Previously on The X-Files, “Ghouli”
After all this time, we finally gained considerable insight in the life of Walter Sergei Skinner, particularly during his tour in Vietnam with a bright-eyed and bushy tailed draftee named John James (Haley Joel Osment). In 1969, Skinner and James were tasked to transport a crate that contained materials necessary for the continuation of Project MKUltra and were unintentionally released during a brief firefight. The result of which was a crazed Pvt. James hacking away at the villagers who he believed were demons. According to Skinner later on in the episode, his friend John was irrevocably changed since the incident, a scarred and hollow grunt that took to collecting the ears of his victims.
Some time after their tour, Skinner testified against James because of his actions in ‘Nam and he was institutionalized indefinitely outside of Mud Lick, Kentucky. Nearly 50 years later, Walter’s past finally came back to haunt him. orcing Director Alvin Kersh (James Pickens Jr.) to task Mulder and Scully in finding their wayward boss.
It’s strange to believe that in eleven seasons so little remains known about A.D. Skinner. We’ve delved into his tumultuous marriage in “Avatar” and the beginnings of Walter’s reluctant association with CSM in “Zero Sum”; both episodes pushed Skinner to his limit and proved his abilities as a shrewd agent under perilous circumstances. Outside of that, Walter was typically written as an obstructionist and informant during Mulder’s longstanding quest for the truth. Never good or evil outright, Skinner had always been an involuntary pawn used by the Syndicate and CSM to hinder Mulder’s work throughout the series, and this duty persists during the revival. It’s taken a handful of seasons but Skinner’s time in the spotlight was a welcome change of pace, despite the relatively subdued nature of “Kitten”.
In the first act, Kersh managed to throw a bit of shade towards Fox and Dana, implying the agents were indirectly responsible for the plateau in Skinner’s career. Granted, Kersh doesn’t have all the facts to Walter’s lack of advancement, and to a lesser degree neither do Mulder and Scully. Despite the trust Skinner had in the system had eroded significantly over the years, Fox and Dana keep his faith alive in . Conversely, Skinner’s association with the Cigarette Smoking Man has left much to be desired but let’s not forget Walter was blackmailed, tortured, briefly fired from the FBI, and infected with nanites to keep him in line. After all those experiences, nothing had affectedly him so profoundly as his time in Vietnam. Walter may have returned physically whole, but the war left him in pieces, as evidenced in “One Breath” and “Providence”.
So it’s no surprise writer and X-Files producer Gabe Rotter would fill in some gaps about Skinner’s earliest days in Vietnam by introducing the previously unmentioned Private James. Osment was given double duty as John and his eerily identical son Davey; the latter being the product of a disturbing upbringing filled with unfounded conspiracy theories and dreams of revenge. While the essence of “Kitten” was Davey attempting to gain closure by slowly killing Skinner, Rotter designed a new line within the show’s web of intrigue involving an ongoing MKUltra project perfected on backwater towns before its dispersal among our food supply.
The set-up as a whole was a bit kooky as the focus steadily jumped from the exploited town of Mud Lick and its loose-toothed citizenry, the “monster” killing Pvt. James’ cohorts, and Walter reminiscing and seeking forgiveness from Davey, and the subsequent conspiracy at play. Nevertheless, it was a serviceable entry that provided viewers a touch more intel on the tight-lipped Skinner. However this journey into his past felt more like a segue to feature another sinister arm of the grand conspiracy that intends to eliminate hundreds of millions before CSM’s final solution is enacted.
The X-Files S11E6 Review Score
The X-Files – S11E6 – “Kitten” | David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi