Monster from the Past: The X-Files S11x6 “Kitten” Review

February 9, 2018 at 6:51 PM | Posted in TV | Leave a comment
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SPOILER WARNING: This review contains major spoilers of The X-Files season 11. Read at your own risk!

 

This has to be the weakest episode of The X-Files season 11 apart from “My Struggle III.” I was actually bored while watching “Kitten.” The episode delves into the past of FBI assistant director Walter Skinner, specifically his time in the Vietnam War as a teen and how that life-changing event affected him years later.

While “Kitten” is a Skinner-centric episode, it still manages to put Mulder and Scully right in the heart of the story. Also, FBI deputy director Alvin Kersh is back and still has misgivings about Mulder and Scully being back at the bureau. The last time we saw Kersh, he helped the duo escape in season 9.

In the episode, Mulder and Scully are summoned by Kersh who tells them to find Skinner. Apparently, Skinner has gone AWOL. Mulder and Scully’s investigation lead them to a small town in Kentucky called Mud Lick. That’s where they found Skinner who is trying to make things right with his old platoon-mate named John “Kitten” James.

There’s no actual monster or supernatural being in this stand-alone episode. The monster that’s been constantly referred to here is just hallucination. Skinner’s time in the Vietnam War exposed him and his friend John to a weaponized gas from a secret military project called MK Naomi. The gas makes a person hallucinate and see “monsters.” However, the gas didn’t seem to affect a young Skinner that time as his exposure was minimal. It’s his friend John who has had a lot of exposure to the gas. A military cover-up led John to be institutionalized years later and Skinner has been racked with guilt since then that he couldn’t help his friend.

Photo credit: xfilesarchive.com

However, instead of finding John in Kentucky, Skinner meets his friend’s son Davey who lives in a nearby forest. Davey turns out to be the “monster” who wants to avenge his father’s sad fate. He dons a cattle skull mask and kills Vietnam veterans around town by luring them into traps.

Davey’s claims of the government using crops to infect the population with the gas is a trope that’s already been done before in the show. It’s not surprising anymore. Remember the infected bees from previous seasons? And honestly, the pacing of the episode is dragging. Even Skinner’s monologue at the end feels like it doesn’t hold much weight.

“Kitten” is underwhelming and anti-climactic. There is no thrill, no sense of danger. The atmosphere of the episode lacks dread or fear. Davey doesn’t even look and sound threatening. The episode just kind of goes by that it feels like a filler more than anything else.

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Open Holes:

  1. If Davey wanted to avenge his father’s misfortune, then why did he hang him to the tree? Was he dead before Davey hang him to the tree?
  2. If Kersh wasn’t happy with Mulder and Scully being back at the bureau, then why didn’t he protest in the first place? Why didn’t he try to prevent it? This was my problem with the season 9 finale when Kersh helped them escape from the corrupted bureau. It just didn’t make sense. Correct me if I’m wrong but as far as I can remember, he was hell-bent on destroying Mulder and Scully in season 9. But towards the series finale, he suddenly helped them escape. Then now, he’s back to hating them. I don’t get it.
  3. So Skinner was already divorced? He used to be married in earlier seasons.
  4. Skinner got out of the hole that quick despite his wound and managed to get ahead of Mulder and Scully to attack Davey? Not buying it.
  5. The mail containing a severed ear just happened to be lying around in Skinner’s home for any intruder to find?

Cloak and Dagger: The X-Files S11x5 “Ghouli” Review

February 5, 2018 at 10:16 PM | Posted in TV | Leave a comment
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SPOILER WARNING: This review contains major spoilers of The X-Files season 11. Read at your own risk!

 

The fifth episode of The X-Files season 11 titled “Ghouli” is a mix of Monster of the Week and myth arc story, with Mulder and Scully’s long-lost son William at the core. It’s worth noting that after the show ended in season 9, it has never fully addressed the story of William even when the second X-Files movie came out in 2008. Not until the series came back in 2016. Even then, we have seen only glimpses of Scully’s guilt of losing William and flashback scenes of what might have been if Mulder and Scully didn’t give up baby William for adoption.

Thankfully, “Ghouli” took that subject head on in this episode. It started out as a simple case that Mulder and Scully were called upon to investigate. Two teenage girls attacked each other at an abandoned ferry in Virginia. What’s weird about this case was that each teenage girl claimed to have seen a monster in the ferry called Ghouli – an urban legend they’ve read online. But somehow, they ended up attacking each other with a knife, each believing that the other was Ghouli.

Meanwhile, Scully started experiencing sleep paralysis where she dreamt that she’s sleeping on a bed at a stranger’s house but unable to move. A dark figure hovered behind her and led her through the house. This might seem unrelated to the case that Mulder and Scully were handling but Scully found out later that the two girls who attacked each other dreamt the same thing as her. Mulder and Scully also found out that the girls were unknowingly dating the same boy. The teenage boy’s name was Jackson Van De Kamp. When Mulder and Scully went to the boy’s house to investigate, Scully realized that it was the same house in her dream.

Unfortunately, things took a sudden turn as the boy’s parents were shot to death just before Mulder and Scully went inside the house. The duo heard another shot upstairs upon entering and that’s when Scully saw Jackson’s dead body on the floor covered in blood. While police were called in after the incident, Scully suspected that Jackson might be her long-lost son William. Call it a mother’s instinct if you will. Also, in season 9, Scully knew that the family who adopted her son William was named Van De Kamp.

Photo credit: io9.gizmodo.com

Gillian Anderson delivered one of her best performances yet as Scully in this episode during that heartbreaking scene in the hospital morgue. Jackson’s dead body was laid on a table in a body bag in the morgue while Scully took a sample of her DNA as well as his. Alone with Jackson’s body, Scully poured out her heart and soul to him, not even sure if he’s actually William. But she let him know that she gave him up for adoption to protect him, to keep him safe. She also let him know that she’s never forgotten him. Mulder happened to have heard half of what Scully said when he came inside the morgue and the two shared a touching moment and held each other for comfort.

William had always been a special child as he possessed supernatural abilities as shown in season 9. So it came as no shock when Jackson/William suddenly got out from the body bag after Mulder and Scully left the morgue. It turned out that Jackson/William had an ability to “cloak” himself and control people’s visions. Jackson wasn’t shot to death. He only made Scully, Mulder and the others see (and hear) what he wanted them to see. He’s projecting images to people and making them believe that what they’re seeing was real.

Photo credit: cinemablend.com

Later in the episode, we learned from Skinner that there was a secret government project headed by the Cigarette Smoking Man years ago called Project Crossroads. Apparently, Scully unwittingly became part of that project when CSM injected her with alien DNA in season 7 which got her pregnant with William. This directly connects to the running myth arc in the series. It was also confirmed during Mulder’s exchange with Skinner that Jackson was indeed William as proven by the DNA test that Scully took earlier.

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We also learned later that the monster Ghouli was all made up by William. He admitted this when he visited his girlfriends who were recovering at the hospital. He created a website about the monster he made up and projected the image of Ghouli to his girlfriends to scare them as part of a prank. But he didn’t intend for them to attack each other.

I was disappointed that X-Files writer James Wong wrote William this way. Given that William has had seizures and visions of the future just like Scully – visions that’s been haunting him as what he said in one of his entries on the Ghouli website – one would expect him to be a troubled kid. But I didn’t expect him to be a player, a kid who’s dating two girls at the same time. I imagine Mulder and Scully would be disappointed as well. What’s more, he played a cruel prank on his two girlfriends that almost got them killed. If William was raised by Mulder and Scully, I doubt that he would behave that way.

The episode ended with Mulder and Scully dropping off at a gas station with a windmill that looked very much like the one in the snow globe that Scully took from William’s room. While refilling their car’s gas, Scully encountered the same man again from the hospital – the one who accidentally bumped into her while she was heading out. There was a sense of warmth and friendliness between their exchanges, and when the strange man drove off, Scully thought that there was something familiar about him. That’s when Scully and Mulder realized that something was up.

Photo credit: cinemablend.com

When they reviewed the tape from a CCTV camera at the gas station, they saw on the monitor that Scully was talking to William the whole time instead of the strange man. William “cloaked” himself the first time he saw Scully at the ferry and once again at the hospital. He did it the third time at the gas station.

Could it be that William was seeking Scully all this time and led her and Mulder to Virginia through that Ghouli prank? Now that William is on the run, will Mulder and Scully see him again? Will he be willing to help prevent the pandemic in the future? Will he eventually accept Mulder and Scully as his birth parents?

In a way, “Ghouli” delivered a satisfying story that finally addressed the William story arc – a story that has been problematic since season 9.

As much as I’m looking forward to episode 10 of the season where fans can see William again as previously announced, I’m worried that series creator Chris Carter might mess up the story again. I can only hope that the season finale will be much better than expected and would fix the mess from that part of the myth arc.

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