Sunday, April 1, 2012

The X-Files: Invocation (8.5)

Like a lot of David Amann's work on this show, Invocation features a ton of impressive moments and ideas, but falters a lot as an actual episode on its own. Too much seems to happen over the course of the hour, the script folding in Doggett back-story with 'evil kid' tropes, as well as a fractured family and a bunch of redneck child murderers. On their own, each one of these elements is impressive, but thrown together like this and failing to give much resolution to any one of the stories in the end only helps in making Invocation sort of a misfire.

The case this week is one of those stories that is remarkably simple in theory, but ends up needlessly complicated in execution. Seven year-old Billy Underwood disappears from a playground in 1990, and returns ten years later in the exact same form. This isn't stunted aging, this is exactly the same boy -- inside and out. As he is welcomed back into the family home, his mother blindly welcomes the shocking turn of events, painfully in denial at how strange the entire saga is. This causes conflict with Billy's father, who struggles to re-discover that bond he is sure he once had. Plus, Billy is ridiculously creepy and dead-eyed -- that probably doesn't help.

The resolution to the story is sadistic and intriguing, but too much of the in-between feels gratuitous. There's the psychic and her terrifying visions, Billy pinning a bloody knife into his brother's bed, Scully for some reason deciding to play back the psychic's ramblings and discovering a creepy song being sung backwards. It's all a little over-the-top, complicating a story that doesn't need all of that.

Doggett gets far more involved in the case than is presumably healthy, his own son having vanished sometime in the past. This is an interesting angle, if a little too reminiscent of Mulder's own back-story, but it's a development that is drowned out by the craziness everywhere else. This should have probably made for the bones of the episode, but there isn't a whole lot to it in the end. Invocation is entertaining, but becomes far more elaborate than it needed to be. C

Guest stars Kim Griest (Lisa Underwood); Jim Cody Williams (Cal Jeppy); Rodney Eastman (Ronnie Purnell); Erich Anderson (Doug Underwood); Kyle Pepi (Billy Underwood); Ryan Pepi (Billy Underwood); Sheila Shaw (Marcia Purnell); Barry Cullison (Sheriff Sanchez); Maggie Baird (Sharon Pearl); Colton James (Josh Underwood)
Writer David Amann Director Richard Compton

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