Season 3, Episode 21: “Avatar”
Skinner! Finally, some Skinner!
I’ll be honest. When I saw “Avatar” was the next episode, I was excited at first because I’ve been wanting to discuss Skinner for a while. And then I rewatched the episode, and although I liked it, it’s really, really not as Skinner-centric as I remembered. In fact, it’s kind of hard to find what to say about Skinner in this episode, because it’s actually more of a traditional X-File than I thought it was. Even though its main focus is on Skinner, Mulder and Scully are still very much front-and-center.
And, well, as far as X-Files go, it’s…okay. Let’s just say there could be a reason why I searched this episode in Google Images to find a front picture and this was one of the first things that came up:
“Get it?” – I say as I smile through clenched teeth.
There will be other Skinner-centric episodes in later seasons, but “Avatar” is the first, and honestly it’s kind of hard to know what to do with it. The X-File here is intriguing enough, and it’s nice to give Skinner some well-deserved screen time, but what Skinner goes through in this episode doesn’t really reveal much about his character because, well, we don’t have much to go off of. We haven’t seen enough of Skinner or his wife to know what this divorce is putting him through or why he reacts in these ways.
To really illustrate this, let me ask a simple question: is Skinner acting out of character in this episode? Well, based on what we’ve seen from him so far, my inclination would be yes – normally, I don’t think Walter Skinner would be the kind of person who’d take home a woman he met in a bar. But I can only back up that answer with my gut feeling and not with a lot of hard evidence. Sure, he’s a Vietnam War vet. Sure, he’s a badass and an Assistant Director of the FBI. But none of those things necessarily prevent you from picking up women.
Let’s put Mulder in the place of Skinner in this episode. Say Mulder was the one who’d taken home the girl in the bar. We know that’s out of character for him. Mulder never takes home women, and up to this point we’ve only seen him romantically involved with a vampire and since I usually pretend like that episode doesn’t exist anyway I’m not even going to count it. So to see Mulder in this situation would be really unusual and out of character, which we know because we have nearly three seasons of evidence to back it up.
And while I, like you, truly believe Skinner is a decent human being that wouldn’t normally do this, it’s hard to find much to justify why.
And throwing Sharon, Skinner’s wife, just makes the entire situation even more confused and complicated.
Because, I’ll just tell you now: we will never see Sharon again. No one will ever mention her again. Not Skinner, not anyone. She exists in this episode and this episode alone. Hell, we don’t even know if she lives.
And because of that, I can’t help feeling that this episode is a slight waste of time. Not in all ways, but in some. It’s certainly nice to see Skinner go through a range of emotions that we haven’t seen before, as well as explore new interactions between Skinner and Mulder and Scully, but I feel like the wife thing was put in just as an excuse to have Sad Skinner, and no other reason.
I said on Twitter that I like this episode a lot more than I remember it, which I think is a good way of putting it. Is it good? Yes. But The X-Files could definitely exist without it. And so could Skinner.
Final score for “Avatar” is 7/10. I struggled with the score for this one, because I’m not sure it quite deserves a 7, but after looking through the other episodes I gave a 6 this season, like “Oubliette” and “Grotesque,” I just can’t put it in the same category. There is something more to it than those other episodes.
- Maybe the reason they threw in the wife thing was solely so Mitch Pileggi could have a chance to show off his awesomeness, in which case, I salute everyone involved. Mitch Pileggi is awesome. I will stand by that forever.
- I think the idea of a succubus is a lot scarier than it comes across in this episode.
- In the final scene, where Mulder asks Skinner to tell him how he knew to be at the hospital off the record, is the only thing about this episode that I felt was directly connected to a scene in a previous episode. In “One Breath,” Skinner opens up to Mulder for the first time about something personal, and I could feel Mulder trying to reach for that vulnerability he saw in Skinner again, hoping he’d be able to get Skinner to spill and maybe start building a stronger and closer bond between the two of them. But, for whatever reason, Skinner isn’t up to it right now, and you can see how much it disappoints Mulder.