Matt Rodgers reviews the fifth episode of The X-Files season 11…
After the nostalgic high of The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat, The-X-Files comes back down to earth with a bump this week with the exposition heavy ‘Ghouli’.
The title refers to a Slender Man invoking internet meme monster called Ghouli, who appears to be a beast seen by two teenage girls who attempt to stab each other to death aboard an abandoned ship named the Chimera (the title of season 7, episode 16). At the same time, Agent Scully is suffering from a sleep paralysis vision in which she sees the boat inside a snowglobe, and it just happens to be the subject of an ongoing X-Files case. Upon interviewing the two girls, Mulder and Scully discover that the Ghouli is a creation of a young man called Jackson van de Camp, who may or may not be Scully’s alien-hybrid sprog William. Still with us?
As the half way point for this eleventh season arrives, The X-Files suddenly feels the need for the kind of exposition heavy, tonally haphazard approach that we hoped it had confidently abandoned since the pilot.
So instead of momentum and intrigue, we get a William status recap in which the details of the alien-hybrid project are repeated three times within the space of twenty minutes. It’s mind-numbingly frustrating for an audience built on complicated (read nonsensical) conspiracies stretching over multiple seasons.
It’s only during the episodes final few minutes, when Scully realises that a heartfelt exchange with an apparent stranger might actually have been her son, that we get anything approaching the dramatic weight that the maternal separation meant to be driving this season demands. Up until then we’ve had a forced morgue mourning scene, where Gillian Anderson does her best work with some clunking dialogue, and further character inconsistencies that find Scully vehemently insisting on the truth of her visions.
The episode might have been better had it chosen to either focus on the Slender Man lore controversy, or been a straight up Alien-DNA episode. It seems to abandon the former in favour of covering familiar ground, just to remind you that’s still the reason we’re here.
What does work with regards to the William thread is in establishing his powers of false reality projection. In doing this it can retcon the ending of season ten’s lamentable ‘My Struggle II’, presenting it firmly as a vision, provide yet another moment during which Anderson and Duchovny can display their unrivaled chemistry by the simple touching of hands on a garage forecourt, and let’s be honest, the fact he’s essentially a member of the X-Men is kinda cool in terms of finale possibilities.
Only five more episodes to go.