with scenes and pacing nicely familiar.

The second episode “Founder’s Mutation”, a gruesome episode, focuses on experimental research on babies and this causes both Mulder and Scully to bring up memories of William, the son they had together during the final season of the original series. Scully was supposedly not able to have children because of her abduction in season 2 (we find out in season 8, I think…), but asks Mulder to donate his “little swimmers”.

Mulder's red speedo from season 2 made a quick appearance in Monday night's were-monster episode. Little swimmers indeed.

Mulder’s red speedo from season 2 made a quick appearance in Monday night’s were-monster episode. Little swimmers indeed.

During season 9 we see little William display some unusual abilities, but that storyline is not explored much. By the end of the show, Scully very reluctantly gives up William to adoption in order to keep him safe from the Men in Black, the Syndicate, aliens, and I don’t know who else. I’m betting my popcorn we’ll see William before the end of this revival, and I toss in a beer with that bet to state that he is probably in cahoots with the aliens. To save the world or something.

An episode that will forever haunt me personally, "Home" was another episode referenced by Mulder in "My Struggle".

An episode that will forever haunt me personally, “Home” was another episode referenced by Mulder in “My Struggle”.

I was going to wait to talk about the third episode, but I really must talk just a bit about it now…

“Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” was just gold. I fully admit that for the first ten minutes my tiny brain worked mighty hard to figure this tale out. A joke? Some kind of weird hoax or something? Nope, this was a chance that only a show like this could take. The show-runners know very well that fans of the show are not going to change the channel just because something is a bit off the wall – X-Phile fans live for this stuff, search it out in other shows, usually (but not always!) meeting with failure. Once I got it (took me those ten minutes, I’m not quick), I laughed a good way through this episode, in a good way. A ton of fun.

This episode took the whole X-Files mythology, the characters themselves even, and made it all face it’s own mirror, and then turn the mirror toward us, the viewers. The premise of the X-Files is, on a practical level, silly and that is exactly the characters face. But underneath all that silliness is a thread of serious questioning that must never be denied, and by the end of the episode Mulder sees the monster, and it is real. But. The monster never was a monster to begin with, it was a monster only when it became human, forced to find a job, get a mortgage, grow a mustache.
One last thing that is a treat to watch: the technology back in 1992 was not at all like it is now, and the show is acknowledging this. Mulder is a complete klutz with a cell phone, and despite Scully’s claim that she is “old school, pre-Google”, she is the one who has adapted quite nicely.

Jose Chung was not referred to, but I sure wish he was! One of my favorite characters.

Jose Chung was not referred to, but I sure wish he was! One of my favorite characters.

I look forward the the last three episodes, and I already miss the show. It is easy to see where Fringe got much of it’s inspiration, indeed where many people have gotten their inspiration. Not every episode of the original series was gold, but the vast majority were keepers, and I’ll be watching again.

Will Mulder ever get his phone apps to work properly? I'll be tuning in to find out!

Will Mulder ever get his phone apps to work properly? I’ll be tuning in to find out!

I was a Functional Nerd…

Well, on a podcast anyway… 🙂 Before putting up a new review this week (my thoughts on the revival of the X-Files so far), I just wanted to mention that Patrick Hester and John Anelio from the Functional Nerds Podcast invited me on a couple of weeks ago to chat! (click here – – podcast) They are two super nice guys to chat with, and know pretty much everything SF related. They have chatted with, like, pretty much EVERYBODY in the world of sci-fi fantasy, and wanted to chat sketch cards with me!

You have no idea how nervous I was.

The Functional Nerds podcast is worth listening to every week, and I highly recommend listening to it, however you get your podcasts! I was on episode number 260. Check it out! 😀

Until Thursday, the truth is still out there. 🙂

The Last Episode – Death and Other Fun Activities

This post was originally published on the Black Ship Books website, by Cadmium Yellow Reviews

Death. The final finality. Where everyone eventually goes. These are the experiences of life as we know it. To seek out new answers before time runs out. To boldly understand what never has been before!

Death happens every single day around us, whether directly or indirectly. The pain that accompanies the loss of someone close to us is too deep to dwell on and leaves a vacuum that is never filled.

So why is it, then, that when a public figure dies, we mourn and grieve this person we’ve never met (assuming it was a person we admired), share thoughts endlessly with yet more people we don’t know, and do all this almost easier than when it happens to those close to us?

Granted, the death of Great-Aunt Mabel or second-cousin Boomer, while we would be sad, might not leave us incapacitated, not like the death of a parent or sibling for instance. But still, we know Mabel and her terrific pound cake, and while Boomer might have been an idiot, he still brought the beer on game night, so of course he’ll be missed.

Nataliecole2007

But what did Nathalie Cole ever do for us on game night? Did David Bowie ever bring cookies on Christmas Day? Not for us, no.

We the general public have had a fascination and love for so-called celebrities since the concept came into being, and well before that even. These people invade our lives and leave marks, sometimes faint, sometimes indelible. Glen Fry has come along with many of us and we drove our cars, well, everywhere. Great-Aunt Martha decided driving was not for her. Alan Rickman creeped us all out as he reminded us of past high school teachers as he attempted to intimidate Harry Potter. Boomer just creeped us out.

alan-rickman-harry-potter

Natalie Cole simply stole our hearts with her voice.

So far 2016 has not been kind to many of those who have endeared themselves to us in one form or another. The man with one brown eye and one green eye left such a permanent mark on music, cinema, words in general… Major Tom will always be David Bowie.

david-bowie-eyes-03fcd68e5673f08be96d2b6bb5be8261-large-6121

As far as we know, death is the last episode for us all. No remakes or returns. Not as we understand it, at any rate. Reading books and watching TV for as long as I have, the end of a series doesn’t have the same impact it once did, not the same “oh my god the universe is ending!” response and sometimes I wonder if that happens with our own fear of death.

Probably not.

In the end, whether the people who leave us were blood related or not, if we can remember those really good impressions they left with us, those feelings of amazingness and wonder and fear and curiosity… If we remember that, we honor those who have moved along. They are dead but they really do live with us still. Unforgettably. As we come crashing back down to earth.

Live Long and Prosper.

Book Review: The Sleeper and the Spindle

Sleeping Beauty? I think not! Curl up with a (small) mug of hot cocoa and enjoy Neil Gaiman’s tale on fairy tales. Optional: Listening to an interview with Mr. Gaiman is a great way to get his silky voice in your head before reading. You have my permission, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Images are viewable on the website. This post was originally published on the Black Ship Books website.

Whenever I see the name Neil Gaiman on a book, my feet just stop. All on their own, they just halt, turn around, and go straight to the location of said book. If my feet could sit up and beg, they would.

Instead, they wait patiently for my eyes to focus on the gorgeous cover on the oversized book, just lovely with creeping vines and flowers that grace the opaque jacket leaving a small space for the face on the printed cover underneath to show, as though through a mist. Chris Riddell’s artwork is classic, speaks in a language of its own, and is such a refreshing change from much of the over-worked, much-too-clean artwork that is so popular now. Just my opinion, of course.

Open the dust jacket and imagine that measured, sultry voice of Mr. Gaiman as you read the description:
“You may think you know this story. There’s a young queen, about to be married. There are some good, brave, hardy dwarfs; a castle, shrouded in thorns: and a princess cursed by a witch, so rumor has it, to sleep forever.

But no one is waiting for a noble prince to appear…”

The luscious illustrations tell a story of their own, with touches of gold throughout.

The inside cover of “The Sleeper and the Spindle” has the required map, but THIS map is hand drawn in ink, with treacherous mountains dividing forest lands and lush-looking countrysides.

Every page of this short story has beautiful illustrations that tell a story of their own in addition to the written word.
Essentially, this tale is a spin of the fable of Sleeping Beauty. I cannot describe the story much without spoiling it, and that really would be a shame, except to say that this is a quiet little tale that is worth reading. A child’s tale, yes, but very accessible to adults, fantasy on a human level. The only reason I wouldn’t give the story five solid stars is because, to me, while the world is one I’d love to visit again, the story’s end was too figure-out-able, a bit too… expected, perhaps. But it’s a minor quibble, believe me.

Personally, I immensely enjoy the irregular, the off-center, the perfectly less-than-perfect approach to both story-telling and illustration. Just enjoy it.

While the book is available digitally – Kobo, Amazon, the usual places – I highly suggest getting the print copy for this book. As much as I love ebooks, some books really are better enjoyed in hand, all the better to enjoy the artwork and the written story equally, and be able to just flip back and forth between pages. Ok, maybe iPad users can do this, but not every reader has one, and this kind of book does not read well on a phone.

What we all feel like after the excess of Christmas!

The Sleeper and the Spindle is familiar territory for sure, but there is a twist to it, and it is oh so readable.

And it is one of those books I’m proud to have on my actual bookshelf.

Book Quality: ★★★★★
Story:  ★★★★
Recommend?  ★★★★★

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