Via Negativa 8×7: Mondo Bizarro.


Because I couldn’t bring myself to post one of those “third eye” pics.

I remember being good and truly freaked out by this episode the first time it aired, and I’m not easily disturbed. This rewatch too, I made sure to watch it with the lights on and my door open. Sure, we’re used to creepy paranormal happenings on The X-Files, but these are some dark, dark images. It’s so dark that I had never watched it again until now.

The good news is, that meant that other than knowing it was dark, I had no preconceived notions or solidified memories of it. I came to “Via Negativa” with an open mind.

Uncle Frank wrote this one. And by “Uncle Frank” I mean Frank Spotnitz. Why do I call him “Uncle Frank”? I think it’s some kind of awkward outlet for my tightly governed affections.

When it came to The X-Files, Uncle Frank had a funny way of bringing out the best in everybody else. He was Chris Carter’s right hand man for the mythology episodes, also co-writing Fight the Future and I Want to Believe with him. When he wasn’t making a point of keeping me guessing with the mythology, he was busy cracking me up as part of the John Gillnitz trio (John Shiban – Vince Gilligan – Frank Spotnitz) who specialized in writing crazy goodness. His own solo offerings have been tragically few and far between, but so far I’ve loved all of them: “End Game” (2×17), “Our Town” (2×24), and “Detour” (5×4). So how did the two of us wind up here, Frank, with me sucking my breath through my teeth in the heaviness of horror?

It seems it’s Doggett’s turn to have the best brought out of him; Doggett who’s had a rough time of it being forced to take Mulder’s spot in the X-Files division. It’s time to give him something to do other than be wanting in comparison to Mulder and be rescuing Scully all the time. Here he’s on the trail of a killer who can’t be caught because if you catch him, it really means he’s caught you.

In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t completely understand this plot. But I don’t think it’s about the plot. The plot is a vehicle to bring us the imagery. I don’t understand the imagery either. Except that it’s dark and evil and one can only take so much of it. I couldn’t have sat through it for more than a one hour episode of television. I could barely do that.

Doggett: Just ’cause I’m assigned to the X-Files you want me to think like Scully or Mulder would. You got the wrong guy. I need facts, not wild ideas.

Doggett doesn’t really understand what’s going on either, but he too is disturbed. Yes, he’s a different type of investigator than both Mulder and Scully. His isn’t the ordered scientific mind nor the disordered mind of the fanatic. But one trait he does share in common with Mulder is that he trusts his own instincts. In this case, his instincts lead him to a conclusion that his mind can’t process: Cult leader Tipet is psychically killing people in their sleep.

I’m still not sure why Tipet is killing. I gather that he accidentally reached a lower rather than a higher state of consciousness, or that “Via Negativa” is telling me that those two states are one in the same. It’s suggested that he kills to prevent others from reaching that cursed state, but while that makes sense for his followers, it doesn’t make sense for the two F.B.I. agents, the homeless man or Doggett. Tipet seems reluctant to kill, yet somehow he must. Another thing I’m not sure about is where the threat of Doggett killing Scully came from. Are his visions of her death meant to induce Doggett to kill himself?

If so, he very nearly succeeds. Doggett nearly goes mad trying to figure out what’s a dream and what’s reality. Or does he nearly go mad? Maybe he just dreamed he did.

That whole dream sequence was wonderfully acted by Robert Patrick who finally gets to do something other than just be a good guy. It’s good to see Doggett discombobulated and uncomfortable instead of collected and capable. And I’m glad his first up close and personal experience with the paranormal happened when Scully wasn’t around. This way, she didn’t prompt him to come to certain conclusions. Actually, she seemed to talk him out of his conclusions right there at the end, so I’m not sure if Doggett’s growth has been partially undone or if he’ll be taking this experience with him into the future.


The nice thing about episodes that are low on Mulder and Scully is that some other of our favorite characters get to come to the forefront. So, see? There’s a silver lighting to every cloud. Okay, so Doggett isn’t most people’s favorite. But who isn’t a fan of Skinner? And who doesn’t like the Lone Gunmen? If that’s you, please don’t answer. Some secrets are best kept.

Skinner seems to be drinking the “I am Fox Mulder” Kool-aid which does make me roll my eyes a little. But it’s still good to see him interact with Doggett one on one. I enjoyed that scene they had together in “Without” (8×2) as well and I think they have good chemistry. We’re so used to Mulder and Scully that we don’t get to see two strong male leads share the same screen space very often and it’s a nice refresher.

Doggett also gets introduced to the Lone Gunmen, and while that’s a cute scene, color me confused. I thought Langly’s first name was Ringo? Or maybe it is Richard, nickname Ringo? As in Richard Starkey, Ringo?

Anyways, “Via Negativa” is a risky, shocking, effective episode. It’s a trip down memory lane I’m not sure I’ll ever take again willingly, and I’m quite sure I won’t be taking any acid trips to reach a higher plane. But I must say that Robert Patrick’s looking pretty darn good.



Another way Doggett uses his instincts: Checking the hospital register for Scully’s name.

On that note, it’s sweet of Doggett to be so concerned about Scully’s welfare right after his own near death experience.

Watching a man take a razor blade and slice his forehead open is not something I ever want to do again.

At the time, memories of the mass suicide of the Heaven’s Gate cult were still fresh, so this kind of story resonated.

Our first look at Doggett’s place – the first X-Files agent with a house.

Those aren’t the footprints of someone who’s walked in blood. Those are the footprints of someone whose shoes are bleeding.

So Scully really is going to be in the hospital every other episode this season.

Yo, 1013. If there’s nothing wrong with the baby, don’t make us think there’s something wrong with the baby. The welfare of The Scully Spawn automatically trumps in importance anything that might happen in a one-off episode. A plot point that major shouldn’t be used as a distraction or, worse, a way to merely get rid of Scully. Thanks. Peace.


Since when would Mulder consult the Lone Gunmen on paranormal cases? Did I miss something? Am I wrong or did he not use Chuck Burke for that?

Agent Crane is working under Skinner now?

I don’t get Kersh. I don’t get him at all. First he wants real world answers. Then he doesn’t care if he gets any answers. Is he really acting on someone else’s orders or does he just have a psychological disorder? Right now he’s being difficult just to be difficult, and that isn’t the behavior of a character acting logically within his universe but a character who’s being used to create a problem whenever a problem needs to happen.

Why Doggett turns off the lights after having a vision like that is a mystery that will never be solved.

Best Quotes:

Doggett: A third eye?

Frohike: We all have a third eye. If we could open it, we’d see a new reality, one closer to God. At least that’s what Kesey told me on the bus back in ’64.

Langly: You were not on the bus with Kesey in ’64.

Frohike: Hey, I got the pictures to prove it, my long-haired friend.

Langly: Before or after you partied with the Stones at Altamont?

Frohike: Don’t be a boob, Altamont was in ’70s.

Langly: Whatever.


Doggett: What if Tipet could invade his victims’… consciousness in their sleep? I mean, that’s why you’d be afraid to fall asleep, right? If you thought your nightmares might come true?

Byers: You believe that?

Doggett: No… but if Tipet does… he’ll need more drugs… to keep killing. [Leaves]

Frohike: That’s not bad for a beginner.


23 responses to “Via Negativa 8×7: Mondo Bizarro.

  1. I loved this episode. Even more than Roadrunners. I thought Field Trip was the closest this series would ever get to imitating a David Lynch film, but this episode trounces that one. There’s just something about the atmosphere that contributes to the viewer’s unsettling feeling that goes above and beyond the concepts involved (as creepy as they may be). I definitely agree that this episode doesn’t have to make perfect sense in order to be effective.

    But personally, as a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, I like to take a Lovecraftian interpretation and believe that, in reaching a “higher” plane, Tipet tapped into a cosmic consciousness that is not only murderous, but ambivalent at best, and resentful at worst, of the human race, and would just as soon snuff out the lives of any innocents it can reach out and get its metaphorical paws on as let them live and have any chance whatsoever of further interrupting its sleep.

    • Unsettling is the word, but it works in a weird way. Unlike “Badlaa” where I hold the lack of plot against it, the imagery, while disturbing, carries a certain emotional weight here.

      I think the whole episode makes much more sense in light of your final paragraph. And I bet if I searched the internet hard enough I’d find out that that’s what Spotnitz was aiming for.

      Sadly, I have an entire H.P. Lovecraft collection of stories that I have yet to crack… It’s staring at me from the shelf as I type, and a little too accusingly, I might add.

  2. I have to say, and I’m basing this statement just on the episodes that we’ve rewatched so far, season 8 isn’t all that bad. I’m glad that I’m giving it another chance. This episode was quite freaky, even though I’m not completely clear on what’s going on. I also like that Skinner was very involved. Yeah, it’s kind of funny/strange that he’s now so willing to believe when he was always on Mulder for his outlandish ideas, but he’s still part of the reason why I’m so engaged with this episode. I also love the Lone Gunman. It helps lighten this dark episode a bit. I know that they’re trying to stay away from Mulder, but I felt like it would have made sense for Doggett to at least ask if they have any new leads on Mulder. It just seems like everyone’s given up. This is also a bit of a strange case to bring the guys in on. They usually dealt with aliens and conspiracy stories, not something quite like this. Oh well, I’ll take what I can get.

    This is the second episode in a row where Doggett has been more of the focus. I think it’s good to give us the chance to get to know him. The failing here is that the way they get rid of Scully is by having her in the hospital. I’m sorry, but as much as Doggett is suffering from his potentially deadly nightmares, I’m more worried about what’s going on with Scully. I know that this is an episode from Doggett’s perspective and he has no idea what’s going on with her, but I know what’s happening and I want to check in with her to make sure she’s ok. This is her and Mulder’s BABY we’re talking about. I found my thoughts kept drifting back to her throughout this episode.

    Also, I had slight flash backs to Triangle when Scully woke Doggett up and he said, “You saved me.” It’s blasphemy to compare these two moments, but it just reminded me of that.

    • Season 8 gets a bad rap. Qualitatively, I think it’s definitely better than Season 7. But we fans can’t help our emotional attachment to Mulder. And the soap operish plot lines that pop up aren’t cute. No, they aren’t cute at all.

      By the by, I think Skinner and Doggett make a better team than Scully and Doggett. I’m much more interested when they’re both on screen.

      I’m in total agreement on the baby issue. It’s a cheap shot at our emotions to make us think something’s wrong. And it unfairly takes our attention away from what’s going on with Doggett and Robert Patrick’s excellent performance.

      And I didn’t make the connection to “Triangle” at all. I find that almost more disturbing than the episode.

      • To chime in, I wasn’t expecting to, but I’m actually enjoying season 8 more than I enjoyed season 7. In spite of its darker first half (which I appreciated after the lighter 6th season), 7 just felt so…tired. 8 suffers from the lack of Mulder and all, but it has something that 7 lacked – truly standout episodes that I feel comfortable recommending to others.

        Also re: Skinner. I enjoyed his character more when he was the guy reigning Mulder in (and putting in his dues to earn M&S’s respect), but I can definitely see his transformation over the series into a believer. All the way back in Patient X (or was it The Red and the Black?), when Mulder was in his disbelief phase, and Skinner told him that frankly alien abduction was the more plausible hypothesis, I wanted to shout a “hell yeah!” to the screen for Skinner kicking Mulder back into gear (or, well, maybe it was Krycek that did that, with that little kiss). And now that he’s actually seen a UFO, well…

        • Skinner didn’t have to go from a regular guy to a total believer. I mean, it’s not like he didn’t already know about the conspiracy and he’d already seen some pretty strange things over the years. But believing in aliens, again, does not require somebody to turn into Fox Mulder. Forcing Skinner and Scully to replace Mulder only emphasizes that he can’t be replaced.

          So… I still loves me some Skinner, but I’d appreciate it if they’d tone down the crazy talk.

      • Season 8 is fantastic, until Mulder comes back and it turns into a soap opera (SHHHHH, DON’T KILL ME, I DIDN’T SAY THAT!!!).

        • I don’t know if I think the first half is fantastic as a whole, but it’s a return to form in a lot of ways.

          The whole pregnancy storyline… I’m not so sure they thought it through before they did it. It’s the type of thing that you have to consciously keep from turning into a soap opera and turn it into a soap opera is exactly what they did. “Per Manum” was a definite step in the wrong direction.

  3. I honestly don’t get it. Why is everyone so freaked out by this episode? I hate horror, but this really doesn’t seem like horror to me. “Home” freaks me out. That one about the Chinese Mob freaks me out. “Irresistible” freaks me out. That inexplicable-one-with-the-living-trees-or-whatever- that- was-where-the-lady-gets-her-head-chopped-off-at-the-end freaks me out. This one? Not really. I find the make-up for the dead people kind-of cartoonish. That “Dr.” Bro-whatever, I feel like he played a funny goofball in something else…or several something elses. I literally just watched half this episode over scrambled egg whites and catsup. No prob, Bro.

    I think one of the reasons I have found/not barffy memories of this episode is because I first watched it after coming back from a successful interview for the Philly PD. The Detective I talked to literally said, “You’re at the top of the list, so don’t screw it up.” I came home and continued my first watch of (the rest of) Season 8 that I hadn’t seen because I’d stopped watching it by then when it originally aired….And then a few months later I got medically rejected due to the archaic standards for hearing and eye site. I was so high on the list, they wanted me to sue to set new precedent for hearing and eye site standards, but who has time (or money) for that at 26? Hence, I never got the job as a Philly police officer…(Why do I digress so much….Oh, right, reason for fond memories of this ep.).

    But the plot, THE PLOT. *Sings* SOMEBODY SAAAAVE ME!!!! So, the guy who’s a convicted murderer turns to God via a combination of Christianity and Eastern religions but in the course of his search for a true connection with God breaks off a horcrux like thing of himself that kills people for….what in the Heck is the horcrux like dude’s motivation? And, we already have hints about horrible things happening to Dogget’s son; so why is his ‘worst nightmare’ him getting Scully killed? ‘Kill her, I barely know her (!).’ Bloody, grown adults shouldn’t have to think this hard for our entertainment. I should just stop right now and go watch A Charlie Brown Christmas.

    Haha, Dogget introduced Skinner as “Agent Skinner.”

    My poor Scull-bags. First cancer, now the worst, longest pregnancy ever. Chris Carter tells us Gillian is his favorite, but really, sometimes I don’t see it.

    Why does it take less time to get from DC to Pittsburg than it does to get from DC to Baltimore (and why do I keep typing DE when I mean to type DC? Get with the program, Kate!)?

    Dang, there is SO much sweat this season. On this re-watch I think I figured out why I like Robert Patrick so much: he kind-of looks and acts like Frank Sinatra (I know this is coming late; I didn’t climb on to the ‘I actually like Dogget’ band wagon when everyone was talking about it; so here goes: I actually really like Dogget too). In this episode he reminds me of Frank in one of my FAVORITE Frank movies, The Man With the Golden Arm (Frank plays a strung-out, heroin addict, gambler, jazz drummer who’s so messed up about “the monkey on” his “back” that he’s constantly sweating). If ever they make a Frank bio-pick, Robert Patrick Has to play Frankie.

    • PS: Please don’t ask for a better synopsis of The Man the Golden Arm. I love it because I love it. Reason is not an option.

    • I don’t hate horror. In fact, I used to watch it just to laugh at it. But this episode is daaark. It’s not the grossness, it’s the heaviness.

      I can’t make heads or tails of why Tipet does what he does either, but Zharth’s reading of it makes the most sense, that he tapped into some higher plane but that the higher plane is actually evil and dark. You really have to read between the lines for it because they don’t bother to make it explicit. They spend more time on Doggett’s unraveling which is more the point of the episode, or so it seems.

  4. Pingback: Empedolces 8×17: The pizza man is not above suspicion. | Musings of an X-Phile

  5. Pingback: Season 8 Wrap Up – Can’t we just go home and start this all over again tomorrow? | Musings of an X-Phile

  6. Well, I still have no reason to dis season 8. I was expecting some terrible TV based on reviews I’ve read since starting my first complete watch of this series.

    Patrick was fantastic in this I thought. His acting is certainly broader in scope than DD. Nice to see Skinner in the mix of it. Actually, if he wasn’t there’d be not much reason to call it an X-File besides the case itself. GA was hardly on screen (was this due to personal stuff going on with her did they just want to focus on Doggett?

    Very creepy vibe with this ep. Had me on the edge of my seat actually.

    Great TV.

    • I’m trying to remember now but I *think* GA had a filming conflict of some kind. If memory serves, this episode was designed to broaden Doggett while taking advantage of the fact that she’d be mostly absent. And if that’s what they set out to do, they did a great job.

  7. If memory serves, Gillian got it worked into her contract in Season 8 to have time off every few episodes to go back up to Vancouver to see her daughter, who was in school up there. Hence, some Scully lite eps.

    Scully’s pregnancy … I read an interview … I think it was with Spotnitz … where he somehow made the timeline come out to nine months. Some mathematical sleight of hand, I guess. Those 1013 boys clearly weren’t thinking ahead. Sigh.

  8. Again another excellent episode. I’m waiting in trepidation for when things start to go south…..But this one was dark, compelling and very much a twisted psychological thriller. Excellent acting by Robert Patrick, I agree he has more of a range than DD.

    At the point where both partners have saved each other’s lives, I think they deserve the right know pertinent medical details about each other. Just tell Doggett you’re pregnant, Scully!!

  9. Im gonna go out and say this: Via Negativa is one of my favourite X Files episodes ever and is one of the best all round stand alone episodes since season 5..

    Ok, so it doesnt have the dynamic dialogue of yesteryear involving Mulder and Scully, – but if you want something to show ya that the X Files was back firing from all cylinders, and with this story- literally getting into your mind to scare you to death again- this is it. From the opening terror teaser to its outstanding nightmarish freak out finale, I hold this episode in the same high regard as personal favourite classics like The Calusari,or Grotesque. Its cut from the same bloody cloth as anything from season two and four’s darkest hours.

    Robert Patrick is superb in this- showing us a vulnerable but still determined Doggett in the super-unknown world that is the X Files, out of his territory, and not knowing what he is getting himself into. The episode works on so many levels for me- Doggett’s insecurities about his new role in the X Files- a position he freely knows he feels he doesnt deserve or even necessary want-and his insecurities around Scully- trying to win her trust,even though he doesnt understand or want to believe whats now happening around him.

    I loved his scene with the Lone Gunmen. He’s at least trying to go with their ideas,and opines his shared views much to their surprise. He admits to not believing that Tipet has reached some paranormal higher state of mind,but he’s at least going with the flow of possibilities to help take Tipet down.
    Its just a brilliant, dark psychological horror- with some of the seasons most memorable, inventive visuals.

    And that final scene- is Tipet inside Doggett’s mind, or is it some fever dream burning into Doggett’s subconscious caused by his insecurities about letting Scully down, his position in the x files, or just the whole uncertainty of the case- something that he has now to get used to. I gotta mention too- the backwards talking part- I dunno if it was a nod to the brilliant Twin Peaks,but I loved it! That whole dream scene is fantastic- you totally buy Doggett’s paranoia and confusion. And the scene when he approaches Scully , as the room lights on and off is amazing.

    And..T2 refrence!! When Doggett slings Dr Bormanis into the jail cell- he stands and stares through the door down the hall- completely expressionless, impassive, before turning to silently walk away. Its almost exactly like Patrick’s scene as the T1000 in T2, looking at Sarah Connor through the barred door, in the Asylum. Im probably looking too much into that, but I half expected Dogget to suddenly walk through the door like the T1000 himself! Brilliant.

    I know that the X Files is Mulder and Scully- I feel the same way. But- Doggett really is an under-rated, unsung hero in the show.

  10. I love Kersh. He’s such an asshole! If there ever were to be a cartoon adaptation, we’d have to have Kersh grilling the duo at the start of each episode. “Mulderrrrrrrrr!”

  11. In theory this should be a good episode considering the subject matter, but something felt lacking. I was actually quite bored watching this. I think the pacing was a bit slow.

    Obviously an episode designed to give Gillian Anderson some time off. I’m not sure I was quite ready to see Doggett and Skinner in the field investigating. It felt too soon for that combination as we are still getting used to the Scully and Doggett dynamic. Though it was great seeing the Lone Gunman again and them meeting Doggett. The Lone Gunman and Skinner really took the Mulder role within this episode, but by the end of the episode it almost felt that Doggett was ready and willing to believe. But this again feels too soon as this stage.

    So Doggett lives in Falls Church, Virginia. He leaves his door unlocked at night.

    The homeless man sinking into the quicksand; you can clearly see the square box that was designed for that sequence.

    The scene with Doggett talking in his dream sounded weird and funny, but not in a good way.

    What happened to patient confidentiality in that hospital Doggett visited?

    Skinner has new glasses, and I don’t like them. The round ones are much batter.

    Agent Crane makes another appearance.


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