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The X-Files 11.5 Review – ‘Ghouli’

January 31, 2018 | Posted by Wednesday Lee Friday
The X-Files - Ghouli THE X-FILES: L-R: Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in the "Ghouli" episode of THE X-FILES airing Wednesday, Jan. 31 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2018 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Shane Harvey/FOX
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The X-Files 11.5 Review – ‘Ghouli’  

When I read the description for tonight’s episode, “Ghouli,” I couldn’t help thinking that there’d been an earlier episode, around Season Four, where two people killed each other under a similar delusion. I wasn’t able to find it in the limited amount of time I had to research it. It also seems like Chimera is a ship we’d seen before. Was it? Am I confusing it with another Sci-Fi or horror show? Not sure. Scully is equally flummoxed at the open this week, as we return from commercial to see her wake from sleep paralysis. She gets up to chase a dark figure that has all the earmarks of a nightmare. Spoilers for “Ghouli” follow.

So, why did two girls stab each other on a deserted ferry? It’s lucky for them that Mulder and Scully were on the case—since I imagine many cops would have done their own assuming upon finding out that both girls had the same boyfriend. In fact, the girls had both seen the same delusion, that the other girl was a made-up internet monster called the Ghouli. He seems a lot like Slenderman. And just like with Slenderman, it’s all fun and games until innocent teen girls end up stabbed.

Appearing this week is one of my fave Canadian actors—Louis Ferreira (AKA Justin Louis). In addition to last week’s ep of Arrow, you might have also seen him in Breaking Bad, Criminal Minds, the Dawn of the Dead remake, and in the excellent serial killer show Durham County. Here, he’s a well-meaning cop who doesn’t seem to have a clue what’s really going on. How could he? Meanwhile, TV cops really need to stop pretending they can kick their way into a locked front door at a rich person’s house. They can’t. They never could—not since deadbolts were invented. Stop it.

Interviewing the stabby girls leads Mulder and Scully to the home of Jackson, the purported boyfriend of both girls. The team shows up just in time to hear a single gunshot. They rush upstairs to find Jackson’s bloody body. Scully immediately thinks Jackson is actually her son, William. Viewers know that there’s no way that the corpse on the floor is how they’d resolve the mystery of William, or that this would be Scully’s most vivid memory of her child. But when we see the “dead” boy get up and walk away from the morgue, that kinda changes things. We find out that the boy faked his own death so well that he managed to fool the county coroner AND Dana Scully. Sure, he has projection powers or whatever, but surely that doesn’t work on equipment. Shenanigans. Of course, if the kid is alive and awesome at escaping, it seems much more likely that little Jackson is indeed, William Mulder, I mean William Spender, or perhaps William SmokingMan? Wait, does that mean he also heard everything Scully said during her “I’m so, so sorry” speech?

Scully tests Jackson’s DNA against her own, leading the team to eventually confirm that yes, William is Dana’s (and presumably Mulder’s—as far as he knows) son. Yikes! The Department of Justice and Department of Defense are both after William. All of that makes Scully’s “I’m sorry” speech downright boring compared to anything else that’s going on. I don’t see the point of that scene—except to give Gillian Anderson a little stretch of the acting chops. We didn’t learn anything new, and she didn’t say anything anyone couldn’t have assumed. And the kid gave no indication that he heard or understood it, but more on that later.

I was struck this week on how awkward and stiff Mulder and Scully seem when they’re behaving like an actual couple. I can’t speak to Duchovny as a person, but Mulder sucks at consoling people. When he’s trying to hold or physically comfort Scully, he looks embarrassed and uncomfortable, which he shouldn’t. He’s been in love with her for decades, FFS! That’s annoying, because their chemistry has always been a major selling point for the show, and it really feels like they’re losing it.

So…this nefarious Asian doctor, Matsumoto? He’s played by one of those character actors you see any time there’s need of a devious Asian scientist type. This one approached Scully, ostensibly as a stranger, but he’s actually the guy who’d been creating alien human hybrids as part of the now discontinued (or not) Project Crossroads. Its mention is why we get a quick glimpse of William’s biological father, CGB Spender. In it, he’s telling Skinner to call Mulder and Scully in. As much as we love Mulder hilariously pretending he can’t hear his boss’s instructions thanks to a bad cell signal—it’s less hilarious to realize that Cigarette Smoking Man had been manipulating him all along. Who is it who said that moral people are the easiest to manipulate? Mad Eye Moody, maybe? Anyway, anyone who has been paying attention knows that the easiest and most effective way to get Mulder to do something is to forbid him.

Mulder tells Skinner (on the Chimera, for some reason) that Jackson is William, Scully’s son. Skinner is shocked to hear it, like—super shocked. Meanwhile, Scully talks to “Jackson’s” therapist, where she learns that he’s been having ‘extreme electrical activity’ in the brain, along with apocalyptic visions. Neat! Oh, and it was actually the DOJ or DOD who murdered Jackson’s adoptive parents and caused him to fake his own death to escape. That kid is really good at hiding and escaping. His apology to his girlfriend(s) fell pretty flat for me, as did the plot point where a teenage girl ratted him out to the feds because she saw him kissing another girl. How would she even know to do that? Or that anyone was looking for him?

As the episode winds to a close, the DOD/DOJ guys are closing in on the boy while Mulder and Scully give chase. Oh no! Scully is shot. Oh wait, she wasn’t. Don’t forget—William has the power to make people see things. What was William’s motivation to throw Scully off the scent of Matsumoto? Was it the boy both times? What does “don’t give up on the bigger picture” mean in this context? Why a Malcolm X quote? Is it a reference to the X-Files? That poster in Jackson’s room? They seem to be hinting at stuff while daring us to reach our own conclusion. This actually fits in thematically with the rest of the season—last week in particular. But it also jibes with the new line at the open “You See What I Want You To See!”

This ep did a good job of advancing the main narrative—aliens, hybrids, and the eventual wiping out of the human race. That’s important stuff for us to know, not that we can do anything about it. Mulder ordering stuff from the dark web is pretty funny, but not as chuckleworthy as him spilling soda on the kid’s laptop to keep the other feds from getting information from it. LOL. Ultimately though, there were a lot of little annoyances and shenanigans in “Ghouli” that kept it from being truly great.

I really don’t want to know how badly Mulder will take it when he learns that William is not his son, but his half-brother. I wonder how Jeffrey will feel about having another brother—and how many more kids Big Spender has that we don’t know about yet. He totally seems like the sort who would create a race of hybrid children with his DNA. He’s vain like that. Five episodes remain in what will almost certainly be the final season. What do you want to see before the end?

See you’s next week!

The final score: review Good
The 411
This week brings us back to the main X-Files mythos, with all the alien hybrids and cigarette smoking men that typically entails. Scully has visions she's confident are her long-lost son's attempts to reach her. But are they? And what does any of this have to do with two high school girls stabbing each other over an internet villain? "Ghouli" answers these questions, and then some.