The X-Files #70: Avatar

"Business must be booming." You mean 'banging'."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Skinner's divorce is interrupted by his apparent murder of a prostitute.

REVIEW: One of the leads reminds us that we don't know very much about Assistant-Director Skinner, so this is definitely an attempt to flesh him out by giving him a marriage in trouble, a chance for others to talk about him and him about himself, and a Vietnam background he seems to have discussed with Mulder off-screen (cheating!). It's a human interest story wrapped in a murder mystery, with an odd X-File to act as reddish herring, hiding the fact this was a Conspiracy story all along. But still a human interest story, and not a particularly interesting one. At its best, we're told by his almost absurdly supportive wife Sharon (Jennifer Hetrick who seems to have been typecast as a lover of bald men) his motto is silence as strength, and when he finally opens up to her, she's in a comatose state and can't hear him. At its worst, it's melodrama with twinkly piano music.

After a hooker (oh my, that's Amanda Tapping, insert your own pun here, I'm classier than that!) dies in his bed, we're led to believe it was either Skinner's sleeping disorder (Scully's theory) or a ghostly succubus intent on killing the women he loves (Mulder's). But no, it was the Conspiracy all along, framing Skinner for a murder he didn't commit. The Cigarette Smoking Man gets a blink-and-you'll-miss it cameo (see The Truth for his deleted scene), which is much more sinister for being so fleeting. His new contract killers are much more adept than Krycek and the other guy, and the plan this time is far less blunt. Discrediting Skinner, Mulder and Scully in one fell swoop seems a much more "conspiratorial" idea than an assassination that would draw attention.

So who WAS the old woman in Skinner's dreams and haunting hallucinations? Would you believe it was the ghost of Sharon Skinner's future? It certainly seems to play that way. She appears in Sharon's little red riding hood raincoat (and this is a TORRENTIAL episode, even when sunlight streams through the windows). In addition to his dreams, she appears where Sharon actually is. Who says spirits can't travel through time? While there's an ongoing separation (though no divorce, if we read the final scene correctly), their bond seems quite strong, and if we jump to Muldery conclusions, we might say that bond allows her ghost to go back through time (and she'll live to a ripe old age) to protect him, latching on when he has his near-death experience in the Vietnam War. It's a bit of a head scratcher, frankly, one that requires a continuity implant, seems a little contrived, and doesn't have much of a resolution. The title doesn't help much either.

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: I prefer the ambiguity of the Cigarette Smoking Man's unexplained presence, but a deleted scene has him confront and threaten Skinner, essentially using the situation to blackmail the latter into playing by the Syndicate's rules. In other words, this IS a frame-up, one designed so that it can be fixed so Skinner will owe them something. Those were the hidden stakes here.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - I'm glad for the focus on Skinner, but the featured X-Files is unfocused and the character's marital woes unconvincing.



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