Alright, here we go: the first episode of the revival seasons not to be written by a returning writer from the original run responsible for a lot of memorable episodes. As for casting notes, there’s Haley Joel Osment playing father-and-son roles for some reason.
The Case: Skinner’s Past!
The Rest: Walter Skinner, as a character, hasn’t had a whole lot to do in the final two seasons of the show. I don’t know why. I know it feels kinda contrived that Mulder is back to not trusting the guy, but only as needed by the plot. Personally, one of the things I’ve liked most about this rewatch was actually Skinner. Even in his earliest, more antagonistic appearances, he came across as a more reluctant obstacle, someone who would have preferred to be helping Mulder and Scully but had his hands tied for a wide variety of reasons. Over time, even Mulder realized that and Skinner has been a good ally when he can ever since. I chalk most of the depth to Skinner to Mitch Pileggi’s performance as the character.
Which is why this last season has been a little frustrating as Mulder’s ability to trust Skinner seems to fluctuate depending on what each episode needs. This episode does end with Mulder saying he’s going to support Skinner in the future, and he says it in a way that suggests he’s speaking for Scully too, but Scully never really expressed the level of distrust for her boss the way Mulder did.
Mulder can be a real snickerdoodle sometimes.
However, this episode does offer an explanation for why Skinner was as helpful as he was. Sure, this explanation was probably made up for this episode, but it actually does fit in with the character as I understand him. Why did Skinner help these two as much as he did, to the point where Kersh (back for a quick appearance) suggests that helping Mulder and Scully hurt Skinner’s own career, and now that Skinner is missing, it’s up to Mulder and Scully to go looking for him because no one else really is?
It actually goes back to Skinner’s time in Vietnam when he as a young marine (played by Pileggi’s nephew) promised to help a more timid comrade in the form of Osment’s John “Kitten” James. But then they were exposed to some sort of MK-ULTRA style gas that made Kitten a lot more murderous. Skinner had testified against him when he got back and sent Kitten to a mental hospital or something, and that was in large part because Skinner couldn’t tell the whole truth. When Kitten killed himself and forces unknown started spraying the chemicals around a small Kentucky town, Kitten’s son (also Osment) decides to lure Skinner there and take the man out.
Why Osment played both the father and the son, I have no idea. It might have made for a more interesting twist if they were the same guy and not a father and a son, but what do I know?
Anyway, that Vietnam made Skinner a rebel in his own way, and he was rejuvenated when he saw Mulder and Scully fighting back against evil government conspiracies enough to want to be their ally.
Still not sure why Mulder is as down on Skinner as he is right now. You’d think he’d know the guy better.
Up next, the perils of automation.