Robert Falconer/FOX
January 31, 2018 at 09:00 PM EST

The X-Files

TV Show
Drama, Mystery, Sci-fi
Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny
Chris Carter
Current Status
In Season
We gave it an A-

Jackson may not get a traditional reunion with his birth parents in “Ghouli,” but one of the most satisfying aspects of the episode is the way he uses his powers to reach out to Scully. He sends her another message in a dream, via another snow globe: the one with a windmill that she took from his room. Scully drops that snow globe on her way out of the hospital when she bumps into a man (François Chau) whose face we saw on the back of a book in Jackson’s room: The Pick Up Artist: Memoirs of a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing. This is Jackson, a sheep in wolf’s clothing, bumping into his birth mother on purpose just to talk to her. “You like windmills?” he asks. He’ll take anything. Chau plays the scene with eager innocence, and Scully responds in kind, even though after the day she’s had, breaking that snow globe could have easily been the last straw. It’s as if she senses their connection.

It isn’t hard to see the family resemblance, and not just to Scully. Jackson blogs about monsters, hacks the DOD, enjoys meaningfully touching his forehead to someone else’s, and fakes his death to get out of trouble. There’s no way this kid is not Mulder’s son. In “Founder’s Mutation,” Wong wrote Mulder imagining an alternate reality in which he raised William, launching model rockets in the yard. More than one model spaceship is on display in Jackson’s room. (This episode benefits from swapping the simple Wyoming farmhouse of season 9 for a sleek suburban home in Virginia, giving Jackson a more generic backdrop for his teenage exploits. Rural towns on The X-Files are crawling with creatures; in suburbia, Jackson has to make them up.) Jackson is neither a stereotypical perfect kid nor a caricature of rebellion, and he’s given more latitude than most TV teens to be both genuinely curious and recklessly angry. His journals are filled with equations and musings on dream theory. He’s cheating on two girls but cares enough about them both to risk his life to say goodbye.

But Sarah spots Jackson kissing Brianna and snaps a picture, alerting the cops to his location. The DOD agents get to the hospital first, and Jackson, who’s inherited his biological parents’ instincts in a fight, outsmarts the DOD, provoking one agent to shoot his partner by making him see Ghouli, then making another appear as Scully in a shootout. (He really memorized his birth mother’s face.) She falls, bloody, before we learn it isn’t her: another fake-out that feels like resurrection. In the aftermath, Scully and Mulder call out for their son, who’s hiding a few feet away. Scully has never sounded more like a mom: “Jackson, we just want to talk to you. Make sure you’re okay.” They’re so close to meeting face to face — they’re all three in the same shot — but the status quo snaps back into place and a skittish Jackson bolts, making Mulder and Scully see him as a nurse.

Everyone keeps missing what’s right in front of them, and it might be commentary on where this story is headed. Scully, who was so sure in the season premiere that her visions were destined to come true, is starting to wonder if she didn’t glimpse the future after all. In his journals, Jackson writes about how the “real significance” of a dream is concealed from the dreamer. But if a dream isn’t a prophecy when we have it, that doesn’t mean it can’t be made to come true, especially if it’s shared. On the road out of town, Scully spots a gas station with a windmill like the one in Jackson’s snow globe and suggests they stop. “Are you following me?” Jackson asks, still wearing the author’s face. He’s been waiting for her, hoping she’d be drawn to this windmill like she was to the one in his room. He and Scully have created their own kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, a positive twist on Ahab: She picked up the snow globe and in doing so made it mean something.

Jackson tells Scully that he’s off to travel cross-country, see the world: “Things are about to change.” It’s Jackson’s story that becomes The X-Files’ new ghost in the end; he’s inherited all of the unexplored pain that used to be Scully and Mulder’s territory. Old enough at 17 to be emancipated but still too young to vote, Jackson is on his own and on the run after losing his parents, and I hope this season spares some time down the line to let him process that trauma. For now, this monster-of-the-week/mythology hybrid splits the difference, leaving plenty unfinished but allowing for some temporary relief. “You seem like a nice person,” Jackson tells his birth mom before echoing what she wished for him in the morgue. “I wish I could know you better.”

His parting line is a quote from Malcolm X, whose words also hang above Jackson’s bed. (“The future belongs to those who prepare for it today”…like by preventing a world-ending alien outbreak, perhaps? The poster reminded me of the subtitle of The X-Files’ first movie, which might as well sum up Scully’s goal this year: Fight the Future.) “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything,” Jackson declares. I love the sort of fake-deep, John Mellencamp profundity of that line, delivered with all the seriousness of a teen who’s just absorbed it. He might also be trying to hint at his identity — as soon as Scully tells Mulder what the old guy said, Mulder recognizes the line, and the two of them realize too late that they missed what was right in front of them again. They put their badges to good use, at least, and commandeer the security footage, clasping hands as they watch Scully talk to their son: It’s not closure for good, but it’s enough for now.

Open files:

  • As Scully notes, Malcolm X changed his name, asserting his own identity. There’s a story on about a boy named Billy with mental powers; did he know somehow that he used to be a William?
  • Jackson’s blog username is @rever: French for “to dream,” Portuguese for “to see again.”
  • Scully just…asks a guy at a gas station if he used to run a top-secret eugenics program.
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