The X-Files #237: Via Negativa

"I'm not sure I'm awake."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Doggett and Skinner track a three-eyed cult leader who kills through dreams.

REVIEW: Another episode low on Scully? While the episode manages to make us worry about her unborn baby, the total lack of closure on this "complications" subplot turns into a mere pretext for Scully's absence. Lack of closure and "pretext" also haunt the A-plot, unfortunately. Because there's no good narrative reason for taking Scully out if Doggett is going to rely on Skinner and the Lone Gunmen to fill her spot. Skinner is SUCH a Scully, in fact, that he even gets called "Agent Skinner", a demotion from his actual role as assistant-director. Likewise, the supernatural mystery offers strong, disturbing imagery, but never really ties it all together, ending with a threatening killer dream that may well be innocuous given the killer's death hours earlier. And so we get a messy ending with Scully walking into Doggett's apartment for absolutely no reason and "saving" him from probably nothing(?). Who knows, and why is Scully missing her chance to turn Doggett into a believer by suppressing his belief that cult leader Tipet was indeed Freddy Krueger?

But if you're looking for a horror atmosphere and an unusual level of gore for television, Vie Negativa is still pretty good. Tipet's followers and foes alike are found with axe wounds in the middle of their foreheads, with all the gory detail that's allowed. The nightmares we see are filled with disturbing imagery, from bloody footprints, to smothering cement, to rat attacks, to Scully's decapitated head. That CG third eye is plenty creepy too, as is Doggett's existential dread in the final act. And while the motives at work are not very well explained, seeing a man cut out that third eye, and another commit suicide by table saw, is quite horrific. It's just that we don't rightly understand the point of the third eye and how scarring it would protect oneself, or why Tipet would feel his rampage would necessarily continue so long as his third eye was open. It's a muddle.

Doggett, at least, shows why he's a benefit to the X-Files, looking for facts, however tenuous, to arrive at logical deductions where Mulder and now Scully spin out fanciful theories until they hit the right one. Doggett may trade in facts, he nevertheless doesn't let it close his mind to extreme possibilities. If the logic takes him there, he follows. The Lone Gunmen are even impressed. Hey, Kersh is too, though it's clear he wants Doggett's reports to lie rather than commit those possibilities to the permanent record. I'm still not convinced he's part of the Conspiracy, and can understand his motivation as simple ambition, wanting to keep the career-destroying crazy off his desk.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium -
Can be enjoyed for its surreal horror, but don't expect to be satisfied with what answers are supplied. It also suffers from needlessly sidelining Scully (I smell a real world reason).

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