No need to justify discussing this episode of the X-Files in relation to religion – the episode begins with a Muslim man at prayer. The same man goes to pick up another Arabic-speaking friend, and then they go to an art gallery called Ziggurat, where there is a depiction of the prophet Muhammad. They blow it up.
Then we see Mulder talk with Scully about “ear-witnesses” who heard trumpets that seemed to come from nowhere. Mulder calls the book “Revelations” with an s at the end, and refers to God “blowing his own trumpet.” Scully asks, “Since when do you believe in God, Mulder?” Mulder denies that he does.
Two FBI investigators, Miller and Einstein, come to talk to them – are these going to be the new faces of a new X-Files series or spin-off?
Mulder talks with Einstein about magic mushrooms, which he later takes. Scully talks with Miller about the use of an electroencephalogram. Both of these approaches are attempts to interrogate one of the bombers who survived, barely alive. Mulder has what he considers a drug-induced vision that includes the Lone Gunmen, the cigarette-smoking man, and the terrorist on a boat being held by a woman in a pieta pose. It turns out that what he took was a placebo. But the man’s mother comes to the hospital, and she was the one he saw in the vision. In his vision, Mulder heard the man, Shiraz, whisper to him in Arabic. He said “Babel al funduq” – “Babylon, the Hotel.” Mulder didn’t understand the words, but agent Miller knows Arabic and they are able to apprehend the terrorist cell there as a result.
Throughout the episode, set for the most part in Texas, there is discussion of Islam, terrorism, extremism, hopes for rewards in the afterlife, and other such topics. There is also discussion of acceptance of refugees and conspiracy theories. And there are also other kinds of religious symbolism – the title of the episode, Babylon, connects not just with the hotel but also with the name of the art gallery, Ziggurat, both of which connect to the Tower of Babel story and the confusion of languages that is a major part of the episode as well.
Agent Einstein quotes her distant relative, Albert Einstein, who said, “The most beautiful thing that we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” Mulder and Scully talk about their experiences, having witnessed unconditional love and hate. At the end of the episode, Mulder and Scully talk about the angry God of the Bible as well as of radical Islam. He makes a comparison with his own experience – swallowing a pill (metaphorically as well as literally) and the power of suggestion. Scully suggests that maybe finding a common language again is God’s will. Mulder asks how we can know, when God is absent from the stage. Scully suggests that maybe we should open our hearts and truly listen. Then Mulder thinks he hears a trumpet.
Another great episode, and one that not only has religious themes at its core, but also hints that the plan may be to give a new life to the X-Files franchise with new characters. What do you think?