Season 1, Episode 14: “Gender Bender”
Remember the awkward bug? It’s baaack.
Oh, dear, is this episode awkward. It almost reaches the hilarity of “The Jersey Devil,” but for some reason, I don’t find it quite as amusing. And by all accounts, it really should be. Instead, though, I get the creeps, and not in a good way, like I did for “Eve” or the upcoming episode “Tooms.” No, these are the kind of creeps that make me very uncomfortable. It’s partially because of the subject matter. But it’s also because this episode has way too much going on.
First, we have this mysterious person who can apparently change genders at will. This person also kills people after having sex with them. On the security tapes of the most recent crime, a woman is seen entering the room and a man is seen leaving. Which would be a sufficient premise on its own. But then the episode takes a very weird turn. Somehow, the Amish (okay, I know they’re not actually the Amish but they’re pretty much the same thing and I don’t remember what their actual name is) are involved in this case. Then one of the Amish, a guy named Brother Andrew, turns Scully on by playing thumb wars with her. Then Mulder and Scully go to the Amish’s place and see a mysterious ceremony being performed, where the Amish put a bunch of goo on a sick man that apparently heals him (and makes him change gender). Scully almost has sex with Brother Andrew. Then Alex Krycek’s twin is almost killed by the gender-changing person, and Mulder and Scully go on a chase, which doesn’t succeed because apparently the Amish can Disapparate, and then Mulder and Scully go back to the Amish’s hideout, which is now abandoned, the mysterious goo-cave covered up. The episode ends with Mulder and Scully standing in the middle of a field with a giant circular UFO-looking impression.
So, let’s review. Gender-changing Amish kill people after sex but can heal people with goo and are in cahoots with aliens.
I’m not one to question the strangeness of X-Files story lines, but….What?!!!
It might not be so strange if any of this went anywhere or gelled together properly, but the truth of the matter is, “Gender Bender” could easily have been at least three completely different episodes. I honestly have no idea what we’re supposed to get out of this one. What is this? I thought it was a monster-of-the-week, but the ending of the episode suggests otherwise. But it can’t be a mythology episode, because…it’s the Amish, for crying out loud! The X-Files is not about the Amish, and it will never bring them up again.
This episode doesn’t do anything for Mulder or Scully’s characters, either. I felt almost violated by the discomfort that came with watching Scully getting turned on by a hand massage. The great women’s role model, being seduced by a creepy Amish man? No. Just, no.
The only good that came out of this episode for me was the amusement brought on by the appearance of Nicholas Lea, who would eventually be brought back to the show as the character Alex Krycek. Seeing the future Alex Krycek party in a club was pretty funny, especially when you think about it with Krycek’s character in mind. That was good. But it wasn’t even intentional, since this episode was before Krycek’s time.
I say we move on. What say you, fellow X-Philes? ‘Tis not an episode worth our time.
Final score for “Gender Bender” is 3/10. One giant leap backward for The X-Files, especially after a masterpiece like “Beyond the Sea.” Fortunately, none of the things in this episode are ever mentioned again. With the exception of Nicholas Lea. But that doesn’t count, and neither should this episode.
- I do enjoy it when Mulder crawls through tunnels.
- Mulder and Scully with old-fashioned lanterns instead of flashlights? That may be this episode’s only stroke of brilliance.
- Can’t think of a third one…I ate some really good cheese while watching this. There.