X-Files Flashback: ‘Mind’s Eye’

Mind's Eye

Season 5, Episode 16
Director: Kim Manners
Writer: Tim Minear

Lili Taylor (most famous for her break-out role in I Shot Andy Warhol) was a fantastic “get” for The X-Files. Her steely, no bullshit demeanor and acting style not only fits perfectly with the overall series itself (by helping to sell the supernatural elements with a gritty, realistic performance) but also with the character she plays in “Mind’s Eye.” Without her, this episode would have all but collapsed, yet she makes it sing beautifully.

Taylor plays Marty Glenn, a steely, independent woman who has been blind since birth. What sets Marty apart from the typical helpless victim blind roles is that she can see imagery through a psychic connection with another man. That man eventually embarks on a killing spree and, although Marty makes every attempt to stop his murderous rampage, she winds up getting herself arrested on multiple occasions as the prime suspect. Mulder finds something within her and is, correctly, convinced she is innocent of direct murder. Marty, however, refuses to disclose any information or any details as to why she knows so much about the crimes. Mulder and Scully eventually prove through blood at a crime scene that she could not have committed the crimes and also discover that the murderer is actually her long-lost father. Turns out Marty’s mother was brutally stabbed by a man with Marty in utero, and the blood loss to the fetus was thought to have caused her blindness. The incident forged a psychic bond between the two so that Marty could see visions of her father’s sight every so often – unfortunately when he is committing a crime. In the end, Marty manages to trick her father and the FBI and uses his sight to shoot him in the head. She is imprisoned but is happy knowing she is finally free of her father.

Taylor’s contributions here cannot be undervalued. She drives “Mind’s Eye” with a fantastically convincing and determined performance. Granted, almost none of her actions make sense as the episode progresses, and there are a few unexplained plot points by the episode’s end. But her final action of freeing herself from her father is completely understood if too easily forgiven by Mulder in the end. The most impressive feat about Taylor’s performance is that she plays a blind woman who is the complete antithesis of most blind female characters in television or cinema. She is not helpless. She is not timid. She is not cowering in fear in the dark. She is shrewd. She is resourceful. Yes, she’s bitter and sarcastic, but it’s just completely refreshing to see a talented actress make such a unique spin on what could have been a thoroughly routine character.

The rest of the cast is fairly wasted with David Duchovny’s Mulder saddled with the bleeding-heart sympathy over the blind girl. His reaction to her and instinct to protect her is more typical of the traditional male role in such situations, yet she refuses to take the bait. In the end, she commits murder and is willing to pay the price for it. She makes no excuses – that was her end game all along. That action, without knowing he was her own father until the end, set her free from a life of torment and hardship. As she retreats into the shadows by the end of “Mind’s Eye,” it is not a sad, defeated retreat but a retreat into peace and solitary comfort. It is a beautiful, controversial combination that Lili Taylor was about to portray with great skill.

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