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The X-Files - Ghouli - Review

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The X-Files “Ghouli” was written and directed by James Wong. This was the first episode in the alien mythology arc that’s really felt like it was at least somewhat tightly written. I liked that the episode seemed like it was simply going to be a monster of the week – and certainly the title would lead you to believe that too – and then suddenly we’re deep in the mytharc. Kudos have to go to Gillian Anderson (Scully) for that amazing scene over what she believes to be her dead son. Just wow.

The opening teaser is two girls – Brianna Stapleton (Sarah Jeffery) and Sarah Turner (Madeleine Arthur) on a derelict ferry at night. They both have flashlights and a knife and ask each other if they are “Ghouli” (Keith Arbuthnot). When they come face to face, they see each other as monsters – different for each of them. The two fight – thinking they are fighting a monster – and leave each other a bloody mess… but not dead.

Meanwhile, Scully is experiencing what she tells us is the third state of consciousness – Hypnagogia (it’s a real thing – google it!). She has a dream of waking in a strange bed and then following a shadowy figure. In her dream, she finds a snowglobe with the same ship in it that the girls were on – the Chimera… The medical definition of a Chimera is a person who is composed of two genetically distinct types of cells.

Mulder (David Duchovny) discusses the dream with her in their office and describes the condition as sleep paralysis. He has a picture of the Chimera on his desk and tells Scully that it’s an open X-File. When Scully recognizes the boat, the two are off to Virginia to investigate. In the car, Mulder muses that dreams are today’s answers to tomorrow’s questions. He also mentions Edgar Casey, who was a sleeping prophet. There are messages embedded within the hypnagogic state, and Mulder muses that this could be the evolution of the visions that Scully has been having during her seizures. I loved the way this played out quite subtly.

On the scene, Detective Costa (Louis Ferreira) fills them in on the incident. The girls went to different schools and didn’t know each other. An anonymous call, with a male voice, was made to 911. The EMT said both girls asked if they’d found Ghouli. Scully is sure that the violence indicated the girls did know each other, while Mulder chalks it up to fear. Scully sees a man – who turns out to be Peter Wong (Francois Chau) – standing on the docks watching them.

Mulder and Scully discover a site all about Ghouli. It’s mostly fan fiction – love the show’s relationship with fandom! And the site’s only been up for a few months. It’s really in the vein of the entire Slenderman phenomenon. Duchovny is great in this scene as he waxes poetic about classic monsters!

At the hospital, Scully and Mulder each question one of the girls. It turns out they both had the same boyfriend – Jackson Van De Kamp (Miles Robbins) – and they both had the same dream as Scully – right down to the snowglobe leading them to the Chimera. The clues are all there and things are starting to fall into place.

Mulder and Scully go to question Jackson, but as they pull up to the house, they hear gunshots. It’s the house in Scully’s vision. They find two dead bodies on the main floor and then Jackson’s apparently dead body upstairs. Costa declares in a murder-suicide, with Jackson killing himself when he heard Mulder and Scully arrive and knew they’d find his parents.

Mulder finds Scully going through photos in Jackson’s desk. It’s clear to her that Jackson wanted her there. Mulder is less distracted and points out that there is an open, cold soda on the desk. Who opens a soda just before they’re about to kill themselves? Mulder also picks up a book – The Pick Up Artist by Peter Wong – Scully doesn’t seem to recognize the author picture on the back – but we do! Is this Jackson’s blueprint for having multiple girlfriends? Scully also finds prescribed medications for schizophrenia, which Jackson hasn’t been taking. There’s that doubling again as suggested by chimera.

Scully is now convinced that Jackson is actually William – and alien DNA would account for a lot. And of course, he’d use an X-File to contact his parents! They also notice a Malcolm X poster on his ceiling. After Mulder has left the room, Scully notices one of the snowglobes on the shelf is snowing. There’s a windmill in it and the caption is “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” Nice Wizard of Oz nod, that clearly indicates that we are now over the rainbow into a new reality…

Mulder has already noticed two guys following them. Never one to be a shrinking violet, Mulder confronts Paulson (Ben Cotton) and Green (Zak Santiago). He knows they’re with the DoD. They try to stonewall him, but they are clearly not the brightest bulbs in the package! Mulder warns them not to push their luck. I really liked how protective Mulder was of Scully throughout the episode.

In the morgue, Scully takes a sample of her own DNA and a sample of Jackson’s hair to compare. Gillian Anderson is simply magnificent in this scene as she fully commits to Scully’s grief. I can only imagine the emotional toll on Anderson to deliver this kind of performance. She apologizes for not being able to get to know him or for him to get the chance to know her and his father. She tells him that he was loved and giving him up was the hardest thing she’d ever done, but she did it to keep him safe. She tells him that it’s harder to see the outcome and how she failed him than missing his life. She also tells him that recently, she’d started to think they’d be together again… and so they were!

Mulder is watching from the door and holds her and tells her that she has nothing to apologize for. And magic science time, they’re supposed to have the DNA results in 2 hours??? As it turns out, Jackson isn’t dead, and he unzips himself from the body bag and takes off…

      Scully has another dream at the hospital. I love how this shot makes it seem as if she if slipping into a pool of water - and also doubles her like the chimera. She sees William and follows him – back to the windmill snow globe. At this point, Scully isn’t sure if the message is coming from William or she is sending it, and then the Coroner (Cameron Forbes) is waking her wanting to know where the body is…

Mulder turns up and tells her it’s not good news, but it seems to be William. I’ll admit this seemed a bit confusing to me. Isn’t it good news if it’s William? Mulder says that a hope isn’t a fact – and how un-Mulder-like was that? Scully, however, is more determined than ever that William wants them to find him.

On her way out of the hospital, it seems that Scully bumps into Wong again - literally. She drops the snow globe and it breaks. He apologizes and then asks her if she likes windmills. And of course she does – she’s been over the rainbow, tilting at windmills with Mulder for years! She asks him who he is, and he cryptically tells her, “Don’t give up on the bigger picture.”

Scully and Mulder go back to Jackson’s house to find more clues. Scully leafs through Jackson’s journal and pockets an appointment care with his psychiatrist. His computer is clean – too clean for Mulder – what teenage boy has no porn?! Mulder is sure that there must be another computer – and it’s Scully who finds in under the mattress – because girls have secrets too! They discover all kinds of things from the darknet on the computer as well as that Jackson had broken into the DoD server – and he’s clearly behind the Ghouli site.

At this points the DoD arrive, and Paulsen and Green take great delight in kicking Scully and Mulder out. Mulder gets what he needs from the computer – and then destroys it by pouring that convenient can of soda on it… Did William plan that too?

There’s some really fun stuff in a coffee shop where Mulder is known as “Bob” because he’s tired of having to explain Fox! LOL! While at the shop, waiting for his coffee, Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) calls and wants Mulder and Scully back in the office.

Mulder insists that Skinner needs to come to Virginia – and in the background of Skinner’s office, we see the Smoking Man (William B Davis). I loved Mulder pretending the call was breaking up! Mulder is sure that it’s a DoD conspiracy. The Smoking Man tells Skinner that Mulder is close and that he’ll be very interested in Project Crossroads.

In the end, Skinner does come to Virginia and meets Mulder on the Chimera. He tells Mulder that he’s there to warn them to drop the case. He tells him about the eugenics program – Project Crossroads that used hybrid DNA. It was shut down 15 years ago – but that is still the right timeframe for William – and Jackson was one of the subjects. I loved the confluence of Crossroads/hybrid (crossed) DNA/X-Files…

Meanwhile, Scully visits Dr Scholz (Sunita Prasad). She tells Scully that Jackson had extreme electrical activity in his brain and intense visions. Scully perfectly describes Jackson’s vision of an apocalyptic virus ravaging the country, finishing with the spacecraft hovering over her on the bridge. Scholz doesn’t know what to make of it.

Mulder and Scully discuss whether this is an alternate reality or a false reality. Always funny to see Mulder take the more mundane route! He tells Scully that she was an unwitting participant in Project Crossroads. It is clear that William created this alternate reality – and it’s also clear that the DoD are the ones who killed the Van De Kamps.

Jackson goes to Brianna in the hospital and tells her that he’s sorry and that Ghouli was all made up and that he thought it would be a fun prank. He also confesses to her that he’s trying to learn to control his powers. He also tells her that his powers started with seizures during which he’d see terrifying things and experience terrible pain. He was able to share or project his pain onto a woman, who he thinks might be his birth mother!! It’s totally Scully! Will Scully develop the power to project or is that simply a function of his alien DNA? He warns her that everyone near him is in danger.

Sarah calls the police because she’s jealous when she sees him kissing Brianna and wanted to hurt him. Scully and Mulder arrive and ask Costa if they can go in first, but the DoD are already in there. When they trap him, Jackson projects Paulson as a monster and Green kills him. Jackson then manipulates Green into killing another operative (Eddie Flake) by making him look like Scully after Green told her to stay out of his way. Scully and Mulder try to get William to come out to them, but he’s too scared and runs off disguised as a blond nurse.

As Mulder and Scully head home, Scully sees the windmill and asks to stop. Once again, she runs into Wong and she finally recognizes him from the book. He tells her that he doubts they’ll ever see each other again as he’s driving across the country and wants to see the world. He tells her that everything is about to change. She asks if he’s a doctor, and he tells her he never finished high school (which is a huge hint!). He tells her, “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” It’s Mulder that recognizes it as a Malcolm X quote.

The two rush back into the gas station to look at the surveillance footage. Sure enough, it’s actually William. His last words to Scully are I wish I could know you better – proving that he heard her loud and clear in the morgue.

I really liked this episode. I loved all the little clues, and how William created an X-File to reach out to his parents. Some of the bigger questions we’re still left with are whether Skinner can really be trusted and exactly how is everything going to change? Does this mean there’s no way for Scully and Mulder to stop the virus? Or the Smoking Man? How did you like the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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