Written by Tim Minear
Directed by Kim Manners
I am a sucker for an X File that goes for a combination of a good little story and some heartfelt emotion and for that reason I love Mind's Eye which gives us an astonishing, Emmy nominated guest performance from Lili Taylor, a wonderful script courtesy of Tim Minear and a chance for Mulder to do his whole "protection" thing, as previously displayed in Oubliette. Although I loved that episode, it's themes of child abuse made it a heavy prospect and thankfully, whilst it has some heavy themes of its own, Mind's Eye isn't as emotionally draining as the season three tale.
In a season which has been bursting to the seems with an ever more epic mythology, high concept comedy tales and superstar guest writers, not to mention two different yet equally important origin tales, it's easy to overlook the fact that it's been a while since we last had a good stand alone where Mulder and Scully really go to town on a meat and potatoes supernatural investigation and for that, I thank Mind's Eye because this is a beautifully played tale.
I'm going to beat this drum now so I get it out of the way, but there is no denying how great Lili Taylor is in this. A regular presence in independent movies and sometimes a supporting player in more mainstream fare too (I recall her as one of the kidnappers in the Mel Gibson movie Ransom), not to mention a pivotal role in Six Feet Under, she puts in a powerfully commanding performance as Marty. There were many ways to portray this character, and even obvious ways for her to have been written, but both Taylor and writer Minear deserve credit for not going so obvious with the character development here. Marty is fiercely independent, antagonistic at times, rude and never cries out for sympathy. Neither the script or the performance make it easy for it to be given either. Most television or movies will make a disability an obvious way to tug at the audience's heartstrings, but Mind's Eye makes us work for it. We can see instantly that Mulder is going to fight for her, but sometimes the episode makes us question why he will when all he gets back for it is attitude.
At its heart, in a similar way to Oubliette, Mulder is made to be the one that makes the connection to Marty, although thankfully Minear doesn't make the mistake that Charles Nelson Craig made with his episode by making Scully an antagonist to proceedings. In fact Scully gets a little neglected for this hour, the episode is so taken with Mulder and Marty that Scully essentially becomes a supporting character, although given the behind the scenes drama going on in trying to get Fight the Future finished that's probably not a surprise. At its heart this is a tale about its guest star and what happens when, as someone who doesn't want to be helped finds herself receiving help from Mulder himself, and it's wonderful. It's a joy to see Marty crack her shell a little and allow Mulder in, the joy in seeing Mulder be the only one willing to fight for her (and I always love it when Mulder basically goes against everybody else in an episode and never allows his confidence to be dented when nobody agrees with him) and the twist and turns of the story when we find out the link between Marty and the killer are wonderful. A little predictable, yes, but the story is so well told that it never falters or loses momentum.
With Howard Gordon leaving at the end of season four, there has been a lack of more heartfelt, simple, well told stories in The X Files during season five. That may sound like a complaint I'm making and I don't want it to feel like I am doing that because if anything there is sense of creativity and exploration running in The X Files at this point that's going to run into season six as well, but you can't beat a good little story and Mind's Eye is charmingly well done. It even has Gordon's sense of putting its guest star front and centre and letting the story run through them, yet providing a real need for Mulder to be involved as well. It's emotions and heart come from honest places and like a great early X File it doesn't necessarily build to a happy ending. That isn't to say the ending is a complete downer, there is a sense of hope at its end and the final scene between Marty and Mulder is beautifully performed by David and Lili, but there is a tragic inevitability that in order to escape the horror of her visions and the danger posed by the killer that Marty will have to confront him head on. The moment she does so is electrifying.
This is a gem of an episode and I love it very, very much, and to be honest I find it a little heartbreaking that Minear opted to leave the show after his two episode stint here, despite being asked by Ten Thirteen to stay on. With a story telling sensibility like this, I would have loved to have seen what he could have come up with next.