I can’t even tell you how much I loved the way The X-Files set up a full website for ghouli.net. Back in my early days as a TV obsessive, websites were novel enough that it was a big deal when a show turned an in-fiction website into a real world artifact. And sure, some of them were simple redirects to the show’s main site, but The Simpsons in particular was really good about creating full sites. Peggysfeet.com from King of the Hill was up and running for years until one day the domain expired and it became an actual foot fetish site. A part of me died that day.
Of course, now I don’t have the time I would like to go through every single post on the site. A younger me would have done it and maybe skipped Spanish class just to get some extra time on the library computer. But I spent enough time on it to be impressed at the amount of work they put into it. And that’s great, because the creature the site purports to expose not only didn’t even exist within the episode, but was nearly forgotten entirely after the opening. Ghouli was a MacGuffin in the service of helping us get to know William Scully.
Or Jackson Van de Kamp, if you prefer. As far as that goes, I’m just proud a nice Dutch family adopted him. Gillian Anderson grew up in Grand Rapids. She knows the score. (I feel like I don’t mention that enough.)
I wasn’t expecting this episode to tie into the new mythology so tightly, but this is actually an important follow-up to “My Struggle III”, moving William forward and showing us Skinner cooperating with Cigarette Smoking Man. I like that they’re doing this – so far, this episode and “This” have had ties to the ongoing story and I think that’ll make for a better finale. (Also, arguably a tie-in to “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” where the coffee shop is an alternate reality where Fox Mulder doesn’t exist. And yes, I will often use a name other than my own at places like that because “EJ” invites unwanted questions. Just one more way in which I am exactly like Fox Mulder.)
So, the thing that’s hurt the “My Struggle” series is that we haven’t seen William since he was a baby. He doesn’t feel like a character, and so having a two-year arc hinge on him is a tough sell. Up to this point, it’s worked mostly because Gillian Anderson especially is so good at playing the emotional involvement. We care about William because Scully does. And what we see here is a confused kid, one who’s got some problems but basically seems to be a decent young man dealing with problems that no other human being has ever had. Yeah, he has two girlfriend and that pick-up artist book, but he’s 17. I mean, I was basically a good kid when I was 17 but I was also kind of a turd. William is all right.
Arguably, the fact that William has powers would seem to indicate Cigarette Smoking Man was telling the truth and he has some alien business in his DNA. But, his birth and early life were extraordinary in so many ways. And there are people on this show who have a power and were not fathered by aliens. I mean, arguably Clyde Bruckman’s ability to see the future of every person he meets is more otherworldly than William’s image projection. I’m not giving up on Mulder being his father.
And let’s be clear, William doesn’t change shape. He controls what people see, and it’s not just his own appearance. He made the girls at the beginning see Ghouli and made the DOJ agents see the other as Scully. And the opening credits tweak this week turned “I Want To Believe” into “You See What I Want You To See”. It’s William talking to us through the credits!
Speaking of what William wants us to see, how cool was it to see him take the form of Francois Chau? That guy has been on a million TV shows, including a recent stint as Arthur’s stepfather on The Tick. But most importantly, he was one of the original Spunkyfaves in his role as Dr. Marvin Candle on LOST. One of my favorite minor characters on that show, I loved all of his instructional videos. And yes, I know his name turned out to be Pierre Chang, but the first and best alias was Dr. Marvin Candle. (Also, when he did a voice on Aqua Teen Hunger Force, he was credited as Dr. Marvin Candle.) I like that actor a lot and it was really fun to see him here.
You know what I keep thinking about? The first time he encountered Scully in that form. I keep thinking about that windmill (another Dutch connection!) and why Scully dropped it. It was such an odd note and I couldn’t decide whether William tried to break it or not, and whether that was significant. In the end, I think he bumped into her on purpose since that was the only way to start a conversation and he didn’t know she was holding the snowglobe. Still, his line “It cracked. The stuff leaked out,” feels like it means something. I can’t find immediate symbolism without reaching probably too far, but the story of William isn’t over and it might mean something before the season is over.
That last scene where William in the form of Dr. Marvin Candle tells Scully that she seems like a good person and he wishes he could have gotten to know her? Devastating. That just about broke me. And when they watched it on the video and there’s that sadness in his voice when he says it as himself? Wow. We know that William is going to be important to the finale, but William doesn’t know that and that’s a kid saying goodbye forever to the mother he’s never going to know.
Similarly, this was another excellent episode for Gillian Anderson. Her words to what she believes to be the body of the boy who might be her son were beautifully delivered. If I had children, I’d probably still be crying.
This episode was not at all what I expected but it was better than what I thought we were in for. I like what they’re doing with the way they’re tying the season together, and I’m much more emotionally invested in William Scully than I was a week ago. And this week, we get a spotlight on Skinner and I am pretty excited about that.
It cracked. The stuff leaked out.