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TV Review: The X-Files - Season 11 Episode 5 "Ghouli"

Episode: "Ghouli"

Synopsis: When a pair of teenage girls attack one another, each believing the other to be a monster, Mulder and Scully find that their investigation could possibly lead back to their long-lost son, William.

The X-Files, TV Review, FOX, Drama, Gillian Anderson, Ghouli, David Duchovny, Mitch Pileggi

REVIEW: After the unevenness of Season 10, Chris Carter's directive for this year must have been to connect each episode. While the previous two outings were essentially standalone Monster of the Week hours, they still had connective tissue to the overarching theme of Season 11. Tonight's episode, however, is a different concept entirely. From the trailers and synopsis for "Ghouli", this seemed like it was going to be a straight monster episode but ends up pivoting pretty early and becomes a mythology episode. While it doesn't quite work in either regard, the attempt is enjoyable enough in that it evokes classic X-Files as well as feeling very pertinent to the Internet era as it focuses on creepypasta stories like Slenderman.

Right off the bat, "Ghouli" opens with a traditional X-Files cold open: two girls are searching around a mysterious, decrepit ship as the hunt for a creature that lured them there in a dream. As they call out, they hear each other but assume that person is the monster. Eventually, they come face to face but each sees a horrifying creature with multiple limbs. They slash at each other with knives and pass out. It is a suitably creepy opening and one that leaves you with assumptions as to what is going to come next based on the hundreds of similar X-Files episodes that have started in the same manner. This episode, written and directed by James Wong, follows many of the same beats we have seen before. But, as I continued to watch, I realized that this story was not going to be what I expected at all. Next, we find Scully having a vision during her dream which she attributes to her son, WIlliam, just like she did in the season premiere.

Being drawn to this case by Scully's supernatural perception gives Gillian Anderson ample time to shine. Focusing on her hope to find William, there and multiple scenes in this hour that showcase Scully's embarassment at having given her son up for adoption before finally being on the verge of finding him again. After interviewing the two girls from the open, Mulder and Scully realize that both were dating the same boy: Jackson Van Der Camp. The agents go to confront Jackson, whom Scully is confident is actually William, but arrive just as the teenager and his parents commit murder-suicide. Scully finds it hard to accept that she may have just missed seeing William alive while Mulder confronts a pair of mysterious agents from the Department of Defense who seem to also be searching for William. At this point, I was still expecting this to be a case of the teenage boy not being William but merely a projection of Scully's emotional turmoil. Lo and behold, it turns out that the writers took the path less traveled and actually told the truth.

In reality, William is alive and has a very useful ability that allows him to make people see what he wants them to see. In this case, he hid the fact he was dating two girls at the same time and accidentally set them on a path that hurt them. But, his appearance has also alerted the authorities (aka Cigaratte Smoking Man) who needs the boy and his engineered blood to create an antidote for the impending alien virus armageddon we saw in the Season 10 finale and was then conveniently turned into a dream in this season's premiere. As Jackson/William tries to escape from the hospital, both Mulder and Scully as well as the dastardly DOD agents converge. What we get is a very cleverly edited shootout sequence that leaves Mulder and Scully safe and the bad guys not so much. Jackson/William also manages to get away.

The X-Files, TV Review, FOX, Drama, Gillian Anderson, Ghouli, David Duchovny, Mitch Pileggi

Left mourning the loss that they did not find William, Mulder and Scully head back to the airport but stop at a gas station that Scully recognizes from a clue in her vision. There, she runs into an elderly man she saw earlier in the episode who gives her a comforting quote from Malcolm X. As the man leaves, Mulder and Scully realize that the quote was from something in Jackson's bedroom and they rush in to see the security footage. It reveals the old man was actually Jackson which also confirms that he was actually William all along. The only thing we know for certain now is that William is heading West, Mulder and Scully know he is alive, and that the secret of William's true parentage is still only known to Skinner and the Smoking Man himself.

Overall, "Ghouli" was a mixed bag that does a great job of recovering the mythology from the lackluster season premiere but also wasted one hell of a great concept for a standalone episode. Since the original run of The X-Files, few paranormal/supernatural concepts have been as popular as Slenderman and tackling that subject would have been a great story that we may never get to see investigated by Mulder and Scully. Still, this hour felt like vintage X-Files even if it had something of an identity crisis. I am still not quite sure if this hour was about anything in particular but the plot took a back seat this week to instead give us a substantial reveal about Mulder and Scully's long lost son. We are now halfway through Season 11 and have already had a lot more progress on the mythology than we got at the same juncture through Season 10. While I want a couple of memorable standalone hours before this season ends, I am so far very pleased with where we are to date.

 
Next on The X-Files: "Kitten" airs February 7th - Skinner goes AWOL when his past comes back to haunt him. As Mulder and Scully try to track him down, their growing mistrust of him reaches its apex.
 
Source: JoBlo.com

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