SKINNER: Then you two came along, and you taught me not to hide from it, but to have the guts to shine a light directly 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 I’d make the same decision every damn time.
One of the major criticisms of the previous season of The X-Files, the six-part revival series after many years of uncertainty about the show’s future, is that we didn’t see nearly enough of Mitch Pileggi and his character, Assistant Director Walter Skinner. It was a more than valid concern in regards to a character (and actor) who have been, without question, one of the key reasons Chris Carter’s series became such a pop-cultural success. ‘Kitten’ is a clear, unashamed attempt to redress that balance, squaring the focus entirely on Skinner, his past and his present. The fact it disappoints, therefore, is not only a touch unexpected, but more than a little frustrating.
The character of Skinner has been with The X-Files since late in the show’s first season, debuting in ‘Tooms’ which aired early in 1994. Fitting the template of Agents Mulder & Scully’s boss, a template Carter had struggled to fill across the first season with a succession of potential, internal antagonists who came briefly and went, Skinner represented not just the FBI, but a bulwark of old-fashioned masculinity in a show with a female scientist and nerdy conspiracy theorist as leads.
Skinner is the equivalent of a small-town Sherriff in an American Western; a compromised man having to tolerate the lawless thugs who run his streets wild while proving sympathetic to the lawmakers and townsfolk he’s there to serve. Skinner described himself once by declaring to Mulder that “I stand right on the line that you keep crossing” and this contextualises his function, since essentially Season Two premiere ‘Little Green Men’, for the entire run of the series.
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