David DuchovnyMitch PileggiWilliam B. DavisJames Wong
The X-Files Season 11 ep.5: Ghouli
Medium: TV
Year: 2018
Writer/director: James Wong
Keywords: The X-Files, SF
Actor: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, Miles Robbins, Sarah Jeffery, Madeleine Arthur, Louis Ferreira, Ben Cotton, Zak Santiago, Fran├žois Chau, William B. Davis, Cameron Forbes, Sunita Prasad, Keith Arbuthnot, Devon Alexander
Format: 43 minutes
Url: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghouli
Website category: SF
Review date: 25 June 2020
It's a mythology episode and I don't see much point in spoiler-free discussion of it. Ergo: SPOILERS.
One-line summary: by James Wong and so quite good, but only until the mythology kicks in. Mind you, my opinion appears to be out of synch with the norm. Critics were positive and the episode has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. So ignore me!
THE INTERESTING FIRST HALF
Girls have knives in the dark. They tell each other that they're not "ghouli", but they see a monster. This ends in blood. Shortly afterwards, a boy and his parents are found dead.
Meanwhile, Scully's having visions and sleep paralysis. James Wong wrote this episode after experiencing the latter in Mexico. "I experienced this crazy thing in a hotel: I felt a presence in the room, I couldn't move. I was being chased or chased after this entity and then was in bed again. That was the genesis. It really affected me. So that's how I started with it."
All this is fine. It's regular X-Files stuff.
SPOILERS
SERIOUSLY, THEY'RE BIG
SPOILERS
SPOILERS
SPOILERS
SPOILERS
SPOILERS
SPOILERS
SPOILERS
SPOILERS
SPOILERS
SPOILERS
SPOILERS
THE LESS INTERESTING HALF
It's William. Scully's lost son, William. This is conveyed in a big Scully speech where she seems crazy, but Mulder later mentions a DNA test that confirmed it. This scene would have probably worked better if we hadn't been assuming that Scully was a nutter.
William is the fan-grabbing reveal... but he's also a jerk. Empathise with him? Hah. He has superpowers, so how did he use them? Answer: he mind-wiped his two girlfriends into seeing each other as monsters. For laughs. (He didn't expect them to attack each other, whoopsie. Rewatch the scene and you'll be surprised that they're both still alive.) Theoretically, this shouldn't be a problem. Fictional characters can be scum. Unfortunately, though, I think we're supposed to give a damn about him, or at least in Mulder and Scully's desperate search. So you've lost your son, yeah. Maybe you'd be better off not finding him, so what about having another one?
This also hurts the scene when he kills two agents. They murdered his adoptive parents. They tried to kill him too. Theoretically, that's powerful, but in practice we've lost the emotional angle. You'll have forgotten about it and William's not reminding you (either in the script or in the actor's performance).
Mythology episode questions:
DENIABILITY: yeah, sure. The evidence is pretty flimsy and is mostly just a psychic link. You could easily retcon the claim that this is the real William. We'd seen his adoptive parents before, in a Season 9 episode, but played by different actors.
FOLLOWED UP: yes, in My Struggle IV.
As I said, ignore me here. This was a popular episode. It's by one of their best writers and everything's good here except that one fundamental challenge to your ability to care. For some people, it'll work like gangbusters. For me, it's a castle built on sand.