TV: The X-Files - S11 E06 - Kitten - Reviewed

The latest episode of The X-Files is special for several reasons: It’s the writing debut of Gabe Rotter, who has been involved with the show in a variety of capacities, working directly under Chris Carter; it’s also one of two episodes to be directed by a woman. Carol Banker has the honor this time around, and both she and Rotter complement each other quite nicely. 

Kitten is also, strangely enough, one of the few episodes to focus on Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) and maybe the only one to do a deep dive into his backstory. Kitten is less of an X-File monster-of-the-week story and more of a conspiracy thriller, with implications dating back to Skinner’s time in Vietnam, making it a slight departure from what we’ve seen so far this season. Rotter’s writing is particularly well-honed for a TV debut (he’s written two novels but never any produced scripts), which for me is a strong argument for him to take on the mythology episodes, if indeed that remains a necessary evil. Banker manages to give a claustrophobic look and feel to the episode, while at the same time allowing for some light hearted fun. (Mulder has a particularly funny line about the word “juices.”) 

On a more minor note, I appreciated the return of Deputy Director Kersh (James Pickens Jr.), who has been absent from both the 2008 film and the previous season, yet was such an important part to the final two seasons of the show’s original run. He gets to chastise Mulder in a fun bit of dialogue only his character could deliver with such spite, and it’s comforting to know that The X-Files can still properly use some of its more minor characters if and when it needs to. 

Despite this episode’s many charms, I thought overall it was a fairly standard outing, albeit with a great performance from Pileggi, particularly in one of the final scenes. My issues stem from the fact that I gravitate more toward the fun, “out there,” monster-of-the-week style episodes. It’s nothing against the writing and direction, more just from a story perspective. I’m not all that interested in a Vietnam-focused story, even if it is a closer look at Skinner. 

My other issue has to do with the fact that the episode appears to be designed to restore Skinner’s friendship and trust with Mulder and Scully and it doesn’t really earn it. Nothing that was revealed in the premiere, nor why Skinner would ever even listen to the Smoking Man are touched on, and those were the reasons for the distrust in the first place. I know, I know, they’re saving that for the finale. Too bad. Now is the time to resolve that issue, especially if, after all the characters have been through, Carter decides it’s convenient to test Skinner’s loyalty. (Do not get me started on what he’s done with the character of Monica Reyes.) 

I didn’t mind Kitten, but I’m also not its biggest fan. If The X-Files can get back to the richness of episodes 2-4 this season, I think it will have truly found itself again. I appreciate what the episode was trying to do, but it didn’t quite land for me. Better luck with the remaining episodes. 

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-Matt Giles