This could have easily been a Freddy Krueger retread, and certain scenes do feel remarkably similar to those popularized in that seminal '80s dream-killer franchise. But Frank Spotnitz stumbles into new territory with his antagonist's M.O., Tipet able to cross into a higher plane of consciousness and embrace his inner darkness, leading him to a dream-state killing spree. There are some intriguing ideas here, notably the concept of exploiting the anger within us all so much that we become murderers. This is a story that is clearly highly-researched, Spotnitz pulling from strands including biblical prophecy, the Eye of Providence, cults like Jonestown, as well as modern-day spirituality. It's all evident on-screen, and raises the bar for what could have been a pretty mundane monster-of-the-week story.
Via Negativa is also the first episode to truly push Doggett center stage. With Scully taken ill, Skinner amusingly becomes the 'season eight Scully' to Doggett's 'original incarnation Scully', encouraging Doggett to believe in the possibility of extreme phenomena. They make an engaging pair, and I loved that continued theme of Doggett coming around to this mode of thinking, as well as Robert Patrick's complete disorientation as he wakes up one morning to see a third eye on his forehead, stumbling around the FBI unaware of whether he's still dreaming.
That final scene in Scully's bedroom is also stunningly directed. The moody blue tint is surreal and atmospheric, while the pulsating of the camera lens and Doggett's facial expressions (intense and scary, crossed with fear and disbelief) are remarkably affecting. I found certain elements of Via Negativa a little hard to wrap my head around, notably the lack of explanation for Doggett's involvement in the closing series of scenes, but it remains an ambitious detour that utilizes Robert Patrick far better than most of his previous appearances. B+
Guest stars Mitch Pileggi (Walter Skinner); Keith Szarabajka (Anthony Tipet); James Pickens, Jr. (Alvin Kersh); Tom Braidwood (Melvin Frohike); Dean Haglund (Ringo Langly); Bruce Harwood (John Fitzgerald Byers); Kirk B.R. Woller (Agent Gene Crane); Grant Heslov (Andre Bormanis)
Writer Frank Spotnitz Director Tony Wharmby