The X-Files – Ghouli
By: Kelly Kearney
Written and directed by James Wong, this episode combines the show’s mythology with its popular monster of the week format to deliver one of the most emotionally charged episodes to date.
Sleep, Wakefulness and Hypnagogia
We begin at night, on an old rusted out ship named Chimera (Easter Egg). Two teen girls armed with knives search the dilapidated vessel for a monster they call Ghouli. Total strangers, the teens are not friends and neither know of the others presence on the ship until they hear footsteps approaching. The brunette girl announces herself and asks, “Are you Ghouli?” The blonde girls replies that she isn’t, but that’s just what Ghouli would say. Both teens assume this is a trick that somehow convinces them both the other is this enormous, flesh eating, mucus faced monster. Out of sheer terror, both girls attack the other with their knives, slashing at the monster and having no idea they’re attacking each other. Laying in pools of blood with no monster in sight, the two girls are alive but shrieking in horror at a shared and deadly delusion that led them to a boat that almost ended in murder.
Cut to Scully (Gillian Anderson) laying in an unfamiliar bed and thinking about the three states of consciousness – sleep, wakefulness and Hypnagogic. She defines Hypnagogic as “dreamlike visions and strange sensory perceptions.” Scully is experiencing the latter when she opens her eyes to find herself paralyzed with a dark figure leering over her. The redhead manages to break the spell, pulling herself from the bed and grabbing her gun from the nightstand to follow the shadowy being. Like a maze, she chases the figure through a strange house, running from room to room only to wind back up where she started. It’s a dizzying dream that ends with Scully recanting her nightmare to Mulder (David Duchovny) in their office. Always able to put the pieces of the paranormal together, he questions why Scully would follow the figure in her dream when they are usually meant to be avoided. Scully thinks the figure was leading her to something and that’s when she notices the photo of Chimera. Sitting on Mulder’s desk, tucked between folders of new cases, is a photo of the old ship. With the bizarre teen stabbing, Mulder says the boat is a new X-file and Scully wonders if this case has anything to do with her dreams about a snow globe in a house she’s never been to.
Is that Ghouli with an H?
Heading to Virginia to investigate the ship, Mulder and Scully prattle on about Edgar Cayce, the sleep prophet who received messages from beyond while he was in a Hypnagogic state. Like Cayce, Mulder thinks Scully’s seizures and sleep disturbances are linked to some outside force trying to send her a message. Before the two can ponder what that message might be, Mulder notices they’re being followed.
The two agents make it to the Chimera and meet Detective Costa (Louis Ferreira) who recounts the evidence from the almost deadly encounter. Both girls, Brianna (Sarah Jeffery) and Sarah (Madeleine Arthur), survived their attacks thanks to an anonymous male who called 9-1-1. Looking at the evidence, Scully and Mulder have differing views of what went down on the ship. She assumes this was a vendetta between two girls while he’s leaning towards Ghouli, something one of the girls uttered when the EMT’s arrived. While the agents debate the evidence, Scully notices a man watching them from the ship’s dock and in an instant the onlooker disappears.
Back at the FBI, Mulder links Ghouli to an online website like the infamous Slender man. The site, run by @Rever, has only been up for a few months and it’s filled with horror fantasies and fan fictions. Mulder goes off on a nerdy tirade about millennial horror versus old school Frankenstein, but gets interrupted by a call from Costa with news that both victims are awake.
At the hospital, agents meet with the girls and their stories seem to match. Both Brianna and Sarah claim they never met each other and were led to the ship in their dreams. Both suffered the sleep paralysis and woke in an unfamiliar house and both followed a dark figure through a never-ending maze that led them to a snow globe of the ship. Neither girl saw the other, but both have precise descriptions of Ghouli and swear it attacked them. Of course, all of these rings true with Scully who experienced this same phenomenon only her search ended with a windmill snow globe, but the message seems to be the same. The girls admit this isn’t the first time they experienced these vision as it happened before with their boyfriend, a boy that’s secretly dating them both. When Scully asks his name, her entire world comes crashing to a halt when they say, “Jackson Van De Kamp.” It’s the same last name of the family that adopted Mulder and Scully’s son. Assuming this is all some coincidence, Scully can’t shake the feeling that this is all leading her somewhere and Mulder agrees someone is sending her a message.
Jackson Van de Kamp
After finding out where the boy lives, Mulder and Scully decide to talk to Jackson only to hear gun shots as they approach the front door. Inside, the agents find Mr. and Mrs. Van De Kamp shot dead on the kitchen floor. When a third gunshot is heard, Scully takes off upstairs and finds Jackson (Miles Robbins) lying on the floor with a bullet hole in his head. The scene looks like a murder suicide and Jackson is assumed to be the shooter, regardless of the fact it appears that someone fled the scene through the back door. Outside Mulder notices some Men in Black types from the Department of Defense watching the house and immediately he starts to question their presence and who actually killed the Van De Kamps. If Jackson is their son, there is no telling the amount of people that want him dead and Mulder isn’t buying the DOD’s excuses.
Watching Jackson loaded into a body bag, Mulder can barely contain his emotions like his entire life has led to this one tragic end that he never saw coming. He comes upon Scully going through Jackson’s desk as she finds psychiatric drugs alongside photos of the boy’s life. Mulder notices a poster on his ceiling of Malcolm X and Scully mentions that Malcolm shunned his slave name for a name he chose for himself. Could this be another clue that Jackson knew he was William and never felt like he fit in with his life? On Jackson’s book shelf Mulder notices The Pick-Up Artist penned by Peter Wong (Francois Chau) who looks exactly like the man Scully saw lurking around the docks. Assuming identities seems to be an interest of the teen’s and Scully is sure there’s more to this. Could a boy who makes people see something other than the truth be the same boy CSM (William B. Davis) and his alien hybrid Crossroads Project created? Scully has to know and a DNA test is her best bet.
A Mother’s Goodbye
After taking both DNA samples, Scully’s standing over Jackson’s body and her emotions are beginning to overtake her. Gillian Anderson delivers some of her best Scully work to date as she explains why William was given up. Promising that she never forgot about him, Scully’s pain is tangible, brutal and difficult to watch as if the viewers themselves are intruding on a personal moment. Knowing her search for William might’ve ended in a suicide rips Scully in two as she chokes out a less than adequate goodbye. Crying, she begs William to forgive her for robbing him of knowing both his parents while questioning her own choices that may have led them both to this gut wrenching moment. Mulder listens while Scully grieves for a life she never knew, knowing there’s nothing he can do to comfort the mother of his child. It’s a scene that crushes the heart and hope of fans as much as it does a mother who only wanted to protect her son and ultimately failed. Mulder holds Scully and then leads her out of the morgue and towards the lab for answers. The minute the coast is clear, Jackson unzips his body bag and sits up on the coroner’s gurney. He’s not dead but he is taking his mother on a wild dreamy goose chase because Scully falls into another bout of sleep paralysis that leads her to the empty body bag and the windmill snow globe. Once awake, she and Mulder discover that not only is Jackson’s body missing but it might’ve escaped out a bathroom window.
On another floor, Jackson is alive and saying goodbye to his girlfriends. He knows the DOD wants to kill him and he apologizes to the girls for the Ghouli incident, which he says was a joke that went too far. He explains that he has these powers to make people see what they want to see and even shares these visons with his birth mother! Outside the hospital window, police lights are flashing and Jackson knows the killers are on to him thanks to a jealous Sarah who called the police. He’s right that they want him dead and Mulder figured it out when the blood splatter didn’t match the murder/suicide theory. Running through the hospital Jackson manages to evade the armed the DOD agents by using his powers to confuse them. First with Ghouli and then as Scully, the men wind up shooting each other in an effort to stop the implanted visions. Stumbling upon the two bodies, Mulder and Scully know Jackson is somewhere close by and plead with him to come out of hiding. Jackson though manages to escape under the cover of what looks like a nurse. Knowing the boy could be hiding behind any number of faces in the crowd that’s gathered outside the hospital, Mulder and Scully hold each other and hope this isn’t the last they see of William.
Mother, Son and Mulder Make Three
The following day, the two head back to D.C., but not before Scully asks Mulder to stop for gas next to a very familiar windmill. It’s there that Scully is approached by the man she saw at the docks and also caught a glimpse of at the hospital as well as her son’s bookshelf. She jokes about him following her and he admits he wishes he got to know her better because she seems like a nice woman. He offers her some advice with a quote from Malcolm X and an eerie warning about an ever-changing world. He then drives off leaving Scully with a feeling of familiarity. When she tells Mulder about the chance meeting, he panics because William is a Malcolm X fan! He runs inside the gas station demanding to view the surveillance footage above the pumps and, luckily, they captured the moment perfectly. Standing with his hand on Scully’s shoulder, the videotape shows William talking to his mother – not who Scully’s mind saw. The look on both their faces says it all. They were so close and now so far from the one thing that’s made this entire two-and-a-half-decade search for the truth meaningful – their son. William might’ve mentioned a road trip across the country before the world falls apart, but at least his parents know he’s out there. Just like their search for the truth, Mulder and Scully are not about to give up until they’re reunited with their son once and for all.