TV: The X-Files - S11 E05 - Ghouli - Reviewed

The X-Files continues its triumphant comeback with a dramatic episode that starts in typical monster-of-the-week fashion but almost instantly morphs into an examination into Scully’s (Gillian Anderson) guilt over giving her son, William, up for adoption. 

Ghouli, looks like one of the creepypastas that have made shows like Channel Zero popular – online fictional horror stories that seem eerily true. Ghouli itself is quite a messed up looking monster, looking like something out of Ridley Scott’s Alien. It proves to be a storytelling device to get Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully where writer/director James Wong needs them to be – investigating a seemingly paranormal case. 

It mostly works as a MacGuffin, but the emotional payoffs didn’t quite land for me in the ways that Wong and the other X-Files alumni probably hoped for. With William, like the mythology that bogged down the show for the entirety of both runs, the show loses a crucial element: fun. Even with the seriousness of some of the cases Mulder and Scully have been on this year, there has been an element of fun and joy present throughout, until now. 

Wong does a much better job with this type of tone than Chris Carter has, but if this season has proven anything it’s that less is often more when it comes to taking itself too seriously. Still, there is much to be admired throughout the episode. There’s a particularly moving scene in a morgue when Scully lets her guard down and expresses her regrets over her son, and the teaser involving Ghouli is a great short film in horror movie-making at its finest. 

Surprisingly, the performance that felt off was Duchovny’s. It’s clear that he enjoys playing Mulder’s humorous side more so than the dramatic moments. There’s a scene near the episode’s midpoint where Mulder and Skinner discuss William’s possible death that just felt inauthentic. Duchovny seems bored saying those lines, as opposed to when he’s breathing life into the scenes where he’s cracking wise. 

We’re now officially through the first half of the season, with next week’s episode focusing on Skinner and the remaining four still a mystery. The show is back, and despite my reserved enjoyment of this week’s episode, it’s still a solid entry into The X-Files’ mythos. Then again, unlike the episode’s opening credits tagline, it’s not just about seeing what we want to see. It never was.

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-Matt Giles