Investigating The X-Files: Season 8, Part 1

After I posted my thoughts on the second half of Season 7 of "The X-Files," I decided to reward my industriousness by beginning Season 8 while lying in our office’s hammock. Yes, my office has a hammock; don’t ask. Afternoon sun streamed through the window and the hammock swung gently. It’s an altogether lovely setting in which to have some quality time with Scully and the things that go bump in the night. As soon as I settled in and opened my computer, I thought of 14 other things I needed to do right away. I checked my email, organized my desktop, and made a grocery list. I checked my email again. I even spent 15 minutes watching amusing animated reviews for video games I’ve never heard of and will never play. In short, I did everything I could think of to keep from pushing play on Season 8.

At that point, I realized I needed a swift kick in the ass. Enough stalling. It was time to sack up and show Season 8 of “The X-Files” that I wasn’t afraid of it. Hell, I thought, it won’t be so bad. I like Robert Patrick, and it’s ages until Reyes shows up. And hey, what about that awesomely creepy episode where the cult members attach their parasite Jesus to Scully’s spine? That rocked! Ready to commit, I bolted upright with a fire in my belly. This made the hammock I’d forgotten I was lying in swing in a violent and startling fashion. After I’d untangled the laptop cords from the ropes and my legs, I clicked play.

Almost immediately, I was glad I’d gotten over my cowardice. After
watching the first half of Season 8, I find I like Agent John Doggett a
good deal. I can’t help but wish they’d introduced him back around
season 6 when the show felt so unfocused. Doggett adds a spark of
personality and skepticism that’s good for the show, but it’s hard to
get behind him. If they had integrated him earlier, when the show was
at a natural turning point, instead of as a last ditch effort to keep
the ball rolling when David Duchovny was on his way out the door, I
think fans would have resented Doggett less.

I always thought that Scully is the real protagonist of “The X-Files.”
More than alien conspiracies and the mystery of Samantha Mulder, the
emotional core involves Scully’s journey toward actualization as a
person. From what you learn of her father, brother, and former romantic
partners, she gravitated toward powerful men with a tendency to tell
her what to do. I think even her initial attraction to Mulder had more
than a little to do with that habit. Over the course of the show,
Scully figuring out who she wants to be and what is important to her
gives her the most dynamic character arc.

In Season 8, she works to embrace the Mulder-esque parts of her
without subsuming herself to his memory. With Mulder gone, Scully takes
it upon herself to do the slideshows, contact the Lone Gunmen, and act
as the object of derision for the local lawmen. She tries to do what
Mulder would do and think how he would think; some of it comes
naturally to her because she isn’t the dyed-in-the-wool skeptic she
used to be. However, she still struggles to balance her
responsibilities to Mulder with those to herself. I had the sense that
she was working toward a place of self-acceptance where her differences
from Mulder wouldn’t feel like failures.

“Without,” are the episodes when Scully and Skinner
abandon all pretense of normality. They’ve both officially seen too
much to take much comfort in mundane explanations. What they’ve
experienced cannot be denied. Deputy Director Stick-Up-Ass, I’m sorry,
Kersh assigns hardass skeptic John Doggett to investigate Mulder’s
disappearance, while Scully and Skinner perform their own search. The
FBI believes Mulder faked it in order to manipulate the evidence about
the existence of aliens. His medical records show that he was dying of
a brain disease, and they think imminent death made him desperate.
Scully and Skinner know the Colonists are taking former abductees and
successful hybrids (like Mulder) in order to hide evidence of their
meddling. Both paths lead to Gibson Praise.

Doggett behaves like an uber-douche to Scully at first, continually
implying that possibly she doesn’t know her partner as well as she
thinks he does. When she throws water in his face, I couldn’t help but
cheer. At the same time, even when I wanted to slap Doggett, I didn’t
doubt his commitment to finding Mulder. His interactions with Kersh
suggest that Doggett isn’t a part of the Deputy Director’s nefarious
plots. Still, that doesn’t make him one of the gang. When Doggett sees
an alien bounty hunter disguised as Mulder, he can’t believe Scully
when she tells him not to believe his eyes. As Season 8 unfolds and
Doggett gets up close and personal with the impossible,
he’ll butt up against this dilemma over and over again.

I find John Doggett particularly fascinating because he’s a
Scully-style skeptic with a Mulder-style obsessive quest. In his case,
the quest is to find Mulder. Mulder and Scully, in spite of their
differences, had a high level of implicit trust. It’s an interesting
change to watch Scully and Doggett struggle to bond, given the similarities between their personalities. The first episode where they make much
headway is “Roadrunners.” Scully goes off by herself to very rural Utah
to investigate the beating death of a transient. She stumbles onto a
cult that worships a freaky, spine-eating worm baby as the second
coming of Christ. Doggett’s intense drive to find Scully even though
he’s rightfully peeved that she didn’t include him in the case in the
first place suggests he might be a man worth trusting.

“The X-Files” shows that nothing makes someone grow as a person like having everything he believes about the world challenged.
Doggett has to do quite a bit of growing and learning very quickly in Season 8 so Scully and the audience can trust him. As a result, he gets
put through the ringer with all possible speed. During Scully’s early
X-Files involvement, she and Mulder investigated cases where evidence
of the supernatural was frequently subtle or debatable. Doggett’s
sensibilities aren’t accommodated in the same way.

In the first two episodes, he sees more proof of the alien bounty
hunters’ shapeshifting abilities than Mulder and Scully got over whole
seasons. In the first six, he encounters a half-bat, half man bent on
vengeance (“Patience”), cuts the worm baby out of Scully’s spine, and
spends quality time with the corporeal spirit of a boy who died 10
years ago (“Invocation”). After that is when things really get weird.
In “Via Negativa,” he gets brain-raped by a psychic assassin and
follows it up in “Surekill” by trying to explain away a guy with x-ray
vision.

I couldn’t help but respect Doggett’s ability to ignore the evidence in
“Badlaa.” He does everything but close his eyes, put his fingers in his
ears, and hum to avoid facing what’s really going on. An eerie Indian mystic
(played by Guest Who Later Got Big Deep Roy, a.k.a. all the
Oompa-Loompas in Tim Burton’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”)
travels around in the abdominal cavities of his victims. The guy can
also make you see things that aren’t there and appear in two places at
once. If I experienced something like that, I suspect my own innate
skepticism would be blown to bits, but not John Doggett. He remains
basically unmoved in his capacity for ignoring what he calls “that
sci-fi stuff.”

I’ve only made it through the eleventh episode, and already I’m tremendously
curious to see if or how Doggett will rationalize what happens to him
in “The Gift.” Doggett discovers that several months before Mulder’s
disappearance, he investigated a death in Pennsylvania. Afterwards,
he and Scully falsified case reports. Doggett thinks the case will help
him prove Mulder’s dark and secretive nature. Instead, he discovers a
community in possession of a Native American sin-eater.
Neither a man nor a monster, it eats the sickness from people so they
may be reborn healthy. Mulder went there hoping to find a cure for his
brain disease, but couldn’t go through with the process because he felt
too much sympathy for the creature’s suffering.

Mulder tried to kill the sin-eater to release it from pain but wasn’t
successful. When Doggett also tries to rescue it, the locals shoot and
kill him. He wakes up after the sin catcher exceeds everyone’s
expectations by absorbing not just illness, but Doggett’s mortal
wounds. The act finally provides the mercy of death to the sin eater,
but it ought to make Doggett’s life much more complicated. I don’t see
how, once you’ve personally risen from the dead, anything else could
ever seem impossible again.

Posted in Professional, The X-Files
2 comments on “Investigating The X-Files: Season 8, Part 1
  1. Reynard Muldrake says:

    Congrats on making it through the “Surekill/Salvage/Badlaa” trio of terrible. Doesn’t “The Gift” seem to most naturally follow “Via Negativa?”
    Nice observation on Doggett’s immediate exposure to the undeniable paranormal. You’re right, Scully’s was much more gradual, with her always missing critical moments (from the Pilot all the way through Fight the Future).

  2. Martin says:

    I noticed Doggett being thrown in at the deep end with paranormal stuff too. Much more so than Scully. I remember for the first few seasons Scully would always miss the really major part. Like when they find the filing system in the mountain its Mulder who sees the Spaceship, not Scully, for example.
    I personally quite liked Salvage and Badlaa. Salvage just for Doggett’s line of “are you saying he’s turned into some sort of metal man? cos that only happens in the movies” obviously referencing T2. And Badlaa was just skin crawlingly creepy which is what the X Files most memorable cases have been.

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