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THE X-FILES: ‘Ghouli’ is All about Misdirection

THE X-FILES: ‘Ghouli’ is All about Misdirection

Beware! The following will be a spoiler-filled look at The X-Files episode 11.5, “Ghouli.”

Sometimes you watch the cold open to an episode of The X-Files and think “Ah, yeah, I know what this one’s going to be about,” or “I know what they’re doing here. It’s about werewolves,” or whatever. This is the reaction I had during the first few minutes of James Wong’s episode “Ghouli.” The set-up had two teenage girls thinking they saw a monster on a derelict freight ship and had to kill it, only for us to learn that they’d actually been fighting each other. Very reminiscent of the true story of the girls who believed in Slender Man, right? I thought it was just going to be a ripped-from-the-headlines story that ends up being actually supernatural. But, I was mistaken, as Wong and company assumed you’d be. They fooled us all.

We quickly find out the episode was a sleight of hand. “Ghouli” as the monster is known is merely the psychic projections/trickery of a dead high school boy who was dating both girls. And Mulder and Scully quickly learned, through testing of the dead body, that the boy was actually their* son William. But then also that William isn’t really dead but was again using his psychic abilities to make it seem as though he was. The whole episode I kept waiting for it to be revealed that the boy Scully thought was William was actually not and it was her hope that made her think that. But nope. It’s him.

*if we believe the Cigarette Smoking Man, William is his baby and not Mulder’s…but, come on! Do we really trust the CSM?!?!

I hadn’t expected, especially with 10 episodes this season rather than last season’s six, to get much about the myth arc until further along in run, but here we are. In truth, I’d been dreading the myth arc episodes given how astoundingly awful the season premiere was, and I was very pleasantly surprised to see “Ghouli” managed to further that dreadful storyline in a meaningful way. Scully’s motherhood, and decision to give it up for William’s well-being, has been such a huge part of the series as a whole that it’s nice to see her get a moment to reflect on it here.

William, aka Jackson Van de Kamp (played by Miles Robbins), certainly has is birth mother’s smarts and quick thinking, as we saw when he made his escape from the hospital, with the shady DOJ people in pursuit. He is the cause of a great many misdirections in the episode, even beyond those I’ve already mentioned. His seemingly predestined choice to appear to Scully as a grey-haired Asian man (guest actor Francois Chau) makes her think he might be the Japanese scientist she’s been looking for. But nope, it’s just her dang ol’ not-dead, half-alien, psychic-brained son.

One other person I’d like to mention is Skinner. Now I’ve been no fan of this season’s decision to put Skinner on the opposite side of Mulder and Scully: it feels like just manufactured drama for the sake of it. But when he and Mulder speak on the ship and he learns that the dead boy is actually their son, he appears genuinely sorry. Skinner isn’t just a turncoat, and these are clearly still people he cares about.

But then again, maybe all of this is a misdirection and the reveal of Scully’s prophetic dream of last season’s finale in this season’s premiere might not be real. The X-Files assures you the truth is out there, but doesn’t make it easy to believe.

Images: Fox

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. He is the writer of 200 reviews of weird or obscure films in Schlock & Awe. Follow him on Twitter!

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