The sixth episode in this season comes to us courtesy of Gabe Rotter, a new writer to The X-Files. “Kitten” is a quasi-Monster of the Week story centered around Walter Skinner. Once again, I found the veneer all there: the mood, the atmosphere, the music (finally someone reined in Mark Snow’s synthesizer and lowered the bass), but the heart of the show was missing. What I said in my previous recap is true here as well: this episode isn’t new in any way, but a reiteration of many previous X-Files episodes, just updated to fit our current headlines.
Compared to the other Skinner-centric episode “Avatar” in season three, this episode gave Mitch Pileggi a lot less with which to work. It felt weak. It was a rehashing of his Vietnam days, which we’ve already heard about in episode “One Breath” in season two, making this story feel repetitive. This episode delved deeper into Skinner’s time in Vietnam. The main story centered around his Marine unit being exposed to an experimental gas which induced hallucinations. Skinner (nicknamed “Eagle”), receiving a severed human ear in the mail, went searching for his fellow Marine (nicknamed “Kitten”). Mulder and Scully, called in to find Skinner, lead a fairly straightforward investigation to a small town in Kansas, where they find evidence of Skinner’s presence on a deer hunting camera. This leads Scully to explain to the small town Sheriff that Skinner cannot possibly be the killer as being caught on camera is sloppy, and Skinner is too intelligent for such a rookie mistake. Which is a hilarious point to make considering that Skinner left the severed human ear in his apartment. The package was left out in the open, sitting on his credenza, probably stinking up the place and forfeiting his security deposit. Is that not sloppy?
Mulder and Scully find Skinner trapped by Kitten’s son, a role played very well by Haley Joel Osment. The story ends with a plane flying over a field of corn, spraying the experimental gas. If it was any other topic, this pessimistic Outer Limits-inspired ending would work well, but not when it’s chemtrails. Chemtrails are for Kylie Jenner and Jaden Smith and Twitter. Trying to turn it into a serious topic is laughable.
Mitch Pileggi was brought into the show in the second season during Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy. His character has always been an antagonistic force in Mulder’s orbit, however, his character always worked best when limited to tough reprimands, exasperated report reviews, and incredulous sighs and eye rolls. Giving Skinner an entire episode in a ten-episode run feels like a bad decision and colossal waste of time. We’re here for the Mulder and Scully show, and in this episode, they were criminally underused.
Seeing the stills from this episode gave me hope. I’ve always enjoyed the Mulder and Scully Lost In The Woods episodes. However, these stills were a false representation. If you’re in the mood for something spooky that goes bump in the forest, I recommend a rewatch of “Darkness Falls” in season one, or “Detour” in season five.
Ursula wants to hear Scully sing Joy to the World again. You can follow her here.