X-Files review – “Invocation”

Here’s the next installment in the X-Files weekly columns, this time talking about Invocation, last night’s episode. This week’s review will also have more review, and less synopsis. If you don’t mind spoilers, click to “Read more…”

Synopsis

This episode tells the story of an adbucted boy, Billy Underwood, who returns ten years after his abduction, with no signs of aging whatsoever.

During the course of the investigation, Billy’s behaviour is notably odd. He refuses to speak, and seems to be able to appear and disappear at will. He is even found in his “younger” brother’s room, where he has left a knife covered in his own blood buried in the mattress.

In the course of his investigation, Doggett reads sealed juvenile records of one of the witnesses to the original abduction. He seems to believe this man was responsible for the original abduction, and pursues him relentlessly. We learn this man was involved in Billy’s abduction, and that he even remembers where Billy’s corpse is buried.

When interrogating this man, Doggett learns that he cared for Billy while he was being held by another man. Doggett’s cheif suspect was not the kidnapper; his mother’s boyfriend was. Doggett and the rest of the force pursue the kidnapper into the woods by his ranch, where they find the remains of Billy’s corpse.

Invocation and John Doggett

This episode does a few things to advance Doggett’s character, and develop it further. It seems that, once again, Scully’s partner is driven by the abduction of a loved one.

Doggett’s determination to find the kidnapper drives him to voilate a court-imposed seal on the juvenile records of one witness to Billy’s abduction. He tries to bribe Billy for information using the backpack Billy was wearing at the original abduction, but is stopped by the boy’s mother.

Actions like these seem to be straining his relationship with Scully. He did not tell Scully who he lost in an abduction. The only hints we have that the abduction of someone close to him are his incredible drive to find the kidnapper, one shot of him looking at a picture of a young boy he carries in his wallet, and the vague rantings of a psychic who was an advisor on the case.

This is one of the steps needed to develop Doggett’s character this season. The fans need to see him as a person, and revealing his personal life is one of the best ways to accomplish this. I would have preferred a motivation less similar to Mulder’s pursuit of Samantha, but it’s nice to have something.

As far as his willingness to believe is concerned, Doggett is still the skeptic. He seemed easily able to accept Billy’s ability to go ten years without aging, but was shaken after the identification of Billy’s ten year old corpse.

Writing

The writing in this episode was competant, but not spectacular. The episode felt contrived, and cobbled together to show a brief glimpse of Doggett’s past. The premise was not particularly original, and the general acceptance of Billy ageless return was not very believable. Scully, Billy’s father, and Billy’s brother seemed to be the only people who felt something was truly wrong with Billy at first. I find this very difficult to believe. I can understand his mother blinding herself to how strange this is at first, as she would be happy just to have him back. However, the fact that Scully was the only law enforcement officer who seemed to notice how strange that was just doesn’t make sense to me.

Acting

Gillian Anderson’s acting is on par with every other episode in the last few seasons that doesn’t develop Scully’s character. She knows how to play the part, and naturally does the job without really standing out. Scully seemed to exist in this episode to spout Mulder’s favourite kinds of theories without doing any actual investigation. While it is nice to give Doggett enough screen time for the fans to get to know him, it shouldn’t be done at the expense of the Scully character.

Robert Patrick’s acting was believable. For most of the episode, he’s a hard-nosed officer trying to find a kidnapper. He was rather cold when looking at the picture from his wallet, but otherwise convincing. I’m willing to forgive this until we find out who that boy was, and what he means to Doggett.

The performances of the guest stars were very well done, especially on the part of Billy’s emotional mother. Billy himself was played as very cold and emotionless. While he was competant at the role, it is difficult to excel without emotional situations to work with.

In Summary

Overall, Invocation is your typical “monster-of-the-week” episode, with little true advancement of the series that comes out of it. I give it 2 stars out of 4.

3 replies on “X-Files review – “Invocation””

  1. dnaworks says:

    Again, mostly agree, with a 2.5 stars out of 4
    The thing that I liked about this episode was the kid playing Billy. He was emotionaless and cold, but did so in such a way as to be quite scary. It was nice to see a child TV actor bring that level of ‘creepy quality’ to the screen.

    I do think that for the most part of this episode, Scully was window-dressing and could have had her part excised without affecting the plot line, story development or resolution at all. All in all, not a trend I like (I hope it *isn’t* a trend :)

  2. fiziko says:

    The Scully “Trend”
    I sincerely hope it’s not a trend. The lack of Scully may continue for the MOTW episodes, but it shouldn’t be able to continue through the mytharc episodes. Doggett doesn’t know characters like Krycek, Marita, etc. so Scully will have to be on hand to get the kind of drama they deserve. Anyway, we’ll know if this “trend” continues when we see Redrum on Sunday, I guess.

  3. xah says:

    okay episode
    Dogget’s character is getting better. That kid in the photo must have been his son. I think Cris Carter has some kind of fascination with child abduction cases. It seems to be the most common thread between the episodes, from regular old criminal kidnappers, to exotic alien kidnappers.

    I was disappointed in the lack of commentary on class in “Invocation.” The victim family here was a nice, suburban, minivan-driving, middle class family. The criminal family here was a dirty, unkempt, beer-swigging, big-earring-wearing, fat, hairy, loud, stooped group of ruffians with few redeeming qualities. The only things they didn’t do was belch or expectorate. Carter missed a big chance to comment on class differences in society. Instead of investigating this reality, he played in stereotypes.

    I found the episode sometimes spooky, but oftentimes boring. Maybe they will find another example of that strange symbol and investigate.

    Finally, why won’t they tell us who is the father of Scully’s baby? Come on! I’m betting it’s Mulder.

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