Skip to main content

If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

The X-Files
11.5 Ghouli

(SPOILERS) Perhaps great partnerships should never break up. Together, Glen Morgan and James Wong wrote some of the best episodes of the original run, but their solo efforts for the return have been entirely adequate, entirely unremarkable. Wong’s the better director of the two, as his feature work on a couple of Final Destinations evidenced, but it isn’t enough to make Ghouli seem either necessary or earned, particularly as it returns to the barren well of not-so-wee William.


The most curious aspect of the episode is that it feels as if Wong decided he had to shotgun wedding two diverse concepts, such that the seams show unforgivingly. As a consequence, I was initially waiting for a reveal that Scully had fooled herself into thinking Jackson Van De Kamp (Miles Robbins) was William, and she was being duped by a creepy kid. After all, why would said creepy kid be engineering a Slenderman-inspired encounter between his two girlfriends Brianna (Sarah Jeffery) and Sarah (Madeleine Arthur), in which they attack each other imagining the other is a monster, unless he was a bit of a loon? That we’re supposed to sympathise with what he did, because he was apologetically unable to control his id, doesn’t really wash, and evidences awkward attempts to finesse the material.


Mulder: This is my problem with modern day monsters, Scully. There’s no chance for emotional investment.

As a result, the Ghouli/Slenderman side is given short shrift, aside from the effective opening teaser featuring derelict ship the Chimera; on one level, this might be for the best, since we only just had a psychically projected adversary in Plus One. On another, it’s a flagrant waste of a modern urban legend that has had actual rather nasty consequences. The opening scenes also take in Mulder quoting Edgar Cayce (“Dreams are today’s answers to tomorrow’s questions”), a first for the series I think, so probably overdue, and also an effectively staged dream paralysis encounter between Scully and her son.


The conspiracy side of Ghouli is typically muddled and murky, hastened along by an unwieldy burst of exposition from Skinner attempting to marry alien-human hybrid experimentation with Mulder and Scully’s – or CSM’s and Scully’s – son. There’s some effective old-style law enforcement friction as Mulder encounters Detective Costa (Louis Ferreira), who’d rather just put the case to bed, and DoD guys hot on the trail of Jackson/William. Scully meanwhile receives pep talks from who she thinks may be the architect of the hybrid programme (Peter Wong of Lost fame) but turns out to be Jackson pulling some psychic shapeshifting. I’m still not really going for Scully’s emotional burden over having lost William, but that’s because I was completely uninvested in the plotline in the first place.


Having Skinner reluctantly working with CSM again is plain annoying, especially as it involves actually helping Mulder and in so doing duping him. We learn that a Dr Matsumoto developed eugenics programme Project Crossroads, eventually forsaken due to the unpredictable attributes manifesting in test subjects, and that it was defunded 15 years ago (as if something like that would ever really be knocked on the head), with the doctor going on the run and the DoD trying to track down his test subjects.


Not only is the unwanted William manifesting big time (but joy, he connects with mom), but we’re back at the unholy mess that was the Season 10 finale, as it’s still very much in line of sight – William is dreaming of the apocalypse, just like Sculls. Wong keeps the episode watchable, incorporating several effective set pieces such as the hospital altercation in which William causes DoD guys to see each other as first Ghouli and then Scully, but so far this season has very much kept in step with the previous (as such the media response of a return to form feels like wishful thinking); crap Carter mythology, merely acceptable Morgan & Wongs, and only Darin to remind you just how good the show can be.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Maybe the dingo ate your baby.

Seinfeld 2.9: The Stranded The Premise George and Elaine are stranded at a party in Long Island, with a disgruntled hostess.

I think I’m Pablo Picasso!

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021) (SPOILERS) I get the impression that, whatever it is stalwart Venom fans want from a Venom movie, this iteration isn’t it. The highlight here for me is absolutely the wacky, love-hate, buddy-movie antics of Tom Hardy and his symbiote alter. That was the best part of the original, before it locked into plot “progression” and teetered towards a climax where one CGI monster with gnarly teeth had at another CGI monster with gnarly teeth. And so it is for Venom: Let There Be Carnage . But cutting quicker to the chase.

These are not soda cans you asked me to get for you.

The Devil’s Own (1997) (SPOILERS) Naturally, a Hollywood movie taking the Troubles as a backdrop is sure to encounter difficulties. It’s the push-pull of wanting to make a big meaningful statement about something weighty, sobering and significant in the real world and bottling it when it comes to the messy intricacies of the same. So inevitably, the results invariably tend to the facile and trite. I’m entirely sure The Devil’s Own would have floundered even if Harrison Ford hadn’t come on board and demanded rewrites, but as it is, the finished movie packs a lot of talent to largely redundant end.

Are you, by any chance, in a trance now, Mr Morrison?

The Doors (1991) (SPOILERS) Oliver Stone’s mammoth, mythologising paean to Jim Morrison is as much about seeing himself in the self-styled, self-destructive rebel figurehead, and I suspect it’s this lack of distance that rather quickly leads to The Doors becoming a turgid bore. It’s strange – people are , you know, films equally so – but I’d hitherto considered the epic opus patchy but worthwhile, a take that disintegrated on this viewing. The picture’s populated with all the stars it could possibly wish for, tremendous visuals (courtesy of DP Robert Richardson) and its director operating at the height of his powers, but his vision, or the incoherence thereof, is the movie’s undoing. The Doors is an indulgent, sprawling mess, with no internal glue to hold it together dramatically. “Jim gets fat and dies” isn’t really a riveting narrative through line.

Did you not just hand over a chicken to someone?

The Father (2020) (SPOILERS) I was in no great rush to see The Father , expecting it to be it to be something of an ordeal in the manner of that lavishly overpraised euthanasia-fest Amour. As with the previous Oscars, though, the Best Picture nominee I saw last turned out to be the best of the bunch. In that case, Parasite , its very title beckoning the psychic global warfare sprouting shoots around it, would win the top prize. The Father , in a year of disappointing nominees, had to settle for Best Actor. Ant’s good, naturally, but I was most impressed with the unpandering manner in which Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton approached material that might easily render one highly unstuck.

I can do in two weeks what you can only wish to do in twenty years.

Wrath of Man (2021) (SPOILERS) Guy Ritchie’s stripped-down remake of Le Convoyeur (or Cash Truck , also the working title for this movie) feels like an intentional acceleration in the opposite direction to 2019’s return-to-form The Gentleman , his best movie in years. Ritchie seems to want to prove he can make a straight thriller, devoid of his characteristic winks, nods, playfulness and outright broad (read: often extremely crude) sense of humour. Even King Arthur: Legend of the Sword has its fair share of laughs. Wrath of Man is determinedly grim, though, almost Jacobean in its doom-laden trajectory, and Ritchie casts his movie accordingly, opting for more restrained performers, less likely to summon more flamboyant reflexes.

So the devil's child will rise from the world of politics.

The Omen (1976) (SPOILERS) The coming of the Antichrist is an evergreen; his incarnation, or the reveal thereof, is always just round the corner, and he can always be definitively identified in any given age through a spot of judiciously subjective interpretation of The Book of Revelation , or Nostradamus. Probably nothing did more for the subject in the current era, in terms of making it part of popular culture, than The Omen . That’s irrespective of the movie’s quality, of course. Which, it has to be admitted, is not on the same level as earlier demonic forebears Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist .

Fifty medications didn’t work because I’m really a reincarnated Russian blacksmith?

Infinite (2021) (SPOILERS) It’s as if Mark Wahlberg, his lined visage increasingly resembling a perplexed potato, learned nothing from the blank ignominy of his “performances” in previous big-budget sci-fi spectacles Planet of the Apes and, er, Max Payne . And maybe include The Happening in that too ( Transformers doesn’t count, since even all-round reprobate Shia La Boeuf made no visible dent on their appeal either way). As such, pairing him with the blandest of journeyman action directors on Infinite was never going to seem like a sterling idea, particularly with a concept so far removed from of either’s wheelhouse.

I’ll look in Bostock’s pocket.

Doctor Who Revelation of the Daleks Lovely, lovely, lovely. I can quite see why Revelation of the Daleks doesn’t receive the same acclaim as the absurdly – absurdly, because it’s terrible – overrated Remembrance of the Daleks . It is, after all, grim, grisly and exemplifies most of the virtues for which the Saward era is commonly decried. I’d suggest it’s an all-time classic, however, one of the few times 1980s Who gets everything, or nearly everything, right. If it has a fault, besides Eric’s self-prescribed “Kill everyone” remit, it’s that it tries too much. It’s rich, layered and very funny. It has enough material and ideas to go off in about a dozen different directions, which may be why it always felt to me like it was waiting for a trilogy capper.

You got any Boom Boom Lemon?

Kate (2021) (SPOILERS) The dying protagonist subgenre is a difficult one to get right. The customary approach is one of world-weary resignation on the part of the poisoned or terminally ill party that sweetens the pill, suggesting they’re being done something of a favour. It’s also a smart idea to give them some sort of motive force, in order to see them through the proceedings before they kark it. Such as a mystery to solve; there’s a good reason D.O.A. is generally seen as a touchstone in fare of this ilk. Kate fumbles on both counts, leaving the viewer with a rather icky poisoning – you don’t want to be too distracted by that sort of thing, not least because suspension of disbelief that the already superheroic protagonist can function at all evaporates – and a lead character with the slenderest of relatability working for her. Most damningly, however, is a revenge plot that’s really rather limp.