"You want me to go on record? I will go on record to say this: That I have seen things that I cannot explain. I have observed phenomena that I cannot deny; and that as a scientist and a serious person, it is a badge of honor not to dismiss these things because someone thinks they're B.S.!"
REVIEW: Meet John Doggett. He's a complicated character, acting here as an antagonist, though only insofar as Scully is aggressively resisting his help, refusing to trust someone she sees as Kersh's lap "dog" to help find her "fox". And yet, his credentials in the military and law enforcement look legit. As the point man on the manhunt for Mulder, he shows leadership, strong observational skills, a more open mind than his boss, and a certain light touch when dealing with suspects and witnesses. Antagonist or not, his badge shows up in the credits sequence now (they finally change it and it's as terrible as ever), so he's to be the new co-lead. But the production seems to know that after 7 years of beings fans of the Mulder-Scully relationship, viewers won't easily accept Doggett, so they play the long game with him. Scully probably hates him on sight more than we do. As she warms to him, the hope is that so will we. It's been 15 years, but I seem to remember liking Doggett from the start, even if the show felt more awkward without Mulder. Robert Patrick, at the time, was known for his villains in Terminator 2 and Die Hard 2, but a good run as a complicated but heroic figure in The Unit has upped his cred since. At least with this viewer.
Of course, Mulder is still part of the show. His badge shows up in the credits too, and we see him spinning into space and into Scully's eye in the few new shots inserted into the sequence. A strange way to phase him out, as if the production felt it needed that connection to Mulder no matter what, and a herald of a continuing arc about... what? The search for Mulder? Scully's grief at his disappearance? We'll just have to see. For the moment, he's very much the focus of the episode, appearing in Scully's dreams undergoing some pretty gory alien experiments. We know this is really happening because one such sequence DOESN'T end with Scully waking up from a nightmare. They've always shared a bit of a psychic bond, especially in these situations. He too had accurate dreams of her while she was abducted. So the Mulder who kidnaps Gibson Praise at the end of the episode has to be the Bounty Hunter.
We wonder what's happening to Mulder, and we get to know Doggett, but Scully is the star (with an assist from the increasingly active Skinner). She's turning into a snippy Mulder, throwing water in Doggett's face, obsessing over Mulder's abduction, and growing more and more paranoid as the episode progresses. But who IS tapping her phone if not Doggett? Mulder was a lot smoother about his conspiracy theories, but he'd been living with that mindset for years. Without the need to temper her partner, she's allowed to go off the deep end, and it's great fun. Her passion touchingly manifests in the operatic music, her anxiety in the shaky camera work. I think the audience's evaluation of Doggett is that he's a good guy not being given a chance, and she comes off as completely unreasonable, but at this point, you also understand where she's coming from. And being secretly pregnant can't be helping. It's also interesting that following the paranormal clues (the Lone Gunmen's UFO tracking) and the more traditional clues (the files that have been stolen), Scully and Doggett both end up in Arizona to find Praise. It's a neat way to show the Mulderisation of Scully's character and the arrival of Doggett as a competent Scully figure.
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: At this point, I'm going to say the evidence of Mulder's illness and his ordering a tombstone are conspiratorial lies, as there wasn't any evidence of this across Season 7.
REWATCHABILITY: High - You don't want to miss the introduction of Scully's new partner, do you? Perhaps the most desperate-feeling season opener yet.