Skinner continues to prove he's one of the strongest characters on the show with this Mitch Pileggi-heavy episode. Skinner is a stoolie for a reprehensible monster, trying to do the right thing but forced to orchestrate an awful chain of events in the hopes of achieving his end goal (to save Scully). There was a lot of fun to be had here, with the atmospheric and almost dialogue-free early sequences with Skinner disposing of Jane Brody's body, while Mulder seeking help and advice from the very man he's unknowingly pursuing was equally entertaining. The conspiracy episodes only truly work at this point when it doesn't feel like the writers are simply tossing a series of elements into a pot, and Zero Sum thankfully only explores one of them.
I've mentioned it before but the bees are one of my favorite conspiracy elements, and we get an array of memorable attack sequences here. It was a little bit of a cop-out that only the teacher was killed at the end, but the shots of defenseless children being knocked to the ground by swarms of smallpox bees were all pretty epic.
It feels a little lazy to reveal that Marita Covarrubias is working for the CSM. I mean, of course she is. At this point, the show has become so reliant on double-crosses and undercover moles that it's hardly surprising when another similar plot twist rears it head. Laurie Holden has got the sensual voice and calm demeanor thing down, but it would be a lie to say that her character is particularly memorable.
Mitch Pileggi gives one of his most understated and charismatic performances here, in an episode which features an array of elements which could merely be retreads of previous episodes if it weren't for the dedication that has clearly been put into making it an involving thriller episode. And you barely notice that Scully isn't around. B+
Guest stars Mitch Pileggi (A.D. Walter Skinner); William B. Davis (The Cigarette-Smoking Man); Laurie Holden (Marita Covarrubias)
Writers Howard Gordon, Frank Spotnitz Director Kim Manners