The X-Files 11×06 fleshed out a few more details in Skinner’s backstory and introduced an old government experiment
The X-Files took a bit of a break from Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully’s (Gillian Anderson) search for William this week and gave us some additional backstory on Skinner (Mitch Pileggi). Back when Skinner was in Vietnam, his platoon was given a box that his superior officer said had to be protected at all costs. Unfortunately for his platoon, they came under attack and the box was punctured. They were all exposed to a yellow-green gas, which caused some who were exposed to it to hallucinate and see a “monster.”
After Skinner goes AWOL in the present, Deputy Director Kersh (James Pickens, Jr.) summons Scully and Mulder to his office and accuses them of being involved somehow. While neither of them actually know where Skinner went, they head off to find him. After checking his apartment and finding it surprisingly lacking in personal details, they find a package he had recently received with a severed ear in it. The agents end up in Mud Lick, Kentucky and encounter Skinner’s former Vietnam buddy’s son Davey (Haley Joel Osment). They discover that he’s blamed Skinner for his father’s confinement in a mental institution for the past three decades. There, the government had allegedly been using the same gas from Vietnam on him as part of an ongoing experiment to control people. Mulder and Scully save Skinner from Davey and the future of the government project (and Skinner’s loyalty) are brought into question.
A lot of the time in “Kitten” was spent on Scully and Mulder tracking down Skinner and fleshing out what had originally happened with the gas back in Vietnam. It also gave a little more insight into Skinner’s loyalties. The episode also brought back Deputy Director Kersh, who hadn’t been seen since the show’s original series finale, “The Truth.” It’s unclear if he’s going to have a role going forward or if it was intended to just be a callback the original run of the series. The end of the episode confirmed that Davey’s paranoia about the government continuing the experiments with the fear gas were indeed true.
It had been a while since The X-Files had delivered an episode focused on Walter Skinner, and in typical fashion for The X-Files, it seemed to raise more questions than it answered. So let’s discuss “Kitten” with our roundtable!
Anaka (@YngBloodRusher) – Student, animal lover, music/TV/movie nerd.
Gigi (@trilliaventuras) – Mom to triplets. Passionate, my glass is either full or not there at all. Sci-fi nerd since before it was cool. Fangirl extraordinaire.
Trycee (@believeinxfiles) – Hardcore X-Files fan for life.
Kaiju Ninja (@OfficeSquatch) – Godzilla geek. Gamer. Nerdy about sci-fi, and all things, film and TV.
Briana (@sassy_scully) – PR student. Lover of cheese, bacon and all things Scully.
1. Alvin Kersh briefly returned in this episode. What did you think of his return? Do you see him playing a role in the last four episodes of the season?
Anaka (@YngBloodRusher): I liked his return. I can definitely see him playing a bigger role in the next 4 episodes ‒ or at least the finale.
Gigi (@trilliaventuras): I never really liked Kersh much, even if he helped Mulder and Scully escape in “The Truth.” The only reason we saw him now while being Deputy Director of the FBI is because one of his ADs went missing and, of course, he blames Mulder and Scully for it so he needs to send them to find him. I don’t think we’ll be seeing much of him in the episodes to come, if at all.
Trycee (@believeinxfiles): I was surprised to see him because I thought because of the season 9 episode, “The Truth.” Yes, I can see Kersh appearing in a few more episodes.
Kaiju Ninja (@OfficeSquatch): Yes, I think he will “replace”, Walter Skinner. Alvin may be working for the Cigarette Man. I have a feeling Skinner will be killed off.
Briana (@sassy_scully): I was surprised to see him in this episode but even though I hate the character I really love the actor. I see him playing a small role in the last four but nothing major.
2. Scully and Mulder made a point about not knowing much about Skinner’s personal life despite knowing and working with him for so many years. Are there any details about Skinner’s life that you’d like to know more about?
Anaka: I’d like to know more about his family life. Why does he have no pictures of them in his house? Does he not have any family?
Gigi: It is weird they don’t know much about him given the personal investment Skinner had in both their lives. He always went above and beyond to help them and they always paid him in kind. He was there for Scully when there was no one else. You’d think they’d grow into a more personal friendship during that time. I’d love to know more about Skinner. Where did he meet his wife? Why they never had any children? How come he started dating his secretary?!
Trycee: Skinner is wearing a wedding band but when Mulder and Scully go to his apartment, it’s stark and there’s no sign of a wife. I would like to know why he’s wearing a wedding band. (I know Mitch forgot to take it off.) I’d like to know who he is currently married to and where is she.
Kaiju Ninja: One of the reasons why I like Skinner is because he is secretive and mysterious. But a little backstory is fine. However, I don’t know if this story was the right one to tell. Having said that, I would like to get more information about his past/reasons he’s been in contact with the Cigarette Man. I’m sure that will all be revealed soon.
3. Davey appeared to be luring and then killing off members of Skinner’s platoon from Vietnam. Do you think he was acting on his own or was he also exposed to the gas and was acting on the orders of whoever exposed him to it?
Anaka: I think he was acting on his own. He didn’t seem crazy (as in the kind of crazy people get from the gas). I think he genuinely wanted to avenge his father in some weird way.
Gigi: I think Davey was deeply affected by all the stories his father must have told him during his years at the psychiatric hospital. He obviously blamed all of his dad’s platoon, particularly Skinner, for everything that both his dad and him had to endure. So he was taking advantage of the monster tale to lure them back and kill them.
Trycee: I think he was taking revenge for “Father,” as he calls him. He hates Skinner because it was Skinner’s testimony at the trial that caused his father to be in the mental facility for over thirty years of his life. Revenge plain and simple.
Kaiju Ninja: I think he was acting on his own, and getting his revenge. Now, it’s possible that he’s been exposed to small traces of the gas, so maybe it did play a role. His father may have influenced/taught him things, but think this was all Davey’s idea of vengeance.
Briana: I think he was acting on his own, honestly. He was creepy but I don’t really think he was exposed to the gas. How would he even come into contact with the gas?
4. It was never incredibly clear who was wearing the “monster” outfit. The most likely suspect would have been Davey. If it wasn’t him, who else could it have been? Or was there actually a monster?
Anaka: I’m leaning towards it was an actual monster. That’s why the “costume” in the closet moved, but no one seemed to be in it. But, in classic X-Files fashion, we will probably never know.
Gigi: The monster in disguise was definitely Davey, using it as a cover to kill the people he felt had wronged him. There were so many stories about monsters in the forest and people in that area being exposed to the toxic gas from Vietnam, or at least a version of that gas, that everyone was already predisposed to seeing a monster. It wasn’t hard for Davey to pass himself as one.
Trycee: Davey was wearing the outfit. That was my impression. That he was dressing like the monster. Perhaps his father made the outfit or told him about what the monster looks like.
Kaiju Ninja: I think his father, either told him everything, and Davey created the costume and traps himself. Or his father created those, and Davey is carrying on his father’s “legacy.”
Briana: To me, it was clearly Davey. I don’t believe there was actually a monster.
5. Do you think the gas is connected to the Cigarette Smoking Man’s plans or do you think it’s completely separate? If it’s separate do you think it’s part of the Erika Price’s plans or something else entirely?
Anaka: I actually think it is part of CSM’s plans. It would make perfect sense if somehow he was spreading it across America. It possibly might make people sick, or see things that aren’t there…and that’s how “My Struggle” went down.
Gigi: Everything is connected to CSM! Especially when we’re talking about controlling the population. He may not have started the experiment but I’m sure he kept it going. Can you imagine what he can do when he has the will of millions at his disposal?
Trycee: I want to believe that CGB is involved in everything but I’m not sure. CGB has been in and out of the loop many times when the Syndicate was after him so there’s a possibility that he is not involved. Now, Erika Price is definitely involved.
Kaiju Ninja: I do think there is a connection to the Cigarette Man, and we’ll see how the gas affects Skinner (besides, the teeth) and what the exact plans are. I think it’s a plan like the Scarecrow…mass chaos. Then, the aliens can invade, after the humans killed each other. No “War of the Worlds.”
Briana: I don’t think this has anything to do with the mythology arc.
6. Both Kersh and Skinner indicated that the latter’s career advancement is stalled due to his loyalty to Mulder and Scully. Because of that, Skinner appears to have regained Mulder and Scully’s trust. Do you think that will come back to bite them before the end of the season?
Anaka: Sadly, I think so. Skinner has clearly got something going on with the CSM, regardless of if he’s being forced (which I think he is) or if it’s by choice. He’ll always be loyal to Mulder and Scully, but he might not have a say in some things and be forced to betray them.
Gigi: I think we saw Skinner has a very strong moral compass, and he will try to do the right thing, as he understands it, even if it negatively impacts him. Unfortunately, we also saw he follows orders no matter what. He regrets his mindlessly following of orders back then. So I really hope this time around he’ll follow his instincts and do what is right.
Trycee: It makes me concerned about Skinner’s double loyalties at the moment. I know he cares for Mulder and Scully. I think Skinner was shocked that Jackson (William) died and I don’t think he knows that he’s still alive. So, I think that made him even more sympathetic to Mulder and Scully Skinner knows that they care for him. Mulder is still suspicious of Skinner but he told him they had his back anyway. Skinner has thanked them before for saving his life and then turned against them. I believe, in the end, Skinner will choose them but expect him to go right back to CGB in the meantime.
Kaiju Ninja: I think Skinner will be loyal to Scully and Mulder, until his end (which I think will be soon). Most likely, he will sacrifice himself to save the people he cares about and trusts.
Briana: Yes, because at the end of the day he’s still involved with the CSM.
7. It was revealed at the end of the episode that Davey was partially right about the government using the experimental gas as we saw them deploying it. What do you think the government is planning to use it for?
Anaka: I don’t know, to be honest. It could be so many things ‒ controlling the population for elections or politics, spreading alien DNA, being able to make people forget things that the government doesn’t want them to see ‒ I’m not sure. But I’m kind of bummed we are probably never going to find out.
Gigi: I don’t think is exactly the government using it, but more like the government within the government, or the shadow government, if you will. Controlling the population allows them more freedom to carry out their plans since fewer people would oppose them. Perhaps even electing an inexperienced president that would rely more on them and give them free reign?
Trycee: People have been suspicious of chemtrails for a few years now. And with the history of the government experimenting with the public, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did. They exposed pregnant women and children to DDT and radioactive particles to the public, so I’m not surprised. People are right in their suspicions. And I have no clue what they are doing with real-life chemtrails but I don’t trust the government to be truthful.
Kaiju Ninja: Mass chaos. Similar, to the Scarecrow causing mass fear/confusion in Batman Begins. Humans kill each other so that the aliens can peacefully invade.
Briana: It’s all about control. They want to control us.
Final Verdict: The mystery at the center of “Kitten” was rather weak but gave some additional insights into what makes Skinner tick
Despite being on the air for so long and Walter Skinner being an important character for almost as long, there aren’t many episodes that focus on him specifically. “Kitten” attempted to give the Assistant Director a little more depth. The episode raised several interesting questions about Skinner’s personal life. Why is his apartment almost completely devoid of personal items? Where is his family? If he’s so willing to follow orders, what will he do in the future if he’s ordered to turn against Mulder and Scully?
Mitch Pileggi did a great job conveying Skinner’s potentially conflicting views on following orders versus his loyalty to Mulder and Scully. Skinner has even sacrificed his own advancement at the FBI to help further their cause. “Kitten” also introduced a government project that has been working to refine a fear gas in an attempt to control people. Is that gas important to the Cigarette Smoking Man’s plans? Erika Price’s plans? It seems plausible but it’s difficult to know for sure.
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Unfortunately, the story itself didn’t have a whole lot of depth. A large portion of “Kitten” focused on Mulder and Scully trying to find Skinner. While that wasn’t a bad thing since Mulder and Scully are often entertaining to watch, the answers we were given once he was found were somewhat anticlimactic. The answers were tragic and emotional for Skinner himself. But without getting to know John and how he was directly impacted by the gas, that side of the story fell a bit short. The lack of much forward momentum after last week’s “Ghouli” likely didn’t help either.
“Kitten” gave us a small glimpse of what helps make Skinner tick by giving a break from the mytharc and the search for William. But hopefully, The X-Files will return to more interesting monster of the week and mytharc episodes for the remainder of the season.