I pop this DVD in the player, ‘cause I’m old school like that, and immediately I start having flashbacks to “The Calusari” (2×21). I know my memory is fuzzy, but wasn’t “Invocation” yet another story about a child ghost haunting his brother that started with a kid with a bad attitude at a carnival?
Not quite, Salome’s memory. Not quite.
The X-Files must be feeling old school just like me because even if this isn’t a rehash of “The Calusari”, it is a nod to the early seasons of the show. Not only are we back to the classic Creepy Kid trope, but even the cinematography looks grayish and faded like it used to. The thing is, we don’t have Mulder and Scully anymore.
Mulder isn’t mentioned in this episode and he wasn’t mentioned in the preceding “Roadrunners” (8×5) either. This conspicuous silence means 1013 wants us to focus on the partnership in front of us. It means that they don’t plan on Scully doing anything to further the search for her constant and touchstone any time soon. I imagine it also means that they know they only have David Duchovny for eleven episodes and they don’t want to tease us so much that we won’t wait until he shows up again for the last half of the season. But look at my cynicism showing.
So far, the past several episodes have focused on how Scully is coping with the unwelcome intrusion of Doggett into her life. “Invocation” takes a look at things more from Doggett’s perspective, and it gives him the beginnings of a backstory. Doggett was just starting to seem admirable after coming to Scully’s rescue not once but twice, and after so calmly and kindly ignoring her repeated rejections of him. For some reason that isn’t fully explained in this episode, he takes a step backward and shows us an insensitive and pushy side of his character. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what that’s all about. All we know for now is that he’s lost someone close to him, likely that sweet looking little boy whose picture he keeps pulling out of his wallet.
Up until this point, Doggett has remained fairly open minded for a man who’s never been exposed to the types of phenomenon hidden in the X-Files case files. In “Patience” (8×4) he initially doubts Scully’s theory but comes around. And in “Roadrunners” he made the connection between the current case and previous cases himself. Heck, he and the holy slug met face to face. Now, he’s immovably stubborn in the face of undeniable evidence with frightening implications.
Scully, still in “I am Fox Mulder” mode, is convinced that Billy Underwood’s return is supernatural even before the full medical report comes in. Usually, she would be the one citing possible medical precedents and protesting impossibilities. But the writers seem to think X-Files cases can’t be solved unless there’s a clear Believer-Skeptic dynamic. The problem with the Believer-Skeptic dynamic is that it’s synonymous with the Mulder-Scully dynamic. And the problem with the Mulder-Scully dynamic is that it’s gone. Ergo, forcing a Believer-Skeptic dynamic on Scully and Doggett only highlights the fact that it’s not the Mulder-Scully dynamic and can never be.
Scully may not be the knee-jerk skeptic that she was, but she’s still a scientist. She’ll first go to the most logical answer and the most common solution, because that’s what doctors do. And she’ll want proof. Doggett is a no nonsense guy who’s at the same time pretty intuitive. He may not be a believer, but so far he hasn’t denied something weird when he’s seen it. There could have been a way for them to solve cases with two perspectives that are both practical in different ways. I think a completely new dynamic for the two of them was in order. But what do I know.
Anywho, like I said, Doggett gets stubborn here. In his defense, Scully’s had nearly eight years to come to grips with experiencing the unknowable, to learn to admit that some things will never be explained. Doggett’s got to wrap his head around it fast so that the show can move forward.
Now Scully knows how Mulder feels.
My only complaint, and it may be an unfair one, is that there’s no break in the unrelenting seriousness of this episode. Perhaps the subject matter won’t permit it. Usually, Mulder and Scully’s banter guarantees a certain amount of enjoyment in even the darkest of cases. Ah hah. There’s another reason why the Believer-Skeptic dynamic isn’t as effective between Scully and Doggett. They don’t have bouncy banter to buoy their discussions.
It’s a point of focus that Doggett isn’t interested in why Billy’s back, what happened to him or how he ended up in his current condition. Doggett’s looking for justice for Billy, and probably vicariously for someone else. It’s nice to know that this pretty unflappable guy has buttons that can be pushed, buttons that center around the disappearance of a child. “Invocation” could have worked for Mulder and Scully, but it was uniquely designed for Doggett to baptize him into the realm of the unexplained and to give us some insight into his perspective.
So far I’ve had fair to fairly good responses to writer David Amann’s work. But I think that this was his best writing on The X-Files. Admittedly, I’m only just fully understanding the plot, that the Billy that returned is not the Billy that left, but a “force” that uses the memory of Billy Underwood to ensure justice for him and to present his brother from falling to the same fate. This explains why “Billy” is so menacing. If the real Billy came back to protect the brother he loved, would he stare him down like that?
A similar “force” surrounds Doggett. And maybe that same “force” will ensure justice for him as well.
If I were those parents, I’d be much more frightened than relieved.
Sooo, when she started singing “All the Pretty Little Horses”, who else wanted Scully to launch into a chorus of “Joy to the World”?
As a skeptic, Scully was able to back her skepticism up with science. Doggett doesn’t seem to have an argument other than, “No.”
It stands to wonder if Josh would have been taken at all if Billy hadn’t show back up.
Doggett: I don’t believe it.
Scully: Okay, the clothes, the age and condition of the bones, the location of the grave. There is no doubt that that is Billy Underwood’s skeleton that is in that grave.
Doggett: We spent time with this boy. Doctors took Billy’s blood. You examined him yourself. Now, I can’t accept it. I can’t believe we’re asking them to.
Scully: I know, but the forensic evidence is going to come out, and what then? What if I’m right?
Doggett: Well, what then, Agent Scully? What we do? We move on, let it go, case closed?
Scully: Look, I know where you are with this. I have been there. I know what you’re feeling, that you’ve failed and that you have to explain this somehow. And maybe you can.
Doggett: Not if that’s Billy’s body, I can’t.
Scully: But maybe that’s explanation enough, that that’s not Billy’s brother lying in that grave too. That that man who did this is never going to be able to do it again. Isn’t that what you wanted, Agent Doggett?
Doggett: Agent Scully, don’t ask me to believe that this is some kind of justice from beyond the grave.
Scully: All I’m saying is that maybe you succeeded… whether you’re willing to see that or not.