Monday, September 13, 2010

The X-Files: Avatar (3.21)

It's reflective of how far the show has come in three years that it has the confidence to hand over an episode to a supporting character, especially one who we know so little about. That's part of the fun about Avatar. While the relationship between our two protagonists and A.D. Skinner is now at the point where they steadfastly support him and respect him as a colleague, a supporter and a friend, it's pretty surprising to discover little details that actually give him a personality outside of his stock character traits as a "higher-up ally to the leads". He's a Vietnam veteran, depressed, and in the middle of divorce proceedings. It entirely changes the character, and allows us as an audience to be moved by the events of the episode.

However, it's a little disappointing that the episode itself quickly derails after a strong opening. The whole "dead hooker in the bed" motif isn't an original one, but the by-the-book investigation was fun to watch unravel, likewise the vague hints at something all-together supernatural. Don't Look Now lady? Creepy. Succubus references? Neat. Incongruous giant red coat? Ridiculously fun. So, in the end, it's underwhelming to discover it's another government conspiracy, and not crazy sci-fi kabluey.

Gold acting stars to both Mitch Pileggi and especially guest star Jennifer Hetrick as Skinner's wife. Yes, the fact that she looks like Sigourney Weaver's long-lost twin is at first distracting, but there's a pathos and an underlying feeling of regret to their scenes together, and they're entirely convincing as a couple going their separate ways.

I also liked the characterization of both Mulder and Scully here. Mulder in his determination to find the real culprit and prove the innocence of his friend, and Scully actually growing to be convinced by Mulder's Succubus theory. Maybe due to the vanishing substance on the victim's mouth, or maybe because of her own deep-seated trust of Skinner. Either way it's welcome to see.

While the storyline falls apart at the end, and a lot of the fun guest characters (the madam, the old lady) don't go where you expect them to, Avatar works well as a character piece, greatly improving the Skinner character and coming close to making him just as impactful as our two leads. Okay, not really. But he has become damn interesting. Rating B+

Guest stars Mitch Pileggi (A.D. Walter Skinner); Tom Mason (Detective Waltos); Jennifer Hetrick (Sharon Skinner); William B. Davis (The Cigarette-Smoking Man)
Teleplay Howard Gordon Story David Duchovny, Howard Gordon Director Jim Charleston

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