Well, we were promised more background on Skinner this season, and while “Kitten” was a generally good episode, it also wasn’t really what I expected in regards to learning more about Skinner.
Weirdly enough, even though I hoped for more about Skinner’s recent history and what’s going through his head with this whole Smoking Man thing, I find it hard to voice any actual complaints about “Kitten” lacking this information. While it also wasn’t on par with some of this season’s earlier episodes, the long and the short of it is that I did like “Kitten”.
I mean, I also liked whoever that actor was who played young Skinner. He was cute and I’m not afraid to admit that.
But I digress. There wasn’t much mystery to this episode; of course the gas from the Vietnam flashbacks was weaponized and experimental, and of course the monsters that Skinner’s friend John saw – and that people from the town of Mud Lick were claiming to see in the present day – weren’t actually real. The two biggest surprises were the fact that John – a.k.a. Kitten – was likely dead before Skinner or Mulder and Scully arrived in Mud Lick, and how much his son Davey looked like him. (I definitely had a brief “whoa, huh?!” moment when Davey showed up; he was, after all, played by Haley Joel Osment, who also played John in the flashbacks, so at first I thought “Kitten” himself somehow hadn’t aged.)
All that said, the episode’s story wasn’t so much about Mud Lick and its supposed monster(s) as it was about why Skinner has stuck by Mulder and Scully’s sides for so long. Shoot, “Kitten” began with the FBI director chastising Mulder and Scully for holding Skinner back, claiming that Skinner’s career was stalled because of his loyalty to Mulder and Scully, and that Skinner hasn’t been the same since they returned to the bureau. So even as Mulder and Scully went looking for the missing Skinner, they were questioning whether it really was their fault that he’d been ‘stuck’ in the same job for 30 years. Which is a hard thing to think about, but also, did how they feel about it really need to matter? (The answer is that no, it didn’t.)
Now, while I agree with Scully that them having to break into Skinner’s apartment kind of sucked, I have to admit that I’m still curious about how bland and pristine it was. Not having family pictures is one thing, but it really didn’t look lived in at all (I mean, apart from the envelope containing the desiccated ear and the note about monsters). Unfortunately it seems like that’s another little mystery for another time…or probably for never. Ah well.
So what *did* “Kitten” give us in terms of information about Skinner? Well, apart from the flashbacks of his past as a Marine in the Vietnam War, he gave a great explanation for why he’s stuck by Mulder and Scully all these years. Too bad Mulder had to ask Skinner about that while Scully was patching him up from having fallen onto a bamboo stake, but perhaps Skinner’s answer was worth the awkward ‘confrontation’…
That experience I had in Vietnam with John – it put a dent in my blind faith in my government. It planted seeds of mistrust. I tried for years to suppress that mistrust, but it gnawed at me. Then you two came along and taught me not to hide from it, but to shine a light into the darkest corners…and if given the choice between advancing my career by being blindly loyal to some faceless puppeteers pulling strings from the shadows or to throw in with you two, make no mistake about it, I’d make the same decision every damn time.
In the end, the physical monster of Mud Lick – that being Davey in a monster costume of sorts – was killed, but even if we hadn’t gotten the shot of them ‘crop dusting’ nearby fields with what was clearly something akin to (if not the same as) the weaponized gas John was exposed to, we can’t forget that people in the town were also randomly losing teeth…which was also happening to John after he was exposed to the gas in Vietnam. The Davey voice over, though, might have been a bit much:
Imagine the power of a government that could literally control the minds of millions and millions of its citizens, simply by exposing them to this poison. It’s happening. It’s happening RIGHT NOW.
I don’t know about you, but lines like that are a bit hard to stomach with everything going on nowadays. I guess even an overall good X-Files episode can go a little bit too far…but that doesn’t make me dislike the episode – it just makes me wish it was twenty years ago.
How did you feel about “Kitten”? Do you think we learned enough about Skinner, or were you hoping for more? Let us know in the comments!
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is an author, fandom and geek culture expert, and public speaker. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.
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