“Ghouli” is not what you think. It’s way more.
Let’s back it up for a second.
Previously on The X-Files, we found out that Agent Mulder (David Duchovny) might not be the father of Agent Scully’s (Gillian Anderson) son, William. Instead, that title goes to the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), which is ultimately creepy on so many levels.
In this week’s episode, “Ghouli”, two teenage girls, both who seemingly don’t know each other, encounter one another on an abandoned boat named Chimera. Seeing each other as the fabled monster named Ghouli, they freak out and nearly stab each other to death. The only reason Mulder and Scully are on the case is because Scully has a “vision” in which she sees the boat in a snow globe. While investigating, the agents discover that both girls have been dating the same guy, Jackson van de Camp (Miles Robbins), who may or may not be Scully’s son, William, and who evil government agents are also searching for.
Just as Mulder and Scully find their way to the van de Camp’s house, they hear gunshots. Bursting into the home, the find Jackson’s parents dead in the kitchen and Jackson fatally shot in the head upstairs in what appears to be a murder/suicide. Scully is understandably devastated, thinking she’s lost her child yet again. In a scene that packs an emotional wallop, she goes on to apologize to her son for giving him up for adoption. It isn’t until later that she and Mulder realize Jackson has the ability to psychically manipulate what people see, which was why when the evil government agents murdered his parents, he made it look like he’d shot himself in the head in order to escape.
Thinking he’s in the clear, Jackson goes to see one of this girlfriends, Brianna (Sarah Jeffery), in an attempt to apologize for what he’d done to her. But then his other girlfriend, Sara (Madeleine Arthur), snaps a photo of the two kissing and send it to the police. Jackson ends up cornered in the hospital where the evil government agents, along with Mulder and Scully, try to find him. Ultimately, no one succeeds, the government agents end up killing each other, and Mulder and Scully are left wondering where Jackson is. He hits the road, but in a roundabout way, lets Scully know he’s alive and that he forgives her.
So, what do I think?
“Ghouli” is somewhere between a monster-of-the-week and a myth arc episode. With its cold open and the basic storyline (before the whole William/Jackson thing), this episode was reminiscent of creepypasta internet memes, as well as related current events like the Slender Man case. It harkens back to great X-Files episodes inspired by real-life events and true science, which have been sorely missed this season. It was great to see writer/director/producer James Wong use modern-day internet lore as the inspiration for Ghouli, giving The X-Files the updates it needed to stay current with today’s landscape. This episode proved to be a major part of the mythology coursing from the original run into the revival episodes. Wong came in at the right time, after several failed attempts by other writers and directors, and gave us an episode that puts The X-Files back on the path to salvation.
While I probably would have given my left kidney for an episode devoted to creepypasta memes, the fact that James Wong decided to stealthily flip the script so that it ended up being a mythology installment was the most compelling twist so far this season. Yeah, we’ve seen some pretty big shockers that mostly made us want to cringe, this one was thoughtfully written and well executed. Besides, Anderson’s performance in this episode was one of her strongest, especially with the emotionally charged material she was given (which made my sob, by the way).
This is, by far, my favorite episode of the season for the simple fact that it was such an emotional journey that really allowed me to connect with the characters.
All in all, I give this episode an A-. It would have been an A had Wong given us a little more Ghouli.
Photo Credit: Shane Harvey/FOX