August 4, 2018

The X-Files 8.5, Invocation: All the Pretty Children Who Reappear After Ten Years and Want to Murder You

Posted in TV tagged , at 1:05 pm by Jenn

Hide all sharp objects

Summary: It’s September of 1990 and there’s a fair going on at an elementary school in Dexter, Oklahoma. There are ponies! A boy named Billy Underwood wants his mom, Lisa, to watch him while he swings, but she’s busy talking to someone. She’s going to regret that later, since there’s a man watching her son. Billy disappears from the swingset, and when Lisa goes looking for him, there’s no sign of him other than his discarded backpack.

Ten years later, Lisa goes to pick up her son Josh (with whom she was pregnant when Billy disappeared) at school. He tells her some people are looking for her. They have something very bizarre to show her: Billy, still the age he was when he disappeared, swinging on the same swingset where he was last seen. Only now he looks…creepy. Like, this-kid-might-murder-you-in-your-sleep creepy.

Scully and Doggett come to Oklahoma, where a local sheriff tells them that he confirmed Billy’s identity. Obviously, no one can explain why he hasn’t aged in ten years, and the boy isn’t talking. (Right, because he’s busy plotting their murders.) Since there was never a suspect for Billy’s kidnapping, the police are stuck. Scully confirms that, despite being born 17 years ago, Billy is only seven. Lisa just thinks it’s a miracle.

Scully tells her that whatever happened to Billy has affected him physically. Lisa doesn’t care – she wants to take him home. Doggett tells her to wait, then goes in to talk to Billy himself. He encourages Billy to talk about what happened so that whatever it was won’t hurt so much anymore. Billy ignores him and keeps drawing a picture. Doggett assures him that he didn’t do anything wrong, and they need to work together to find the bad guy who kidnapped him. Billy: still not talking.

Doggett shows Billy his backpack and offers to let him have it back. However, he can’t take it until he tells Doggett his kidnapper’s name. Dude, don’t manipulate the kid. Lisa rushes in and calls a halt to the conversation. Scully chastises her partner, wondering whether he’s ever worked a case involving a child before. Doggett has, but he’s less interested in helping a traumatized child and more interested in finding the person who traumatized him.

Doggett goes all Scully, suggesting that Billy has a medical condition that’s delaying his puberty. Scully reminds him that her medical examination has determined that Billy’s perfectly healthy. Doggett says that, in that case, he’s capable of talking. Yeah, but probably not to the guy who just tried to manipulate him. You’re going to get murdered in your sleep first, Doggett.

Lisa and her husband, Doug, finally take Billy home and send him to the backyard to play with Josh and the family’s dog, Sparky. Sparky doesn’t like his new playmate, and the screen door between him and Billy is the only thing that keeps the dog from attacking. Lisa says that the dog just doesn’t realize that Billy’s part of the family. Josh also seems pretty skeptical.

Scully tells Doggett that Billy’s medical chart shows that he’s the same boy he was in 1990 – and she means exactly the same. He still has baby teeth, and his bloodwork is identical to bloodwork he had done just a few weeks before he disappeared. This should be medically impossible, which means this is definitely an X-File. Scully thinks they’re dealing with aliens.

Doggett thinks it’s lazy to use that as an excuse. He’s been looking at the case file from Billy’s disappearance and is interested in a man named Ronald Purnell, a suspect who was dismissed. He shouldn’t have been, since he’s the guy who was watching Billy at the fair. Scully’s annoyed that Doggett looked into Ronald’s juvenile records, which had been sealed. Doggett clearly has no problem breaking the law to catch Billy’s abductor.

That night, after the kids are asleep (or at least Billy’s just pretending to be asleep while he plots his family’s murders), Lisa and Doug argue about whether Billy is really Billy. Doug thinks Josh might be right to be afraid of his brother. Billy eavesdrops a little, then approaches his brother’s room with a big knife. If only the Underwoods had listened to my warnings about Billy killing them in their sleep.

The next morning, Doggett pays Ronald a visit, catching him just as he comes home. Ronald says he remembers Billy’s disappearance, and he’s confused when Doggett says he wants to take Ronald to the boy to see if Billy recognizes him. As he gets in his car to leave, Doggett pulls a picture of a little boy out of his wallet and looks at it sadly. That’s right, kids – just like Mulder, Doggett also has a past trauma we’ll have to deal with!

Lisa goes to wake up Josh and is horrified to see the knife in his bed. Josh is bleeding a little, and there’s blood on his bed, but he’s not badly injured. Billy’s standing in the room, just standing there and being creepy. The sheriff tests the blood on the knife and tells Scully and Doggett that it’s Billy’s. No one’s sure where the knife came from.

Scully thinks Billy should be institutionalized for everyone’s safety, but Doggett objects to taking him away from his family again. Maybe he’s trying to communicate something. Scully reminds him that this is a bizarre case, so they need to take some precautions. Doggett notices a symbol on the knife, and the sheriff reveals that a police psychic brought onto Billy’s case ten years ago came up with the same symbol. Scully recognizes it as something Billy has drawn.

Lisa gently asks Billy to tell her what happened to him so they can all move forward. He gets a little agitated, and she assures him that they’re going to see a doctor who might be able to help him, but nothing’s going to happen to him. Billy: still silent. Josh: still skeptical. Doug sees him watching the family get Billy ready, and tells Lisa that he’s okay taking Billy to a psychiatrist, but he doesn’t want Josh to suffer. Doug is about to leave with Billy when he realizes Billy is no longer in the car. He’s suddenly in Josh’s room, just staring creepily again.

Ronald’s mother, Marcia, is annoyed with her son’s attitude. Her boyfriend, Cal, gets home and almost comes to blows with Ronald. Ronald runs off to some nearby woods, finds a trowel, and digs, unearthing a skull. Back at the Underwoods’, the police psychic, Sharon Pearl, is ready to lend a hand in finding out what happened to Billy. Doug isn’t happy with this, but Doggett tells him they’re trying to help him keep his family together.

Sharon meets Billy, who gives her the same creepy stare he’s been giving everyone. She announces that there are powerful forces working through Billy, drawing him to Josh. And that force is coming through Doggett. Sharon knows that Doggett “lost someone just like Billy.” Suddenly, Sharon starts convulsing and speaking in tongues. The veins in her forehead form an X like the symbol on the knife.

Cal stops Ronald as he’s leaving the house and warns him to keep his mouth shut if the police comes back. He pulls out a knife and threatens to tell them about what Ronald has buried in the woods. He cuts Ronald’s ear before Marcia comes out to make sure her two men are behaving themselves.

Once Sharon’s been stabilized and taken away in an ambulance, Doggett tells Scully that he thinks she was faking the whole thing. Not that he can explain how the symbol appeared on her forehead. Scully recorded the session, and she plays Sharon’s tongue-speaking backwards. It sounds like someone singing “All the Pretty Horses.”

Doggett sees Ronald pull up outside the Underwood’s house, just watching. Billy appears in the car with him, and when Doggett comes over to see what’s happening, Ronald takes off. Doggett thinks he’s kidnapping the boy and chases after him. Scully’s able to circle around and force Ronald to stop. But now Billy is no longer in the car.

Doug stops at a gas station with Josh, who stays in the car while his father goes inside to pay. He sees a pony being led to a trailer and gets out to get a closer look. Someone grabs him and he yells for help. At the local police station, Scully tells Doggett that he couldn’t have seen Billy in Ronald’s car, since she saw him in the house moments earlier. Everything about the case is impossible. Doggett thinks Billy is the key. The sheriff interrupts to tell the agents that Josh has disappeared.

Doggett questions Ronald, who denies that Billy was in his car. He only went to the house because he didn’t believe Doggett when he said Ronald could talk to Billy. Flashes from ten years ago show that Billy was kept in a confined space, where Ronald sang “All the Pretty Horses” to him. In the present, Ronald cries and tells Doggett he didn’t hurt Billy – he took care of him. He sang so Billy wouldn’t be afraid. Doggett asks who Billy would be afraid of.

Of course, that person is Cal, so the agents and the police race to Marcia’s trailer to arrest him. They find a bunker under the barn and pull Josh out of the same spot where Billy was kept ten years earlier. Doggett spots Cal running and chases him into the woods. When he’s finally cornered, Cal admits that Josh is back in the trailer, but he denies that Billy is there. Doggett sees Billy in the woods, though he quickly disappears. Doggett then stumbles across the skull Ronald unearthed in the ground.

The next day, the woods are declared a crime scene, and the rest of Billy’s body is dug up. Doggett can’t wrap his mind around the fact that they’ve seen Billy multiple times over the past few days, even though they’re now looking at his bones. Scully thinks it’s enough that they’ve stopped Cal from hurting Josh or any other kids. Doggett scoffs at the idea that this is a case of “justice from beyond the grave.” Scully thinks he should consider this a victory no matter the circumstances. She leaves, and Doggett looks on as Lisa and Doug cry over Billy’s remains.

Thoughts: Poor Josh. How do you explain to a ten-year-old that his long-missing older brother is back, but is now his younger brother? And then how do you explain that that brother was dead the whole time, but somehow protected him from being murdered?

Also, I assume this is a “Paper Hearts” situation and Billy wasn’t Cal’s only victim. So…that’s disturbing. I also wonder if Ronald went to the fair to protect anyone Cal might be pursuing. I wish we’d gotten more of an explanation for that whole dynamic.

That distorted singing of “All the Pretty Horses” means I’m not going to be able to sleep for at least the next five years, so thanks for that, show.

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