Written by Tim Minear
Directed by Kim Manners
Tim Minear would later gain a significant reputation for his work in connection, like a lot of other writers connected with the X-Files, for working with Joss Whedon, mainly in connection with Angel. This would be his only solo script for the series. Which is something of a huge pity, because he clearly demonstrates a great deal of strength with Mind’s Eye.
Coming down from a series of overly complicated mythology episodes, this story is almost deceptively simple. We are told the story of Marty Glenn, a blind woman who has been accused of murder. The episode then allows Mulder and Scully to properly investigate, something that they haven’t been able to do for awhile, and try and figure out how Marty managed to complete a series of murders. For once, the suspect’s supernatural ability is a reason that Mulder believe in her innocence for a change, so much so that when the detective who called them in for assistance eventually tells Mulder: “You’re a skeptical guy”, one of the funniest lines the series has had in quite some time.
Mulder’s belief in Marty’s innocence is one of the more engaging things about the story. For once, his empathy isn’t tied to any relationship to extraterrestrials, but rather to the idea that this a woman who has gone out of her way to demand nobody feel any sympathy for her. Marty is abrasive, hostile, sarcastic and everything about her makes her seem more guilty, yet seeing how she has adapted to her disability makes her seem like one of the more endearing characters in the entire X-Files lexicon. The result is that Duchovny gives one of his more compassionate performances in the entire series, and in a season which has shown him to be more abrasive and angry, that’s a real change of pace, one that he embraces whole-heartedly.
But what makes the episode work so well is the brilliant performance of Lili Taylor as Marty. Taylor is one of the best and most undervalued actresses working today, and her portrayal is one of the very best guest star turns in the entire series history. An actress that the traditional world of Hollywood never managed to find a niche for, she would be superb in both independent films, and starting with this performance, television. She earned her first Emmy nomination as a guest star for this role, and she thoroughly deserved it. Marty’s whole character is portrayed so that we deliberately never feel any sympathy for her—- she doesn’t want us to—- and yet despite her aggressive attitude, maybe even because of it, she becomes one of the most empathetic characters in the entire canon of the series.
Like so many of the best ‘monsters’ in the series, the power that she possesses is one that she doesn’t want —- being able to see only through the eyes of a criminal is not something that we would wish on our worst enemy. it becomes even more horrible when we realize that the visions that she has— hostile, angry, filled with murderous rage— are the only things she can see. Some would argue that the sudden change in character that she demonstrates in the final act is almost too radical a shift to be believable. I hold it much in the same way that Mulder does; she never had a choice before, and being able to kill the man who has essentially imprisoned her for her entire life, seems like an act of liberation.
Admittedly, the special effects and the visions that we see through Marty’s eyes don’t seem to be particularly remarkable as the series can usually be. (However, the two sequences where Marty sees herself through Gotts eyes, packs quite a punch.) But this is an episode more about character then it is just about anything else. It’s also should be noted for the rare case of a sympathetic law enforcement official (well played by Blu Mankuma), who enters the rare pantheon of competent law enforcement officials who ask for Mulder and Scully’s help. In almost any other story, Mankuma’s performance would be enough to overshadow anything else, but Taylor as is her habit, overshadows everything.
Mind’s Eye is not a perfect episode, but in a season where so many of the Monsters of the week have been mostly lacking, and rather humane characters have been all but absent, it’s probably one of the high points of the fifth season. It’s a pity that Minear decided to leave the series after only a single season; he clearly has a better grasp of the series than a lot of the other new writers who were brought in during the last couple of seasons. One could certainly tell that he had a better grasps of what made the X-Files work—- an interesting gimmick, good characters and something that makes our heroes look good. When we see Marty alone in her prison cell in the final scene, our hearts go out to her, which means more than any other writer save for Vince Gilligan, Minear knew what he was doing when it came to characters this season.
My score: 4 stars.