The X-Files S11E05 “Ghouli”
Director: James Wong
Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi
Writer: James Wong
Review by Michael Walls-Kelly
Dreams are today’s answers to tomorrow’s questions.
Seeing the ads for this episode made me very nervous. This season had just gotten into a solid groove with some decent Monster-of-the-Week episodes and an all-time classic. The commercials were promising a return to the storyline from the less-than-stellar premiere episode, “My Struggle III.” I knew that we’d end up returning to the Mytharc by the final episode or two, but did I really want to see a return to that story when we’re only halfway through the season?
Turns out… maybe?
“Ghouli” is part Monster-of-the-Week and part Mytharc. The Monster-of-the-Week aspect is the titular Ghouli. It’s a sort of Slender Man creature created through online message boards and Mulder (David Duchovny), being the old school supernatural buff that he is, has no time for these flashy online creations. Nevertheless, he and Scully (Gillian Anderson) investigate two high school girls who beat each other up, both of them thinking the other person was Ghouli.
The Mytharc aspect kicks in when it turns out that William, now known as Jackson Van De Kamp (Mile Robbins), was dating both girls and has some strange psychic powers. Mulder and Scully show up to the crime scene where Jackson’s adoptive parents have been killed, and he has shot himself in the head. Of course, they do a DNA test to make sure that this young man, who Scully has been psychically connected to, is William. But he ends up sitting up in the morgue and escaping.
So it gets complicated, is what I’m saying.
The Ghouli part is dealt with pretty quickly. It’s just something Jackson — I’ll call him Jackson instead of William, because why the hell not? — came up with as a prank. It’s a dumb teen move, and it kinda makes him an asshole, but at least makes him somebody, you know? Up until now, Jackson has been either a baby or a plot point, but a horny teen at least gives him some aspects to work with.
Scully’s connection with the boy continues, and the Department of Defense closes in on it. They find out about Project Crossroads, which entails creating human-alien hybrids. It’s something the original series dabbled with and something this new series is taking kind of lightly. Mulder seems to confirm that he’s not William’s — sorry, Jackson’s — father, and he seems kinda cool with it. He even seems to confirm with Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) that the child was inseminated into Scully thanks to the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) and his cohorts. Mulder seems kinda chill about all this.
The finale is a fun setpiece where Jackson visits his girlfriends to apologize and ends up using his alien –maybe it’s alien? I don’t know? — powers to overcome the Department of Defense. The Cole-Sprouse-in-Riverdale looking motherfucker disguises himself as Ghouli. Scully on separate occasions to cause some departmental damage. It’s actually pretty badass.
The episode ends with Mulder and Scully stopping to get gas. A Man (Francois Chau) stops and talks with Scully. He saw her at the hospital. They leave each other with lovely parting words. After reviewing the gas station security footage, it turns out that man was Jackson. The entire episode was a solid use of Scully in order to personalize a standard Monster-of-the-Week. The ending was surprisingly touching, with Chau and Anderson taking a relationship that’s only been hinted at for seasons now, and making it real. Their interactions, in retrospect, are almost as heartbreaking as Scully’s confession to what she thinks is William’s — AKA Jackson’s — remains.
It’s odd for The X-Files to have an episode that deals with an ongoing storyline and a Monster-of-the-Week simultaneously. I know we’re halfway through this season — the final season ever, if we’re to believe Gillian Anderson — but if we end up with another couple episodes like this I won’t be too upset. There’s a complicated balancing act, especially when it comes to storylines that not many people are invested in, but James Wong was able to walk it.
The episode ends with Jackson (William… what-the-fuck-ever, Mulder and Scully’s kid) on the run, disguising himself with his alien-human hybrid DNA that gives him psychic powers. I don’t fucking know. He can disguise his appearance. I guess that’s good enough.
Honestly, being a viewer of The X-Files is similar to being a cop on The X-Files. I’m extremely skeptical and entirely left out of the loop, but they end up being pleased by the outcome of everything. I guess that’s fine. I’ll take their word for it. They outrank me.
Verdict: Keep watching! As a combo of the Mytharc and Monster-of-the-Week episodes, “Ghouli” was a success. It didn’t necessarily come together as a satisfying whole, but it was good enough to keep me watching. Scully and Mulder both had some showcase scenes, which is a plus, but Gillian Anderson sold the whole thing. Mitch Pileggi had a nice showing. There were a ton of hints to the original The X-Files series without selling out the “too old for this shit” theme they’ve been playing for the last few episodes. Am I heartened by a Mytharc episode being good? Yes. Do I think the season will end satisfactorily? Nope. Still… watch this episode.