Despite the long gap between X-Files episodes there, I did not manage to write up “Kitten” before the next episode aired. There are a couple of reasons for this, some of which hinge on real-world demands on my time and aren’t really pertinent here. But we’ll talk about the other reasons as we get into “Kitten” and “Rm9sbG93ZXJz”.
The first reason, and it’s why I’m still struggling, is that the Parkland shooting happened. It was a terrible tragedy and I’m not adept enough to talk about it or really any mass shooting in any helpful way. But this one was different, and it’s because of the reaction. Alex Jones and people of both a similar political bent and lack of connection to reality have been preaching the idea of crisis actors and staged shootings since Sandy Hook and possibly even longer. And this was dismissed as crazy talk by just about everybody.
But for some reason, this time a fringe conspiracy theory went (reasonably) mainstream, to the extent that legitimate news outlets have to acknowledge this. And, let’s face it, it’s only one step less crazy than Jones’ other oft-stated belief that the government is secretly run by lizard people. But because nothing makes sense anymore and people are clinging to whatever they can use to make sense of the world. And most of the time that’s fine. If you’re ranting on Facebook about how the government is controlling us with fluoride in the water supply, you go and live your truth. I’m going to mute you on all of my social media, but you do you.
That’s one thing. But now we live in a world where people, and not just the six worst people in America like it’s been in the past, are taunting students who survived a mass shooting on the basis that they’re paid actors and this is an incredibly elaborate hoax that has benefited nobody and would have to have been running for at least a decade, leaving a trail of clues that don’t stand up to any sort of scrutiny. And it kind of messes me up. I like people less now than I did a month ago.
So suddenly the dark conspiracies of The X-Files are a lot less fun. I like thinking about aliens and people being uploaded to a database. But Truthers and Birthers and Pizzagaters, not so much. And that’s not the show’s fault. It’s just an environment right now where I feel uneasy listening to Davy’s speech about the government testing poison gas because I know there are people who believe exactly this and similarly use it as an excuse for their own behavior. So when I sit down to write, I just haven’t been able to put anything together.
I’m sure a fun, splashy episode would snap me out of it, but “Kitten” is unrelentingly grim and that’s the episode we sat with for weeks. And, back to why I’m late in covering it, there’s not much to say. It’s a Vietnam story with well-trod poison gas paranoia. There’s even a Scooby Doo reveal where the monster is a guy in a suit. I like Skinner, and I enjoyed getting into his past and exploring the idea that Mulder and Scully have pretty much ruined his career. And I like that they tied his grudging support of Mulder to something in his past. But, man, there’s not much to say. We all liked seeing Slow Joey as Davy/Kitten, but it’s such a self-contained story that doesn’t quite feel like an X-File.
I mean, if there’s a payoff to Skinner’s apparent exposure to MK-NAOMI, then this is a key episode, but for now, it’s just a solid episode that aired at the wrong time. I think I’d have liked it a lot more back during the original series when you had 24 episodes and more room to play. In the likely final season of a long-awaited revival, it’s a lot of real estate to give over this episode.
As for the episode with the convoluted title that I don’t want to keep typing, well, that was different. By the way, the episode title translates to “Followers” in Base64, and the string of characters at the end of the opening credits translates to “The Truth Is Out There”.
I assumed people were going to hate this episode, even though I enjoyed it. But the reviews were very positive. I really like the way the story is almost entirely dialogue-free, and the few words spoken are more along the lines of filler than anything meaningful. It was a really cool experiment, but it leaves me without much to say short of describing the machines that were trying to kill them. And yeah, the one that was 3-D printing bullets was clever, as was the Roomba igniting a match, but it’s tough to say much more than that. I think the end was needlessly jokey – Mulder turning back the robots by tipping the sushi restaurant didn’t fit the tone. However, the fact that he still only tipped 10% is genuinely hilarious.
Hopefully this week’s episode gives us a little more to talk about.