The X-Files Season 1, Episode 14: Gender Bender

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This episode falls somewhere close to the bottom of the barrel for me. Not as bad as “Space”, for sure (or “The Jersey Devil”), but it just left so many unanswered questions that it didn’t feel as satisfying as it could have.

I thought the juxtaposition of the more glamorous, decadent night club with the very laced up, proper life of denial of the Kindred was an interesting facet to the episode, great contrast (plus the music from the night club — recycled from Mark Snow’s previous work on In the Line of Duty: Street War — was killer). There are themes of sexuality, fluid gender roles (whether that’s being viewed as more standard gender roles within society or gender fluidity as a whole is another question), and seduction, as well as a fear of intimacy/sexuality. We have Marty (played by Kate Twa and Peter Stebbings), unable to stay repressed within this alien but still very familiarly Puritanical culture, even willing to kill to achieve pleasure.

“Your world offers pleasures – pleasures we don’t know because we’re different. But you know that now. The others will punish me for what I’ve done. They’ll find me, because the day is coming and they won’t leave without me.”

There is also some killer acting, specifically from Gillian Anderson. The scene when she is first being seduced by Brother Andrew (Brent Hinkley) is so powerful, so mesmerizing… you can see her melting away, despite the confusion and resistance under the surface, and she even manages to have her face flush within the scene, and it’s just… impressive. She’s still so distracted, so outside of her own mind, when Mulder comes over to her. It’s a great scene.

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And yes, the atmosphere is pretty awesome, too. They *always* nail the foggy woods motif but this time it was paired with these New England barns and lanterns and it was just great.

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Also, randomly, we see Nicholas Lea — who will eventually come back as Alex Krycek in season 2 — narrowly escape death at the hands of the female version of Marty. It’s always so bizarre but kind of cool to me to see actors in their first incarnation in a show (especially since Krycek is so insufferable later on).

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There are very complex themes and lots of promise, but ultimately the episode leaves a lot to be desired. There seemed to be more questions remaining than there were answered by the finale, and that didn’t feel intentional. If the community were all alien, why did they choose to live in such isolation (that may be my human ego assuming they’d want to study us, but why else be here?)? I just felt like them leaving so abruptly was like the episode went off the edge of a cliff. It was an epic overhead crop circle shot, and very fitting with the overall theme of the show, but it just meant that nothing was answered, or even theorized about, which felt unsatisfying to me.

A cool episode, for sure, but not one of my favorites.

Director: Rob Bowman | Writer: Chris Carter, Larry Barber, Paul Barber | Music: Mark Snow | Cinematography: John S. Bartley | Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Kate Twa, Peter Stebbings, Brent Hinkley, Michele Goodger

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