Season 5, Episode 16: “Mind’s Eye”
“Mind’s Eye” bears a lot of similarities to an earlier episode, Season 3’s “Oubliette.” If you recall, “Oubliette” was about a young woman Mulder takes pity on who can see into the mind and experiences of another person, and also rejects the help and support of those around her because she’s a tough little cookie, until the end where she sacrifices herself to save the lives of others because she’s a good person despite her traumatic life, after all. You also might recall that “Oubliette” is a deeply unpleasant piece of television that I have no wish to revisit. So thanks for that, Season 5.
Okay, I’m being a little unfair. “Mind’s Eye” is a better watch than “Oubliette,” I suppose because Marty at least doesn’t seem completely miserable the whole time. No, Marty has the very singular characteristic of being…well, an asshole. Charming.
Do I sound spiteful? I don’t really mean it. Truth be told, “Mind’s Eye” isn’t a terrible episode, it’s just not a very good one. It lacks much-needed depth and really did have the potential to be better than it is. The main problem is Marty. Lili Taylor is a great actress and she does a good job here, but she doesn’t have much to work with. The episode’s writer, Tim Minear, said this about his idea for the character: “I wanted to make Marty a bitch, because the fact is that disability doesn’t necessarily ennoble a person.”
Well…that’s true, and I certainly don’t think that every disabled character has to be an angel, but they don’t have to be completely unlikable, either. That just perpetuates the other side of the coin, that disabled people are going to be cranky and miserable because of their disabilities. Fun fact: not all disabled people are miserable. Blind people have to learn other ways to function by being blind, but they can still live happy lives. That’s not to say there aren’t challenges, to be sure, but it isn’t this sort of “I’m blind and adjusted but cranky because I’m blind in spite of being adjusted” attitude that Marty has.
What would have been more interesting is if the episode had explored Marty’s blindness and ability more, especially what the latter means in relation to the former. Maybe an amendment such as this would have worked better: Say Marty’s father wasn’t always a murdering criminal but instead abandoned Marty after her mom died giving birth to her, and was slowly, over the course of 30 years, driven to a life of crime and murder. But Marty, during those 30 years, has seen glimpses of the world through her father’s eyes, instead of the inside of a jail cell, like the actual episode. They actually touch on this a little at the end, when Marty talks about seeing the ocean. But this is one beautiful vision of the world that Marty has. The rest is just the inside of a jail cell, and since she goes to jail at the end anyway I fail to see the sacrifice she made by killing her father. If Marty’s father had been able to let her see the rest of the world – trees, cities, people, animals, the night sky, etc. – then Marty would have to really grapple with her decision to take out her father at the end. Should she sacrifice her only gateway into what the world looks like, or prevent her father from killing more people? Her resulting sacrifice would have been a lot more powerful, as she’d no longer have access to the world she once had. She’d have to learn how to live like most blind people do – not in angelic nobility or misery, but just…living.
This episode made me think about how to correctly write a disabled character, and fortunately I have just the example: Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Now, Toph is a frequently grouchy, cranky, spunky girl who is completely blind, but she has learned how to live fully through her earthbending abilities, which are not hindered by her blindness, but amplified because of it. Toph’s definitely no angel, but she’s not miserable. She has taken her blindness and made it into a strength instead of an obstacle to overcome. Marty? Marty is just someone to feel bad for, despite how many times she tries to act like everyone around her shouldn’t, or how many times the episode tries to convince you that she’s such a bitch she doesn’t need sympathy.
Besides, tell me this episode wouldn’t be vastly improved if Toph called Mulder “twinkle toes.” Now I’d pay to watch that.
Final score for “Mind’s Eye” is 5/10. While we do have a good performance from Lili Taylor and a premise that is far from unsalvageable, the script just isn’t up to the job.
Notable Nuggets (and Nitpicks)
- Although I don’t believe that this was the character’s, the actor’s, or the writer’s intention, Mulder is a bit rude in this one. Even though he does his usual Sympathy for the Damsel shtick, his attitude towards Marty, at least at the beginning, is “Pssshhh, who you tryin’ to fool, woman? You’re blind as a bat so we know you couldn’t possibly have been the killer.” He’s right, of course, but it still feels condescending.
- Scully is in this episode somewhere, I think.
- Ok I know Marty’s a girl in this but couldn’t she have once, just once, said “Whoa. This is heavy”???!