"Via Negativa"

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This episode was written by Frank Spotnitz. If you are surprised to hear it, believe me when I say that I am right there with you. Because this episode was actually very well written, and lacked many of the flaws that usually weave in and out of a FS script. This is especially true of the mythology episodes offered by Spotnitz, in conjunction with Carter. As soon as Spotnitz joined the fold, elements of the mythology were simply dropped or "retconned" beyond recognition.

Ultimately, this episide is as much about Doggett coming face to face with his own beliefs as it is about Doggett coming face to face with a paranormal killer. As shown rather well in this episode, Doggett goes straight to the facts of the case, and has little or no patience for the supernatural explanations that are part and parcel for the X-Files.

But this case forces his subconscious to deal with the possibility that maybe, just maybe, there is something about the case he is working on that goes far beyond his ability to rationalize. This is depicted in a particularly strong fashion during the final act of the episode.

Some might argue that the final act is actually something that is happening...that Doggett is under the power or spell of the killer. I disagree. I think that his inability to explain what happened, up to the point that the killer committed suicide, shocked him to the core. Note how in his dream, the killer is forcing him to victimize Scully, rather than being killed himself. This is very different from the rest of the episode, and suggests that this is really Doggett's unconscious trying to deal with the mysteries of the case.

The fact that Doggett truly believes that the killer was inside his head, trying to kill him or get hin to kill, is a powerful depiction of his first steps into possibly accepting that "the truth is out there". For the first time, he believes in something paranormal so strongly that it is his first instinct to turn to that explanation. Not even in "Patience", when he points out the "man-bat", has he done this before. Recall that in "Patience", Doggett turned to that possibility only when nothing else fit the facts.

But here, Doggett readily accepts his nightmare as the result of paranormal influence.

Other strong scripting really made this episode shine. Skinner was finally back, obviously much better after recovering from exposure to the alien retrovirus in "Without". And as hinted in that episode, he is now the believer, advancing the bizarre theories Mulder would have championed.

For a "Scully-lite" episode, her scenes really hit home. If Doggett is still unaware of her condition, I'd have to think that he is seriously unobservant. When my wife was pregnant with our daughter, there were complications, including something very similar to Scully's symptoms. So I found myself dwelling on that not-so-subtle hint of problems to come.

Some Random Thoughts:

- Shame on those Mulderites who bash RP in this episode...he did a spectacular job with a script that really allowed his range to show. It says a lot when the main complaint by the Mulderite set is Doggett's mistaken reference to Skinner as "Agent Skinner". Haven't there been little dialogue errors on this show in the seven years prior to this? To hear the Mulderites, apparently not.

- That said, I love how Doggett practically dances all over the crime scene. I mean, granted, they must have already done some measure of investigation since the car was opened (remember, they would have had to break in, it was locked from the inside). Still, shouldn't he have been just a little more careful?

- I loved the scene where Skinner explains his theory to Kersh, and both Kersh and Doggett are staring at Skinner like he just sprouted antlers to go with his shining red nose.

- Loved the scene with the victims all lined up in their beds. Very "Heaven's Gate".

- I was a little disappointed with the Lone Gunmen...I think they let Doggett off the hook a little too easily. Then again, they caught Doggett at a point when he was just about ready to accept a bizarre explanation, even if only to get an idea of what the killer believed.

- That points out another great aspect of this episode. Mulder, and maybe even Scully, would have accepted the idea of a psychic assassin much more quickly. But Doggett's original concession to the paranormal was to simply accept that the killer might interpret his actions that way.

- I was truly shocked when the killer used a circular saw to commit suicide. I was not expecting that at all, and it brought back all of those itching fears that I had working with my grandfather in the garage as a child, watching as his hands and fingers got ever so close to the blade...very effective.

- The final scene with Kersh was wonderful. You could see that enough had happened to force Doggett into a corner, where he simply had to have answers or it was going to drive him crazy. And then Kersh just shut him down. At least Skinner would listen to Mulder before taking him to task!

- Loved the dream sequence. The lighting, the pacing, it really put your nerves on edge in just the right way.

- On Scully's condition: I'm not so sure how this is going to turn out. Acute abdominal pain could mean a number of things, from a simple muscle pull, to an ovarian cyst, to an entopic pregnancy. I don't think it was so serious as the last suggestion, but the others would be enough to put her off her feet for days.

Still, this could be meaningful...could this be the first sign that the fetus is not entirely normal?

- Nothing to say for Scully's "X-ploitation" List this week...once again, her short appearances did not lend themselves to those kinds of situations.

- Doggett should know about Scully by now. If she were suffering from any other medical condition, I'm almost positive that Doggett would have to be informed. Also, there is at least a chance that Scully was in a special ward, which is usually a bit of a tip-off.

Overall, this was a great episode to end the first third of the season. I give it a 9/10...not perfect, but pretty close.


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