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The X-Files Revival 2016

Introduction: Revival
10X1: My Struggle
(written & directed by Chris Carter)
10X2: Founder’s Mutation (w&d by James Wong)
10X3: Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster (w&d by Darin Morgan)
10X4: Home Again (w&d by Glen Morgan)
10X5: Babylon (w&d by Chris Carter)
10X6: My Struggle II (w&d by Chris Carter – story by Chris Carter & Anne Simon & Margaret Fearon)

The X-Files Revival 2018

Introduction: From Season 10 to Season 11
11X01: My Struggle III
 (w&d by Chris Carter) Jan-03
11X02: This (w&d by Glen Morgan) Jan-10
11X03: Plus One (written by Chris Carter, directed by Kevin Hooks) Jan-17
11X04: The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat (w&d by Darin Morgan) Jan-24
11X05: Ghouli (w&d by James Wong) Jan-31
11X06: Kitten [stand-alone, on Skinner] (written by Gabe Rotter, directed by Carol Banker) Feb-07
11X07: Rm9sbG93ZXJz [stand-alone, technology] (story by Glen Morgan, teleplay by Kristen Cloke & Shannon Hamblin, directed by Glen Morgan) Feb-28
11X08: Nothing Lasts Forever [stand-alone, medical horror] (written by Karen Nielsen, directed by James Wong) Mar-07
11X09: Familiar [stand-alone, small town/forest] (written by Benjamin Van Allen, directed by Holly Dale) Mar-14
11X10: My Struggle IV [mythology] (w&d by Chris Carter) Mar-21
Unproduced stand-alone season 10 episode written by Gabe Rotter & Brad Follmer will not be produced in season 11

IDW Comics checklist

Season 10 (June 2013-July 2015) – full issues list
#1-5: Believers | 1 2 3 4 5
#6-7: Hosts | 6 7
#8: Being for the Benefit of Mr. X | 8
#9: Chitter | 9
#10: More Musings of the Cigarette-Smoking Man | 10
#11-15: Pilgrims | 11 12 13 14 15
#16-17: Immaculate | 16 & 17
#18: Monica & John | 18
#19-20: G-23 | 19 & 20
#21-25: Elders | 21 & 22 23 & 24 25

Season 11 (August 2015-March 2016) – full issues list
#1: Cantus | 1
#2-4: Home Again | 2-3-4
#5: My Name Is Gibson | 5
S11 X-Mas Special | X-Mas 2015
#6-8: Endgames | 6-7-8

The X-Files (April 2016-August 2017)
#1: Active Shooter
#2-3: Días de los Muertos
#4-5: Ishmael
#6-9: Came Back Haunted
#10-11: Contrarians
#12-13: Skinner
#14-17: Resistance
Beyond

Conspiracy: 6 issues. The Lone Gunmen cross-over with Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, The Crow (!).

Annuals: April 2014 (2 stories) | July 2015 | July 2016

Year Zero: 5 issues, July-November 2014. Present-day X-Files and flashback to 1940s.

Christmas Special: Season 10: December 2014 (features both present-day and 1940s agents from Year Zero) | Season 11: December 2015 (features the Lone Gunmen) | December 2016 (A Christmas Carol for Mulder)

MillenniuM: 5 issues, January-May 2015 | 1 2 3 4 5

Origins: 8 issues, 2016-2017

Deviations: 2 issues, 2016-2017

JFK Disclosure: 2 issues, October-November 2017

Case Files: 25th anniversary celebration. 12 issues? April 2018+

Vancouver, 25 years later!

No X-Files fan experience can be complete without a pilgrimage to where the series was shot!

Well, maybe these are strong words. You might not want to know too much about how the show was made, it might lose its magic. If the XF-vibe is not there, don’t blame Vancouver! Truth be told, the cinematographers and set designers had an important role to play, and visiting shooting locations after the fact may be underwhelming.

My travels recently took me to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, where The X-Files‘ most memorable period was shot, seasons 1-5, so much so that it returned there for I Want To Believe and seasons 10-11; and where the other Ten Thirteen series were shot too, in particular Millennium. The (amateur) photos below are the result.

Past X-philes have done similar pilgrimages! A shout out to some favourites, that complete this article: TempusFugit; InvisiGoth; Fangirlquest.

If you ever plan to do something similar, here are some tips:

  • Plan your trip! “X Marks the Spot”, written by the series’ location managers Todd Pittson and Louisa Gradnitzer, will be your Bible (also, look at vintage fan sites X-Town or XF Marks The Spot, or Movie Maps). Placing your locations on Google Maps will help. For this, I am sharing here my X-Files Filming Locations map to you!
  • Take into account travelling time! Traffic is a big, big issue, and distances that might look like next door will take time. You might end up spending a large part of your day between locations. And so, due to time constraints, honourable highlights that are absent below are the Ascension cable car, the Anasazi quarry, the Paper Clip Strughold mines, or the Patient X Ruskin dam.
  • Don’t go during the summer! When you think XF you think fog, rain, clouds, that moody atmosphere. In summer you will have sunlight and no rain (that’s very obvious when you watch season 10, unfortunately). And if you’re not lucky you will also have smoke from forest fires, which blows in the area and limits visibility dramatically! Unfortunately this was my case.
  • Not everything is accessible! The XF crew had privileged access to location to do their work, obviously. Some locations are private properties (Mulder’s father’s house, or the Mulders’ summer cottage). Many locations have restricted access only to people working there (like the Anasazi quarry, or the place where the train car blows up in 731, or the ending to EBE, or many of the docks locations). Some might be restricted because filming is taking place there, again (North Shore Studios of course, and filming often takes place in Riverview Hospital). Obviously, many interiors are completely out of reach. Choose your locations with that knowledge.
  • Not everything exists anymore! As much as 25 years have passed, and things change. Some places have been renovated and are still themselves, like the mining museum from Paper Clip; some places have just changed owners and look different, like the Washington diner where Skinner is shot in Piper Maru (now a fancy gourmet restaurant), the pub where Ed Jerse and Scully flirt in Never Again (now a well lit bakery-café), or the café where Mulder meets Samantha in Redux (now a photocopy shop); and some places are just gone, like the roadside diner from the end of Eve or the train building Mulder observes the Japanese scientists from in Nisei ! And this will be more and more the case as time passes.

We are reminded of the weight of time that passes as The X-Files celebrates its 25th anniversary. A quarter century has flown by and the world is certainly a different place from what it was, in so many aspects. The X-Files has definitely hit that transition point between “recent and fesh but not quite new” to “something from a generation ago and just fondly remembered”. I wish I could say that at least, paraphrasing Casablanca, “we’ll always have Vancouver” to “remember how it all was“; but Vancouver too is changing, as do all things. Still, there’s a lot still there!

So see for yourself below, 1993-1998 versus 2018. The Vancouver area is separated in sections — The city, The suburbs, The docks, The woods — and do read the captions.

The city

                                      

The suburbs

                                 

The docks

   

The woods

                                 

Bonus

 

Happy 25th anniversary, The X-Files!

11X10: My Struggle IV

My Struggle IV marks the end of a journey.

It is of course the end of this season, and as a cliffhanger it is calling for more to come; it is also the end of the 4-episode My Struggles arc of the revival (plus Ghouli, given its importance); it is highly likely, given Gillian Anderson’s declarations, that it is the end of Scully’s part in The X-Files; with such an uncertain future it could prove to be the end of the series. It is an unsatisfactory end to all of these possibilities.

There’s not much to say here really…

The end of the Struggles

Chris Carter announced several times that My Struggle IV comes to close the saga started with My Struggle I:

Reddit AMA: “The four struggle episodes were all pieces of a whole and Episode 10 completes the whole.”
TV Insider: “They really are four quarters of a whole. And I think that maybe threw some people at the beginning of last season, and even at the end of last season. But I think that you see, as you have seen, that they were puzzle pieces—four puzzle pieces to form a circle.”
E!Online: “I think that it will be satisfying for everyone, once they finish the finale, to go back and watch the four parts, the four puzzle pieces together. I think it will be a very satisfying miniseries within the series.”

From this perspective of an end of a four-episode saga, MSIV is completely random!

All the times reactions and reviews closed with “answers might come later”, MSIV was the one to have them, or not at all. The story of MSIV is extremely simple compared to its predecessors, it is just a manhunt.

Mr. Y and Erika Price are the two most definitive deaths in this episode, and this is very surprising given that the casting of these characters by two very interesting actors made me expect they would become the new recurring villains in any future season 12. Instead, they were given no character development; their plans were not expanded upon (we do see in MSIV some spacecraft and Purlieu services, confirming the information of MSIII and This); they are offed in a very expeditive manner. (Interestingly, Carter said he had initially seen Strughold for the role of Mr. Y, but I suppose the 90-year-old German Armin-Mueller Stahl was unavailable!)

MSII and MSIII, within their dialogue, set up the activation of CSM’s plans of a viral apocalypse in a future seen in visions by both Scully and William, and one would expect the finale to do something about it; MSIV just mentions the threat but delivers nothing on the visions. MSIII and This, within their dialogue, set up a confrontation of CSM and Mulder, where CSM was afraid that Mulder would kill him (the same CSM that survived a missile strike…); while Mulder did shoot CSM, the confrontation itself was just a shootout. MSIII, within its dialogue, also set up a Sophie’s Choice type of situation where Scully would have to choose between Mulder’s life or William’s life and joining the CSM’s side; nothing came out of that set up.

Furthermore, absolutely no answers are given to the issues raised by the Struggle episodes themselves, not just questions pending from seasons 1-9. For instance: why didn’t Scully directly start working on a vaccine with the knowledge she got from her visions (only her DNA was necessary)? what is the virus within a virus in the Spartan virus? how is the Spartan virus an alien pathogen when My Struggle II explained in detail how it works with CRISPR-Cas9? how did the CSM survive? why did the CSM’s appearance change from episode to episode (including between My Struggle I, which happened outside of Scully’s visions, and My Struggle III)? why were William’s stem cells important for saving Mulder, if after all he is not the father? why did the CSM consider the secret around William’s paternity a weakness?

(There is another This Man appearance here, on a billboard next to the sugar factory, making him present in nearly all of season 11. This is nothing more than an Easter Egg it turns out.)

Long story short, MSIV is more of another independent episode that doesn’t need much information on what came before, than a continuation of an arc — in the same way that MSI was essentially unnecessary to MSII, that MSIII erased MSII.

The end of a 25-year mythology: the old mythology and William

It is obvious that the original mythology of seasons 1-9 has been done away with, and it is illusory to expect any continuation or closure or answers to a number of lingering questions — the Black Oil, the Rebels, the Supersoldiers — nor any clarification further than the MSIII flashbacks, which can be read in both ways, as to how well this revival articulates with what came before — was the colonization threat a sham? has CSM’s Spartan virus plan existed since before the colonization threat went away? why doesn’t the Black Oil behave as before? All of this is dead and buried.

At least, we are given more background to William/Jackson in the traditional Struggle teaser. He lived a normal first five years (so Scully was right to give him up for adoption?) but then his powers kept developing and he became a criminal, a masterful liar and somewhat of an emotionless manipulator (and so Scully was not right to give him up?), who can also blow people up with psi powers, Scanners-like. All this builds him into this troubled teenager with supernatural powers that could be the focus of a monster-of-the-week episode (and indeed his trick with the lights that cause a traffic accident is reminiscent of 3X03: DPO!). William/Jackson is his own man, no longer wants anything to do with Scully or Mulder or the CSM, and although it would be interesting to see him again, it is just as well possible that Carter is done with him.

But the single and most important, essential, basic item we could have expected to have an answer about, something that has been an open issue since the year 2000, something teased at with that teenage boy in the credits of season 9, something that must be spelled out in order to make this whole story engaging and understandable, is the why of the importance of William. Apart from stating the fact that he is “the key”, or Mr. Y’s last words “Your son has what everybody wants, what people would kill to have“, there is nothing here apart from the same tease since season 8: why is he important to, well, everyone? The posts at ghouli.net suggest that he could be a weapon, and that “the cure is in the blood” (see analysis here). Does that mean that he can prevent or be used to prevent CSM’s plans somehow and save the world (tagline change: “Salvator Mundi“)? (however MSII suggested that any abductee like Scully, and at least CSM, Scully and Reyes should have the materials necessary to build a vaccine/cure against the Spartan virus) Does that mean he could be used as a weapon to any resistance to CSM’s plans? We don’t know.

William did help out, unwillingly, in having the CSM’s back turned so that Mulder could shoot him, and that’s it, but that’s far from the miraculous alien-supernatural importance conferred to him with the weight of four seasons’ mythology. At the end of the episode, William emerges from the water (in a scene echoing all the way back to Dr. Secare, a hybrid that could breathe underwater, in 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask!). William has been “downgraded” from being the center of the universe to another monster of the week that Mulder and Scully encounter and forget in the next episode.

The end of a character: Scully, William’s father and the new pregnancy

The CSM declares himself William’s “creator“, and indeed William’s visions with the CSM confirm that he is the father: “the truth can only come from my father, a man I’ve only seen in my visions, but who I know I already hate“. (Why then didn’t he blow him up when he had the chance the way he did with Erika Price?) Presumably the CSM is also the biological father and not just the abstract father-creator then, along with some alien DNA thrown in the mix (no double DNA as hinted at in ghouli.net, which let open the possibility that the father was Mulder and that the additional DNA was alien). Scully was an incubator, and we spend the whole of one minute on that as Skinner tells numb Scully all about it, and when later Mulder accepts that information when Scully shares it with him.

There is no reversal of the reveal in My Struggle III: Scully was indeed, again and again and again, the victim of experiments involving medical rape and her reproductive system. And so because of that, all of a sudden, one year of miraculous pregnancy, one year of stressful upbringing, and seventeen years of remorse at having given up William for adoption, including in the revival (Founder’s Mutation, Ghouli), are all swept away: Scully no longer cares about William. Apart from this being an insult at anyone that has adopted a child and has been able to genuinely love it independently of biology, it is also shoehorned in the story in a way that messes enormously with the way Scully’s character is represented. Scully cared more about Emily, clearly the result of an experiment, than for William, whom she carried and thought about for so long. Carter gives Mulder a hug and chat with William but denies any real meeting between Scully and William — something unimaginable in the emotional context of anything up to this episode, particularly since this is most likely Anderson’s last episode (another indication that Carter is done with William as a character?).

All because Scully has a new child coming. The weird dialogue and never-seen-before sex in Plus One was indeed foreshadowing: Scully is pregnant again! She is pregnant at 54 (not that this is unheard of, but she has not been shown actively trying to get the necessary medical assistance to conceive at that age) and very fertile given that her being barren was such a big part of her character story; there are no explanations given other than the prayers in Nothing Lasts Forever and, well, her alien DNA. The future Benjamin (Rachel’s second son) or Wilhelmina or Samantha is supposed to be consolation for the loss of William, both figuratively (Scully learns from Skinner that he was an experiment, and thus no longer her true son) and literally (Scully & Mulder think William is dead), which given how much emotional and mythological capital this series has spent on making William important, is crazy.

What is the point of doing that? If the series ends now, Carter has given Scully and Mulder a happy end similar to the end of season 8, with a child together, complete with Mark Snow’s reprise of the lovely “Surgery” track from I Want To Believe — at the cost of scrapping 18 years of William’s storyline, just because too many years have passed in the real world, with the third film or the revival taking so long to materialize, and Carter can no longer write them rejoining with William and raising him as a family. If the series continues, the new baby’s conception will again be a mystery to focus on, repeating the tired tropes of seasons 8 and 9. (Or, continuing the parallel with Rachel, Scully could die at childbirth of her second child!) Some placed Scully’s pregnancy as a “jump the shark” moment; this is that to the power of eleven.

The end of a show

On top of all things, MSIV includes the age-old season-ending intrigue of “they are closing the X-Files”, this time coming from Kersh, for reasons of FBI image, as Mulder and Scully’s theories and Mulder himself appear on Tad O’Malley’s conspiratorial show. Incidentally, the show has still to give any subtelty and shades of grey to Tad, a shame really given how much unsubtle credence and echo the show gave to his far-right-pleasing extreme theories during season 10. It’s unclear why it is so important that the X-Files would close, given how few actual FBI cases Mulder & Scully have investigated in this revival.

MSIV also features the death of Skinner and Reyes. Skinner’s death is the only new variation of the dubious ally/enemy trope this character has been trapped in since his conception, but his sacrifice comes at not such a big surprise. We were expecting more background on Reyes’s apparent deep change of character as presented in Scully’s visions in MSII; instead of that, we got a short and at the nick of time phonecall from Reyes to Scully that gets the story rolling, and that is all the redemption Reyes could get for herself in the ten-plus years she has apparently been working for the CSM. Even so, that redemption is ambiguous, as that phonecall gets Mulder in a situation where he could easily have been killed, and does not lead to William, it’s Scully’s search “on the web” and William’s ex from Ghouli (and her sister Maddie aka Duchovny’s daughter West!) that lead Mulder on his trail!

Some nice things can be said about MSIV, such as its very XF-like cinematography (dark and wet), its XF-like settings (the motel, the sugar factory, the pier), and its through-and-through better management of tension than MSIII. However, with the Struggle episodes, especially this season, Carter has turned The X-Files mythology into an action flick completely different from its atmospheric roots. Mulder is a Jack Bauer-like action hero who can take down trained professional soldiers, unfazed by the consequences of his unlawful actions; the “confrontation” with the CSM is a “shoot first ask questions later” type of situation. It is loud, fast, unsubtle, incoherent.

With no less than five deaths, unprecedented in the show, MSIV does away with nearly all the show’s side characters. MSIV blows up the show’s mythology, something Carter was in retrospect obviously fed up with, and clears the scene for something new and yet unknown to emerge in the future. It provides some sort of end point for the leads. There is actually a lot of closure in this episode, despite it being described as a cliffhanger.

But then Carter was quick to undo this closure in interviews, by pointing out how everything can be impermanent: none of the CSM, Reyes and Skinner’s deaths are confirmed; others could emerge from the depths of the neoSyndicate to replace Mr. Y and Erika Price; the Spartan virus and the aliens are still out there; Scully’s new baby’s conception is something to be explored…rince and repeat.

Given what he has done to the mythology of the show, to its central characters (particularly Scully), and to its visual/cinematic/editorial identity, I’m not sure I’m much interested in anything The X-Files that might come in the future any more.

No animals were blown up in the making of this review.

11X09: Nothing Lasts Forever

This is the last stand-alone case before the (season? series?) finale, after being switched with Familiar — and the switch works, as this episode includes some watershed Mulder & Scully moments that we are not likely to have time for next week. Nothing Lasts Forever is written by Karin Nielsen (script coordinator for season 11; and apparently someone Carter knew, since her short film Grace was included in the season 10 BluRays) and directed by James Wong, although it was was initially advertised as a Morgan & Wong script (their first collaboration for over a decade, after their writing partnership split); there are plenty of elements still in the final script that remind of a Morgan & Wong story: Nielsen must have worked closely with both even more than Cloke & Hamblin worked with Morgan for Followers.

The Gore-Files

Nothing Lasts Forever looks at a particular sub-genre of horror: gore. It purposefully tries to out-do the series’ well-known precedent shocker of an episode, 4X03: Home, and certainly succeeds — I wouldn’t know whether this is testing the limits of what can and cannot be shown on network television since there have been so many shows since then (Hannibal?), however things have changed a lot compared to the strictness of the 1990s!

The X-File here mixes a cult of vampire-like cannibals, organ theft by doctors, a mad scientist looking for the fountain of youth, the public persona pressure for a youthful appearance and fear of old age (with yet-another-tagline-change, unfortunately: “I Want To Be Beautiful“), as well as a revenge story fuelled by religious Catholic fervor — quite a bit for a single episode! As a consequence, the Mulder and Scully scenes feel clumpsily out of place and tonally and thematically not very linked with the rest of the episode; the investigation aspect is boiled down to its very minimum, with much of it happening offscreen; the plot itself is, after all, very simple, and could be summarized in just two scenes of setup in the vampires’ den and the resolution. There is only so much you can do in 42 minutes, and Nielsen & Wong’s choice was to sacrifice investigation time for building atmosphere and tension, a fair choice.

A significant part of the episode is spent in the vampires’ den (reminiscent of 7X01: Hungry), giving actress Fiona Vroom time enough to shine (she was also the young Cassandra Spender in My Struggle III!) in a role reminiscent of Gloria Swanson’s in Sunset Boulevard. The episode’s gore culminates with a gory combination of a song over horrific images, a stylistic choice used many times by Morgan & Wong! There are comments about scientists going beyond what regulation and morals permit so as to attain a goal for the good of humanity, as in 1X15: Young at Heart (although Dr. Lovinus’ tirade comes at an odd time in the episode though, pausing the tension of Mulder searching for the missing Scully).

There are parallels drawn between the cult’s literal consumption of human flesh and blood and the Christian act of symbolically consuming Christ’s flesh and blood in order to accept him in one’s life and attain eternal life — both in the way Scully’s communion is shown and how a cult member is willing to sacrifice himself so that he can live on through Barbara. The B-story of “La Avispa” (the wasp, stinging its victims), a Latina Buffy-like vampire hunter straight out of an action movie, is given a short time to develop, but the script makes the most out of it with the two scenes echoing each other of the two different sisters coming down to their mother, who is weeping and praying for the missing one.

Overall, this is not an episode for the faint of heart! Wong’s directing does an excellent job, particularly putting attention to the transition between scenes, and not hesitating to add icky sound effects of chewing and licking and squishing to maximum effect (remember that a sound — a baby crying — was a specific element that did not pass the censors for Home!), making use of his experience with American Horror Story, a show with a similar tone. Between this and Ghouli, Wong signs two of the best-directed episodes this season, making it obvious how important directing, not only writing, is for a show like The X-Files. One has to wonder how the episodes directed by Carter and the Morgans would have turned out with directors of Wong’s caliber: the auteur approach of a single person writing and directing his own episodes is interesting, but it has shown its limits in this revival.

Mulder and Scully and that church scene

The aptly titled Nothing Lasts Forever ties the theme of the episode of working against the natural process of ageing with how our main characters have grown old as well — the passage of time is something that almost every single episode has dwelled on in this revival with uneven results, and it would have been repetitive here would it not have been for the quality of the dialogue. Yes, Mulder and Scully are older, the show itself is old, there is no denying it.

This comes off almost like a meta commentary on the show itself: it too wants to be young an hip when it is two decades past its prime, and goes through all kinds of artifices to trick itself and its cult (us fans) that you can go back. More than just mentioning these characters are older, like This, it is integrating this fact in its story; in a sense it is building on ideas discussed in The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat. Certainly the Mulder & Scully scenes show that the episode is conscient that it is in the closing age of the series and not before a new golden era. There is a sense of inter-connectedness between the episodes this season more than in season 10, rarely in character continuity but at least in the underlying themes.

Mulder and Scully’s scenes together are destined to remain among those most remembered from this revival. They are in tone with the show, much better written and acted than the ones in Plus One, far from the sappiness of love declarations of 9X08: Trust No 1, and strong enough to convince even this agnostic noromo; their dialogue rings true in the mouth of these characters and for once we really have the impression that we are watching the characters and not the actors. Although it could be said that this is the sort of discussion that is one or two decades too late and that they might have had it repeatedly offscreen in the past already, the fact is that such a discussion openly addressing their relationship and their common future has been a long time coming for viewers, and this potentially being their penultimate episode together it fits very well here.

Scully laments her failures: “I believed I could protect our son, and I failed. I believed that we could live together, and I fled.” Mulder’s fear is that their work in the X-Files has been holding Scully back from living a better life, echoing the hallway scene in Fight the Future or the motel scene in 7X22: Requiem. But Scully absolves Mulder of all that guilt (“I don’t begrudge you any of those things“): their shared history has been going on for so long that it is not about Mulder’s obsession in the paranormal, it is not about who is pulling who into the X-Files. Mulder is very much ready to start again, and it has been Scully who has been thinking things over.

While Carter did not include any scene in the revival to show how their relationship broke up, he did describe the end scene of Babylon as an important moment for them; but it is really the moments in this episode that are the important (and superior) ones. The question is, bluntly, “are we together?“, however the acting and directing, the church scenery, and the a religious and spiritual connotations of Mulder lighting Scully’s candle give this a lot more weight and significance than any melodrama from a telenovela. As frustrating as Scully’s inaudible whisper was upon first viewing, it is indeed a beautiful moment of intimacy for them and them only — similar to us not knowing what were their gifts in 6X08: How the Ghosts Stole Christmas or what happened after the credits in many an episode.

This analysis would not be complete without mention of the pregnancy theory. Picking up on the discussion and sex and the name of the St Rachel motel in Plus One; the stained glass depicting children joining Jesus under which the discussion takes place; the mention here again of Scully as a mother (“have a bunch of kids that you wouldn’t have to give up“); all of these seem hints that a pregnancy is brewing. Indeed, why discuss “miracles” so heavily, a term associated with the conception of William, when all Scully is mulling over is their future together? What action and project does she refer to when she says “I’d like to do it together“? It somehow feels more than a decision to “be” together, but to “do” together. It can be read both ways, and probably purposefully so — My Struggle IV itself might leave it ambiguous as well!

Regardless, dialogue like “reason and faith in harmony” is a summation of everything in The X-Files: a callback to season 7, when the show was also ending then, during which Mulder and Scully’s beliefs drew progressively closer until they became one. A great point to leave these characters, if there was any.

Next week: finale!

“This Man” is again present in this episode (graffitied on the building of the vampires’ den, when Mulder and Scully enter it), and its status as something significant or as an Easter Egg should be revealed next week.

And thus we come to the end of the string of eight stand-alone episodes this season. The X-Files has always worked by being more than the sum of its parts, by having a base template that could be used to explore all sorts of stories and genres. The longer length of season 11 has allowed the show to look at science fiction stories, technology parables, supernatural horror, paranormal thriller, gore. The longer length has also allowed episodes to tackle their story and not fusing things together like 10X4: Home Again. There has been, at times and far from consistently, some continuity (here: reference to Charlie Scully, Scully’s mother’s coin from Home Again, an 1121 reference, a 9X03: 4-D reference (?)); much less so than how other shows do it but more than the stand-alones in an average X-Files season; the mythology is another issue altogether. Each episode has had its more or less big ball of problems, some with huge, but the overall feel is that of a more satisfying season than season 10 (a feel perhaps reinforced due to two of the season’s strongest are these two last ones).

It is interesting that only one of the old gang, Wong, and two new writers, Van Allen and Nielsen, are the ones that seem to understand what works in The X-Files and give episodes that feel satisfying as “scary stories” and as emotional stories. It has been an uneven run of episodes, which shows that The X-Files still has life in it left when it is handled well, but that it should really think about the stories it wants to tell in an environment where so many quality shows out there make viewers less forgiving of missteps.

11X08: Familiar

The X-Files Season 11 / Event Series 2 : Introduction 11X01: My Struggle III 11X02: This 11X03: Plus One 11X04: The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat 11X05: Ghouli 11X06: Kitten 11X07: Rm9sbG93zxjz

When this season was announced, one of the aspects I was most interested in was to see how episodes both written and directed by newcomers to The X-Files would turn out. Certainly my main expectation from this revival was closure with the mythology and characters, but Carter expanded the revival to cover stand-alone episodes as well, and with more quantity of episodes this season comes experimentation and open slots for new blood. Kitten was extremely derivative of the past and lacked stamina; Followers was all concept and not enough content; Familiar is the first one to truly get it right. It is written by Benjamin Van Allen (writer’s assistant/staff writer in the two revival episodes in the first solo script of his career!), and is directed by Holly Dale (veteran TV director, newcomer to The X-Files).

Release the Hounds of Hell!

The story is not something we have never seen before. Small town witchcraft where those calling it get more than what they can handle, couples cursing each other because of extra-marital affairs: see the landmark 2X14: Die Hand die Verletzt and 7X16: Chimera. The little boy in yellow parka and the scary clown figure inevitably bring Stephen King’s It to mind. The use of whatever is familiar to the victims to attract them or scare them is reminiscent of the changing monster of 7X12: X-Cops, but here it is in fact derived from a real belief: the familiar spirit of Medieval European folklore, reminiscent of the succubus (3X21: Avatar). The originality of the episode is not in the paranormal phenomenon itself.

However, the story is approached as a true mystery with enough twists and turns throughout as to what is happening and why that the result is gripping and fresh. We get to care for the drama happening to the people we meet here, be it due to the horror of children dying, due to some good acting, or to some tight editing. We feel for the raw wrath that leads to an innocent person getting accused because of his past and hunted like a witch by a mob, in a scene that is reminiscent of classics like Frankenstein or 3X13: Syzygy or 5X06: Post-Modern Prometheus. It is true that Mulder & Scully are more spectators and their investigation does not prevent any murder — actually, Scully’s involvement inadvertantly results in an additional murder, but such are the complexities and perils of law enforcement — and this is not something we haven’t seen in several episodes. The only odd passage would be them not attempting to do anything while Mrs Strong spontaneously combusts at the end.

Another aspect that the episode gets right is Mulder and Scully’s interaction: the intense intellectual exchanges between them, throwing theories at each other to see what sticks, seeing them grinding their gears while the events are unfolding around them. Mulder being Mulder with his encyclopedic knowledge of all things paranormal and his knack for literally tasting the evidence;
Scully taking the role of the one looking for a grounded explanation, using medical vocabulary and actually performing an autopsy. It is really a mystery why it took us fourteen episodes in this revival to get scenes like these.

The other trademark element that is present here as well is the Vancouver atmosphere. The forests are utlized better here than in Kitten, and there is rain and mud in several scenes. It helps that the shooting was advanced enough by this time, November, that they could make use of the rainy weather that defined the early seasons of the show — in contrast to the light due to the shooting during summer months in season 10 and the early part of season 11. Mark Snow’s music is noticeable this time, in horror mode, and includes that damned catchy Mr Chukleteeth theme song. The incredible design of Mr Chuckleteeth and the Teletubbies lookalikes all contribute to the overall spookiness. Incredibly enough, it is also the first episode of season 11 to feature the normal tagline, “The Truth Is Out There“!

The fact that all the elements work is a tribute to Holly Dale’s directing, I really wish she would have been involved in this revival from earlier on.

MOTW vs Mythology

Thus we have here a stand-alone episode that could have been pulled straight from season 2. And that is almost true too in the way Mulder and Scully interact. While it is wonderful to have Mulder and Scully arguing their case to each other again, there is no denying that 25 (26?) years have passed since these characters met and they cannot be behaving in exactly the same way. Phrases like “as we’ve discussed before, people don’t just spontaneously combust” are interesting, since they both acknowledge a precedent, yet omit the fact that at one point Scully was the one opening up to Mulder’s theories and proposing spontaneous human combustion to interpret a murder (a memorable dialogue in 6X17: Trevor)! Can Scully still say “it doesn’t mean that witchcraft has any basis in reality” after all she’s seen? (e.g. 7X14: Theef) While Scully mentions it’s always difficult to autopsy a child, it’s a lost opportunity not to make the connection of the name of the second child victim, Emily, with her own child (5X05 Christmas Carol / 5X07: Emily).

Of course, that kind of radical shift from mythology episode to stand-alone episode and lack of experience accumulation are encoded in the series’ DNA since the beginning. Even so, season 7 was notable and enjoyable for its progressive convergence of worldviews of the two central characters, which could be felt not only in the mythology episodes but in the stand-alones too. It is evident the revival is not attempting such ambitious character development and prefers to return to the roots of the series. Mulder as the archetype of the believer, Scully as the archetype of the skeptic, in a formula that could be repeated in any number of reboots for future generations. Perhaps this schizophrenia is even more noticeable now given the short amount of episodes and our impatience at approaching an end that might be very final. Indeed, one’s enjoyment of episodes such as this one is colored by one’s expectations: more and more of “Golden Age” type of episodes; or advancement of character and plot towards a long-awaited conclusion? While this site’s focus on the mythology definitely tells you my preferences, there are few things to nitpick here. Familiar does not tackle a big current societal concern, it does not cover completely original ground for The X-Files, but — finally! — it works.

11X07: Rm9sbG93ZXJz

The X-Files Season 11 / Event Series 2 : Introduction 11X01: My Struggle III 11X02: This 11X03: Plus One 11X04: The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat 11X05: Ghouli 11X06: Kitten

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Rm9sbG93ZXJz is written by Kristen Cloke (Glen Morgan’s wife and mostly an actor, memorably as the incredible Lara Means in Millennium) and Shannon Hamblin (s11’s script supervisor) and is directed by Glen Morgan (of This fame, among others), however it seems Glen also had some significant input in the story (initially it was described as his, or that the story would be his and the script would be Cloke/Hamblin) and the approach (the lack of dialogue). So while it might look like this is an episode that introduces new blood into the series, the reality is more ambiguous.

The distinguishing mark of this episode is its near complete lack of dialogue, putting it in a long tradition of “experimental” X-Files episodes like 6X03: Triangle or 7X12: X-Cops. After many episodes that feel too busy with dialogue (although less so in season 11), this is a welcome change! In that sense, this episode is The X-Files‘ counterpart to one of the best Millennium episodes, 3×06: The Curse of Frank Black, and to Space: Above and Beyond‘s Who Monitors the Birds? (both Morgan & Wong episodes)!

The subject is technology and artificial intelligence: how pervasive technology has become in all aspects of our daily lives, how we grow distant from each other due to our addiction to technology, how incapacitated we would find ourselves were this technology turn or be turned against us. The episode make use of very modern technology at the border of science fiction — Internet of Things, drones deliveries, driverless cars, automated cooks, Anymal dog-like robots — all of which exist but which still feel very science fictional to 2018 viewers, which is indeed exciting.

And that’s it, really.

It doesn’t do much more with all this than point out what 1X06: Ghost in the Machine did 25 years ago: modern technology can be spooky and dehumanizing. There is something about the A.I./children learning from humans/its parents, and that we should better ourselves or our bad aspects will be reflected back upon us, notably in the teaser (inspired by a real event with a Microsoft experiment in 2016) — however that as well is served with the subtelty of a T-800 crushing a skull.

It doesn’t help that the intrigue is, once more, not a case investigation, but a random event happening on our characters, and that the motivation is nothing more but a vendetta over a waiter’s tip. There were many ways to make a more intense use of the A.I. theme and the lack of dialogue: shoot with a smartphone as if it were found footage; show everything from the point of view of the A.I. and the cameras it can access; force the characters not to use dialogue because they fear surveillance; have the agents discover the A.I. is covering something up and that’s why it’s turning against them; etc. This is a more conventional episode. The themes and the approach are not new to either show, but comparisons to Black Mirror are inevitable — especially with the episode Metalhead in its latest season, which was produced essentially simultaneously as season 11 (featuring a manhunt by similar dog-like robots, little dialogue, and a gorgeous black-and-white photography). A.I. is a topical concept, but instead of spearheading the originality in television drama The X-Files is content to lightheartedly tackle themes better handled by other shows more attuned to the present zeitgeist.

The tip vendetta is a joke of course, like a Twilight Zone punch line, in an episode which, talking about silent film, doesn’t know if it wants to be Buster Keaton or Alfred Hitchcock. Despite the seriousness of the threats, the tone is playful; with all the focus on everyday little worries, once more it feels like we are watching the actors instead of their characters; compared to Morgan’s This, it’s a bit “been there done that”. And honestly, who could have imagined that 2018 would give us Mulder cleaning his nose hair and Scully’s smart vibrator, and labelled this The X-Files?

That being said, the episode as a whole is entertaining and enjoyable to watch, with some good scares! Morgan’s direction is competent and gives us some interesting shots of weirdness, such as Scully at eye level with the delivery drone. There was certainly some thought into the cinematography, with cold whites in the sushi bar (a cold version of Hopper’s “Nighthawks“, re-imagined with robots later in the episode!), darkness and infernal reds in the final confrontation with the robots, and human warmth in the closing scene. Technology-focused episodes like 1X06: Ghost in the Machine, 5X11: Kill Switch or 7X13: First Person Shooter don’t tend to age well despite other qualities; with its interesting ideas treated with little inspiration, at least Rm9sbG93ZXJz will be remembered for its pure entertainment value.

Miscellaneous

  • Tagline change, again: “The Truth Is Out There” in Base64.
  • This episode aired on February 28 — fittingly, March 1 is Future Day, as established in 2012 by transhumanist organization Humanity+!
  • The restaurant is “Forowa”, Japanese transliteration of “Followers”, i.e. the decoded title of the episode from Base64, but also the Twitter followers the A.I. was gathering, as described in the teaser. So right before it was shut down, the A.I. copied itself and decided the best way to make a humble living while getting to know people was to open a fully automatized sushi bar.

  • Despite the “our home” talk in This, this episode clearly establishes that Scully and Mulder live separately. And what a home Scully has! Much more interior design and coldness than could be expected from her — and high tech, obviously just for the purposes of this episode. Why does Scully no longer live in the place we got glimpses of in Founder’s Mutation? Why does Mulder drive Scully’s SUV, forcing Scully to take a taxi? Do they swap cars? Why does Mulder drive Scully’s car but has never visited her place? Do we really want to make sense of this?
  • Mulder’s credit card is “Bigly Credit”: a nod to Trump’s sort-of-neologism “bigly“?
  • Poor blobfish: once upon a time Scully would have lectured Mulder on the scientific reason behind his looks, today she just takes a photo of it.
  • It didn’t take long for obsessed fans to track the model of Scully’s vibrator, then Anderson played the game as well.
  • “This Man” sighting again, behind Mulder & Scully in the final robot showdown! Where is this taking us? Hints that this is all a dream? Related to those who want to contact William?

  • We get glimpses of what Scully and Mulder are reading on their phones: this August 2017 article about Tesla/SpaceX CEO Elon Musk warning about AI; and something from Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who in December 2017 was revealed was behind the real DoD-sponsored UFO investigation Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (kudos to the team for inserting that, this happened after the episode was shot). In a double touch of meta, Reid said “The truth is out there” when news broke out, and here Mulder receives a warning message from Reid! (Does the episode take place in December 2017 then? Mulder’s parking ticket mentions a date, June 13 2018, but that seems wrong.)

What ghouli.net tells us about William

The airing of 11X05: Ghouli was shortly preceded by the appearance of the website ghouli.net, which was also featured in the episode (and so its writing preceded the shooting of the episode). In an interesting move of 21st century viral marketing, this website is written in-universe as the blog of Jackson Van de Kamp, and offers information that was not presented in the episode.

ghouli.net went live on 25 January, with posts from William and others; the events of Ghouli happen at the same time it aired on 31 January; subsequent posts are user-submitted, i.e. any fan can post his or her story (and some of them could really pass for canon!). ghouli.net fills the double role of an in-universe creepypasta blog (fictional scary stories feeding an urban legend, in this case the Ghouli monster) and providing insight into William. The information here was certainly much more than could be discussed in a single episode, and Ghouli would have benefitted from being a double episode; some of it might be too much for even My Struggle IV to cover. Although “extended universe” information in multi-media platforms has become somewhat of a common practice in big franchises, it is a shame that the live show would not make more use out of this.

The William we discover in this blog is much more psychologically fleshed out and his experiences more detailed and interesting than the little we learn of him in Ghouli. Some of the character traits only roughly sketched out in Ghouli get more background here, in particular William’s troubled psychology. Some other traits that did not make him particularly likable in Ghouli, like him being a bad prankster and amateur pickup artist, are not referenced at all. Ghouli seemed to imply that William had an absolutely normal childhood, whereas here we see quite the contrary. All this would lead to believe that Chris Carter’s William in My Struggle IV and beyond will be somewhat different from James Wong’s William in Ghouli. On that topic, it is unknown who really wrote the content of this blog, possibly several people contributed; but given the close thematic resonance with the episodes, it is quite possible much of it is the work of Chris Carter and James Wong.

Let us go over the individual posts. William/Jackson is posting with the handle @Rever, which, apart from being a nice palindrome, also means “to dream” in French, which is relevant given the importance of dreams in William’s experiences. William posts either first person accounts or third person fictionalized accounts of what we suppose are true events, with himself as “The Boy”, “Billy” or “Sonny”, or even as Ghouli himself. The posts are dated from October 2017 to January 2018, however the events they describe are not presented in chronological order. @Rever’s posts can be roughly reordered in three groups, with non-Rever posts being relevant as well:

William’s young age

Crawling Empty Full
@Rever, 23 October 2017
William has been with his adoptive parents for five years, in rural Wyoming; his parents are considering moving around: “They lived in the middle of nowhere, by design. For now, anyway. […] She [mother] wasn’t sure how long they would stay in the Midwest.” This story is told with William as “The Boy”. On his sixth birthday, i.e. circa summer of 2007, William had a traumatic experience by being poisoned in the eye by tarantula hair. In his discussion with the tarantula, there are hints that William knows he is not quite human: the tarantula “looked like an alien from another planet” “Tarantula, what do you want to know from the People of Planet Earth?” “I do not think you are of this Planet. I think that you might be from mine.

Your Imploding Cells
@Rever, 24 October 2017
Immediately follows. William had never been sick in his life before, appropriately superhuman. But with this incident his immune system collapsed. He was isolated in a quarantine room like a boy in the bubble, where he was monitored by scientists. Then: “He had been misdiagnosed. His immune system was more resilient than they had feared“, but the scientists were interested in him, taking stem cells from him, also fearing him. “They kept telling him that he was perfectly healthy. Maybe even healthier than he had ever been in his life.” His father visited at first, then no more; he remained under observation, trapped. He was exposed to a yellow gas from Project MK CHICKWIT, with no effect (this is reminiscent of MK NAOMI from Kitten; MK CHICKWIT was a real, post MK ULTRA, project over 1968-1971 that was collecting chemicals for experimentation on soldiers). He then exhibited telekinesis and mental powers, in scenes that are reminiscent of the children in Founder’s Mutation. Frustrated at being trapped, he escaped.

Does this experience mean that the tarantula poison somehow activated William’s Spartan virus, which destroyed his immune system? Following that, William’s alien biology would have kicked in and he reacquired his immune system. The exposure to the MK CHICKWIT gas was perhaps a way to test that immunity against the Spartan virus (Tad O’Malley mentioned the Spartan virus is activated via chemtrails, which could be this yellow gas). This incident is not referenced again, nor are William’s telekinetic powers; possibly the doctors “switched off” the genes resposible for some of his powers (with a magnetite injection like Jeffrey Spender’s in William?) and erased William’s memory of these events (like Mulder’s in Deep Throat).

This also means that William’s powers and location was known to “some” conspiracy since 2007. How to reconcile this with the fact that the CSM and the DOD are still searching for William in 2017/2018? So much has been made of the search for William that this contradiction cannot be ignored; but whichever solution adds enormous complexity that should be unnecessary at this point. All this could be an unreliable memory, or mixed with events that happened to another experiment child of Project Crossroads that William saw through remote viewing into the past, yet the tarantula incident is a blueprint for the later creation of the Ghouli monster. It could also be that these scientists were working for Dr. Matsumoto: as we learn in Ghouli, “Dr. Matsumoto burned all the files pertaining to the subjects to save their lives, and then he disappeared. The DoD has tried to track them down ever since.” After Matsumoto’s Project Crossroads was disbanded (circa 2002/2003), he could have found William somehow (psychic connection with the other gifted children he oversaw?), conducted these checks on him but did not share this with the rest of the conspiracy, and might still be keeping an eye on him from afar. The experiments in Founder’s Mutation with Dr. Goldman could be remnants of Project Crossroads, operated by Dr. Matsumoto.

You are the Living Key in a Dying Function
@Rever, 23 January 2018
William at 7 years old, i.e. circa 2008. He is “Billy Mullen” with his parents Janet and Steven, an “only child to two working parents” (Janet seems to be working in real estate). The setting is urban, the Van de Kamps have probably moved away from rural Wyoming after the tarantula incident. William has developed a sense of remote viewing and if not mind reading at least remote empathy — he is not clairvoyant, he cannot see future events. This only works with people or objects he has an emotional link to, he is only able to do it when he empathizes with people in distress οr sorrow or fear. The town psychologist tests his ability with a scientific method. During the test, with the key word “mother”, instead of searching for his “mom”, William searches for his biological “mother” — Scully, who at that moment was performing an autopsy in a morgue, and was thinking about the end of the world. William’s parents hadn’t yet told him he was adopted, and Janet fears his real biological mother might develop the same connection and come for him. This is the last entry on ghouli.net.

The visions posts

Time jump to a time much closer to My Struggle III and Ghouli.

Mobius Strip Tease
@Rever, 20 November 2017
William’s point of view of the dream Scully experiences at the beginning of Ghouli. Dream within a dream, feeling of being hunted by a shadow figure, doubling of self, fear of dying inside a dream, possibility this is premonition or memory: “As I stood there, about to flee again, someone else raced by me—it was me. Future Me? Past Me? No time to figure it out as he blew by, headed for the living room, undoubtedly. Good luck to him/me.” Of Scully: “She had red hair, wore a crucifix necklace, and had a look of deep concern. She seemed very familiar though.” She is not referred to as “Ginger” yet. This recurring dream is something William has had before Scully did, as per this post’s date months before the airing of Ghouli and Scully’s dream.

Dream Disease Apocalypse
@Rever, 22 December 2017
William’s visions of the impending viral apocalypse that is coming, clearly described as man-made: “The shadow powers are putting a plan in motion. They want to wipe out humanity to benefit themselves and start over with a clean slate.” He feels connected to the few that can change this: “Why I’ve been chosen as the conduit, I don’t know. But I know there are people in the world who can help, I see them in my visions, too. I just don’t know who they are. […] Their faces are foggy but they’re there, subliminally or just outside of my peripheral vision. The man with the eyebrows. The watching man. The blue eyed doctor. Others my age, possibly?” The first one is This Man (also in the posts’ tags; see the post “Radio Surfer” below); the second one could be Mulder, or again This Man, or even future William himself; the third is Scully; the others are possibly the Resistance (see the Knockout Mouse posts below). Could the date of this vision be significant? 22 December, exactly five years after the supposed alien colonization date in 2012.

In the Future We Shall Not Thrive
@Rever, 22 January 2018
Visions of the end of the world at the end of My Struggle II, the viral apocalypse and the majestic UFO appearing at the bridge. Scully is identified as “Ginger“. References to Tad O’Malley’s Truth Squad. The viral apocalypse is described both as man-made and alien. “Ginger was a beautiful sight in a sea of blights […] it was like a front row seat to seeing God appear from above in that final, transcendent moment before The End.

This Screaming Skull
@Rever, 23 January 2018
An account of William’s seizures, which come with lights and an incomprehensible message, over which he does not seem to have any control (and resembles an alien abduction setup). As we saw in My Struggle III, these seizures come when he is bed, perhaps in his sleep as an evolution of his dreams. Visions of Scully as “Ginger“: “Blue eyes. Red hair. Of which I have neither. These are recessive genes.” William points out that he is physically and genetically different from Scully, but this observation would be out of place if he didn’t already suspect that he has a genetic connection with Ginger; hence he is already suspecting she is his biological mother. William knows he is sending messages to her: “When I seize, I transmit. I don’t know why or how. I don’t always know the message. But I know it’s important. And it’s important that she be the receiver. But transmission means pain for both.” William talks of injuries he has, perhaps as a result of his falling down or hitting himself when the visions come: “Do we bare the same scars? Slashed forehead and chin. Broken wrist and arm. Two or three concussions. I’ve fallen when there’s been no one to catch me.” He seems to go in and out of the hospital often because of this: “I’ll have to ask the next time I’m in the Emergency Room. They’ll think I’m weird. Weirder and weirder every time I go back. Inevitably, I go back.” Thus William must have had these seizures for a while, in a period of time longer than his connection with Scully, which only happened during the short length of My Struggle II/III. William cares for Scully but doesn’t seem to know who she is as a person: “Does she have someone to hold her hand, to break her fall? I hope she’s safe and cared for. She shouldn’t suffer more pain than I’ve endured myself. I want her to hear me, but I don’t want her to hurt, not because of my uncontrollable screaming skull.” William was thus sending these visions to Scully, but this was not some conscious choice; whoever or whatever is causing this, William does not know. This fits with Scully’s line in Ghouli about just being a receptacle. These visions could be a warning or a way to motivate these characters to do something about it, but we do not know who is causing this: “This Man”, aliens, God, future William reaching out in the past?

The Ghouli posts

Concurrent with the above; it is difficult to tell which come forst, the visions or Ghouli.

3H00. After Dark.
@Rever, 2 November 2017
William calls himself “Sonny”. In the suburban home with his adoptive parents, William has insomnia. The accompanying illustration from William’s diary includes a mention of a 4-feet tall black alien appearing at the foot of his bed. William wanders alone at night, street names clearly place this in Norfolk, Virginia, he passes through the gas station with the windmill from Ghouli. He is aware that he was given up for adoption when he was 10 months old, wonders “what’s wrong with Sonny“. He seems to be frequently monitored by doctors who study his unique biology: “Was his tetanus vaccine up to date? Maybe cutting himself with a rusty nail would prevent him from having to give blood again next week?” These could be not conspiracy doctors but just doctors doing checks on him with his frequent hospital visits following his seizures. What is causing his insomnia is “What he thought he may have overheard from the doctors. A single sample containing two separate blood types. Not biologically impossible, but extremely rare. Blood chimera. Abnormal.” William is a type of alien/human hybrid not seen before, as he seems to be carrying not one genome that is a mix but two genomes at the same time (somewhat similar to Mulder in the Biogenesis trilogy, but not due to the presence of Black Oil in his brain like Mulder, William carries this double genome from birth). The twin genome could point to William being a combination of natural birth (Scully and Mulder) and medical experiment (alien hybridization, as per My Struggle III using CSM’s genome?), thus William could have four biological parents; for the time being he has been in psychic contact with only one of them, Scully.

4H00. After Rust.
@Rever, 2 November 2017
Directly follows. William explores the Chimera boat; he used to hang around there with friends in the summer. He meets with Ghouli, a mix of insect and alien; cockroaches and spiders are referenced (the spider webs were also seen in the episode). Evidently Ghouli is a way for William to exteriorise his self-hate and incarnate the part of him that is alien, his “twin“, by making Ghouli look like a mix of human and spider (echoing his arachnophobia ever since that tarantula incident when he was 6). William knows he has been partly alien from his inception. William discusses with Ghouli: Ghouli: “We’re one and the same. I am you and you are me. I am inside of you. In your blood. […] I’m everything you hate, and feed upon your hate too.” Sonny: “I’m going to kill you.” Ghouli: “You already did. You absorbed me in utero. Face it, Sonny, you were a jerk before you were even born. If you’re not careful, you’ll kill everybody. Except for me. I could survive a catastrophic event. I could survive a goddamn nuclear winter.” This is all reminiscent of a long strain of episodes discussing the creation of a superhuman or supersoldier (Nisei/731, Nothing Important Happened Today) that could very well be a strategic weapon against the aliens themselves, and of the Black Oil emitting lethal radiation yet keeping the host intact (Piper Maru). There are hints that William has the power to kill everyone, and the power to survive the destruction he will unleash, reminiscent of the prophecised being that would have the fate of the world in its hands (The Sixth Extinction, Providence).

Encounter I
@Rever, 16 December 2017
Dream encounter of many flesh-eating Ghoulis in a primeval forest. William dies inside the dream (placing this after “Mobius Strip Tease“, where he still wonders about dying while inside a dream).

Knives Out (Encounter II)
@Rever, 19 December 2017
Dream encounter of Ghouli at William’s home. William is “J”, Ghouli takes the form of “B”, a girl he knows — presumably his girlfriend Brianna Stapleton. William is discovering that Ghouli — and by extension himself — can trick others into believing he is somebody else. Accompanying illustration could be storyboards for the teaser to the episode.

Mississippi Delta Waves
@Rever, 20 December 2017
A premonition that a Ghouli murder will take place on the Chimera boat. William talks about his collection of snow globes, especially the one with the Chimera boat. Inside that one, he witnessed a murder of a little man, and he was worried about his possible wife who would have to take care of their child alone. Since then the snow globe is deserted; he caught a glimpse of Ghouli there. William likes the calmness of the snowed landscape inside a snow globe; this could be significant with the reference to nuclear winter in the entry “4H00. After Rust.“: is William attracted by the idea of world destruction?

Melt, It Said.
@Rever, 22 January 2018
Ghouli — i.e. William — wakes up in an observation room, trapped and wired in scientific and medical equipment. Ghouli converses with the floor and the ceiling, about empathy and the inevitability of death. A UFO arrives. Ceiling: “You wish for the aliens to take everything man has built. You want the aliens to become hoarders. They will only take what is useful.” Ghouli: “I am of no use to them.” The UFO’s ray starts burning everything, including Ghouli. Is this a vision of a possible future fate for William? Or is William delirious during one of his hospital stays following his seizures? The fact that aliens are presented in a destructive light, but also in a destruction that might be liberating, might be significant for choices that William might have to make in the future.

The Knockout Mouse posts

Inserted between the posts are two that stand out, by K/OMouse. A knockout mouse is a lab test animal which has had a gene knocked out and replaced with an artificial one. These two posts have completely different date tags, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day 1970. This is possibly voluntary, to cover the tracks of whoever is sending these messages to William, who might have hacked his computer or blog to send these (1/1/1970 is date zero UTC in Unix computer systems). Knockout Mouse could be part of a group that is aware of Project Crossroads and other experiments aiming to create superhumans, perhaps a group formed by escaped children like the ones from Founder’s Mutation, looking to form an organized “Resistance” against the conspiracy.

the map Is not the territory
@K/OMoUsE, 31 December 1969
The title and the text relate to Magritte. The writer is teasing @Rever. It is pointed out that the handle @Rever is French “to dream”. A message endocded with Francis Bacon’s cipher reads:
STUDY THE PAST IF YOU WOULD DIVINE THE FUTURE
PROJECT CROSSROADS IS PERTINENT TO YOUR HISTORY
THE REWARD OF TRUTH AND ENLIGHTENMENT AWAITS
DIG DEEPER AND YOU WILL BE LED TO THE DOCUMENTS
Project Crossroads was the project William is the product of, as per Ghouli. This gets William on the way to discovering his nature by searching documents on Crossroads, which he has on his secret laptop in Ghouli.

the Resistance has landed
@K/OMoUsE, 1 January 1970
Echoing “The Eagle has landed“, Apollo 11’s first message when it safely touched the lunar surface in July 1969? This is a message to “The Boy”, encoded with a 3-letter shift:
weseeyouwilliamvandekampweknowwhoyouare
andifweknowthentheyknowwhichyoushouldknow
crossroadswasonceanatombombandnowitisyou
Operation Crossroads involved the testing of atom bombs in the Pacific Ocean in 1946, i.e. the development of a weapon (footage of these tests is in the teaser monologue of the CSM in My Struggle III). Project Crossroads, which produced William, also aimed at producing a weapon? Accompanying illustration has an alien face and an RNA nucleotide.

The rest of the non-Rever posts

Some relevant, some creepypasta and some whimsical posts.

THEM & THEY
@CameraBabushka, 25 October 2017
A trip into the conspiracies of The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat, as seen through the eyes of an elderly woman who discusses with Sarah Turner, one of William/Jackson’s girlfriends. Her mother and herself were experimented on by Dr E.B. “Bernie” Them and Dr. Thaddeus Q. They, whose ultimate conspiracy goal is to disseminate chemicals in food that aid the process of memory eradication and artificial memory implantation (first via Goop-A-B-C, and today via gluten-heavy foods). This woman was working as a secretary and translator for the government, and was working for the CIA in the 1970s, when the USA was trying to kill Fidel Castro with poisoned milkshakes. An amazing case of Mandela effect here: she mentions the movie “The Caligarian Candidate“, which is a misremembering of the conspiracy thriller involving mind manipulation “The Manchurian Candidate“, but it is also the title of one of Jose Chung’s previous books before he wrote From Outer Space! 1950s entertainer Dean Martin is also named…was this entry written by Darin Morgan?

Radio Surfer
@ThisMan, 30 October 2017
An odd associative account of sightings of This Man in dreams. The narrator remembers something from when he was five years old with his older brother. The narrator practices lucid dreaming and has many sightings of This Man, including some that correspond to the sightings in This and in Plus One (do the others correspond to upcoming episodes?). There are feelings that This Man travels from dream to dream through “The Signal” and that the narrator can find himself inside the dreams of others. There are mentions of a family watching television on a beach, which is an image in the teaser of My Struggle III. The narrator breaks the fourth wall when he describes what could be watching The X-Files and entering Scully’s dream: “This Man! He’s playing the neighbor in some old sitcom I’ve never seen before. Without hesitation, I run to the TV. I knock on the screen! I try to take his attention away from the woman he’s talking to! The sitcom plays on, ignoring me. I see him less and less and the woman more and more. Soon their scene together will be over. This is her show, she seems to dominate the scene. This is probably her own dream and I am intruding upon it.” This Man breaks the fourth wall himself when he reaches out to the narrator through the TV. Is this William’s account? Or the account of another person in a similar predicament as William, with which he feels connected (see “Dream Disease Apocalypse“). The accompanying illustration is from William/Jackson’s diary, with a portrait of This Man and scribbles like “Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious“, which is a Sigmund Freud quote.

The magic trick that was no trick
@RandyTheFake, 31 October 2017
A magician that would pretend to cut his assistant in two finds himself decapitated (by a katana sword like the ones in Plus One). He awakes in a secret facility, where his head and body are kept alive but separate; he learns to develop mental powers to control his body from a distance and is told that this is helping research for “the next step in human evolution”.

Here Be M_NST_RS
@CreepyBreezy, 16 November 2017
A Lovecraftian tale of two French anthropologists fatal encounter with a shape-shifting Ghouli in the Canadian wilderness, complete with disappearend Native American tribes, ancient runes, caves, skull shrines and murals.

[SPAMBOT] THESE MIND SUPPLEMENTS WORK!
@CaptainHarveyBrainBooster, 28 November 2017
Spam

How To Disappear Completely (Chapter 1 of 3)
@CreepyBreezy, 16 January 2018
Ghouli visits a family at dinner; nobody can see it, only the daughter momentarily senses it. Ghouli disappears in the mirror.

How To Disappear Completely (Chapter 2 of 3)
@CreepyBreezy, 21 January 2018
Continued. The daughter, Rikki Harper, has had her mobile phone destroyed and her dog killed by Ghouli; she keeps finding various small dead animals. She devises a plan to trap and kill Ghouli, with the help of a friend. Ghouli appears from a pool and is about to fall in the trap. There is no Chapter 3.

Summarizing what we learn

A tentative chronology of events in William’s life:

  • Age 6, 2007: the tarantula incident, which results in him being experimented on, developing mental powers and telekinesis; a traumatic experience; his memory is either erased or he suppresses the memory because of the trauma, possibly both
  • Age 7, 2008: developing a capability for remote viewing, first connection with “mother”/Scully
  • Closer to 2017/2018: starts seeing This Man in dreams, feels that he can connect with others via dreams
  • Has seizures with visions he cannot control, which result in him frequently visiting a hospital
  • More and more specific dreams of the world ending, of a man-made viral disaster and aliens arriving; he connects with Scully by unwillingly sending her his visions, and senses that she is his biological mother (possibly this unlocks his childhood memories that he had compartmentalized or had had erased)
  • Hospital doctors confirm there is something biologically peculiar about him (blood chimera: two genes expressed in a single body, hinting that William has more than two biological parents)
  • William is contacted by a resistance group that could be constituted by a generation of children of William’s age that has some of the same mental powers as him, pointing him to Project Crossroads and result in him learning about his nature
  • William creates Ghouli as a way to deal with his confusion, mixing in it his self-hate, his alien nature and his arachnophobia since his childhood trauma; he creates ghouli.net
  • William has a morbid attractiveness to death and the apocalypse; he realizes he is both a weapon and a cure to whatever inevitable future is coming.
  • Armed with that knowledge, after the events of the episode Ghouli, he takes off to travel the country in search of more information about himself, those who created him and those that send him messages or visions.

In essence, ghouli.net does what the series should be doing more of instead of focusing too narrowly on the old show formula: character development. William combines a story of a troubled teen with superpowers and a concentrated version of the seasons 1-6 mythology — the Black Oil/Spartan virus apocalypse-by-design along with Gibson/Cassandra/William, the perfect alien/human hybrid that would bring protection to the chosen few of the Syndicate/elites.

Hopefully the blog will be updated with @Rever’s thoughts, giving us insights in his story until My Struggle IV — until now it hasn’t been the case.

Thanks to Zerosum for many of the insights in this post!