david harwood

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W1A's mix of physical, visual and verbal slapstick is as pin-sharp as ever - episode 2 review
The great thing about W1A (BBC Two), John Morton’s parody of life at the not-so-beating heart of Broadcasting House, is that it can appeal to both lovers and haters of the BBC in equal measure.
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The X-Files — “Babylon” Review — Written 2/15/16

           You know how I always say “this shit obviously has spoilers” at the beginning of each review of The X-Files? Yeah, well, this time, you shouldn’t care. This shit—this episode itself—has spoilers, that is, elements that go against the core of The X-Files, making for one of the worst episodes of the entire series. Yes, I remember the cursed urn in “Teso dos Bichos,” (S3E18) and yes, I remember Kathy Griffin’s awful performance as a pair of doppelgängers in “Fight Club” (S7E20), and yes, I am in fact comparing “Babylon” to those two black marks on the X-Files’s legacy. The fact that Chris Carter created this series and also managed to write and direct this is not only saddening, but worrying. If this completely extraneous and stupid episode is anything like what next week’s season finale will be, I’m scared.

           Since this episode is such a mess—like watching Lindsay Lohan appear in court after a drunken and cocaine-fueled bender—I’ll just go through the episode from beginning to end. This is a tragically miscalculated attempt to explore… uh… religion? I think? Honestly, this episode doesn’t try to really explain it, so it doesn’t matter. So basically the episode starts out with a Muslim man praying, and I’m like, “Oh, that’s cool. Representation!” But no. He’s in one of the most stereotypical depictions of Texas, where everyone is a redneck in a pickup truck, and then you know what he does? He bombs an art museum.

           See, there was a painting of Muhammed defecating on Muslims or something ridiculous like that, which obviously they don’t show. (I can’t recall verbatim what the painting was because they only mentioned it in dialogue once and don’t even try to give it more background.) Yep, there are several Muslim characters in this episode, and they’re pretty much all terrorists that just want to kill people. It’s like Chris Carter had one of the most misguided attempts at social commentary post-9/11 and ended up just spewing out stereotypes instead. (But wait! There are more!)

           We’re then introduced to Agents Einstein and Miller (Lauren Ambrose and Robbie Amell), who are so gratingly shown to be parallels to Scully and Mulder. Whoa! She’s a skeptic and he’s a believer! She has red hair and he’s a handsome brown-haired man! Oh, and if you didn’t see the humor in how Agent Einstein’s name is similar to that of Albert Einstein, don’t worry. They’ll mention it countless more times. In all fairness, Miller isn’t that bad of a character; he’s just a really generic one.

           Einstein, however, is like nails on a chalk board. Ambrose does a minor job at elevating the dialogue through her delivery, but she’s still far too annoying. Scully was never, ever this annoying, and yes, I understand that it’s meant to be comedic, but guess what? It’s not funny, and the episode thinks that its dialogue is smart when it isn’t. She has one line that made me smirk, but that’s it. My biggest fear about these two characters is that they’re so incredibly similar to Scully and Mulder that I have a sinking feeling that they’re going to try to pass them off as the “next Scully and Mulder” or give them a larger role. If they try this, I’ll cry a little. Or a lot.

           Anyways, they go to Texas, and this is where the episode really starts to slip into a black hole of sorts. They don’t say where in Texas—they just say “Welcome to Texas” and show a ton of middle-aged men in full-on cowboy outfits, and that’s about it. There’s a scene with a nurse looking over one of the terrorists as he lay in a vegetative state, and she goes on a rant about Arabs coming into America and taking their jobs. Let me just say that I would have never thought that I’d see something that simultaneously stereotyped Muslims and southerners, but alas, “Babylon” happened.

           Next is where the episode hits terminal velocity stupidity. Earlier in the episode, Mulder was asking if Einstein could get him shrooms for some reason, and she does. And then Mulder is tripping on shrooms. Mulder. Agent Fox Mulder. Agent Fox Mulder of the FBI. Keep in mind that this is the same Mulder that doesn’t even really drink, nor does he smoke, party, or even show any interest in anything like this. It’s all so out of character that I went on Twitter to see if anyone else was taken off guard by this, and yeah, a ton of people were.

           Eventually, Mulder starts tripping balls, and thus begins what is possibly the most confused and poorly executed sequence in the show’s history. Mulder starts walking down the hospital hallways dazed as hell and then ends up in bar or whatever and starts line-dancing. To what song, you may ask? “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus, while surrounded by women in booty shorts, at which point he sees hallucinations of The Lone Gunmen, whose appearances have been overhyped online. They’re seen for about five seconds and never speak, and I started to get the impression that Chris Carter only formed this episode because he himself was on a bad shroom trip (after getting kicked in the head by a horse) and just wanted to show The Lone Gunmen in cowboy outfits. Anyways, Mulder’s trip takes him to some Satanic boat floating in the fog or something. It’s not important, but the episode treats it like it is, so I’m talking about it.

           Meanwhile, Miller is with Scully trying to get a psychic to talk to the vegetable terrorist, but they get interrupted by two more scary brown people that speak Arabic, which might as well be Parseltongue given how this episode treats it. Then some more bullshit happens and Mulder wakes up to Skinner calling him an embarrassment, which makes him feel like an unintentional representation of the fans of the show as they watch in horror. Then, holy crap, Einstein reveals that the drugs that she gave Mulder were fake and that his trip was a placebo. Um, what the hell? No. This was the most intricate trip this side of Kenny from South Park getting high off of cat piss and being transported to a world inspired by Heavy Metal, so suggesting that Mulder was so set on acting like he was at the Burning Man Festival just furthers how much this episode doesn’t make sense regarding the characters’ personalities.

           Brace yourself for the ending of this episode, guys, because this is where “Babylon” cements itself as one of the worst episodes of The X-Files ever. The psychic is trying to read the vegetable terrorist’s mind but can’t get it all, and then Mulder recalls some Arabic that he heard in that floating Satanic boat during his placebo-bullshit-shroom trip and then the day is saved. Yeah. See, he mentions Babylon (”Like ancient Babylon?!”) so that means that the resolution is smart and philosophical, right? Just in case that wasn’t bad enough, the episode ends with a heartfelt montage set to “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers. This actually happens, and its complete lack of self-awareness makes it terrible.

           So there you have it: my rant on what might be the worst episode of The X-Files. At least episodes like “Fight Club” (S7E20) and “Alpha” (S6E16) weren’t trying to high art; they just happened to suck. Those at least had storylines. “Babylon” is an episode with such a flimsy story that it manages to waste an hour and still have a deus ex machina ending, all while going against the essence of its characters. You may have wondered why I haven’t really mentioned Scully, and that’s because she doesn’t do anything. Brilliant medical doctor and scientistic Dana Scully is so inactive that you forget that she exists as you’re looking at her. With all of the scary brown people talking in scary Middle-Eastern languages and the cowboys and country girls in booty shorts that make Texas seem even more ridiculous than it’s usually shown to be in pop culture, we have this episode of The X(enophobic)-Files. And it blows. Hard.

           2.8/10, horrible, two thumbs down, far below average, etc.

On the official list of DWTS celebs, it says that Riker played Jeff Sterling…….His character never had a last name. It was just Jeff. Sterling was a name made up by some random fan and then became widely accepted by other fans. Same with Nick Duval, Trent Nixon, David Thompson, Thad Harwood, and Wes Montgomery. None of them had last names in the show. Haha. Great stuff.