Saying goodbye is gut-wrenching, even in The X-Files where the end is never truly the end. As the iconic series heads towards what is seriously, very likely, almost absolutely, finally the end, I can say I’m confident Chris Carter and Co. will satisfy with its long-awaited resolution to the outstanding mystery surrounding William.
When we last saw William, Dana Scully was fitting the special child in a UFO onesie. She gave up her own flesh and blood to protect him. Little did she know that move might have saved the human race. In “Ghouli,” poor Scully has do something that’s even harder than giving up her child in the first place; she has to say goodbye all over again. And despite fans wishing and hoping for a happy ending, it’s straight up tense drama when Gillian Anderson is told she has to turn on the waterworks and say farewell. In her best work of the revival thus far, Anderson taps into the strength that Dana Scully continues to embody in an episode that is a testament to the power and resilience of motherhood.
“Ghouli” is in the borderland, frozen somewhere between a monster-of-the-week and a myth arc episode. Really though, Ghouli as a monster is solved fairly quick for an X-File. Maybe they’re finally getting the hang of this? Of the many reasons why I’m thankful The X-Files is back for its eleventh season, Mulder yawning at the prospect of investigating a “typical” monster like Ghouli is near the top of the list. He’s Fox freaking Mulder after all, and he’s seen ghouls that would make internet creepypasta writers wet their pants. It’s still awesome to see writer/director/producer James Wong use modern-day interet lore as the inspiration for Ghouli. Wong, who wrote some of the series’ best standalone episodes, gives a nice ode to his roots with a jolty cold open. Really though, this episode is a huge part of the mythology from the original run and into the revival episodes. Wong is up for the challenge and puts The X-Files back on the path to salvation.
Whether it gets there or not will depend on William. We’ve always known he had special powers, but it’s clear that he has something we’ve seen in the show before; the ability to control people’s visions. Taking a (web)page from the real life Slender Man stabbings, two teenage girls end up knifing each other when they “see” Ghouli on an abandoned ship. William, now known by his adoptive name Jackson Van De Kamp, had no intention of harming the girls, both of whom were his girlfriends, which seems like an unnecessary device meant to get them to buy into the existence of Ghouli. Regardless, Ghouli as a work of fiction is just real enough to land on the desk of Fox Mulder. Was Ghouli a coordinated effort by William to get the attention of his parents?
As maligned as some episodes have been, I have to say the pieces of Chris Carter’s revival myth arc story are really coming together. That doesn’t excuse poor execution in the three previous mythology episodes, but that storyboard is looking good right about now. In “Ghouli,” a few things are confirmed: William shared his vision of the end times, the pandemic virus of “My Struggle II,” with Scully. He’s part of “Project Crossroads,” a secret government project that led to alien/human hybrids. CSM, the shady bastard he is, is the “figurative father” of William, using Chris Carter’s words, and impregnated Scully against her will, which is a problematic storyline on many levels. The revelation in “My Struggle II” rightfully doesn’t sit well with a lot of fans, considering how much has been taken away from Scully in this series.
As tough as that is to swallow, it gets the narrative to our current spot. William has alien DNA in him and that’s the key to stopping the spartan virus from ending mankind. In the final scene, William, posing as the pickup artist from the book in his room, quotes Malcolm X to Scully: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Does he know who he’s talking to? That’s Dana freaking Scully! Despite all the times her faith has been tested, if there’s one thing Scully stands for, it’s hope. It might just be a sliver, but Mulder, Scully, and now William will have to use what little hope is left to continue this fight.